By any measure, 2010 has been a difficult year for all businesses tied to the housing market, including the flooring segment. While a tax credit for home buyers promoted a modest increase in housing sales for the first quarter of the year, the gains fell for the remainder of the year. Consumer credit remains tight despite the massive influx of government stimulus money, and the unemployment rate remains alarmingly high.

Looking ahead to next year, however, there are some bright spots. Housing starts and both new and existing home sales are predicted to rise moderately next year, according to the most recent forecast by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). Interest rates are predicted to remain stable near an all-time low point, making housing attractive for prospective buyers and investors. Meanwhile, household debt levels have reduced considerably, which should allow more borrowers to qualify for financing. These factors point to a better year for the housing sector in 2011, and 2012 is predicted to see an even stronger resurgence.

As housing sales rise, so will the work levels for floor covering installers, who have faced some of the most difficult times in recent memory. When the work returns, will you be ready for the competition? If you’re not sure, then you should definitely use the down time you have now to prepare by educating yourself on the latest installation techniques, tools and technologies.

Despite the recession, manufacturers of floor covering installation tools, accessories and materials such as adhesives have continued to introduce groundbreaking new innovations to our industry every year, making the installer’s job safer and easier. However, keeping track of all these new products and differentiating between them is now more complicated. For example, consider adhesive selection; in the past, choices were limited, with more of a one-size-fits-all approach for each category. Now, there are specific adhesives for each sub category, and manufacturers specify which products to use to a greater degree. Failure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations to the letter can really cost the installer in the event of a failure.

In order to help installers stay on top of the latest installation products, this month Floor Covering Installer presents its annual FCI Spotlight Showcase issue. In this section, leading manufacturers explain in detail about the newest installation technologies that are transforming our industry. We hope that these company showcases will give you ideas on how to work more safely and efficiently as we head into 2011. On behalf of everyone at FCI, have a happy and prosperous New Year!