It seemed ironic that as I was starting to work on this column, my 18-year old daughter Elizabeth, who loves jigsaw puzzles, was tackling a particularly tough one and saying, "This puzzle is going to be the death of me."
It seemed ironic that as I was starting to work on this column, my 18-year old daughter Elizabeth, who loves jigsaw puzzles, was tackling a particularly tough one and saying, "This puzzle is going to be the death of me." I am sure that many resilient flooring installers think the same thing when they look at custom jobs, especially those that have borders, medallions, or other custom inlay work. With careful planning, these jobs can be beautiful and profitable for the installer.
The first thing to consider is to be sure there is an understanding of the cost of doing custom work. I'll never forget when I was a rep calling on architects in New York and was showing a particularly nice high end solid vinyl tile to an architect. He asked for budget pricing and I quoted about $7 a square foot installed. Several months later he called me, and was annoyed that a project he was involved with had bid out at almost double that cost. It turns out he had specified a custom installation in three colors with special shapes and sizes that had to be done with union labor on weekends. This misunderstanding gave me a good lesson in knowing what you are quoting before you quote it. The same goes for installers when custom work comes your way. These jobs take a lot longer to install than a plain pattern job, so make sure you figure accordingly.
The hardest jobs to figure are the ones where you will have to do all the cutting yourself. It's very hard to know how much time a job like this will take. It will involve a lot of communication between the installer and the owner or the designer who created the pattern. It is often necessary to sketch the pattern on full size on paper or right on the substrate before you start cutting. Make sure the design is approved, because once it gets cut to fit, it may not be possible to change the design.
Regardless of whether the custom design you are working with is a simple medallion that arrives as one unit, a large complex design that comes in sections, or one you are cutting on the job yourself, there are a number of keys to a successful installation. .
For starters, floor preparation and concrete testing is critical. These are expensive floors, so failures because of moisture or floor prep are that much more expensive to repair or replace. With all of the different puzzle pieces that go into some of the custom floors I have seen, it is imperative that the floor be as smooth and flat as possible. A dip or a high spot in the floor could cause one of your small puzzle pieces to become damaged or even worse, to pop out of the floor.
Before starting the installation, placement of the material is key. In the case of a border, this usually means careful measurement to be sure the border is exactly where the customer wants it. Make lines where the border will start, spread adhesive where the field tile will go, allow the proper open time, lay the field tile, roll the floor thoroughly and let the adhesive cure for a while - overnight if possible so that the field area is solid. Then, start to work adhering the border design. If the installation is a medallion, the same process would apply. Make sure the medallion is located where the customer wants it. Adhere the medallion first, let the adhesive harden, and then install the field tile up to the medallion.
The day after you lay the floor it is important to go back to the job and remove all of the tape from the surface of the floor. This will allow you to examine the floor and repair any spots that may not be just right. Don't delay this part of the job and risk any damage the tape will cause to the surface. I remember one installation where the installer never removed the tape, which was clear, and the maintenance crew went in and started cleaning the floor with a scrubbing machine. The heat that the pads generated caused the adhesive from the tape to really bond to the floor and it was a major job getting it off. That's an extreme example, but let's just say you don't want to leave tape on the surface of the floor any longer than necessary.
Finally, when the job is done and the building is occupied, make arrangements to get back to the job and take some pictures. Nothing looks better in an installer or dealer's portfolio that photographs of a beautiful custom installed resilient floor.