The floor inspections industry is a young and growing profession. The current claims process was started by flooring manufacturers in an attempt to handle concerns in an unbiased, fair and accurate manner. What flooring manufacturers needed was a way to determine the cause, and whether the issue was related to the manufacturing, installation or maintenance process. Without accurate determination of cause it was impossible to correct any issues related to the manufacturing process, so the inspections industry was born.
Since its inception, there have been questions of accuracy and fairness. More often than not, installers and retailers have felt they were scapegoats because it appeared inspectors were looking for ancillary, unrelated issues in an attempt to deflect blame away from the manufacturer. In addition, there have been questions regarding inspector education, training, qualifications and report writing skills.
Adding fuel to the fire is unprofessional inspections. Some “claims services” even hire home inspectors with no formal floor covering inspection training. Certification programs have popped up all over the country, and these are oftentimes private businesses unaffiliated with any certifying body—and therefore uncontrolled and unaccountable. Most importantly, some inspectors fail to fervently pursue continuing education which is of the utmost importance when dealing with the ever-changing flooring industry.
One of the biggest reasons for the distrust is the fact that there are no industry requirements for the inspection or inspector.That is about to change. The IICRC is an ANSI-approved Standards Writing Body. A few years ago, a consensus body was assembled for the purpose of writing the ANSI S-220 Hard Surface Inspections Standard. That is now nearing completion; our goal is to present it for public review this fall/winter.
As a consensus body, we have set the lofty goal to raise both the top and bottom bar in the inspections industry. The S-220 standard will provide minimum standards for the inspection based on material and concern. It will cover the inspection of Hardwood, Laminate, Resilient, Stone, Ceramic, Adhesives, Underlayment, Subfloors and Subfloor Preparation. In addition there will be minimums for report writing, photographic documentation and more. Each floor covering chapter will provide the minimum observations, tests and measurements required to determine cause.
How does this help the flooring industry? Accountability. Commissioning parties such as manufacturers, installers, retailer, attorneys and insurance companies will be able to require that inspections be performed according to the S-220 standard. Materially invested parties will have a tool to determine if the inspection has met minimum industry standards and, if needed, documentation to dispute whether the inspector did their due diligence in reaching their conclusion.
The inspections industry has worked very hard through the National Institute of Certified Floorcoverings Inspectors (NICFI) to raise the bar and make the best inspectors better. The problem is that while the best inspectors become even more qualified, the unqualified inspectors out there have no minimum requirements to meet. The S-220 will help continue to raise the top bar by improving education, but more importantly it will create minimum requirements for the most common flooring issues and make the inspector accountable for what process was used to reach their conclusion. Additionally, it will create a process for materially invested parties to dispute the inspection report in the cases where the inspector failed to meet industry standards.
Once the S-220 is published, the Wild West days of the inspection industry will be over. It will increase credibility of the professional inspector and expose the imposters (or at least force them to meet industry standards). It will also create a process in which those interested in becoming inspectors can determine which inspection certification meets the standard. Most of all, it will spell out minimum requirements, which translates to accountability for the inspector and a more transparent flooring industry overall.