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The FCI Installation Awards honor the most creative installers and interesting installations in a range of flooring categories, in both residential and commercial settings. We ask contestants to not only share what makes their installations special, but what challenges they encountered along the way and what they learned from these projects.

Our hope is to give our readers some inspiration and ideas of their own when reviewing the winning projects that these professional installers put together through a combination of their experience, creativity and willingness to take that extra step to ensure the installation is not only beautiful, but functional and durable.


Residential Winners

2021 has been a unique time for the residential segment of the flooring installation business. With the pandemic keeping many of us at home, we’ve had to revamp the spaces we live in, in some cases, transforming them into classrooms, offices, gyms and sanctuaries. As always, flooring has played a pivotal role in the reimagining of the home, and this year’s residential entries and winners are a testament to the skill and craftsmanship that it takes to do that successfully.

Bathroom tile installation

Photo: H.J. Martin and Son.

Category: Residential Tile/Stone

Chad Sternard, Randy McArdle, Michael Holler, Daniel Vasquez-Ortega
H.J. Martin and Son
Green Bay, Wisconsin

A homeowner looking to update a bathroom in their home opted for a timeless, chic look, but with an added design-forward twist. Taking this black and white color scheme up a notch, the installation team from H.J. Martin and Son added dimension, creating stunning shower wall that encapsulated beauty and skill from floor to ceiling.

Bathroom tile installation

Photo: H.J. Martin and Son.

“Anybody that knows anything about tile will have a gist as to the challenges that come along with three dimensional tile,” said H.J. Martin and Son designer Lisa Hooyman, who lent her product and design expertise to the project’s design team.

What resulted in being the focal point of the project also proved to be one of its biggest installation challenges. The black dimensional wall tile on the back of the shower was a challenge, as it was installed with a fine grout joint. The grout color was selected to match the tile so that it looked seamless and even grout-free, and the thin (nearly invisible) grout lines took a lot of care to keep precise and clean. Additionally, the pairing of a heavy tile and thin grout joints had to be meticulously installed to achieve a crisp design that offers an overall stunning master bathroom shower.

Watch our interview with the winner!

accent landing

Photo: Benny Powell.

Category: Residential Hardwood/Laminate

Benny Powell
Powell Flooring
Plymouth, Massachusetts

This year, we had a tie in the residential hardwood/laminate category, and we can certainly see why. Installer Benny Powell is a true craftsman, and his love for working with hardwood is apparent in the work that he does. Taking time this year to further develop his talent, Benny recently earned hardwood certification from the International Certified Flooring Installers Association (CFI) and has made a substantial investment in sanding equipment.

“I had worked for other guys doing sanding and finish work, but I had never really found the correct teacher that I needed to answer all my crazy questions. Found that guy this year, invested a whole bunch of money in the equipment, and I absolutely love sanding and finishing wood now.”

When a residential client contact Benny for sand and finish serves, Benny saw the opportunity to use his developing skillset, and equipment, to add the finishing touches to make this newly purchased home just right for the customer.

“This client had mobility issues with his feet, so we had to cut [the raised thresholds] all in and recess them throughout the house. And then his stairs were real squeaky. He had hardwood steps already, but they were old and squeaky and it was high on his priority list to get them fixed. So we did a full replacement on his steps and then he wanted to add a little bit of flair to the landing.”

accent landing

Photo: Benny Powell.

Revamping the existing landing, Benny took a chance at trying something new to make a one-of-a-kind piece for his customer. “This was the first time I've ever milled live edge slabs, or installed an accent strip in a floor.”

Though the result turned out to a winner among the homeowner and Benny’s industry peers, he admits there were some challenges along the way, which included finding and milling the live edge slabs, fitting and gluing the landing together and cutting out the glue that squeezed up between boards after it turned bright yellow under first coat of polyurethane finish.

In addition to adding a touch of flair, Benny was able to create a sense of direction in the home. “Any time there’s a great view, or if your eyes tend to go direction when you open a room, I try to get my floors to take you in that same direction.”

Watch our interview with the winner!

Swanson home

Photo: Chaz McKinney.

Category: Residential Hardwood/Laminate

Chaz Mckinney
Cam Flooring
Newaygo, Michigan

It’s always fun when you’re given creative liberties on a project, and that’s exactly what happened in this case. Installing a floor for a family member, installer Chaz McKinney took the opportunity to transform the space with beautifully color coordinated planks.

Swanson home

Photo: Chaz McKinney.

“[Timeless Design] is the only company I use for product. It’s a private label, but I love their product—I’ve never had a single problem with it, it installs very easily and it’s lasted. I try to stick with stuff that I have good experiences with.”

Taking what he felt was a shot in the dark, Chaz entered this year’s Installation Awards on a whim, and in addition to an unexpected win (his opinion, not ours!), he is walking away from this experience more confident in himself and his craft.

“I feel like this has given me a little more drive to keep going and push the envelope, just to see how far I can go.”

Watch our interview with the winner!


Commercial Winners

As we begin to get back to our lives outside of the home, commercial business is benefiting from the re-imagination and reconfiguration of spaces as we once knew them. This year’s commercial category winners are showing us that flooring is helping us to navigate these public spaces, safely and beautifully.

Sloan Museum

Photo: Brandon Bischer.

Category: Commercial Resilient 

Brandon Bischer, Wesley Wolschleger, Byron Green
Bischer Flooring
Flushing, Michigan

The Sloan Museum is a cultural gem in the Flint, Michigan, community. Displaying regional history, historic automobiles and hands-on science, the museum’s collections trace their history to the Genesee County Historical Society’s origins in the 1860s. In preservation of this rich history—and the place in which it can be enjoyed—installer Brandon Bischer installed a custom floor fit for a historical space.

“Being an old building that they were updating and renovating, there was a large height transition through the area which required a significant amount of prep work prior to installation. As most installers know, when installing the same materials in different colors sizes can vary so making sure everything came together perfectly took a bit of extra time.”

Sloan Museum

Photo: Brandon Bischer.

Once the surface was level, Brandon was able to install a floor that mimicked the look of a road with crosswalks, adding flow and movement to the space. Though the final product is one that is both practical and eye catching, Brandon admits that it wasn’t necessarily easy to accomplish. “None of the circles are the same size, everything is custom fit. No matter how well you draw the circle on the floor if you don't cut in a smooth radius you won't have a circle when you’re finished.”

For Brandon, being selected as a winner is an honor, especially since it comes from his industry peers, which he enjoys connecting with and learning from on social media platforms. “I’ve learned a ton from the groups and different members of the groups. I’ve been able to help other people some too.”

Watch our interview with the winner!

Duke University’s alumni and visitor’s center

Photo: Laticrete.

Category: Commercial Tile/Stone 

Tile Setters of Raleigh
Durham, North Carolina

With Duke University’s goal in mind to create an inviting environment for the students, returning alumni, visitors and the community-at-large, a new alumni and visitor’s center was proposed. Designed to offer a gateway to bolster alumni relations with new meeting and social spaces, it would provide the space and opportunities to unify the alumni association while providing a warm welcome to campus guests.

Designed to provide multiple uses for the university, the complexity of the project required simultaneous new construction and renovation work. As such, substrates and installation methods varied. The footprint of the events building was recessed, requiring special care where tile floor met wood flooring and entries. Furthermore, the tile flooring employed a continuous pattern that ran through several corridors, a café, a main lobby and restrooms. The entire layout had to be considered to ensure there were no unsightly cut pieces.

The tile finishes throughout the project were very prominent and meant the overall appearance of the products was paramount. Durability was also absolutely critical, as the university expected a lasting and beautiful outcome that would serve the community for years to come. With the extent of the tile finishes, any failure would be costly and disruptive.

Duke University’s alumni and visitor’s center

Photo: Laticrete.

The project dealt with a compacted schedule due to climate conditions and multiple trades working simultaneously in the same space. With tile throughout the lobby, corridors and bathrooms needing time to cure properly, a high level of coordination of manpower combined with effective, user-friendly products was critical. Getting sufficient heat to bond during colder weather was also a challenge with cold temperatures slowing down curing time.

The project totaled nearly 48,000 square feet (4459 m2) of new construction and renovations with complexity including a historic renovation, an office building, a flexible event space designed to facilitate indoor and outdoor events and extensive site development. The team’s objective was to install an expansive area of large format porcelain tile in the main lobby and on the floors and walls in the bathrooms. The same large format porcelain tile was also used for the lobby floor and restrooms in the office building.

Because tile would be applied to a variety of substrates, versatility of the adhesive was essential. Due to constricted schedules and multiple trades working simultaneously in the same area, it was also required to have products that were user-friendly and easy-to-mix. Above all, the overall appearance and quality of the installation had to meet exceptional standards to ensure an end-result that Duke University would be able to utilize for many years.

Watch our interview with the winner!

salon flooring replacement

Photo: Benny Powell.

Category: Commercial Hardwood/Laminate 

Benny Powell
Powell Flooring
Plymouth, Massachusetts

A name you’ll recognize in this year’s awards, this project was a special one for installer Benny Powell, as it was one he did for a friend. Saving the day from a DIY project eventually gone wrong, Benny replaced the salon’s laminate flooring, which was initially installed by the salon owner and her husband. When the flooring began to buckle and roll, the salon owner, against the advice of Benny, acted quickly, putting screws in the flooring in an effort to level the floor and protect her clients from an unsafe and uneven floor.

“I was able to save their existing flooring, but it wasn’t really the right flooring for the space anyway. I found them a much better glue-down commercial vinyl plank.”

salon flooring replacement

Photo: Benny Powell.

When Benny removed the existing laminate, much to his surprise, he was met with black plastic, and puddles of standing water underneath it. He then had to switch gears to clean up and dry out the space, using large fans. To be sure conditions were right for the installation of the new flooring, a stick test was done overnight, with the slab dry, and new flooring was installed the next day.

With the right product for the space installed properly, Benny had the salon looking lighter and brighter and back open for business just one day after the installation was complete. What he’s most proud of with this project is the helping hand he was able to extend to his hometown friend.

Watch our interview with the winner!