Like the detectives on the popular series, floor covering inspectors examine all the clues, hoping to find the cause of flooring installation failures. Columnist Christopher Capobianco explains how installers can learn about flooring inspection, and how it help them to improve their work.

Skills such as how to do a relative humidity test on a concrete slab are covered in the IICRC Substrate/Subfloor Introductory course.


Professional resilient flooring installers and inspectors have a lot to learn from each other. The installer can learn a lot about how things can go wrong by seeing jobs through the eyes of the inspector who has seen floors fail. This knowledge can help them to prevent problems before they happen. On the other hand, the inspector who has a good knowledge of the installation process can learn that blaming failures on "improper installation" may not always be the right answer. Many installers or maintenance professionals have gone through the training to become a professional Certified Inspector either as a career change or as an additional source of income to supplement installation work, and their installation experience can provide a good background for this type of work.

Christopher Capobianco presenting "Introduction to Commercial resilient Flooring" at the NICFI Convention.
I had an excellent experience in a five day Academy of Textiles and Flooring resilient inspector school about 13 years ago, which introduced me to a lot of people and information that really shaped my career direction from that point forward. The knowledge from that course made me a better salesperson, and eventually a technical specialist and independent consultant and inspector in the resilient flooring industry. I recently had the opportunity to attend meetings of two different volunteer organizations who are working hard to improve the training of independent inspectors - the IICRC and the NICFI.

What caused this tile to lift? IICRC training helps inspectors to learn why it happened and how to write the report.
I was writing for another magazine and did an article in 1996 about the need in our industry for experienced resilient floor covering inspectors, and as a result I was asked by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) to volunteer as chairman of the Resilient Floor Inspector Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and have been involved in inspector training ever since. I had heard of IICRC as a great source of training for people in the carpet cleaning and restoration business, and also as a certification body for carpet inspectors. However, hard surface training was new at that time so I was optimistic that an independent body such as the IICRC would be a good venue for improving the knowledge of inspectors in the industry. Claudia Lezell, IICRC Vice President of Inspections, spearheaded the move within IICRC for Hard Surface Inspector training and certification. "We are celebrating the tenth anniversary of development of the IICRC Hard Surface Inspector Program," Ms. Lezell told FCI recently. "We are proud of the success of the Substrate/Subfloor Introduction (SSI) pre-requisite course, and as well as the success of the IICRC Marble and Stone Inspector course. The Resilient course is ready and is now being offered by IICRC approved schools." I attended and helped instruct the first IICRC resilient inspector school in early March and it is jam packed with information that inspectors and installers would find very valuable in improving their knowledge and level of professionalism.

Proper use of moisture meters and other concrete testing methods are covered in IICRC training courses.
As I have worked in this area, I have been challenged by many in the industry who worry that inspector training courses are creating "Five Day Wonders" who learn enough to pass an exam and then are unleashed on the world as a "certified inspector." That certainly is a risk, but I feel that the industry will weed out those who are not qualified. When I was a technical support manager for resilient manufacturer, I used an interview process and questionnaire to see if an inspector I was considering hiring was qualified. After hiring the inspector, if I did not get what I needed, I sent the inspector back to the job to gather more information. The fact is, if an inspector is not qualified, he or she will not get a lot of repeat business. Of course, nothing can replace years of experience in the industry to qualify someone to diagnose flooring failures. However we have to start somewhere and a good training and certification program is a good start. There are opportunities for installers to enter this field now that these training programs are in place.

A couple of Richards: Richard Snow, (L) and Richard Katz during a break at the NICFI convention
I also have been asked, "Isn't it easy to become an inspector? I heard it is just a Pass/fail test." Ms. Lezell is president of Inspections Too, Inc, an inspection agency in Houston and is co-owner of Flooring Technology Institute, a technical training and education center. She has been involved with the development of training inspectors for a number of years. "The IICRC Resilient Inspector Program is not just a single five day course for hard surface inspections," she explained, "but is a series of courses designed to provide as much information as possible for the inspector." For example, in order to become an IICRC resilient inspector, a candidate must first complete two prerequisite courses, Substrate Subfloor Introduction (SSI) and Floor Care Technician (FCT), and then take the 5-day Resilient Flooring Inspector (RFI) course and exam. After passing the exam, ten inspection reports are submitted for review during the probationary process to be sure that the inspector can gather and report information correctly. "Before a student even gets to the five day RFI course, they have had a lot of background information on Floor Maintenance and Substrates", said Ms. Lezell. "They have to complete two courses and pass two exams compiled of at least 160 questions each, and then they can take the resilient inspector course." I am going through this process myself, and believe me this is not easy. It takes a commitment of time, money and desire to learn in order to earn the IICRC Certified Inspector status.

Mark Violand addresses the NICFI Convention.
The National Institute of Certified Floor Covering Inspectors (NICFI) is not a certification body, but provides education and support for certified inspectors and provides a referral service so that anyone looking for an inspector in their area can find one. NICFI held their annual convention in Dalton Georgia and asked me to present my four hour seminar "Introduction to Commercial Resilient Flooring", which I adapted to help inspectors know what to look for when resilient flooring fails. We covered concrete and floor preparation problems, installation and floor maintenance issues.

It takes a commitment of time and money together with a desire to learn in order to complete the training needed for inspector certification.
I asked Mark Violand, who is active in both the IICRC and the NICFI, what his feelings are about the IICRC certification process, since there are other programs out there besides the IICRC. "What I feel is best about the IICRC Inspector Courses is that the program truly is an industry wide, consensus-driven course." He went on to talk about the independence of the volunteers that do the work to develop IICRC standards. "I own and owe nothing to the IICRC and neither does anyone on the committees who do this work voluntarily. We represent a true cross section, including inspectors, school instructors, technical services, sales and marketing, installation experts, installation work room and cleaning professionals and fiber producers. This is a great group who are passionate about making sure the students get the best, most current and up to date information available." IICRC's stature as a voluntary consensus based organization was reinforced recently when The American National Standards Institute (ANSI(), an organization that coordinates the voluntary standardization and conformity assessment system used across all U.S. Industries, recently announced its accreditation of the IICRC as a standards writing organization, after a 10 month review process.

Claudia Lezell of Flooring technology Institute instructing the IICRC Resilient Inspector Course
Also under development is an IICRC course for Resilient Floor Maintenance Technicians, under the leadership of Stan Hulin of Future Floor Technology in Gladstone, Oregon. Mr. Hulin is receiving input from floor maintenance professionals, floor covering manufacturers, and floor maintenance product manufacturers to develop a course that will address the many issues specific to resilient floor care.

After almost ten years in the works, The IICRC hard surface courses are starting to be taught by IICRC approved schools around the country, starting with the SSI course, which has been offered for several years. Ms. Lezell, whose Flooring Technology Institute was the first to offer the Resilient Inspector course said optimistically, "I feel we have been making a difference by offering these courses and increasing the professionalism of our industry."

You can learn more about these two organizations at www.NICFI.org or www.IICRC.org.



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