Floor inspectors

A much-needed resource for Canada

Chris Maskell, NFCA c.e.o.

Floor inspections are not as straightforward as you might think. It’s a trade-within-a-trade, requiring specific training, an inquisitive mind set, an ability to write well and, of course, a character that can refrain from offering conclusions on site and let the report deliver the conclusions. Everyday disputes around floor covering products and their installation holds up millions of dollars in payment, requiring more time and effort to be invested by management, staff, and product reps — all trying to offer meaningful reasons why the look of the finished floor just isn’t meeting expectations.

There are many reasons for issues: installation, incorrect site conditions, product- and or maintenance-related issues and, of course, miss-set consumer expectations. Third party independent inspectors are incredibly important in such scenarios.

Demand is up for certified inspectors, as awareness of the value of having an independent expert, available to all involved in a project, is becoming better understood. This is the way to avoid problems, bring parties in dispute together and ultimately reduce claims.

For years local associations have operated volunteer inspection services asking industry professionals to attend sites, gather facts and issue opinions without specific inspector training to fall back on. I was one of those volunteers for years. I remember reading my first certified inspection report, being very impressed and commenting to myself, “Wow, I need to get some training if I’m going to do this properly.”

How many claims in a year? It’s hard to know for sure. However, manufacturers typically maintain a 1- to 2 percent annual claims rate. For a $1 billion-a-year manufacturer, that’s $10 to $20 million per year! And there are many large factories out there. The numbers are staggering. According to Flooring Consultants and Inspector Training Services (FCITS) of Dalton, Ga., across North America there are more than 200,000 inspections per year, underlining our industry’s need for more inspectors.

What is required to become an inspector?

First and foremost, professionalism. Then a combination of curiosity, knowledge, self-control, the ability to cross-reference data to corroborate findings and determine cause without rushing to judgement. Inspectors are taught to validate everything they are saying in their report with an industry document, a standard if you will. Many of these claims do end up in a court of law and if these documents are not cited, then it’s basically hearsay and will not hold up in court. Inspector hopefuls require a minimum of five years of flooring-related experience in some capacity. Many inspectors are retired territory managers, retail sales people or installers.

Inspector training courses cover both hard surface and carpet, everything from the manufacturing process all the way to test procedures performed at the lab. It’s important to understand all the steps necessary to manufacture a product. A lot of time is spent on the installation processes of all the floorcovering categories and what to look for concerning a variety of issues, how to identify those issues and so on. Discussed are: two test methods for measuring moisture content in a concrete slab; the latest related ASTM standards and how to read results for both; moisture meters, how they are used, how they work and when and where to use them. The course also provides tips, examples, incredible support resources and teaches how to write respectable reports.

Finally, there are two types of inspections — the first is the one we are mostly familiar with — post installation, which reports on problems after they occur. The second is called a Quality Assurance Inspection review, where construction teams agree to specify an independent (certified) inspector on to a project to bring attention to critical parts of an installation that typically are overlooked. Call it a proactive approach to inspecting. Long overdue in the floor covering industry and I’m happy to report, growing!

With this said, Canada’s third floor inspector certification course will be held in Calgary, Alta., from September 30 to October 4. NFCA has been working with Flooring Consultants and Inspector Training Services (FCITS) for the past three years to put on this course previously held in Cambridge Ont., and Surrey B.C. For more information on how to register visit www.nfca.ca/calgary-fcits.html.

The National Floor Covering Association (NFCA) promotes industry standards for resilient, carpet, hardwood, laminate, cork and bamboo floor covering installations.

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