Cross posted from Howard Brickman's column in Hardwood Floors Magazine: Inspector Blog.
Only a guilty man needs to have an alibi prepared. Well, you are all guilty of being wood floor guys, so let’s get those alibis ready for prime time. And maybe the process of getting those alibis prepped will also provide a framework for preventing the need for an alibi.
- smartphone with camera
- pin-type moisture meter
- black Sharpie Marker
- 6d and 8d finish nails
- spiral notebook
- pencils and pens
- string (fluorescent red, blue, green, or yellow)
Stuff To Do (or Not Do):
BEFORE WOOD FLOORING DELIVERY:
- Do not sign a confession, err, I mean contract provided by the general contractor without carefully reviewing the provisions regarding warranties and terms of payment.
- Check moisture content (MC) of the subfloor and inspect the crawl space. Use the Sharpie to write the MC readings directly on the subfloor with the date and your initials. Check MC near windows, plumbing, and doors, and by obvious signs of water staining or moisture intrusions. More readings are better. Record the readings in your notebook.
- Make a label that lists the date, job address, and your name in large block letters for identifying pictures.
- Take pictures of the high-MC readings with your smartphone. It will automatically time, date, and location-stamp the individual photos.
- Take pictures of other non-compliant issues (e.g., missing windows or doors, tile saws on subfloor, unvented torpedo gas/kerosene heaters, etc.)
- Check MC of joists and subfloor in basement and crawl space. Look for water, mold, and mildew, and take pictures.
- Politely request that the GC or building owner correct any problems noted in a brief and concise e-mail (or using another method that documents the content and delivery of the request).
AFTER WOOD FLOORING DELIVERY:
- Check subfloor MC again and verify the any problems observed during previous visits were corrected. If not, document them again.
- Check wood flooring MC on at least 40 boards. Use the Sharpie to write MC and date on the back of boards. Record the readings in your notebook. Reject the flooring if it is outside the range from 6% to 9% MC.
BEFORE INSTALLING THE FLOORING:
- Verify that you document everything that could negatively impact the wood floor. Use the list from the NWFA Installation Guidelines (the PDF is available free online for all NWFA members).
- Communicate one last time to the GC if there are any issues. This is the point at which you need to present your disclaimer or waiver document for the GC to sign or at least acknowledge. This can be a delicate time in the job. You may want to tread lightly, because there is a fine line between being a concerned wood floor professional and being a pain in the neck who aggravates everyone else on the job, especially the GC. You know the deal. There are 10 flooring guys waiting on the sidewalk to come in and do the work without even “noticing” the all of the potential problems.
- If you are called to help out a GC at the “last minute,” take a deep breath and try to figure out why the other floor guy that has been doing his work for the past three years is not available. Is there a money issue? Or what?
- If you are installing a nail-down solid floor, there are some critical steps that help to inoculate you from problems during an inspection: 1) fasteners every 6”; 2) #15 asphalt-saturated felt; 3) Expansion space around the perimeter of the floor.
The typical inspector will check MC, expansion space, nailing, and will want to see your documentation. If you have done due diligence with your prep work, the chances of a job going South are greatly reduced. If it goes South, you should be certain that a really qualified person performs the inspection. The same qualities that make you a competent craftsman apply to the inspection craft: experience in the wood floor craft, experience in performing inspections, referrals from really knowledgeable people in the industry, and the proper temperament to stand up to the pressure from all of the associated parties. In addition to doing everything right, you have to be able to prove that you did everything right. Here’s to hoping that you never need that alibi. Good fortune favors the well prepared.