One of the many tasks that I perform for the company is that of technical advisor. I am constantly asked how to quote specific items that seem simple tasks to many involved in our industry. The problem: there are not always simple answers to simple questions. Take, for instance, carpet restretches. I will be on a jobsite and receive a call from a store associate asking how much I charge to restretch a room of carpet. The associate tries to get a low flat rate without providing any information about the job. This cannot be done. It is important to know the size of the room and what is required to correct the issues. In other words, what caused the bubbles?
Carpet bubbles are caused by any number of different circumstances. Failure to adequately stretch the carpet the first time is just one of them. The use of improper cushion, a drastic change in temperature and humidity, and improper acclimation time are others. There is also a possibility that the homeowner can dislodge the carpet from the tackstrip to install cable lines, home entertainment wires or alarm wires.
I have also encountered cases where there has been an issue with the manner in which the carpet was cleaned. If the carpet cleaner did not extract enough water, delamination can occur. The fillers that are used to hold the face fibers in place can break apart. This usually happens when the customer decides to clean the carpet without consulting a professional carpet cleaner. I am very careful not to place blame for the condition. I do not know what happened when the carpet was installed and blaming anyone for the problem is counterproductive. I have been contacted to fix the issue, not compound it.
There is a fundamental difference between performing a proper restretch and moving bubbles. Most customers do not understand what goes into a proper restretch. Taking your knee kicker out and bumping the carpet up to the wall and using your staple gun to secure it to the tackstrip is not adequate. I will never understand why carpet installers will spend $25 to drive to a jobsite, spend ½-hour bumping the carpet up to the wall with a knee kicker, and collect $50 cash from the customer and think they just made a profit. You not only waste time, gas and pay a helper, you actually lose money. The harsh reality is that since you did not do the job correctly, you have taken on someone else’s problem and claimed it as your own. Remember, you got paid for a restretch; at least that is what the customer believes.
The first step I take is to inspect the current installation to determine what the problem is. To do this, it is necessary to pull back the carpet and check the tackstrip installation. I cannot give a warranty on my work if the wrong tackstrip was used originally, unless I change it. If the tackstrip was placed too far from the wall, it needs to be moved. If the installer used strip with nails that get turned around by a good stretch, I will completely replace it. If it is rotten, it will also need to be replaced. If it is in place incorrectly, I always back up the tackstrip with another row.
The next thing I need to do is check the seam. If it is not properly constructed, it is my job to make it right. Believe it or not, there are still installers who do not seal their seams. What may look like a great seam could turn out to be peaking when correctly stretched. Installers can get away with this when they kick in a room using a knee kicker because the carpet is not properly stretched. It may be necessary to add seams behind floor vents and in hallways. I can count on breaking apart seams in a doorway. Not doing this would create issues rather than solve them. Anytime you start reconstructing seams, you are adding a great deal of time to the re-installation, which is now what this project has become. Remember, that even more time is involved when you start breaking apart seams in a patterned carpet. If the patterns are lined up correctly when you arrive, your job could become very tricky. You must take this into account when bidding the project.
The third thing to consider is moving the furniture. In order to stretch a room properly, I must have access to all walls, not just the six-inches between the couch and end table. This either means clearing the room entirely, which is preferred, or moving the furniture around inside the room that cannot be cleared. Although I would rather have the room cleared, I do understand that is not always possible.
There are standards for stretching carpet that should always be followed. I always use a power stretcher. I have spoken with many people who disagree with me on this, but using a power stretcher has never failed me. I also know some installers who are using a spike. One installer even calls it his “restretch tool.” He believes he can skip a lot of these steps and still satisfy his customer. Maybe, but for how long? Every time you repair “your repair,” it costs you money. That’s not even taking into consideration the damage you are doing to the customer’s carpet. For me, it will always be the poles. You cannot beat “correct,” because it will always be just that, “correct.”
Billing for this type of service is no longer simple, is it? This is why I cannot possibly give a quote over the phone. After inspecting the jobsite, there are different ways to bill a customer. Some installers like to bill per man hour. This would mean that the agreed upon rate is multiplied by the amount of hours and the amount of installers required to complete the task within the given time frame. If furniture is to be moved, remember that it could require more than one person to move it.
Another way to prepare the bill is to charge for basic removal and installation rates per square foot. This means charging for furniture and any extra work that may apply because in fact, you are providing a new installation for the one that was previously incorrectly performed.
Sounds expensive, doesn’t it? This is another reason that I do not like to quote over the phone. When I am at the customer’s house, I have the opportunity to “sell” me. This may sound corny, but it works! Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. They just spent five to ten grand on carpet purchase that has bubbles. I know that without degrading what is already done, I can sell my service. I understand that I am not cheap. I also understand that if I am not good at what I do, my phone would not ring. By the time we are done, I have not only satisfied the customer, but I feel assured that the dealer who used my services will see this customer again when new flooring is purchased.
So, the next time you are called upon to provide restretching services, consider what is at stake: the opportunity to provide the customer with an installation that will look acceptable and perform for many years, or just a quick solution that will not last. We are professionals, so use this opportunity to not only increase your business, but to provide a lasting solution for a difficult situation.