Every problem with hardwood flooring that I have ever seen relates back to one of three items: product selection, improper installation, or poor care and maintenance by homeowners. Since I live and sell in an environment that is mostly known for its humidity and moisture, I look at every characteristic of each sale individually starting with the customer.
When customers come to me looking for a floor, most have an idea of what they want. But sometimes what a customer is looking for is not the best flooring solution for his or her lifestyle. For example, those with big dogs probably should not buy the same floor as those without pets. Homes with known moisture issues need to be treated differently than those without moisture issues. We take a holistic approach to servicing the customer and ask several questions before completing the sale. We always visit the home and take a look at everything possible to identify moisture issues that may present a problem before we help them make a selection.
During the initial site survey of a potential client’s home, I often identify problems that need to be corrected before installation can begin. Once identified, I require the issues to be fixed before I agree to complete the installation. These problems will usually increase the overall project cost. Most times, the customer understands what you need to do, especially when you are open and honest with them from the start. My approach builds trust and ensures a successful installation.
What I have mentioned so far affects product selection from the very beginning. I do not try to sell the same type of hardwood to every customer, even the ones looking for a specific floor. When a customer tells me that they have a 100-pound dog, I explain to them, from the start, that certain hardwoods may perform better than others.
Most importantly, if a customer is not enthusiastic about the maintenance requirements for a hardwood floor, I want to ensure they know up front what they can and cannot do. In Florida for example, you cannot shut down your HVAC system when you leave town. Some customers think that raising the temperature to 85 degrees in the summer while they are not there is sufficient; I let them know that is not an option. Any extended period where the temperature is above 80 degrees builds up high levels of humidity; therefore, we recommend staying within the NWFA guidelines: between 60 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit and between 30 and 50 percent humidity. I do not equivocate with customers about this as I have seen too many issues as an NWFACP Certified Wood Flooring Inspector (CWFI). Shutting HVAC down is detrimental to the entire house, including all wood and all flooring products, not just hardwood floors.
When it comes to product selection and site survey, we discuss with customers the right method of installation. One home may be perfect for glue down while another must be floated. In our market, sometimes we encounter a customer who wants hardwood installed where a ceramic floor already exists and removal of the tile is cost prohibitive. Even thought gluing may be an option, there are many variables that may make a floating floor installation a better option. Each of these installation methods can be successful assuming the surface is properly prepared and acceptable systems have been specified.
The bottom line is that it is possible to sell hardwood in a “high humidity” environment, but to do so successfully, you must educate customers first and foremost. Second, you must know your products and their limitations. Third, you must do your job and installation the way NWFA recommends: professionally. If you do all of these, I bet you will never have a single problem due to your location or product sold.
John Shepard is president at Panama City, Florida-based Carpet One Floor & Home and is NWFACP-Certified in Inspection. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.