Installation: Floor Prep and Managing Expectations

By Mike Pigeon, Roppe Holding Co.

Installation: Floor Prep and Managing ExpectationsWithin the flooring industry, there are two topics that can make or break a job: moisture and floor prep. In this article, I’ll be addressing prep.

Now, floor prep can be a touchy subject as there are so many variables and conditions that can affect the job, such as whose responsibility is it, what are the building conditions (old or new construction), underlying conditions, level of prep needed, clarity of expectations, along with the final acceptance for installation.

Many times, flooring contractors need to kick and claw their way out of situations due to floor prep, issues that could turn the job upside down, although they may have had nothing to do with. After all, as installers, it’s not our building and we should not own it; however, as professionals with in-depth knowledge, we should be able to control and steer any expectations.

Pre-Bid Precautions

Prior to bidding a job, there are many things to consider. One of them is to know what to look for — either included in the bid or at least discussed prior to the installation. If there are red flags at this stage, does an open line of communication exist with your estimator to get questions answered? Also consider if the job is a new construction or remodel? If it is a remodel, are you familiar with the area and if so, are the buildings older or newer? Have you ever bid to this General Contractor (GC) before? What are their pre-bid expectations and how they are handling the prep on the bid? Do they want a detailed breakdown on the bid or just an all-in-one? Most importantly, did you get a chance to walk the building prior to the bid or are you strictly going off of plans? Sometimes there will be a pre-bid job walk-through that can help you connect with the GC and bring questions to the table ASAP.

Bidding with Floor Prep

Putting floor prep into your bid can be done in a variety of ways. For the most part, it’s best to be detailed so there are no surprises. You can break everything out right down to the number of bags of patch to be used. Some companies like to be vague and leave it for interpretation. That way, they are not obligated to a set amount of prep or dollar amount with the expectation that amount will complete the job. Let’s face it, nothing ever turns out cut-and-dry when it comes to installation prep issues.


Installation: Floor Prep and Managing ExpectationsInstallation: Floor Prep and Managing Expectations

So how do you put prep and what is expected of you in a bid? How do you make sure that without question, the GC’s expectations are met, the acceptance of the substrate prep is good enough for the finished floor and, finally, the flooring contractor does not lose their profits on the job? Regardless, it needs to be perfectly clear where both parties stand because there are expectations on both sides.

Most bids will reflect the specifications and what is required of them. Commonly, you will see they are vague and most likely rely on the basic ASTM F710 or F1482 standard. Although these standards are a basis and might sound general, these ASTM standards hold a lot of information. If they are read in detail by the GC and flooring contractor, they are a great start as to the level of prep that might be required. It is surprising how many contractors do not read these standards.

When it comes to the level of prep needed to be acceptable for the finished floor, the actual finished flooring needs to be taken into consideration. Prep for a resilient flooring will typically be much greater than a carpet tile. Either way, all parties need to agree the floor prep is acceptable for the installation to begin. This is where the lines can be obscured as to what was bid and what wasn’t. As I mentioned before, expectations from both sides are all about interpretation of the bid and how the prep was described or broken out on the bid. This is why details are important when it comes to floor prep on your bid. It can be broken down to the projected man hours, bags of patch or self-leveling needed. This is a great way to clear the lines and not obscure them.

Installation: Floor Prep and Managing ExpectationsUnforeseen Issues and Expectations

Now, let’s put everything I just said aside and complicate this just a little bit. Nothing is easy when it comes to unforeseen issues on the jobsite. You can take all the precautionary measures that you want, but until you get to the jobsite and lay eyes on the substrate, you won’t know the real story. This is especially true when it comes to remodel work.

Perhaps you had a chance to walk the job prior to bidding but the existing flooring was down. So, what lies underneath? When I was a project manager, we bid a job at a university where we had the luck to walk the job prior to the bid process. The area of phase one at the time was a small maze of multiple rooms and offices covered in carpet. After the job had begun and phase one was getting ready to start, it became a huge 750 sq. yd. room that was to receive resilient flooring. I walked the job a couple of months early and found Walkerduct embedded in the concrete throughout the entire area. The concrete was cracked wherever the ductwork was, which was certainly not visible at bid time. There was a huge amount of additional floor prep to be done, but due to the way the prep was broken out on the bid, it was clear the additional prep wasn’t included.

Therefore, it’s imperative your bid price be well-defined and include unforeseen issues. All GC’s expect unforeseen prep to be a part of the original bid and expect you to address it. It is always good practice to have early conversations to define the bid and to start visiting the job early. Don’t be the project manager that sends the installers in blind. One or two proactive trips to the jobsite can save you hours of headaches. Make it a habit to take one or two days a month and walk your upcoming jobs. Document your walk-throughs with your phone by taking pictures and writing notes.

Change Orders

When it comes to change orders due to something unforeseen or an additional request from the GC, how will this be handled? If it’s an unforeseen issue, getting to the job early can give you the time to assess the situation, deal with the paperwork and figure out who should be responsible. There is usually a well-defined process in the contract as to how these are to be handled. Who can sign and authorize them, will they be a lump sum or a Time & Material (T&M) ticket, who is able to sign the T&M tickets, etc.? Again, the GC will have an expectation that will point in the direction of the flooring contractor’s responsibility to have these signed daily. Don’t do all the work and then hand in a stack of T&M tickets at the end of the month.

Final Acceptance and Finished Flooring

There is a saying that states, “The first step in exceeding your customers’ expectations is to know these expectations.” The acceptance of the finished floor at the end of the project all starts at the beginning of the project. Whoever’s bid the end user or the GC accepts, they will expect to have hired a professional. Whether it’s prep, installation, job management, the GC will and should expect the outcome of the job to be acceptable.

Ultimately, it’s up to the flooring contractor to understand the expectations and exceed them. If the prep is not clearly set, defined and executed, then the final outcome and acceptance of the floor will most likely fall short.

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