I recently ran into an installer at a local flooring distributor that I certified at a certification event in Salt Lake City, and we started to discuss how he was doing and who he was working for. He told me he switched from carpet to now mostly installing luxury vinyl plank products (LVP), and was telling me that the retailers in our area think that LVP is so much easier to install, that they don’t want to pay the installers what they should be getting. He went on to tell me that he was getting underbid by other installers that work for the same retailer he does, so it’s been tougher to get jobs. During our conversation, he was venting that he seemed to be getting the tougher layout installations, or the more demanding customers, because he did more floor prep then the other installers and wasn’t getting callbacks.

When he told me how much he and the other installers were getting paid, I was really surprised considering that Utah is in such a robust building period right now, and that there is such a shortage of qualified installers. He was telling me the complaints coming in to the retailer are a daily occurrence due to some of the other installers’ workmanship. One particular subject he brought up was the fact that on direct glue-down installations of LVP, the installers just install directly over the Oriented Strand Board (OSB) subfloors, and they always get complaints about flatness and edges that aren’t flat (Pics 1-2). He told me that he skim coats all of his installations then sands the subfloor afterwards, even though he doesn’t get paid for the extra work, but he said it was worth it because he doesn’t get the callbacks.

For those of you who are selling glue-direct LVP, it’s still considered a resilient floor! We’re seeing the new products marketed as rigid core, multilayer and waterproof, but we’ll discuss that in a future article.

Resilient sheet vinyl installers understand the importance of installing an underlayment prior to the installation of sheet vinyl. They also understand the importance of floor prep. If LVP is a resilient flooring, and it’s being installed as a glue-direct, why wouldn’t you include an underlayment in your installations? We’re currently on a 3,000 square foot LVT installation that has a plywood subfloor and we installed a 1/4” underlayment throughout for a successful installation (Pics 3-5). If you’re not going to include underlayment with a gluedown installation, then why aren’t you selling a click type of LVP, which doesn’t require an underlayment, as long as the subfloor meets required manufacturer guidelines? Even though it’s a click type of flooring, there are flatness requirements that need to be met as well as the amount of area that can be installed without transitions for movement accommodation. When the manufacturer requirements aren’t followed, there is the potential for gaps, movement, and broken tongue and groove joints (Pics 6-9).

Here is one manufacturer’s installation glue-down guidelines regarding subfloors and underlayment: “Wood subfloors require an underlayment (double layer construction) with a minimum total thickness of 1” (25 mm). Use minimum ¼” (6 mm) thick APA rated “underlayment grade” plywood with a fully sanded face or other underlayment panel that is appropriate for the intended usage. Install and prepare panels and seams according to the manufacturers’ instructions. Also refer to ASTM F 1482 Standard Practice for Installation and Preparation of Panel Underlayments to receive Resilient Flooring. 

Particleboard, chipboard, construction-grade plywood, any hardboard and flake-board, are not recommended as underlayments for fully adhered installations. All have inadequate uniformity, poor dimensional stability, and variable surface porosity.”

If you’re worried that the added costs may be a factor for losing the job to a competitor, well then something is wrong with that thinking. Your competition is you. If you’re always wondering what the other guy is charging, you’re not running your business — your competition is. They don’t know your overhead, and if you’re a qualified sales associate or an installer who installs with pride and follows the industry or manufacturers guidelines, set your price and be confident when you discuss your pricing.

The inspection side of the flooring industry is a busy one right now, and inspectors are not lacking for work. The sad truth is that if you were to ask an inspector what the cause of the majority of claims they see is, they will tell you without a doubt, that the majority of their inspections are installation-related.

Just prior to writing this article, the Resilient Floor Covering Institute (RFCI) announced a new program called Assure Certified, which is set to ensure the continued growth and popularity of rigid core luxury vinyl tile (LVT) that is marketed and sold in North America.

From that announcement, Dean Thompson, president and CEO of RFCI, had this to say: “As part of our mission to support the interest of resilient flooring, RFCI and member manufacturers determined there was an urgent need to establish industry-wide standards for Rigid Core LVT quality, no matter where it’s made.”