Terry Varden, a floor installation veteran for more than 40 years, and commercial manager for Trinity Floor Company of Dallas, Texas, joined his brother Robert Varden of CFI and Seth Gladden and Gary Scheidker of Taylor Adhesives, as they discussed lessons learned in the educational facilities sector during a recent Taylor Time Live webinar. We’re sharing highlights of that conversation, and you can watch the interview in full here. 

For those flooring contractors and dealers contemplating getting into flooring for school classroom buildings and gymnasiums, it’s not for the faint of heart, says Robert. Terry agrees, witnessing common mistakes and road blocks newcomers have experienced. “When work got slow [during the lockdown], smaller dealers would try it, and one mistake would put them out of business,” Terry added. 

A common mistake was to incorrectly interpret the architectural drawings, says Terry. “Watch how you read the plans—measurements can be tricky. Architects will change scales from one drawing to the next. For instance, a 1/8” scale can change to 1/16” scale without warning and can cost you dearly on your estimate if you’re not careful.” 

But don’t be dismayed, Terry says. If you can avoid common mistakes and work with expert installers, the efforts are worth it. “$800,000 contracts are not unusual. Lots of water-jet cut school logos and designs, and then of course, there are those massive hardwood basketball gym floors.” 

Terry’s advice on how to do well in the education sector:

  • A good supply of expert, seasoned installers is a must. “The kids are coming, regardless.” Easily 75% of the work is in the summer, and by the time the other trades are finished, floor installation has less time to be completed.
  • Installers have to pass a 30-year background check.
  • To get invitations to bid, “relationships with the GC and the school district are important.”
  • “The main impact after COVID has been materials—hard to get materials.” Normal 4-week turnarounds have turned into 16 to 18 weeks to get supplies and flooring.
  • Routine care and maintenance can be your worst enemy: “Janitorial staff will flood floors and damage it when cleaning—you need to protect yourself and keep moisture test records. Always try to use the best adhesives that can withstand moisture.”

Things have changed and today’s popular flooring types for schools are LVT, instead of VCT, and modular carpet tiles, instead of broadloom.