In the sixth edition of our FCI Installation Awards, we were yet again blown away by the talent, craftsmanship and skill of the flooring installation industry. Across residential and commercial settings, installers are thinking outside of the box, turning challenges into triumphs and obtaining the training and education needed to create the foundation and focal points of unforgettable spaces. Our industry is booming with talent, and it is our pleasure to highlight the best of the best. Here are this year’s winners.
- Ceramic Tile & Stone: H.J. Martin and Son
- Hardwood: Artistic Floors by Design
- Carpet: Shavers Shag & Vinyl
Product options for this shower installation were limited due to steam, overall shower moisture and drainage.Green Bay, Wis.-based H.J. Martin and Son is no stranger to our Installation Awards, and the company has returned this year with two winning entries. In a project that called for some outside of the box thinking, installer Josh Carlson brought a homeowner’s love for color and unique design to life in a custom steam shower install.
Being a steam shower, there were certain products that could not be used during installation, due to factors like steam, overall shower moisture and drainage. Carlson turned to specified tiles and grout, including Lunada Bay Tile’s Agate 1x4 Brick Portofino Pearl and Mizumi 1x4 Brick Natural Bright White to create vertical stripes on the walls; on the floor he used Agate 1x1 Mosaic Portofino Pearl; Terra Bella Marble – 6x12 white Thassos honed; Quartz Bella Blanco granite for a solid surface seat top and nice shelves and behind the scenes, Schluter Systems’ Waterproofing Kit, Ditra-Heat mats and Mapei Kerapoxy CQ Premium Epoxy Mortar.
Unique features of the shower included solid-surface shelving and a heated, anti-fog mirror. Additional aspects of the installation were the glass shower doors and a transom window to release steam pressure.
“How it turned out is a perfect picture of how it was in my head,” said Carlson. “When you start a project, you have a picture of how you expect it to turn out and it turned out exactly as I planned, other than a few minor details, which only improved from the original vision. The fact that the homeowner is extremely happy is really what matters the most and makes me happy.”
Though the end result left the homeowner with the fun, whimsical design she hoped for—and left Carlson with a project to be proud of and recognition from his industry peers—that does not mean the install did not come with challenges.
The entire shower is paper face-mounted glass mosaic tile, and Carlson explains that the paper is designed to keep the tiles together for the install and is then easily removable when wet. A related challenge to that is that the product is cut with a wet saw, and therefor as Carlson was cutting, the paper was coming off. This meant he only had minutes to get the product cut and installed or the sheet would fall apart due to the paper being wet. And if the paper comes off too early, the product isn’t held together.
Because this was a complete mosaic install, as part of the prep Carlson also needed to make sure the walls were completely solid and flat. Overall the prep for this project took longer than normal because all of the floors and the lower portion of the walls are heated. All of the striping had to be lined up from floor to ceiling, and in this case, Carlson had to start from the center of the blue stripe or white stripe to ensure that the finished tile installation was aesthetically pleasing. Additionally, each stripe was small in size, meaning that if he was off even a little bit, it would be apparent.
Carlson also did all of the polishing of the white Thassos tile and fabricating of the bullnose. The polished edges are evidenced on the shower shelves and on the ledge located on the outside of the shower.
All in all, the prep work went well, says Carlson. “That included running heat work on the seat and up the wall and making sure the wall was flat and solid prior to tile installation. With tiny tiles, you can’t have waves in and out — you’ll definitely see them.”
Carlson, who enjoys working with natural stone products, welcomed the opportunity to get creative with this project. “I enjoy thinking outside the box and finding a way to make things work. You scratch your head a little bit, but you work backwards and make sure you start out right.”
It is this perspective that has shaped the way Carlson approaches the work that he does. “Understand that there is more than one way to do things. Being an artist, we all have different hands and a different vision, and you can get there different ways.”
He credits H.J. Martin and Son for trusting in him and giving him the creative freedom, and tools, needed to be successful in this industry. “They trust me. They trust my thinking. They give you the reigns to make a change if you feel it is necessary. And the tools. We have top-notch tools and they’ll get us what we need to facilitate the install. Products are always changing, and with that has to come different tools and a different way of thinking.”
Artistic Floors by Design’s installers are NWFA Certified Professionals making them expertly trained and educated in the field.This winning installation was an extra special one for Joe Rocco, owner of Artistic Floors by Design in Parker, Colo., as it was personalized for his mother’s Colorado sewing room. Rocco, along with installers Kevin Eder, Paul Chaffin and Yesid Ortiz, transformed the small room into a personalized workspace for the seamstress.
What started as a simple request for wood planks in the room resulted in a beautifully crafted one-of-a-kind floor featuring offset chevron to symbolize the Rocky Mountains; sculpted Zouave design chain stitch pattern for the seamstress; offset Wenge starburst medallion with epoxy lilies, Rocco’s mother’s favorite flower; encompassed by 43’ radius curved pillowed maple borders.
“This floor has won the major three wood flooring contests in the nation, FCI, NWFA, and WoodFloorBusiness, and for that I am very humbled,” said Rocco. “Our team of craftsmen have caught the attention of so many other craftsmen around the world and that is a work of art in itself.”
As NWFA Certified Professionals, Artistic Floors’ craftsmen are expertly trained and educated in the field. Developed to recognize and promote the competence of wood flooring professionals throughout the industry, NWFA’s Certified Craftsman certification gives the Colorado-based team an advantage, especially working in a market that neither the federal government nor the state of Colorado require licensing for hardwood flooring installation.
To achieve the geometric pattern, curves and flowing designs, the Artistic Floors team used WD Flooring, Loba, Palo Duro Hardwoods and Paxton Hardwood. And for the install, Stauf and Loba products were used as well as tools from Festool and Lagler.
The inlaid chain stitch, made from maple and padauk, was difficult to bend, even with the steaming, and the curve work was challenging with layout, manufacturing and installation, Rocco recalls. But continuing education, hands-on training and a lot of trial and error have equipped the Artistic Floors team for complex projects like this one, done for one of Rocco’s favorite customers.
After 35 years in the flooring industry, Shaver has learned that it’s not about how fast and cheaply a job can be done, but about providing quality service regardless of the complexity of the install.When an “all out, fantastic remodel” was requested by homeowners Glenn and Andrea Livelsberger, they knew Rick Shaver of Shavers Shag & Vinyl in Dauphin, Penn., was the man for the job. Shaver, along with installers Ryan Shaver and Vlad Podabayiv, brought the customers’ unique request to life for this award-winning carpet project.
“While discussing [the remodel, Glenn asked] if I could put a lion at the foot of the pool table,” Shaver recalls. “He pointed to the wallpaper and showed me a Scottish Rampant lion.”
The homeowners had the room carpeted 10 years before, but due to improper cleaning, the carpet was damaged and needed to be replaced. With no budget restraints, and a little color direction from Andrea, Shaver got to work on creating a one-of-a-kind floor for the Livelsbergers.
To create the delicate art, Shaver turned to ProSource of Harrisburg for Fabrica and Kane carpet. Also used were Shaw padding and Ardex K-15 Leveling Underlayment.
Though there was a delay in the carpet delivery, which pushed the project back a couple months, Shaver has found that after 35 years in the industry, it’s not about how fast and cheaply a job can be done, but about providing quality service regardless of the complexity of the install.
Preparation is also key, says Shaver. “I have found it helpful to be prepared for every install—not just the one today. You need to buy the necessary tools to provide this type of diverse and complex installation. A knife and a kicker does not make you a flooring mechanic. Specialized tools are the key to success and profit. Self-investment is important to stability and growth of the installer.”
But some things you just can’t prepare for. In addition to the complexity and delay of the project, Shaver’s home was involved in a flood during the install. “My personal residence was involved in a flood during the install. It was difficult to balance this project and cleaning up my home at the same time.”
Although there were several bumps along the way, the end result is one that Shaver and the homeowners are exceptionally proud to show off. “I am very proud of the project,” said Shaver. “It looks great and is quite the show piece. The fit around the pool table was difficult to make fit perfectly. The Livelsbergers were asked if I met their expectations and he replied that I far exceeded his expectations. He was delighted to hear that the lion won on a national level. Glenn and Andrea are delighted to show the project to all the guests and visitors they entertain. He told me they often get down to feel the whiskers for themselves.”
For this project, J&R Tile’s installation team worked alongside Sundt Construction with the Munoz architects, local artists, San Antonio River Authority and Bexar County.San Antonio’s downtown district is a local and tourist favorite, known for the dining, shopping and entertainment found along the River Walk, and the history and culture observed at the Alamo. But there’s much more to see in the area, and another historic San Antonio gem has been beautified in an award-winning way with the help of J&R Tile, Inc., in San Antonio.
Located on the western edge of downtown San Antonio, the San Pedro Creek has attracted people to its banks for 12,000 years. In an effort to restore and preserve the creek’s natural environment, the San Pedro Creek Culture Park was created in a collaboration with Bexar County, the San Antonio River Authority and the City of San Antonio.
In addition to the park’s natural beauty, the area is also enhanced by public art, architectural design, local craft and historic preservation with engineering, ecosystem restoration, and native landscaping. That’s where the work of J&R Tile came in. In phase one of four—which will end with 60,000 linear feet of new walls, eight replaced street bridges, four miles of added walking trails and 11 acres of landscaping—custom tile work adoring the surrounding 12 Generational Benches, as well as commissioned murals and other art pieces that represent the history and culture of historic creek were added to the park.
“Every single piece of tile was a custom design, made by local artists of San Antonio,” said Erin Albrecht, principal/executive vice president, J&R Tile. “The paintings were massively scaled on concrete substrates, some recessed exactly to [the] size of installed tile.”
For a project of this magnitude, and with so many hands on deck, there were many factors to take into consideration, and J&R Tile’s crew, under the direction of lead installers Triniti Vigil and Adam Arellano, worked alongside Sundt Construction with the Munoz architects, the artists, San Antonio River Authority and Bexar County. “It is a great team, and it really takes communication months before pre-construction to execute a project with this magnitude,” said Albrecht.
Products used for the install included Ardex X5, 8+9 Crack Isolation, AM100, FL Grout, SX Caulking and Dural USA’s CEO, Scott Carroll, made some custom profiles specifically for this project with the engineering team at the company’s headquarters in Germany. For mobility, Dewalt power packs were used for all power equipment/wet saws.
“This project has 100% Certified and Advanced Certified Installers, and the leadership of Triniti and Adam onsite working foreman kept us on track,” said Albrecht. The team had weekly meetings to track progress and J&R Tile’s office to field communication was done using cloud-based technology, allowing it to be utilized by more than 30 on-site employees with smartphones.
Adding to the beauty and preservation of San Antonio is reward enough, but to be recognized by industry peers is an honor says Albrecht. “This is a tough industry, and for J&R to be selected by our fellow contractors, is an honor. We feel connected as a team to community nationwide and love the networking within our industry. Being leaders in our trade is something we always aspire to be and work towards at J&R Tile, Inc. to help all companies and installers across the country.”
A NTCA Five-Star Contractor, J&R Tile’s emphasis on education and training is the company’s key to success, Albrecht says. “Not everyone is a good fit for J&R. If you are not a learner or teacher, you do not fit our culture and core values. Our warehouse is a classroom 50% of the time. We are always attending Coverings (installing showcases at times), Surfaces, and Total Solutions Plus. Attending and being a voice in the technical committee meetings, is something I do for us to address issues and concerns. I am on the Education Committee for the NTCA, with a special focus on apprenticeships.”
As for the future of San Pedro Creek Culture Park? J&R Tile is the contractor chosen for the next phase of the project, which will be installed in fall 2020 and will be even more impressive, with Cuerda Seca method porcelain and custom porcelain.
The unique aspect of this installation was the distinctive LVT herringbone pattern installed through the majority of the facility by H.J. Martin and Son installers.Last fall, high school and middle school students in Wisconsin’s Florence County School District were welcomed back to school by newly renovated buildings, updated for modernization, accessibility and education both in and beyond the classroom.
A central aspect of this $14.5-million project was the age of the buildings involved. It included the demolition of a 1950s-vintage academic wing and restoration of a historically significant 1930s-vintage masonry section of the school. All existing academic spaces, a total of 61,500 square feet, received extensive interior renovations.
For the floors, the expertise of Green Bay, Wis.,–based H.J. Martin and Son was brought was brought on board. Installers Karl Freeman, Randy Baril, Adam Meeuwsen, Mitchell Barta, Andy Vandenbush, Danny Culver, John Lancor and Michael Robenhorst worked as a team to assist with the award-winning renovation of the nearly 90-year-old building.
The unique aspect of this installation was the distinctive luxury vinyl tile (LVT) pattern and facet shape that carried through the majority of the facility. Common areas outside of stairwells primarily utilized an LVT gray in color, with yellow and green accents, reflecting school colors.
“There were many herringbone patterns,” said Freeman. “The unique layouts really made you think; the work definitely was not monotonous. It was a different, unique install. It was more challenging than a typical installation. We took our time and did our due diligence to make sure that the colors laid out how they needed to be. One person basically had to sit and mark off on the plan, and another would lay the tiles in a vertical line. You had to be meticulous with the planning. This job was more time consuming than any other installation.”
More consuming due to the installers needing to ensure that the LVT fit together properly for a precise look. A proper LVT fit was paramount in the building’s corridors. Lines needed to be kept straight, as any variance would be very noticeable to occupants. The patterned LVT installed in classrooms was gray with soothing earth tones and similar precautions needed to be taken within those rooms. Within the school’s band room, the same LVT of gray with earth tones was installed. Here, it was particularly important for the lines to be straight as the space often is arranged in a non-square setup.
But before the end result could be enjoyed, floor preparation was a major issue, and work required extensive floor leveling to get them where they needed to be in order to accept new flooring.
In all, products used by the installation team included: Patcraft – Carpet tile, Luxury Vinyl Tile; RGH & Associates – Waterhog Walk-Off carpet tile; Daltile – Ceramic tile, Sundries; Shaw Industries – Broadloom carpet, Luxury Vinyl Tile, Sundries; SPEC Athletic – Sports flooring; Crossville – Ceramic tile; nora Systems – Rubber flooring, Stair treads, Sundries; Green Seel – Waterproofing materials; Tarkett – Wall base and transitions; Uzin – Sundries; TEC – Sundries; Raimondi S.p.A. – Sundries; Schonox – Sundries; Schluter Systems – Metals; Roppe – Materials; Bostik – Thin set mortar.
Another challenge the installers faced was having to do the project in phases. They had to ensure that everything lined up properly upon completion between the old and new sections of the project, in addition to the varying phases of work. Other obstacles successfully overcome included the project schedule itself, material lead times and changes in scope.
Equipped with the latest and best tools on the market, the installation team was able to successfully tackle these challenges head on. It is through the support of H.J. Martin, be it the tools provided or the education opportunities made available, that the company’s installation team is able to be successful, says Freeman.
“H.J. Martin and Son invests in its installers through training,” he said. “I’ve done nora training, Armstrong training and general training for all of the products that we install. We do nora every year to maintain our certifications. We also do general resilient and general carpet training for INSTALL certification.”
For this project, Hall’s Carpet, Inc. installers supplied flooring for luxury retail brand Marc Jacob’s current flagship store not once but twice. After a water main break flooded the entire installation, the project had to be redone.When new flooring was needed for luxury fashion brand Marc Jacobs’s current flagship store in Manhattan, it was only right that it mimicked the luxurious look and feel the high-end brand is known for.
Hall’s Carpet Inc., in Plainview, N.Y., installers Victor Di Rico, Dylan Hall, David Ramos, Justin Hall, Joseph Dechiaro and Paul Dechiaro were given a 3D rendering of the design by the company and were asked to make it work within the actual measurements of the space, and they ended up doing so in an award-winning way.
“We then calculated the width of the strips needed to make everything equal, after doing a field measure,” said Jessica Di Canio, administrative assistant. “We offered them several black/white carpet options, with them deciding on the pile look and feel. We suggested Tredmore padding under the carpet in the flat floor areas to give an even more luxurious feel for the shoppers.”
Though the end result is striking and one to be admired, getting the layout correct and gluing the carpet on the high walls, as well as connecting the patterns near staircases and landing, proved to be a challenge that required a lot of patience. But the installation team’s patience and skill was truly put to the test when just one week after the completion of the project, they were informed that there had been a water main break directly outside of the building, which flooded the entire installation, and the project would need to be redone.
Carpet supplied by Mainline Carpets and All County Flooring was installed using double stick and heat tape, Parabond Signature multipurpose adhesive, Parabond contact cement and Tredmore padding.
“Winning this award is truly a high point in our company’s 37-year history,” said Sarah Hall, office manager. “When we saw the other contestants’ entries, we knew we were competing against the best in the business. All of our employees are very proud of this award.”
The next generation of the flooring industry is on the rise at Hall’s Carpet, and from the front office to the installation team, the company is finding new ways to do business and to stay on trend.
“A new generation of Hall’s have taken over day to day operations for a few years now and they have used social media much more effectively than ever before to bring in business,” said Hall. “We try and attend training events to keep up with the trends of new flooring products and technology as well as investing in OSHA training to keep our employees and customers safe and confident in us.”