We received a lot of passionate feedback to our first Installers’ Forum in the May/June issue. Rather than comment on the responses myself, I thought it would make more sense to simply let the installers and professionals speak for themselves.
Jim and Jane Walker, who recently stepped down from the International Certified Floorcovering Installers Association (CFI), said wages must go up. “As Jim says, there is only one problem—the tradesmen and women must be paid according to skills and knowledge,” Jane stated. “When this is accomplished, there will be no shortage of flooring installers. Pay scales of 40 years ago are still being used. That does not create a mass explosion of workers.”
According to Lisa Peterson, project manager for Commercial Flooring Services in Huntsville, Ala., the wage issue is one of the biggest roadblocks. “The industry can no longer continue to lower prices. We simply cannot attract good, upstanding people if the pay is not there.”
Chris Straitiff, an 18-year veteran of hardwood flooring based in Shirley, Mass., said he loses business whenever customers choose price above all else. “Most consumers couldn’t care less if we biscuit join our miter, buff between coats, and use premium fasteners and finishes. To me these are the things that make a floor last forever.”
John Sloan, director of operations for The Blakley Corp. in Indianapolis, thinks part of the problem stems from a lack of industry education. “The industry needs to not only increase educational opportunities for installers—it is also needed for the sales and management teams so they understand how critical it is to plan and prepare projects ahead of time to ensure the installer a respectable income.”
The industry also needs to market itself better, Sloan noted. “If in five to 10 years we want qualified installation professionals, we need to stop cutting installation labor costs and start marketing the trade as a profession comparable to carpenters, electricians and plumbers.”
Katie Fitzgerald, president of Floor Covering International in Blue Ash, Ohio, believes consumers need more education, too. “We need to educate consumers on the importance of qualification/certification, so they will be willing to pay more to get good installers. Far too many consumers don’t know how important it is until their floor has an issue.”
One veteran installer, who asked not to be named, said the blame falls on undocumented immigrant workers taking away jobs from domestic installers. “They are flooding the trade with rock-bottom pricing and driving down installer wages while cutting their own throats.” He also dislikes box stores, noting “they use fly-by-night companies to hire any installer or handyman they choose.”
Thanks as always for everyone’s perspective. You can reach me at email@example.com or (603) 791-0215. I love hearing from you.