René Rocheleau says it takes years and years of experience seeing and working through problems to become a wood flooring inspector. After nearly 40 years in the industry, he knows. Rocheleau, president of Rochebois Inc. in Herouxville, Quebec, recently retired with 2,121 inspections under his belt.
Rocheleau stumbled upon a career in the wood flooring industry in 1984 after teaching geography and history and later working for Société d’Énergie de la Baie James (on a hydroelectric project). Though he thought he would only stay at Groleau Inc. (a wood flooring manufacturer in Quebec) for a short time, he ended up sticking around for 18 years. During that time, he had the chance to go through all of the departments, including the sawmill and the plant. It’s where his inspection trajectory began, with seeing clients who had problems. He did that more than 1,000 times.
“You have to start from the bottom and work in manufacturing production, service, and the claims departments. This is the base to know a lot of things. You cannot become an inspector just by saying, ‘I would like to become an inspector.’ There is a lot of knowledge behind the flooring business that you need to acquire before you can tell someone they have a moisture problem or a nailing problem. It takes years to be able to do that,” explains Rocheleau.
Ultimately, Rocheleau started his own company, Rochebois Inc., in 2003. A few years later is when he was encouraged by Sharon Schaller at the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) to become an NWFA Certified Wood Flooring Inspector (CWFI). He passed the test, and so began his next chapter of completing more than 1,000 inspections as a CWFI.
“Most of the time, I was commissioned by insurance companies to go somewhere, and when I would call to schedule the appointment, the first question they asked me was if I was certified. Most people knew exactly what a certified inspector was and the NWFA. When I told them I was an NWFA Certified Wood Flooring Inspector, it was like a key that opened the door. I was respected because of that,” he says.
The issues Rocheleau most commonly saw were squeaking and crackling sounds. Common causes of this, he says, were improper nailing or stapling schedules, movement in the flooring system, or staples and nails moving up and down within the subfloor. Flooding and cupping were close behind as frequent problems.
As you might imagine, Rocheleau has seen a lot of things while conducting inspections over the years. So, what is the strangest problem he ever ran across?
“You will never believe it. I was called in by an insurance company in Montreal, where a woman had flooding in her apartment. The insurance company had redone most of the apartment, including a brand-new floor, and she had complained about a creaking problem. The apartment was on the second floor. She told me it did not creak often, and I asked her to show me where it was creaking. She stopped walking in the apartment, and I asked her to remove her shoes and walk again. When she removed her shoes, the sound was not there anymore because the sound was coming from her shoes,” he recalls.
The best part of the job for Rocheleau was meeting all kinds of people. His territory covered from northern Ontario over to St. John’s, Newfoundland. They spoke French, they spoke English. And he had the chance to do inspections in the United States, England, France, Germany, and nearly all Canadian provinces. While the work stops now, the travel will continue. Rocheleau plans to spend his days golfing and looks forward to escaping at least part of Quebec’s winter months by being on a golf course in Savannah, Georgia.