New flooring transforms your home, improves property value and cuts down on maintenance. Investing in quality floors makes sense, but consumers must also protect that investment by hiring a good flooring installer.
Here we present what makes a good flooring installer, and what you can expect if you hire a bad installer. Try to hire an installer to achieve the maximum value from your new floors while avoiding installers who will cause nothing but headaches.
Look for a flooring installer who has been in business for several years, with a long list of satisfied customers to provide as referrals. Experience helps the installer to develop troubleshooting skills and product knowledge not available in any training program.
By working in various homes and with a wide range of flooring products, an experienced installer offers you a wealth of expertise and competence. New installers may have the skills to do the job, but experienced installers have even more to offer.
Certification and Insurance
Nationwide organizations within the flooring industry (the National Wood Flooring Association, for instance) offer certification, often based on installers completing a certain level of training. Some individual manufacturers also offer certification based on the specifications of their products. However, there is no licensing requirement specific to the installation of flooring.
More importantly, be sure to hire a company that is registered with the province and fully insured, with both liability and WSIB. This protects you and your home, should an accident occur.
Good Communication Skills
A good contractor works hard at building communication and trust with their client base. They are available by phone or email and can be counted on to respond within a short time period. Courtesy and honesty mark their conversations with customers, suppliers and employees.
The initial contact offers a good perspective on communication skills. If you need to wait days for an answer to your initial inquiry or if the answers are vague and misleading, the installer still has a lot to learn about customer communication. Hire an installer who answers your phone calls promptly with accurate and helpful information. Look for a company that allows you to ask questions and provides you with written estimates in a timely manner.
Connections Within the Industry
Installers who have established connections within the flooring industry have proved themselves reliable and professional. Retailers and flooring manufacturers want to work with experienced installers who will service their clientele with expert work and reasonable prices.
Ask your retailer or manufacturer for recommendations. Word of mouth referrals are often backed up by an established relationship that consumers can trust.
Warranty covers more than just the wood flooring products. The installation warranty should protect your investment and cover the workmanship and handling on site. Find an installer who provides a good warranty in writing; this peace of mind is often worth a slightly higher price.
Good installers need to be flexible, in terms of scheduling and worksite conditions. You want to find a flooring installer who will work within the timeframe required, with enough flexibility to incorporate your own schedule, as well as the delivery schedule of your floor retailer.
Conditions may change at your home, especially if the flooring installation is part of a larger home renovation. Talk to your flooring contractor about possible alterations along the way, but look for a company that can roll with unforeseeable changes that may crop up.
A good flooring installer will have all of these characteristics: experience, certification, good communication, connections, warranty coverage and flexibility. Every home improvement project carries with it a bit of stress. However, the right contractor should act as a guiding hand and soothe you through the process.
Hiring the wrong installer could mean plenty of headaches and a waste of your hard-earned money. Here are some common signs of an unprofessional or unethical contractor.
Shows up extremely late or no show without a phone call
Fashionably late is best reserved for house parties and is the first strike when meeting a potential client. Almost all home improvement contractors start by coming to your home for an estimate to see the job site. Most contractors have busy schedules and some might be trying to juggle multiple projects while taking on new clients. It is understandable to be held up by traffic or finishing up at another job site. The least they could do is reschedule with a phone call. This might seem like something minor but it should make you wonder if your home will be a priority after you hire them.
Unable to answer technical questions
This part requires you to do some homework before the first appointment. When speaking with the contractor, ask them some technical questions regarding the method of installation or ask about potential unforeseen costs. If they stumble and fumble, do you really want them learning on the job? Of course, there will be questions that even the most experienced contractors will struggle with, but the basic questions should be answered easily.
Sends the entire estimate with a single number, without breaking down individual parts
An estimate is an integral part of every project. This breaks down the job into individual line items and should include a detailed list of what you can expect. Without a professional estimate, a dishonest installer could come back to you for more money half way through job. At that point there would be no way to hold them responsible for their original bid. This also serves as a way to protect the installer from unforeseen circumstances which could amount to additional labour or material costs.
Only willing to accept cash and wants to get a commitment right away
The old “I have some left-over material from another job and could give it to you for half price if you just pay me in cash.” Remember it is very difficult to prove cash exchanges and gives you the least protection from the contractor running away with your money. Credit card companies charge a fee, so it is common for some contractors to be unwilling to accept plastic. In this case, offer to e-transfer the funds to keep record of payment. Of course, if the contractor is your buddy from high school you might be able to pay him cash but make sure you know them personally or at least by referral.
Contractor does not have insurance or license
Different trades have their own licensing requirements. Certain trades may not require a license, but if your project does it could get you in trouble for working with an unlicensed contractor. Licensing serves as a form of regulation standard and continued education. You should also require your contractor to be insured, both liability and WSIB coverage. Home improvement projects carry many unforeseeable risks. For example, the home owner could be liable for deaths or injuries if they occurred at their residence. Mishaps such as accidentally causing a pipe to burst or starting an electrical fire are very real problems which might occur on the job.
Asking to get a written estimate, a proper invoice/statement, and to see copies of insurance certificates are things that quality, professional contractors are used to, and are prepared for. Do not think it is an imposition on them for you to ask for these things.
Flooring is an investment in your home and lifestyle—protect that investment by choosing the best installer in your area.