It’s easy to say, “We always install according to Carpet & Rug Institute CRI-104 Commercial Installation Standards.” The reality is that it is very tough to do when the amount and type of floor prep is extensive and the owner doesn’t want to pay for what needs to be done.

One flooring contractor bid the job “per plans and specs” and included a small amount for “minor floor prep.”  When they were finally able to get on the job site, it was discovered that asbestos abatement had been done, including the removal of existing asbestos tile and old cut-back adhesive.  A shot-blasting machine was used to remove adhesive residue; while the adhesive was removed, so was the smooth surface of the concrete leaving a very rough, powdering surface.  In addition, there were depressions or stripes left in the floor where the shot-blast equipment overlapped.  Many floor areas had cracks and small holes. 

Seeing a problem, the alert project manager for the flooring contractor had an IICRC/FCITS certified flooring inspector walk the job and provide a report.  The inspector’s report said that the floor was unsuitable in its present state to receive carpet (or any floor covering), referring to CRI 104 Commercial Installation Standard, 6.1 and 6.2 which said that “cracks over 1/8”. ..depressions over 1/32”..must be patched…powdering surfaces must be sealed.”  The project manager also has the manufacturer of the carpet send in a representative to inspect the substrate.  The mill’s report confirmed that the floor must be patched (as a minimum) and sealed or completely resurfaced. 

A self-leveling polymer-type cementitious underlayment was not acceptable to the client because of cost.  After carefully looking at all floor space, the project manager determined that 100% of the common and perimeter areas must be skim-coated, and at least 50% of the interior office space, and 100% of the floor must be sealed to address the powdering condition.  A change order was presented for approval based on expected cost plus overhead and profit. The basis for the change order was that the flooring contractor had not had an opportunity to evaluate actual site conditions prior to accepting a contract; that the general contractor and the client had not disclosed potential substrate problems; that actual floor conditions were not typical of such a job; that the specified products and type of installation could not be furnished without potential failure.

To the project manager’s surprise, the client responded that “our project engineer has determined only ‘minor’ floor prep is needed and this should be covered under the scope of the original bid document’s plans and specs which called for installation according to CRI 104 Standards.”  The project manager was adamant that this was not a case of minor floor prep where one is patching a few pock marks, holes, or cracks, and pointed out that the entire finished surface of the concrete had been removed during shot-blasting, leaving a powdering surface; that shot-blasting left depressions of varying depths (over-lap marks) which are readily visible; that the action of shot-blasting contributed to pock marking, holes, and other surface imperfections, all of which must be filled.

As he should have done, the flooring contractor refused to proceed with the work until he was either given a suitable surface upon which to install the specified materials OR was paid to provide a suitable surface.  While there was a stalemate for several days, the client finally approved the change order.  The patching was done, the job installed, and the flooring contractor got paid.  

Almost any job should have some floor prep and patching.  While it is easy to quote CRI 104 and 105 standards, it can be very tough to turn a standard into reality when owners and general contractors don’t want to pay for the work.  It is crucial that your proposals clearly define the scope of work on floor prep.   Otherwise, you may be forced to do the job without any extra money or come back and redo the job after it fails.