Who’s really installing your flooring?

One of the things we deal with at Bluegrass Flooring is, bidding against unqualified contractors that not only don’t realize the value of what they are installing, but don’t know how to properly install the material either.  We see too many failures every year just in our area, and every time it’s installer error.  The featured image in this article was a shower bench in a 5 year old home that cost over 750,000.00 that we tore out last year.

A couple things prompted me to write this article…  One is a recent article published on the Floor Covering Installer website.  The other was a conversation in a Facebook flooring installer group I belong to.

Below is the article from FCI

We all know there is a shortage of qualified installers in all categories of flooring and tile. We talk about it, we write about it, and we complain about it. There are associations that have educational opportunities for installers and sales personnel, and those that attend are continually honing their skills and striving to become better. With the quality of education available to the industry, the classes should be completely filled but unfortunately this is not the case.

Instead of focusing on the lack of qualified installers, I’d like to take a little time in this editorial to thank all the installers who are true professionals that represent our industry and work with pride everyday. With so much focus on bad installations and lack of qualified installers, those who are doing a good job don’t always get the credit they deserve. FCI had our first “Installation Awards” contest this year and we had some beautiful installations that were sent in and featured. Congratulations to the winners and those who participated.

Another reason to be grateful for the professionals is the fact they are bidding against companies that don’t have the pride, professionalism or understanding of what it costs to run a business. These types of companies and individuals are bidding below what the value of the installation should be and make it challenging for the professional to compete. The fact professionals can still compete with low pricing means there are end-users who do recognize and appreciate a professional installation and are willing to pay more for it.

It isn’t easy to compete with low bidders. The professional who understands the value of installation will lose jobs to the low bidder but many times the end-user will end up contacting the professional, realizing they made a mistake in hiring the low bid. Many times, the end-user ends up paying even more on the backside of the installation due to the problems created by that low bid.

As professionals, we shake our heads and wonder why end-users don’t understand when they get a bid that is so much lower than yours shouldn’t they be asking why? What quality of materials will they be using? How can their labor be so much cheaper? End-users see a price and their expectations are the installation will be professional with quality materials, which we know is not the case.

Something that hits home for me was a TCNA workshop I attended last year at a local tile distributor. It was free, we were fed great food, and the TCNA gave away about 5,000.00 in prizes.  About 75 local tile setters signed up, and only a dozen showed.  The workshop was after normal working hours.  The topics of this seminar were, what the TCNA is seeing as current issues industry wide and how to avoid them, and what’s coming in the near future.  This is critical, need to know information!

The conversation I was in on Facebook was started by an installer from Ohio asking if anyone had heard about one of the big box DIY stores firing all of their flooring installers statewide.  After reading through different posts from other installers nationwide that have installed for retail chain in the past or currently, I learned that many of them are what’s referred to as 2nd or 3rd tier subcontractors, meaning that the installer was hired by a company that actually had the work ticket from the store.  Sometimes it goes one contractor deeper to the 3rd tier.

Not only are their labor prices below standard, there may be 1 or 2 other people trying to get a piece of the pie too.  How do you think that works out for the customer?  Now this isn’t to say that all of them are poor installers, but the good ones probably aren’t going to stick around for very long.  Almost all of us started out by subcontracting to a store whether its a flooring store or a big box outlet, including myself.  I subbed to a couple flooring stores 10 years ago when I first started Bluegrass Flooring and quickly realized I could not deliver quality for what they offered to pay.

If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional, wait until to see how much hiring an ametuer costs.  It pays to research your installer and educate yourself on the products you’re having installed.  I’ve investigated too many failures where an installer said, “I’ve been doing it like this for 20 years with no problems”