I was asked by a friend to look at an installation that had been done 8 years ago. The store owner knows that the labor is out of warranty, but he has an upset customer and would like somebody to look at what had been done to her home by the installer.

Well, to say the least, I was intrigued so I asked for more information. It seems that the carpet was installed over a finished strip wood floor. The customer removed the carpet and wanted to have her original floor refinished. When the contractor came out to give her a quote, she was told that she would need to replace the floorboards due to extensive damage from the carpet installation.

Now, I am really intrigued. I agreed to go out with the manager to take a look and see what kind of damage would stop such a project.

I had to stop and think to myself “what could be so wrong with the floor underneath that it could not be refinished?” Staples from the pad can be removed, with the holes getting filled as part of the refinishing process. The same principle can apply to the nail holes left by the tack strip. I just could not figure it out. Maybe the customer just had a lazy refinish guy. Either way the store owner is a friend. Also, I knew the guy who had done the installation 8 years ago. I figured that knowing who had installed it would make things easy, because he does have a good reputation. So I figured I would go out to lend some support to my friend who was obviously getting misled by the customer.

When we got to the jobsite the customer showed us the room that she was prepping to have refinished. What I saw astonished me. There were oblong chunks that were between 3/8” to ½” wide by ½” to 2” long in some cases, which were approximately 3’ from the wall. These gouges in the floor extended along both stretch walls and were spaced about 3’ apart. More than a few of these were 3/8” deep.

What could cause such a thing? You guessed it; a pick. If you do not know what one of these is, it is an attachment for a power stretcher. Instead of using poles that extend from wall to wall, some installers use an attachment that extends less than one foot from the end of the stretcher head. This makes the stretcher lighter and easier to maneuver around the room. Basically it is a shortcut to the real thing. In order make this system work, the installer must stick the pointed end of the spike through the carpet, through the pad and point it into the substrate. He then must use force to keep the pointed end stuck into the substrate while he pulls down on the head of the power stretcher. This is how the gouges ended up in the hardwood.  

Here is where the dilemmas start to kick in. Who is responsible for this? It clearly states in the CRI 104-105 that the use of such a device erases any warranties provide by the manufacturer. However, the carpet has been removed. Remember, the customer in this case was trying to convert her floors back to hardwood. On top of that, this particular installation is 8 years old. To make matters worse for my friend, his installer left him a couple of years ago to work for someone else in town. I asked the customer if there had been a re-stretch performed, hoping there had been.

The answer was no. Neither the customer nor the store owner had any idea how these gouges got there, or what could have caused this. The gouges were definitely there and there was no denying it. Again, who should be responsible for this? Should it be the customer? All she did was buy the product from someone she thought was a reputable dealer. The dealer in turn thought he sent out a good installer to do the installation.  

After we left, the store owner asked me if I knew what could have caused these gouges. Well I knew what happened and felt obligated to tell him. After hearing the whole story he asked me why an installer would use a tool which he knew could leave these gouges in the floor?  I have heard many different arguments from various installers on why this tool is used. I have heard installers ask, “Why would they sell it if it was not good for the industry?”

Really, has anyone ever heard of capitalism?

Tool companies have to make a profit. If there is a market for a tool it will be manufactured. In other words, tools are made because we demand them to be made. I have heard a fellow tell me that “there was no real damage to the carpet; well, at least none that you could see.”  I hear installers tell me that if you use the tool properly you will not leave behind that we describe in our training. This is where I hear the “real world” argument. Really; the last time I checked I was living in the same world he was. Unless of course he checked out of this world altogether. 

The only argument I have heard that begins to make sense is speed. I hear over and over how much faster the carpet gets installed by “picking” it in. Installers are looking for speed to make up for a loss of pay. Personally, I have a problem with this. I do not believe that money can decide whether you do a job correctly or not. If you pay a guy 50% more to do an install, should you be buying better installation methods?

No, absolutely not. If an installer accepts $2 a yard to install a carpet, he is accepting that money to do his job correctly. He is getting paid to do the same job as the guy who makes $10 a yard. It is not until we expect more out of ourselves that we will be worth what we believe we are worth. I can argue the pros and cons of this tool all day. What I cannot do is change the fact that the manufacturers will not warranty their product when this tool is used to install carpet. In this case, that is not an issue because the carpet was removed when we arrived.

At the end of the day, the store is the one who ponied up. He paid the sand-and-finish contractor to fix the gouges before he did his refinish. I believe he ended up selling another flooring job through the goodwill he created. The installer loses nothing except the respect of the retailer. Remember, he is working somewhere else.  The customer also loses though; her floor will never be the same.