By Robert Blochinger
After substrate preparation is complete, the next step is product installation. Whether the flooring type is carpet, wood, VCT, LVT, rubber, sheet goods, ceramic or porcelain tile, the installer is the last product quality control entity prior to installation.
Make sure to check the quality of flooring in each package or box before beginning the job for color, dye lot, warpage, skew and bow, pattern match (dry lay carpet or tiles), crowning, edge raveling, erratic loops or pattern lineage, (tufting related), cracks, haze, lines that look unusual, any crush of pile, rips or shipping related damage, and many other types of irregularities that concern flooring product, and finally; are you in the correct room with the correct product?
If you see a problem with the flooring, call the retailer or contractor and solve the problem before starting the job. I have come across numerous installations within the past few years that had perceived defects only seen after the installation was completed.
As the installer, you control the outcome of the job. Make sure the materials you are installing are as the customer requested and are installed perfectly. Don’t complete a job using inferior or defective products just because of a deadline. Doing so will create a callback for you and headaches for the customer and retailer. I’ve seen many product quality issues in new construction, after the protective covering material is removed. Below are some examples in porcelain and marble time.
With porcelain tile, for instance, lines that are labeled crazing by the manufacturer can be seen only in certain reflective lighting angles. In a high gloss finish, it looks like a puddle of water stops and then starts again; however, the crazing normally doesn’t go from tile edge to edge and is usually not structural in nature. The tile manufacturers commonly do not consider them a defect of the finishing process, as there are some tile patterns that have this as a feature of design.
As installers have been blamed for installing defective product, there is some responsibility to notice these prior to installation. You need to visually scan the tile lot before it’s installed, and dry lay some tiles for observation by yourself and others, including the owner or owner agent. This simple act can save a project from negative issues.
Due to their size, large-format porcelain tile is especially susceptible to negative issues in how they are handled in manufacturing, shipping and installation. As these tiles are more difficult to handle, you need to be aware of crowning (where the center of the tile is higher than the four edges). Pay attention to flatness when installing as there may be a need for a thicker mud bed to counter the crowning. Also, keep in mind the transition height you have to meet when installing with a thick mud bed.
Plank type tile is another product that can cause concern. These are rectangle in shape, and can be bowed in the length. Surface issues are usually not the problem ‒ lippage is. The bowing is apparent to the point that tile manufacturers offer special installation guidelines to reduce lippage. These must be followed, but may not be the total answer to lippage along the side joints. Consider mud bed thickness as a corrective solution for lippage.
Marble tile can also have issues. Look for color, veining and shading consistency, veining that has cracks, or epoxy filler that’s not flush with the surface or is missing, to name a few. Again, dry lay some tiles for match up so there is some consistency when completing the final installation.
Click Systems: Laminate or LVT
When installing a click system product, such as laminate or LVT, review the edges for any possible irregularities. The corners are an easy breakage point, from handling and the use of the rubber hammer when installing. If you see a problem, use a different plank right then and there. When fitting the end, ensure you don’t chip the corner. If you do, take the plank back out. After completing the installation you may see the end joints peaked. Check the expansion space for room. Often times, the planks move without you realizing it. After finishing a few rows, stand up and review the installation’s progress from various angles using the reflection of light. This is one way inspectors find negatives issues. You can find problems before the job is completed and correct them before leaving the jobsite.
By taking the preventive measures mentioned above, you’ll save precious installation time, money, frustration and your reputation as a solid professional.