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Several regions of the United States are seeing a slower economy, especially in the new housing market. As installers and retailers, are you making adjustments to maintain your business and coming up with more creative ideas to keep your business and cash flow moving, or are you feeling like you’re stuck in a corner? If you feel that you’re one of those stuck in the corner let’s see if we can do something to change the outcome. And if you are one of the fortunate ones with plenty of work, here are some ideas to generate more income. Although the new home market is slower, the renovation market seems to be holding its own in many parts of the United States. Homeowners who realize they must give their home a facelift are looking at ways to differentiate their homes from others; there are those that are looking at keeping their home and those attempting to sell their homes.

One thing to keep in mind is that consumers are willing to spend money if they see a value in something. If retailers and installers treat floor coverings as just a commodity item that covers the substrate, then the consumer has no reason to spend more. Now would I install the types of flooring that are in this article in every home? No. But remember, don’t assume you know the customer’s likes and dislikes; our job as a retailer and installer is to create a beautiful floor that the consumer will be raving about to their family and friends. You would be surprised at how many homeowners will dig a little deeper into their pocket books if you can offer them value, and something just a bit different than their neighbors.

The following photos are meant to get the retailer and the installer thinking outside the box and using skills in selling, and quality installation that will boost the profit margins for both the retailer and the installer.

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(Photo 1) This is where it starts with an idea. (Photo 2) Using creativity, and a qualified installer, you can create an installation with the “wow” factor. This bathroom designed and installed by Darwin Overson and Shannon Romero utilizes slate, Brazilian Cherry, Ipe, pebbles, brass, stainless steel, and glass blocks. Wood and slate have been treated with a moisture resistant finish.

Photo 3 shows the front entry of the World Floor Covering Association. The handmade tiles are from Michelle Griffoul studios.

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In photos 4-5, Michael Byrne and several installers donated their time to install the eye-catching entry way.

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The tile is surrounded by granite tile that was cut to fit the leaf pattern (Photo 6).

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A stone installation that has a lower price point than the previous two installations but one that still adds much more aesthetic value than just a traditional straight install. (Photo 7) A 45-degree installation of stone at the entry, with a small border and metal insets at the corners. The 45-degree installation is completed with the same stone running parallel to the hardwood, a flexible grout is applied in the joint where the two different flooring products meet, this allows for expansion and contraction.

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Photo 8 shows a mixed media floor that was demonstrated at the Installation Showcase at Surfaces. The floor combines hardwood and tile in a basket weave pattern. This type of installation requires precision cuts with lay out lines to maintain the squarness of the pattern. Expansion and contraction around the tile/wood is once again an important factor to remember, a minimum 1/8-inch spacing is required. A non-sanded flexible grout is recommended for joints 1/8-inch or less.

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Decorative concrete has been hitting the commercial market by storm and has now started the movement to the residential side also. Photo 9 shows a typical concrete warehouse slab that will transform from dull to beautiful.

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The slab was shot blasted to remove contaminants and to give the concrete surface a profile (Photo 10). Following that, a two-coat epoxy moisture control system was applied to prevent any moisture intrusion from the slab.

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A sand broadcast was spread on the last coat of epoxy to create bond strength for the overlay (Photo 11).

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Next, a self-drying/self-leveling topping was used as the overlay over the concrete to provide a clean, flat surface (Photo 12). Make sure you use the right product for this type of pour as not all self leveling products can be used as an actual flooring surface. Many self-leveling products that flooring installers use are designed as an underlayment. After proper cure time, Lee Tizurd did the layout and design work for the overlay, and installers applied several different color acid stains to create the colors of the floor.

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(Photo 13) After the floor was finished a protective finish was applied to protect the floor.

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Photo 14 shows the finished floor.

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When installing custom installations with carpet, one tool that can make an installer stand out from the competition is a string line. String lines are very inexpensive and are used extensively in maintaining straight pattern lines. This particular installation is a staircase with a slight radius. Woven carpet was installed on this installation with the borders being hand sewn to the tread and riser pieces.

Measurements were taken on the top step and a reference mark placed at the center of the step. Another measurement was taken on the bottom step and once again, a reference mark was placed at the center of the step. A string line was placed at the center marks of the top step to the bottom step and the patterned carpet was aligned to the string line.

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(Photo 15) To maintain straight lines along the edges of each step, the dry line was used on each edge also. (Photo 16) The string line was slightly elevated so that carpet could be positioned without touching the string line.

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The finished installation is shown in Photo 17.

The ability to offer your end user a different look that can transform from an average installation to the “WOW” type of installation will set you apart from the competition but remember that both the retailer and the installer need to be fairly compensated as this type of work requires more time and more skill to accomplish.

If you are not as confident in selling and installing these types of installations don’t worry. There are several associations, such as CFI, NWFA, CTEF, that offer specialized training that can get you to that next level, and many have trade shows that offer plenty of education along with networking with your peers.

Surfaces, held in Las Vegas generally at the end of January, offers retailers, installers, architects and designers the tools to create beautiful floors both on the show floor and the educational programs offered. The Installation Showcase has several seminars during the show that let the attendees see products actually being installed to give them a much better understanding of products and installation.