International Flooring Alliance hikes installation standards


Special to the GTA Construction Report

The price of replacing a poorly installed floor can soar to eight times the original installation tab and lead to lengthy disruptions on the jobsite – two good reasons for making sure the job is done right the first time.

When an installation fails, “everything else is worthless,” explains John McGrath, director of the International Standards and Training Alliance for floorcovering professionals (INSTALL).

McGrath gave a seminar to architects and designers recently in Toronto on the importance of selecting superior contractors to eliminate the risk of installations going badly.

Through INSTALL, hundreds of contractors and installers throughout Canada and the U.S. are taught floorcovering installations based on the direction of all the major mills and manufacturers, which endorse the program, he told the audience at the seminar.

Simon Ko, principal of design firm DIALOG, says common flooring problems include slippery tiles, grout problems and a perfecting a level installation. On one project, the client’s manager replaced the specified tile with another tile. “It turned out to be a very bad choice. The client blamed us for that obviously but in the end, the tile contractor stepped up and replaced all tiles just to avoid confrontation and to keep the on-going business with that client.”


DIALOG’s work includes architectural, city planning, structural, interior design for a broad range of projects including airports, museums, educational, library, sport facility, cultural centres and churches.

Ko, who was in attendance at the INSTALL seminar, says flooring is “very important,” particularly in health care, educational and public sector projects. “I appreciate that INSTALL is setting the standards high for the industry and its mandate to teach and standardize the installation industry.”


McGrath says that the objective of his alliance is to get all architects, designers and their specifiers to establish “very high standards” for selecting contractors. “We’re not asking them to exclusively specify INSTALL contractors. We’re just confident that if you establish these high standards, our contractors will be able to compete successfully.”

While training proper installation is the foundation of the INSTALL program, McGrath says the alliance has branched out to also focus on superior contractors.

He says that the INSTALL website ( outlines superior contractor standards — regardless of whether they are INSTALL certified or not — so clients will know which the best contractors to select are. Selecting the best contractors is important because those contractors deal with the decision makers and have control over the installers.

McGrath says that specifiers who work directly with a flooring dealer are taking a gamble on floor installation because they don’t know who the dealer’s installers.

Of the 400 or so flooring installers in Carpenters Loc. 27, Toronto, about 25 percent are INSTALL Certified, says Dean Marsh, resilient flooring business representative for Carpenters Loc 27.

That percentage will “grow rapidly” because it has become a requirement that all graduating floorcovering apprentices now be certified, says Marsh, adding that in a few years “at least half of our companies should be INSTALL certified.”

Additionally, INSTALL is developing a floor preparation certification because most of the time problems start at floor prep, says McGrath.

Steve Zizek, floor instructor at Carpenters Local 27’s training centre, says the INSTALL curriculum he teaches students exceeds the floor installation guidelines set by the provincial ministry of training, colleges and universities.


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