Unlike with the walls and ceilings, the flooring contractor must have total control of the workspace. There cannot be any other trade maneuvering equipment, tools, materials and workmen while a floor covering is being installed. If there is no control, health hazards will manifest as slip, trip and fall injuries. It just makes sense, right? No.

Case One

My last big job as a flooring contractor (2012) was a 35,000 square yard project of four months for a 35-story time-share building in Miami Beach, FL. We installed stretch-in carpet over synthetic felt with all new three-pin row tack strip in all the units’ living, dining and bedrooms. The common corridor was a double-stick system with solid rubber pad and custom wool woven carpet. There were six floors in renovation, simultaneously after the third week into the project; this was to expedite the job within the four month timeframe. We had six hours to remove the existing carpet and pad, and ten days later, two days to install the new materials.

Working all at the same time, on the floors were the drywall guys, painters, wallpaper hangers, carpenters, plumbers, glass and mirror guy, door locks, electrician, marble refinishers and of course us, the floor guys. The floor in point was the one that we were laying in the corridor, glue on concrete, pad, glue on pad and then the “one” shot piece for the seven-foot-wide corridor. On most floors, all the units were under renovation, however, some had a single unit that was not on the list. This one floor had such a unit.

Standing there, overseeing the corridor carpet for pattern alignment to the ceiling pattern, the elevator doors opened with the bellman coming out, cart and luggage in hand and 5 guests following (adults and children). I was speechless. As the painting foreman was right there, she escorted the guests through the maze of workmen and of course over my pad and carpet being installed over wet adhesive! All the while, the wallpaper hangers, painters, marble guys, and electrician were completing their work.

That afternoon, I sent an email to all project managers about this, damning the event and noting safety issues and hazards for the guests as well as the other workmen.

Within 24 hours, I was the bad guy. However, when the flooring was going down, we had single control of the workspace, no other tradesmen present, and no one got hurt.

Case Two

A beachfront hotel ballroom and meeting rooms, 5,000 square yards plus, were being double-stick installed. After a claim was issued with the manufacturer, I was asked to review site conditions and document the process. Upon arrival, I discussed the situation with the lead installer, who, after confirming I was not the enemy, explained the problem. The pattern could not be matched in the 2,500 square yard ballroom with two wing rooms off the main center room, on either side of center. Within a few hours of measuring and evaluation, I asked for a meeting between the project manager, hotel representative, dealer, installer, banquet manager and myself. During this meeting, I asked questions as to the seaming plan submittal, which room or side was the start point and who determined the start point.

After the hotel representative declared that she determined the start point due to meeting room booking, the GC and installer left, as they already knew where I was going with this. The installer was not allowed to perform his work according to the industry protocol for patterned goods: start in the center, work to each side. After more measuring and presenting a solution to the parties involved, they agreed to the “fix.”

In this situation, the installer did not have control of his space, and was blamed for not being able to align the pattern. Of course, it did not end there: the next day, eight hours after a double-stick install in the main ballroom area, scissor lifts (four each) were brought in to clean the chandeliers!

Case Three

School buildings, 30,000 plus square feet each, had high RH readings (99%); the HVAC was operational but not working— there is a difference. The general contractor was 3 months behind schedule due to change orders from the owners and wanted to expedite the floor covering installation (VCT, LVT and carpet tile). The installer did his own testing for moisture and RH, and would not install until readings were in compliance. I was called in as a third party/inspector tester of the concrete, fourth in line after the installer, owner, and GC had someone test already.

I retested some of the others and added 40 of my own, both ASTM 1869 and 2170. I spent almost three weeks with testing and site reviews on this project and meeting with the installer; although hired by the GC, my marching orders were to get the conditions within compliance. I agreed with the installer, who did not have control of the space, to wait until the GC had the HVAC totally operational and working, along with the ground floor doors and second floor windows closed, which were constantly opened by the other tradesmen. I also explained to the installer what work to proceed with in relation to his contract, such as substrate preparation.

During my final visit to take readings, they were within the compliance of the product manufacturer and the installer was able to proceed with installation of the floorcovering product. In this case, the installer stood his ground and did not proceed, as he did not have control of the workspace and could not warranty his work and the product performance. I will add that the way we worked out a plan did save an $180,000 change order for moisture remediation work.

These examples are both new construction and renovation projects. I have had similar conditions in residential jobs, which were easier to correct, but just as frustrating. Workspace control is important for any trade to have successful performance of your workmanship. The other building trades all get their time in place, but when the schedule becomes behind, we as the floor guys are usually the one to hurry up and finish, damn the conditions.

Our trade is as important as any other to complete in a professional manner; the product we install needs to perform under future traffic and maintenance. Remember, you will be the first to be called when there is a failure, and the job site conditions will long be forgotten by the person that makes that call to you.