The International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association (CFI) and Floor Installation Association of North America (FIANA) recently held their first, and only, joint convention in New Orleans. Hosted in two separate hotels a few blocks from each other, CFI celebrated its 21st while FIANA celebrated its 20th—and later revealed to be its final—convention. (NOTE: See story about FIANA’s decision to dissolve elsewhere in this issue. For full interviews with the heads of both associations, see the last issue.)

To accommodate the doubling-up of resources, both groups held abbreviated events. Both associations sent members on a tour to a nearby USG cement board plant. CFI’s convention packed an opening session, seminars, workshops and a Floor Covering Installer/Floor Trends-sponsored happy hour reception into one day, with the following day devoted to visiting the FIANA hotel for a short trade show. FIANA also held a brief event, with a welcome reception the first night, followed by a general session, two presentations and the trade show the following day. FIANA welcomed about 160 people and CFI drew around 140.

Robert Varden, CFI executive director, kicked off the opening session by presenting the Chris Davis Award—named after late industry icon and World Floor Covering Association (WFCA) President and CEO D. Christopher Davis—to Tom Jennings, WFCA’s vice president of member services.

Upon accepting the award, Jennings stated, “Chris Davis was a dear friend of mine so this award has a little extra meaning for me. Very few days go by that I don’t think about him. He is an inspiration to me.”

Jennings added, “Installation is near and dear to me. For any business the installation department and the service department are the fingerprints and DNA of the organization. WFCA will remain completely supportive of CFI. What you do matters, raising up good installers and showing their impact. When somebody sees positive results it has a positive influence, and there’s less of a chance he or she will try to cut corners next time.”

Bob Gillespie, CFI past president, presented the Charles R. Gress award to three members. Honoring those in the industry who promote quality floor covering installation and professionalism, the award was given to Bryan Artioli (for 2013) and Scott Ballard and Michael Buckhardt (for 2014).

Education and workshops. FIANA welcomed two presenters. Motivational speaker Bob Losyk presented “Workforce 2020: Preparing Today for the Workforce Challenges of Tomorrow,” where he addressed employee recruiting, managing the workforce and how to survive and thrive in today’s workplace. Sales trainer Richard Farrell offered “Selling Has Nothing to Do with Selling,” touching on the ways sales have changed dramatically with the advent of the Internet and how to capitalize on it.

CFI offered workshops and seminars on resilient adhesives, moisture testing for wood and concrete, mechanically fastened and glue-down wood installation, water-based acrylic spray adhesives, selling floor installation, woven and patterned carpet, and making a profit in the installation business. Presenters included Tim Provence and Tony Pastrana of Armstrong; Joe Cea of Congoleum; Dick Schmidt of Tarkett; Scott Parks of Tri-West; Jason Spangler of Wagner Meters; Don Hamm of SprayLock; and CFI’s Gillespie, Varden, and Jim and Jane Walker.

The resilient adhesives presentation, called “The Science of the Correct Adhesive,” focused on the different types of resilient adhesives available, including VCT adhesives, spray adhesives, tapes and epoxies.

Cea stated, “Adhesives have to be acclimated, no matter what kind. And guys need to understand that trowels are a disposable tool. Probably after one bucket it’s time to switch to a new trowel. You have to keep using a fresh trowel. I walked in on a VCT job where the guy obviously had used a trowel with a broken tooth. Well, right after that floor was waxed you could see the broken tooth throughout the whole job.”

He also explained the importance of back-rolling. “After you use your notch trowel, you need to go back with a nap roller and knock down the ridges. You don’t want to remove the adhesive. Keep the nap wet and run it over the adhesive lightly.”

Explaining the uses of tape in resilient installations, Schmidt said, “The whole reason to use tapes is they’re fast, easy and convenient. But make sure you read the small print – don’t read the marketing; read what the instructions say.”

Turning his attention to spray adhesives, he said the products are ideal for hospitals. “There’s no smell, no noise and no dust. Just make sure you are achieving the proper spread rate.”

Parks shared his tips for working with two-part epoxies. “Open up parts A and B. Get all of it off the lid and into the can. Then pour A into B. Working time will be based on temperature. I like to keep it around 70 degrees. Any warmer and it will start accelerating. If you want to mix it with a paddle, set it at a very slow speed. You don’t want to mix air into it.”

He added, “Write the time down on the box, so you know what time it was completely mixed. Put it on the substrate immediately, spread it on the floor with a fine-notch trowel, then back-roll it with a paint roller. One guy should be spreading and one guy should be knocking the ridges down. Then wait 10 to 20 minutes before putting the sheet on the floor.”

Parks said after the material is put down, it should be rolled with a 100 lb. roller. “After that, do not walk on the floor for 45 minutes to an hour. Scrape some adhesive onto the box, so you can watch the epoxy and see what it’s doing. After 45 minutes to an hour, roll the floor again, then stay off it for about two more hours. Epoxies are reactive adhesives. There is no air drying. The adhesive starts curing the second the two parts meet. Once it’s done reacting, that’s it; it’s done.”

CFI instructor Ed Braile said he loves attending the convention because it makes him feel invigorated. “I get charged up, get to meet new people and see how they solve problems. As soon as you think you know everything you’re in trouble.”

CFI installer Roger Huff was pleased that CFI and FIANA were collaborating on the convention, and said there needs to be more collaboration in other corners of the industry. “I think in order for the installation community to grow we need more input from retailers. We need to get retailers in there, training and working with installers. We also need to make installers part of the [sales] process, and end this adversarial relationship. Both sides need each other to function. We’re on the same team.”

Trade show. Lane West, Personna national sales manager, also spoke highly of the collaboration between the two associations. “I think the joint effort is a good thing. There are some synergies to draw from, and the entire education and training aspect is so important.”

Taylor Tools president and CEO, Gavin Daniels, said he was pleased with the turnout for the trade show. “It makes a lot of sense to combine the two events. It gives us a chance to meet both with our distributors and cream-of-the-crop installers.”

Ray Knapp, technical salesman for Taylor Tools, demonstrated the company’s CTG.600 Concrete Thickness Gauge. He explained, “Concrete moisture testing during floor prep is critical. This non-destructive device gives accurate results in three seconds or less for concrete from 3.2” to 6’ thick. It’s important to be able to tell slab thickness in order to meet ASTM 2170, which insists that relative humidity readings be taken at 40 percent the thickness of the slab.”

Jeff Brugman, executive director of Floor Covering Distributor Alliance and its Powerhold brand, said the partnership between CFI and FIANA was the right move. “It gets the best ROI for FIANA exhibitors, and CFI has always had a great reputation. It’s great to talk to quality installers and hear their feedback.”

Matt Minchew, Pam Product Line Manager for FastenMaster, talked about the company’s acquisition last year of Pam Fastening Technology. “The wholesale distributor channels have remained consistent, but now Pam is more sophisticated, with a deeper bench and broader capabilities. FastenMaster is known for its deck fastening technology, and with the acquisition of Pam, we introduced the flooring channel to our organization.”

At the close of the convention, Varden introduced Tony Buckhardt as the new president of CFI, succeeding outgoing president Alan Ellis. Buckhardt stated, “I stand before you a humbled man. I am so truly blessed to lead my CFI family into exciting times, and I will continue to do it with the same passion.”

Varden added, “CFI is in a position of power right now. Strike while the iron is hot. Take some of this energy from the convention home with you.”