I began installing in 1976. I started in carpet, then when the economy slowed in the ‘80s, I decided to expand into other flooring categories. I went to as many training seminars as I could, and on-the-job training for tile, hardwood, and resilient vinyl. I remember when Floor Covering Installer first came out and thought, what a great trade publication for installers, with articles written by those who had installation experience. Looking back at those years now as FCI gets ready to celebrate its 20th anniversary, I was asked to share some of the significant changes that I’ve seen in the industry.
Carpet. Looking at carpet, we still utilize the power stretcher. Has it gone through some changes? Yes. An installer has developed a pneumatic stretcher, but the majority of installers who use power stretchers are still using the traditional pole stretchers. Also, a new seaming system that has now been out for several years (Koolglide) has changed the way seams are constructed. The tool utilizes radio waves to activate a hot-melt adhesive instead of a traditional heat seam iron with a heat plate.
New backings and yarn systems have been introduced, making it necessary for installers to stay up to date on the installation of these products.
Ceramic tile. The tile industry has also seen changes in the past 20 years. Remember when 8” tile was the norm? Not anymore. Large-format tile is the trend nowadays. You are seeing more stone, glass tile and polymer accent pieces being installed. Installation methods have also changed. It seems that every year the TCNA Handbook gets thicker and thicker, meaning once again that tile setters need to stay up to date on the proper setting methods.
Hardwood and laminate. The hardwood industry has seen many changes regarding VOC limits in the past few years, and the move to water-based finishes from the traditional oil-modified urethanes. Manufacturers and installers around the country are starting to see more stringent requirements in their states regarding the VOC limits and are having to adapt to new formulations and application differences from that of oil-modified finishes.
Factory-finished solid/engineered is making an impact on the sand and finish market also. What was once the majority of installations, sand and finish, is now seeing a lower percentage and losing market share to factory-finished and laminate floors.
Speaking of laminate floors, who would have thought that this product category would survive and then thrive? There are those in the industry that thought that laminate would never take hold, but with advanced technology laminate floors now have embossed surfaces to simulate wood grains and stone textures.
There are a couple of wood manufacturers that have had clip/floating systems prior to the introduction of laminate, but now that the new locking/floating systems have been becoming more advanced, you are seeing the locking systems being integrated to factory-finished engineered hardwoods and even resilient products.
Green products and programs. Installers today are using more environmentally friendly adhesives, which are not only better for the environment but also benefit the health of installers and occupants of homes and buildings.
On the distribution/manufacturing side there have been some positive moves. The National Wood Flooring Association is proactive with several programs including supporting the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) through its Responsible Procurement Program (RPP). The RPP is a joint initiative among leading environmental groups and industry manufacturers committed to producing and promoting wood floors that come only from environmentally and socially responsible sources.
Several manufacturers are involved with ISO 14000 and 14001:2004, including manufacturers of resilient and laminate flooring. The ISO 14000 family addresses various aspects of environmental management for companies and organizations looking to identify and control their environmental impact and improve their environmental performance.
On the tile side, there is the Tile Council of North America’s Green Squared Certification. The standard on which it is based, ANSI A138.1, evaluates products and processes in five key environmental and social categories: product characteristics, manufacturing operations, corporate governance, innovation, and end-of-life product management.
The program “recognizes manufacturers for leadership in environmental stewardship and corporate responsibility, and serves as the standard bearer to ensure transparent, full disclosure of sustainability product by product, manufacturer by manufacturer - industry wide,” according to TCNA.
In carpet, manufacturers are utilizing renewable bio-based materials in their manufacturing process. So, what will the next 20 years bring? Keep up with FCI and let’s find out together!