Floating floor detailing and trims continue to be installed incorrectly at the cost of the end consumer. Why is this and can we do anything to change the installer and subsequent market mindset around this phenomenon?
This article has been written from a South African perspective yet I am pretty certain it reflects a greater majority of our global flooring market.
When we think of laminate and similar floating floor types and the various products that are required to finish off a successful installation, we think of aluminium or HDF transition strips, end-caps, reducers, scotia and silicones of various kinds etc. Now, depending on the skill and intention of the installer, the method of installing these products can be done in a whole variety of ways, some correctly as intended by the manufacturer and some not. When we consider the primary reason behind even having these products, it is to cover the very necessary requirement of an expansion gap. NOTE: to allow movement. The floor needs to be able to move… yet sometimes the installer does not know this, has forgotten or plainly ignores it due to a poorly calculated gamble.
In my flooring career over the last 20 years I have been exposed to many creative methods of flooring detailing. I myself have even made the mistake in my early installer days to bond trims directly down to the laminate and substrate surfaces with heaps of colour matched silicones and hot-glue squeezed in-between. I did not understand the science behind the various floor materials and proceeded as you may have guessed to totally lock the floor down. Later in my following years as a technical claims manager and presently as a freelance claims inspector I continue to see floating floors repeatedly locked down in some format.
We need to remember that floors will only move if the environmental conditions change and with some sites being more stable than others the timeline of floors presenting symptoms of stress vary considerably. Talk about an industry specific game of Russian roulette.
In South Africa our building standards and substrate conditions vary greatly from one site to the next which makes for pre-fitment of the required base plates possibly difficult and time consuming. These conditions bundled with laziness and extreme competitive pricing result in a rushed and many times a poor installation to the detriment of the consumer.
Is this a consumer issue or an industry issue, and who regulates it?
To date in South Africa we have multiple national trim suppliers who don’t even offer base-plates for the products they sell although many of them were originally designed and produced with base-plates in mind. What this suggests to me is that our industry requires further training and motivation on this subject to better understand the science behind the inconvenience and risk, and to supply appropriately.
I review many stressed installation sites where flooring installers and retailers alike will first point fingers to the homeowner or supplier of the floor type as cause of a failure before considering their own possible contribution to the cause. Excuses like, “I have always done it this way” and “we only apply a small amount of silicone which can be easily broken when the floor wants to expand”. Unfortunately, this is the exact spot where their gamble (be it intended or not) has failed and they are now liable.
I often think of the immense cost associated with repeat site visit’s, repairs and product replacements caused by this issue alone yet it’s so easy to solve. Just think of the cost involved in sending a team to reinstall a single loose trim or cutting back a floor…
In the perfect installation world installers would orchestrate a system where the baseplates would get installed immediately on arrival alongside the other preparation tasks such as door jamb preparation, cleaning and placement of underlay. Then, after the floors have been installed the variable cover plates would be quickly inserted with no issues of bouncing trims or timeous wiping away of excess silicones and possible lock-down of the floor. If you measure the amount of time and cost required for each option it’s a no-brainer as to which one should to be followed yet we continue to play this dangerous game. Why?
I am a firm believer that attention to the detail maketh the Job. Our installers and respective industry needs to understand the science behind the rote actions we apply every day when we install these products. Just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean to say you have to play Russian roulette as well. The correct detailing of floors could even be your defining edge against your competitors if explained and sold correctly to the end consumer.
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