Wood Flooring Installation: Jobsite Checklist for Success

By Brett Miller, NWFA Director of Education & Certification

Creating rustic beveled edges on the jobsite requires special tools that might not normally be in your crew's truck.
Creating rustic beveled edges on the job site requires special tools that might not normally be in your crew’s truck.

There are a lot of things that go into making a wood flooring installation successful. You need the right tools, the right training, the right job site conditions, but perhaps the most important thing of all that you need is good planning.

Good planning before your crews arrive on the jobsite can minimize time lost due to missing tools, not having enough material on hand for the job, or an unforeseen, but preventable, obstacle like an unacceptable subfloor or an inadequate power supply.

Unfortunately, anticipating every potential installation issue is a lot easier said than done as there are many things that can happen on a jobsite that can thwart your best planning and intentions, which can impact the productivity of your crews. Fortunately, there are tools available to you as a contractor that can help you anticipate issues that can arise, and also can help you be prepared to address and overcome them.

Endgrain is a special material requiring special handling and installation skills.
Endgrain is a special material requiring special handling and installation skills.

During my days as a contractor, one of the tools I used to help me prepare for each new job was the National Wood Flooring Association’s Jobsite Checklist. This checklist is one of the most comprehensive and easy-to-use tools I have seen to help contractors plan and prepare for each job, no matter how large or small.

It starts with some basic, but essential information. This general information includes the jobsite owner’s name, address, home phone, work phone, and mobile phone numbers. It also includes the jobsite address, as well as the date and time of the appointment. This seems simple enough, but many times, the main office will have this information, but not share it with the crew responsible for doing the work. This gives them the critical information they need to be on time and prepared to make a good first impression with your customer.

Custom stains and finishes require special handling.
Custom stains and finishes require special handling.

Next, your crew will need to know if the job is residential or commercial, and if the job is new construction or a remodel. This will help your crew understand the conditions they will likely encounter on the jobsite. On a commercial site, they may need to plan for hauling equipment up service elevators, through crowded malls or office buildings, and even the cost and proximity of parking. Most contractors might not even think about planning for parking, but imagine a job in a New York City high rise building. Just parking and getting your equipment to the jobsite can be a real challenge!

On a residential site, your crew may need to plan for moving existing furniture, or even corralling pets that may be in the home. New construction may require your crew to work around other trades, while remodel work may require them to remove baseboards, cabinet kick plates, or appliances.

Discussing the job with crew prior to starting the job is important. The checklist reinforces discussion.
Discussing the job with crew prior to starting the job is important. The checklist reinforces discussion.

Regardless of the location or the conditions, each job will require specific planning for both interior and exterior spaces. For interiors, you will need to record relative humidity, temperature, whether the HVAC is installed and turned on, the type of heat in the structure (radiant, forced air, baseboard, etc.), whether the structure is insulated, and even if there are large windows that could impact the flooring through greenhouse effect or potential water leaks.

Other things to consider may include working around appliances or store fixtures, working around vents and other exhausts, and any obvious signs of water damage like stained ceilings or damaged walls. If there is a basement, contractors should note any cracked walls, peeling paint, or stained floors. For crawl spaces, make note if there is a dirt floor, if the space is cross ventilated, and if there is a moisture inhibitor present. For below grade spaces, also note if there is a sump pump installed and working, if the area is damp, if there is a musty smell, or if you notice rusty nails anywhere. These conditions can indicate moisture issues that will need to be addressed and eliminated.

Make sure the subfloor is flat and clean. Also, mark the subfloor if a special pattern installation is needed.
Make sure the subfloor is flat and clean. Also, mark the subfloor if a special pattern installation is needed.

For exteriors, your crew should note any conditions that could impact a successful installation. This could include whether the structure is above, below or on street level, whether the water drains away from or toward the foundation, whether there is an irrigation system installed, whether there is a pool, pond, or other water feature nearby, and even if there is established or new landscaping. All of these conditions could indicate a potential water or moisture issue that could impede a successful installation long-term.

Conditions of the subfloor should be examined as well, and should be in compliance with NWFA Installation Guidelines (Section 2, Chapters 4-6). This includes ensuring the existing or new subfloor material complies with NWFA Guidelines, the joist span (for wood subfloors) complies with NWFA Guidelines, and that the subfloor is both clean and flat. In addition, your crews should observe for damage, deterioration, rot, and even pet stains. Moisture readings should be taken to ensure no unacceptable conditions exist for both wood and concrete subfloors.

The NWFA Jobsite Checklist also records the type of flooring to be installed, the species of the flooring, and the specifications of the material, including thickness and width. There also are areas to record the installation method, the stain and finish to be used, the number of coats to be applied, and any special considerations, including patterns or layouts, trim, and moldings.

Another added benefit of utilizing a checklist is that it can become a permanent record of the job and the jobsite conditions. That way, if you ever need to refer back to it, everything you need, including moisture readings and a complete materials list, is recorded in one convenient place.

There are no guarantees that any form or list will anticipate every issue that could arise on a jobsite. The NWFA’s Jobsite Checklist is a good first step in anticipating some common issues that can impact the productivity of your crews. The list is provided to all NWFA members as a member benefit and can be duplicated inexpensively to give your crews a good start on each new job they tackle. The Jobsite Checklist is available to nonmembers for purchase.

For more information, contact the NWFA at 800.422.4556 (USA and Canada), 636.519.9663 (international), or www.nwfa.org.

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