The first step is gathering information. The parties need to inspect the materials and workmanship and ask questions: Is the issue serious? Does it have to be fixed? What went wrong? If so, who's at fault and who makes good?
Many of the problems with wood flooring stem from either carelessness or ignorance. No one does either of these things deliberately. But knowing that doesn't make the problems go away. These problems can occur anywhere in the process, from manufacturing and on to storage, handling, trucking, installation and post-installation care.
Here are some of the typical problems and causes:
• Flooring is received scratched and dented, particularly along edges. This may have happened at the factory or during trucking and handling.
• Boxes or bundles are broken, marred or damaged by lifts, strapping materials or delivery workers.
• Flooring shows dents, scratches, grooves or irregularities in the finish. This can result from misuse and abuse either during or after installation, either by the contractor, other trades people, real-estate representatives or owners.
• Problems can occur when the contractor carelessly bangs the flooring, drops or drags tools along the surface, or works on the surface without proper preparation.
• Contractors, trades people, real-estate representatives, visitors or owners may track mud, dirt, gravel or sand on the floor. Without proper cleanup, the tracked-in materials get ground into the surface.
Here are some standards or expectations we should have of each other in the flooring trade when it comes to dealing with dents and scratches. I've put these in terms of the various players in the industry for ease of reading. But it's helpful to know the perspective of the other guy, so you can know what he expects of you. So I encourage you to read through all of these items.
What the contractor should expect from the distributor/retailer:
• Quality: Consistently high product quality is a reasonable expectation.
• Respect: This is someone's floor. Use care in trucking and handling.
• Education: Educate the customer about floor care and maintenance.
• Promises: Create realistic expectations about installation, wear and tear, and maintenance.
• Support: Provide prompt product support should problems occur.
• Quality: Proper installation and finishing procedures; the contractor should meet or exceed industry standards.
• Preparation: Proper installation requires the proper tools, in good working condition.
• Knowledge. The contractor should know what works and what doesn't.
• Communication: If there is a problem, get back to the retailer sooner than later.
• Sense: Cull obviously dented and scratched product before installation.
What the consumer should expect from the contractor:
• Common sense: The contractor should avoid pounding nails, dropping tools or other items that can cause dents.
• More common sense: Laziness is no excuse for cutting with sharp knives, box-cutters, and such directly over the floor.
• Professionalism: Avoid dragging appliances or other dirty, gritty or sharp objects.
• Neatness: Keep the floor clear of wire, drywall screws, nails, and other debris; watch and sweep gravel from boots immediately.
• Work smart: Don't install obviously dented and scratched product.
What the contractor should expect from the consumer:
• Realistic expectations: The product is infinitely variable - a perfect installation is not reasonable.
• Reasonableness: A reasonable person will inspect the work from a standing position.
• Flexibility: The consumer should be able accept minor irregularities if they are not noticeable and blend with the overall look.
• Honesty: Kids and pets can wreak havoc on floors. Did Fido or Johnny mess up? How sharp were those spike heels?
• Fairness: One or two problems do not add up to an entire floor replacement.
After we have determined the cause and responsibility, how do we fix the issues that require action. Remember, a proper repair is one that is not noticeable from a standing position.
For factory finished flooring, repair by replacing dented and scratched pieces. The occasional repair does not affect the integrity of the flooring. You can generally repair 5 percent or more of the flooring before cost and efficiency dictate considering a complete floor replacement. Replace with similar grained boards that blend in. Advise the customer the flooring has likely changed color in areas with a lot of natural lighting. Replacement boards from a box will look somewhat different but will blend as they age.
In a perfect world, everyone would do their part, everyone would know how to do things the right way and there would be no problems. As we all know, the real world doesn't work that way. People are people. They make mistakes. They don't follow the rules. They don't read the directions.
But part of being human is to learn from your mistakes. I hope this list of expectations can help you avoid as many problems as possible. And if you do hit the occasional bump in the road-or the dent or scratch in the wood-I hope these items can help everyone get along better and do their part to keep business as smooth, honest and straightforward as possible. I also hope this column gets people thinking and talking. If you want to comment or share your thoughts with me, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.