While all professional installers possess skills that apply to both commercial and residential installations, each segment has areas that require a certain expertise. The general rule is that commercial products will be heavier, denser, thicker or stiffer. The reasoning behind this is that floor covering products destined for use in a commercial facility must sport a durable, finished surface able to withstand the rigors of heavy use. In order to promote end-user confidence, manufacturers have put a premium on long-term warranties.

Flooring products tend to drive the need for specialized skills in the commercial arena. The installer’s performance at the job site plays a major role in the life expectancy of the flooring, but what goes under the floor is just as important in providing for the expected long-term use. Any adhesive that has to do with direct-glue or double-glue applications will serve as a perfect example. The top grades need to be used because they are engineered to perform in heavy traffic when applied in the correct volume.

This also goes for patching compounds and cushion. Use wider architectural tack strip for a better grip. An investment in better supplies is nothing more than buying yourself cheap insurance against failure. If you stop and think about the volume of foot traffic that tramples your work daily, and the abuse that comes from spills of every kind, dragging furniture, roller chairs and under-qualified cleaners, it's really a no-brainer.

Flooring manufacturers are also making great strides in the design community, helping them to understand that flooring is a fashion statement rather than a commodity. Part of this education also includes getting the correct products specified for the application. Many retailers contribute positive reinforcement to the design and architectural community concerning this education.

The recent years of growth in the construction industry has allowed companies to increase their budgets to incorporate style elements in new floor coverings. The mix of products, borders, feature strips and patterns demands a higher level of installation skills.

Of course, at times the "art impact stuff" can cause installation headaches. Combinations of sheet vinyl with incompatible seaming methods and attached-cushion carpet butting to direct-glue carpet without transition strips are just two of the possibilities. In the commercial market it is important to work with the designer to come up with a solution. Blowing your cool or making a designer or architect look bad will do nothing but get you a punch list the size of a telephone book.

Could you bond the sub-surface of the different types of sheet vinyl with epoxy instead of a single component? Can you create a ramp for the edge of the direct glue to meet the attached-cushion carpet? How about skiving the back of the attached-cushion carpet to meet the direct-glue? You could also suggest the designer use doorway transitions designed for laminate flooring. It is remarkable how easy it is to get a change order when you seek creative solutions together.

The commercial side of floor covering installation offers excellent opportunities for installers. Work within the system and stay with products that are rated for commercial settings. Be creative, but balance this with knowing when to say no.