Quality assurance program

An exercise in best practices

Chris Maskell

The quality assurance program (QAP) continues to build momentum in the commercial sector of the floor covering industry here in Canada.

QAP is now being specified more frequently by consultants, building owners and even general contractors in multiple provinces. This is a step forward in the battle for the floor covering industry to convey the importance of providing acceptable site conditions (prior to the floor covering installer arriving on site) to the larger construction industry. Securing these conditions is key to maximizing efficiency, avoiding delays, delivering quality, reducing claims and leaving clients with a warranty.

For this article, I thought I would help shed some light on how the program works by sharing details of a recent project where QAP was specified.

Like an early warning system

First, it’s not uncommon for a construction manager and/or flooring contractor to see the QAP as a barrier to efficiency — an unnecessary spotlight demanding perfection in an imperfect construction world. Maybe they think, “it’s hard enough in this business without someone looking over my shoulder,” and that’s understandable. But the reality is that QAP is not there to pick apart workmanship. It’s more of an early warning system than a score card for an installer’s skill level. It enables the construction team to get on the same page, navigate obstacles together, trust recommendations that may require extra money and, most importantly, manages site conditions ahead of time. Yes, workmanship is also reported on, but independently and from an industry perspective.
The project

In 2018, the Clayton Heights Community Centre build got underway. This state-of-the-art “passive house design” community recreational centre was built in the city of Surrey, B.C.

Clayton Heights Community Centre rendering.

Sheet linoleum, recycled rubber sports flooring and fitness synthetic turf were scheduled for installation during 2019.

The general contractor (GC) was Ellis Don, the flooring contractor, Atmosphere Flooring, architect HCMA Architecture, and the floor covering product manufacturers included Dinoflex, Edgewood Group and Forbo.

There are numerous examples of how the QAP inspector brought attention to aspects of the preparation and installation process that helped both the general contractor and installer work better together. I asked Clayton Shull, the assigned independent inspector on the project, to share an example or two.

I issued six reports over the course of several months for this project — a fascinating build which had my interest right from the start. This project being a passive house-driven build, had minimal fly-ash in the concrete, 12-inch thick walls, three-pane windows, Q Deck for roofing, metal exterior siding and special insulation in-between. The building’s HVAC system is used only when needed as the passive structure minimizes its need for use.

For example, one of my site visits revealed that the container-sized dehumidifier they had been using on site was making the air too dry. Useful equipment in some applications but not needed in this case. Once it was shut off and disconnected from the building, it would save both rental and power supply costs. This also improved productivity (for all trades) as the overly dry air was dehydrating the workers.

I liked how, as a third party, I was consulted early on in the process at the time slabs were poured. This allowed me to share key pieces of information with the construction team that helped ensure acceptance of the slabs by the floor covering contractor later on. Concrete dry times understood, moisture testing understood, flatness, surface profile and porosity understood and so on.

As installation started, I visited the site to check conditions, trowel size, adhesives, etc. In addition, I needed to ensure that the installers on site were on the list submitted by the contractor in advance and that their trade (or product) qualifications met QAP requirements. Meetings with installers are usually very positive. In one case, I recall the lead installer saying that he’d never had to show his ticket before and appreciated having to do so. He also mentioned he had received a copy of a QAP inspection report from the general contractor and agreed with its conclusions, both positive and negative.

The QAP process is simple

Once the project is awarded and an inspector assigned, a pre-installation site meeting is arranged.

NOTE: These meetings have been held up to a year in advance of the floor covering installation starting. They review the QAP specification and identify who is responsible for what (such as slab flatness, preparation and moisture testing).

Next, the GC must bring the building to lock-up stage and provide service conditions.

Then ASTM moisture testing starts. The GC provides the testing and results to the team for review. Once these tests pass, a Mat Bond Test is performed, video-taped by the flooring contractor and shared with the group.

Once the Mat Bond Test passes, the next stage is to install a mock-up (usually one small room), which the architect must approve. This sets the bar for installation quality. Once accepted the installation can move ahead.

As always, the challenge for construction is in getting trusted, timely, accurate information to everyone so it can be quickly shared, understood and put to work. This way, everyone’s goals can be met.

I encourage anyone interested in understanding the step-by-step process of a QAP to watch this video:

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

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