2015 is coming and what is next for the Resilient Flooring World? An industry that endured very little change for many, many years, now changes every 6 months. Flooring Products are constantly changing, adhesives are changing, installation systems have been changing, and now we have a rapidly aging installer base and very few new installers to fill the void that keeps getting bigger and bigger.
Ten years ago there was one floating floor category, Laminate. Today, every flooring segment has some type of floating floor system and it continues to grow with Luxury Vinyl Tile and Plank leading the way. Ten years ago who could have imagined a free floating Ceramic Tile, Carpet Tile, LVT and LVP products that requires no glue or locking systems. I have seen 3⁄4” Solid Hardwood that floats with a locking system. The floating floor options with Resilient Flooring today are endless and continue to grow. Three things I see with floating floors are;
- People think a floating floor can hide subfloor issues. If you read the subfloor requirements for a floating floor, they are no different than a traditional glue down floor.
- I feel we will see more and more problem free installation systems developed because of an aging and diminishing installer base.
- Installers do not give the required expansion on a floating floor. If a floating floor requires a 1⁄4” expansion zone around any vertical object, it means just that. If one board, plank or tile is pinched or fitted to a fixed point, that one pinch point can cause the entire floor to fail.
Adhesives continue to develop. We now have Hardwood Adhesives that require no moisture testing, although I will say to research the subfloor prep requirements for these adhesives as they can differ from requiring sanding of the subfloor to profiling the subfloor which is a big difference. Spray Adhesives and Roll On Adhesives are becoming bigger and bigger in the Resilient Flooring market.
Flooring products are now putting the adhesive on the back of the products. Do you see the trend? Manufacturers are taking the trowel out of the installers’ hands and minimizing installation issues and complaints such as too much or not enough adhesive for the flooring. Again, with products like this you will need to follow the floor prep procedure correctly to ensure proper bond and warranty. The moisture levels of resilient flooring adhesives are higher today than they ever have been and still it is not high enough in the new construction area. I receive calls from people needing flooring adhesive for installations to be used on concrete slabs that are only one week old. We have adhesives that go anywhere from 80% Relative Humidity to 95% Relative Humidity and it still does not meet the needs of new construction.
Installation Systems continue to change at a rapid pace. Take Luxury Vinyl Tile and Plank. There are many ways to install this product category;
- Locking System
Uni Clic or Angle/Angle
Grip Strip System
Aggressive grip strip such as Konecto and Starloc
Velcro type system with Armstrong LUXE
Free Fit Floating Systems
Products with suction cups on the back
Products that require a two-faced tape around the perimeter of the installation
Traditional trowel and glue
Roll On Adhesive
Place’n Press Adhesive such as Armstrong LUXE with FasTak and Natural Creations iSet.
Some of these LVT and LVP products now give you the option of fully adhering, perimeter bonding or floating the product. Most engineered hardwood floors today have the option of being floated, glued down, or stapled/nailed down. The key to a successful installation with any type of installation system is proper subfloor prep. Again, manufacturers are simplifying installation so that almost anyone can install these products which minimize issues and complaints.
I frequently get asked where to find younger installers. At this time, I don’t have an answer for that as I rarely see younger installers attending training sessions. Not only is the flooring industry facing a rapidly aging installer base, almost every trade you talk to has the same issue. Tradesmen are retiring at a much faster rate than they are being replaced. Tradesmen are retiring at a much faster rate than they are being replaced. The issue I see in the flooring industry is that there is not a real clear way to properly train flooring installers. There is not a set national apprentice program in place for installers to properly follow flooring manufacturers or ASTM protocol like there is for an electrician or a plumber.
Most installers today are learning from the older installers who may not have adapted their flooring skills to today’s flooring products, therefore passing down improper installation techniques.