We recently sat down with Larry Press, director of flooring with Helmitin Adhesives, who announced that he was stepping down from the company after 15 years due to health issues.
Press has been in the industry for most of his life, as part of his family’s third generation of flooring installers and retailers. In 1986, Press was hired by Kentile Floors as director of consumer affairs and quality control; he would go on to hold similar positions at Para-Chem and Helmitin.
His dedication to developing industry standards resulted in him receiving ASTM’s highest recognition, the Award of Merit. He was also recognized with an FCICA Lifetime Honorary Membership for his contributions to the flooring industry, and is a past member of Carpenters Local 900 as a flooring installer.
Press noted that he will continue his volunteer involvement for the development of flooring standards with ASTM Committees F06 on Resilient Floor Coverings and D14 on Adhesives, as well as head of delegation for the ISO 219 Technical Advisory Group responsible for standards development on Textile, Resilient and Laminate Flooring. He added that he may also consult in the future.
What involvement will you have in the industry moving forward?
A: “I don’t want to leave the industry entirely because it’s part of my blood, so I’ll still participate in standards and development. I listen to the experts and read the columns out there, and there’s a lot of misinformation still.”
A lot of attention has been paid to the lack of qualified labor in the installation industry lately. Do you think that will ever change?
A: “I think as long as flooring installation remains an unlicensed trade, there is always going to be that problem. If you’re a contractor, you have to be licensed. If you’re a plumber or electrician, you have to be licensed. But if you want to install floors and you’ve got a knife, a kicker and a trowel, you’re an installer. There’s no test you have to take. When I was a kid and a customer wanted a custom job, we were never asked what it would cost because the customer knew it was going to be expert work. That type of trust has been lost. Until retailers realize the necessity of having good installers, and the public realizes the quality of work they could be asking for, I don’t think much is going to change.”
So by and large you think the retailer is to blame?
A: “It’s not just the retailers. If the flooring manufacturers, instead of just hiring people to do research on how bad the problem is, would make sure installers were trained on their products, everything would be good. The industry has been the one to avoid all responsibility. Instead of building up the trade so that someone who enters it can be proud of the job they do, they keep releasing products that are ‘installer-proof.’ If they wanted to, the manufacturers could ensure that the installer shortage and the adequacy of the installer would improve over time.”
Is there anything that you feel has improved in the industry since you got your start?
A: “The attention to environmental concerns regarding adhesives and flooring has been a plus, and the attempts to recycle have definitely approved. There has been a lot of progress made, but at the same time it has been lost in other areas that are just as critical.”