Tony Buckhardt, an instructor at a CFI Commercial Training Course, explains how important it is for installers to recognize the “pick” of the backing as it relates to the requirements of installation.

Ed Braile explains the importance of understanding carpet backings as related to installation, floor preparation and adhesives at a CFI Commercial training course.
The Architect Specification Manual states in the floor covering section "that subfloors are to be dry, clean and smooth." General contractors assume flooring installers are aware of the Architect's Specifications and they want flooring installers to do exactly what is stated - install over "Dry, clean and smooth subfloors."

Why is it the responsibility of flooring contractors to
• Test for alkalinity in sub-floors
• Test for moisture.
• Check subfloors for chemicals - oil, wax, alcohol, grease, paints, sealers and curing compounds, not compatible with adhesives.
• Check subfloors for ridges.,br> • Check for dips or holes in subfloors.
• Check that wood subfloors are firm and stable.
• Check walls where vinyl / carpet base is to be installed.

Flooring installers get paid for installation of flooring. This should not include floor preparation in our estimates because when an estimate is put together, oftentimes the building is not built and the subfloor is not completed, so we do not have a clue if it will be minor or major floor preparation.

When there are ridges or dips or holes in the subfloors, they are created by the subcontractor who built that subfloor. When the architect has accepted that subcontractor's work, why do carpet installers have to inspect the levelness of the subfloor again? The architect accepted it! Now, I am talking about new projects. If we are looking at a remodeling project, the remodeler or architect has inspected the areas and informed the owner or GC of what is required to make the subfloor acceptable.

When there are chemicals in subfloors, nine out of ten ten times, it is the other subcontractors on the project who spill things onto the subfloor. The GC is on the job site every day and is aware, or should be, of the chemicals spilled onto the subfloor by their subcontractors. When flooring installers arrive at the project, who informs them of these spills? Why should we have to inspect for chemicals spilled on subfloors? If the subfloor contractor sealed the subfloor or used a curing compound on the subfloor, the GC should be informed of these spills. The GC should insist that the subcontractor remove sealers or curing compounds and not ask the flooring contractor to do this job. It is not the flooring contractor's responsibility!

Flooring installers are requested to test for moisture in subfloors. Why? Installer should request a written moisture test from the GC or owner. When it is received, record this on the blueprint and note the location(s) of the testing, date, time and the moisture level. If the moisture level is not acceptable for flooring that is being installed, the GC is to be informed that the moisture must be evaporated before the product can be installed. A new moisture test is required a few days later to verify that the level is acceptable. When the new test is acceptable and the flooring is installed, inform the GC that the level could become unacceptable in the future. Record this information to protest yourself! Request from the GC an alkalinity test. If this test is over the 9 level, inform the GC that the alkalinity has to be neutralized prior to the flooring installation.

Wood subfloors are not the flooring installer's problem! Inform the GC that they are not stable or firm and it is his responsibility to make the subfloor acceptable for installation. When wallbase is to be installed, the GC must be informed that walls need to be smooth and no paint or wallpaper can be present behind the area where the product is to be attached. Also, the GC must be aware that the gap between the wall and the subfloor can be no more than 1/4-inch. I make contact with the painting subcontractor BEFORE their work starts and ask them to keep paint and wallpaper 3 1/2-inches from the floor if four-inch base is to be installed or 5 1/2- inches if it is six-inch base. Any gap that is more than 1/4-inch between the floor and the wall is the responsibility of sheetrock contractor.

On every estimate for any installation work, the level of floor prep that you are including in your work must be stated. State that you will fill in cracks or holes that are 1/4-inch in depth, length and width. Also include that the control joints or saw cut joints will be filled and that the estimate cost for patching and time is included. The biggest reason our company fills these joints is because if the GC has the laborer do the filling, I guarantee that nine out of ten times, the laborer does not clean out the joints and uses way too much liquid to mix the patch. And what happens several weeks after we have installed flooring? The dip in the control joint shows through the installed flooring!

I also include in the floor preparation estimate that our firm will sand all concrete floors. This is done because when the concrete subcontractor smoothes the floor with a machine, the concrete becomes sealed by that process, no sealer is used. When we sand the floor, we create a porous concrete surface and the adhesive we use under flooring will insert into concrete voids, just being adhered to the surface. When we prepare our estimates, we include our costs for sanding, filling in the control/saw joints and minor filling of cracks and holes 1/4-inch in depth, width and length.

When a flooring installer performs the filling, an acceptable floor patch must be used. Most adhesive or carpet manufacturers want us to use a portland-cement based patch or a polymer modified cement patch with a latex liquid. By adding the latex liquid to the water and patch, the latex adheres the patch more solidly and makes it a little more flexible on the subfloor. We cannot use gypsum-based patches.

If a subfloor is not level within the architect's specification manual, which is normally 1/8-inch within 6-10 feet or if there are subfloor areas that are very unevenly ridged, use a self-leveling patch. Use a superior product for self-leveling - follow the guidelines! I prefer flooring installers to do leveling or filling of joints primarily because the GC's laborers do not have a clue how to do this according to our industry's standards. The manufacturers set these standards, but what frustrates me is that these same manufacturers do not inform anyone except carpet installers as to what the standards are! Why is this?

Before I begin the extra floor prep work, I want an additional work authorization signed by the GC. This is a new estimate for work that was not listed in my original estimate. I will not start any additional work UNTIL the GC or owner signs that additional work contract. If the GC wants me to do a moisture test or an alkalinity test, I will do it again but I want an additional work authorization form signed.

Flooring installer, when doing floor preparation, make certain you get paid for the additional work! Your costs are drastically increasing for the extra floor prep that was not included in the original estimate for installation.