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Advice That Only Confuses Customers

Sid Bourne on clueless comments on flooring by other trades

I HAVE been in the flooring industry now for over 40 years and my one pet hate through all those 40 years is other trades and people making stupid comments, causing the consumer to feel that they are being ripped off.
One thing that is clear is that this type of trouble-making is much worse today than I can ever remember.
Here is a case which perfectly illustrates this point. I was called in by a consumer who was completely confused and had no idea about what to do next.
It was only when I was discussing the whole situation with the consumer that I found out that her confusion was entirely down to other people poking their noses in, people who had no knowledge or experience.
The consumer had asked a local floorlayer to install solid oak plank flooring in her lounge, hall and dining room. The installer noticed the presence of old thermo plastic tiles and told the customer that these would need to be removed along with the old adhesive followed by a moisture test. This was all correct advice up to then.
The installer removed the tiles and scrabbled the floor. He then installed hygrometer hoods. On checking a few days later he discovered that the subfloor required a surface moisture suppressant and smoothing compound. He asked the consumer for an upfront payment to buy the materials.
At this point it started to get out of hand. Also working on the same property was a kitchen fitter and a decorator, employed by the same company. They were suppliers of everything, but masters of none. They poked their noses in and told the home owner that the floorlayer was ripping her off.
In their opinion, the old tiles did not need taking up and there was no moisture in slab. The consumer became incensed. Believing the decorator and not the skilled floorlayer, she demanded all of her money back.
The installer asked why. She replied that the decorator and kitchen fitter had advised her that work was being carried out that was not required. She had phoned three different local retailers. None of them visited the property but all said there should be no need for the tiles to come up and no moisture should be present.
The skilled installer, having wasted several days, gave a full refund to the consumer. Then guess what? The other trade people on site said they could do the flooring, no problem. They did and dear oh dear, the floor failed badly.

The consumer was now totally confused, so she went to Trading Standards who advised that she obtain an independent report. That was where I came in. The consumer told me the story and how she paid the decorator to install the solid oak floor. The result, I have never seen anything like it in my life.
The floor had been installed with no attempt at all of subfloor prep. They had spot glued down the solid planks onto a dusty subfloor as the top coat had been removed. The headers were in line with each other on at least 20 rows. There was no attempt to randomly install it. It was clear that whatever came out of the box was installed in that order. So where the joints ended that was it.
They had left no provision at all for expansion. The floor had so obviously failed, and, of course, the cowboy refused to refund any money. So now it was at the stage of legal action.
I was able to lift up the planks and found on the back spots of adhesive, covering possibly no more that 10% of the total plank area. Under the spots of adhesive was concrete bits and pieces. The poor adhesive was no surprise at all. I have to say that this was possibly the worst installation I have ever come across, and that is saying a lot.
I could not hold my tongue and asked the consumer why on earth did she not believe the original skilled floor installer? Without doubt, everything he said needed to be done was 100% correct. If she had let the professional floorlayer do the installation it would not have failed and I would not have been involved.
The consumer, who to be fair, did not know who to believe. But she explained to me the kitchen fitter appeared to be a highly skilled man. She assumed the kitchen fitter would know more that the floorlayer because of his skill. Other retailers had also told her she was being ripped off when she phoned them.
I think my face gave away my feelings of disbelief. So she went on to mention the TV programmes where they tell consumers to make sure they don’t get ripped off. So with what everyone had told her, she eventually told the only person who knew what he was doing to go away and give her the money back.
So you can see what happens when people who don’t know all the facts and do not have a %^&*% clue about installing wood flooring poke their nose in to cause trouble. I bet there are loads of retailers and contractors who have had this happen to them, so they may be reading this and thinking how familiar this all sounds.
The story ended by the consumer going to court. The idiots who believed they had done the job correctly had the cheek to blame the original installer who had been chucked off site.
My report clearly stated the causes, and I was called before the court to be cross examined by the decorator, who even caused magistrate to smile with his stupid questions, especially when it came to standards. He stood up in court and said: ‘I do not follow industry standards, I follow my own skill!’
The magistrate, on seeing the photographs of the failed floor, looked completely shocked. It hardly took five minutes for a decision, when the court ruled in favour of the consumer. The decorator left in a huff.
In conclusion the consumer attempted to persuade the original skilled floorlayer to come back to rectify the damage. He declined, and I can’t say that I blame him.
So, unless you know what you are talking about, please do not poke your nose into a job unless you attend site. Then you can see if things are wrong and failure is imminent. Otherwise, one day you could be involved in the same situation as above.
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This article has been reproduced from the Contract Flooring Journal website. You can find them at