Beware BEFORE Hiring or Having a Flooring Inspector in Your Home!!
LONG, but WELL worth the read. The time it takes to read this is much less than the time it takes for you to have someone inspect your floors and find you allowed the wrong person into your home. If someone else hired and paid that inspector, you lost time. If your claim was denied and the inspector was wrong, you lost time and a LOT of money. Having to hire another inspector for another opinion will cost you more time and more money, but if their findings refute the original inspector, it may be worth it unless you just want to accept the original outcome and live with the floors as they are.
Do you have one of the following floors in your home:
- Solid Wood (plank or strip)
- Engineered Wood Floor
- Sand and Finish on site Wood floor (solid or engineered)
- Carpet Tiles
- Natural Fiber (Wool, Sisal, Silk, Cotton or other plant based yarn)
- Area rugs (handmade, woven, needle point, hand tufted, custom made)
- Tile (Ceramic, Porcelain, Glass, Marble, Granite, Stone, large format, shower, backsplash)
Look closely at that list. You will see there are a number of different flooring categories listed. Each one requires specific training, knowledge and experience to properly inspect it when concerns arise.
Sadly, there are a few schools that try to teach an entire category (hard surface can be anything that is not considered wood or carpet) in a four day class. Specialized flooring (wood, tile, vinyl plank), do you really think a four day class is going to properly prepare someone to properly do a qualified floor inspection and understand the product?
Let’s look at other professions. Doctors, attorneys, accountants, engineers) go into specialized areas for very good reason. It would be challenging to learn everything in every area while in school or other training (internships) due to the vast amount of knowledge it would take to be able to retain enough to actually focus on patient care.
With flooring inspectors, they should have multiple certifications in each of the flooring types listed. A highly trained flooring inspector will attend multiple schools and not because they like to take time off work and spend money on hotels, meals, and not earn money during that week. But not every school is capable of training in every flooring category.
NWFA (National Wood Floor Association) specializes in wood floor training. Whether it is an installer trying to learn to install, sand and finish or a retailer trying to learn more about products they sell, NWFA specializes. NWFA certified flooring inspectors that do not have this credential or training may find a few other schools where the instructor does, but opened their own inspector training school.
NOT ALL Schools are the Same
There are a number of inspector training schools out there, but that does not mean all are as qualified as others. Some like NWFA and IICRC are operated by industry associations that oversee materials taught and testing. Others are owned by individuals and have to submit their materials including tests to manufacturers for review and approval (which is not uncommon) to ensure proper training is done.
Some instructors are more versed in the teaching than others. Two schools I am certified through are owned by former retail companies they owned and operated overseeing installation crews. Both did teaching for other schools before they decided to start their own. Both are practicing inspectors who were inspecting before starting their school. Both have been through wood science courses taught by PhD Wood Science professors from nationally renowned universities. When it comes to wood floor inspector training, both are well versed to train good inspectors.
Other schools were founded by someone many years ago, but since, the founder has passed away or retired and the school was sold to someone else. The materials being taught were still in place and approved so the name and credentials have continued since. Two of the schools I mentioned above were where these new school owners taught for years.
There are other schools that have surfaced and are owned by inspectors (friends of mine). Like the others, the owners are seasoned inspectors and both have taught in other training schools before deciding to start their own training school.
I am sure there are some others I am leaving out or unaware of. My point is inspectors like myself have attended training taught by more than one of these schools and earned dozens of certifications which help me get a wider background and training.
The problem is where some inspectors ONLY go to one or maybe two schools and pretty much end their training there (other than ongoing continuing ed classes to maintain the credentials). As I stated, not all schools are the same so beware when hiring someone to inspect your floors. That does not always mean more training and credentials make a better inspector. It does show the inspector has no problem expanding their training (which costs time and money and a LOT of both) to become better trained and hopefully a better inspector.
BEWARE OF PSEUDO TITLES OR CREDENTIALS
There is nothing wrong with offering advanced training or even an advanced certification. This means the inspector went beyond the basic level class to get advanced training. There is no way one will learn everything in a four or five day class; this is why advanced certifications exist. NWFA offers basic and intermediate level classes for installers because there are advanced levels of installation. In a basic class, you learn to install raw unfinished wood or factory finished wood.
There are sand and finish classes where installers learn enough to sand and finish an unfinished floor and this will provide them enough training to do many jobs. In intermediate or advanced classes, they can learn to do borders, inlays, or specialized or decorative work and offer those to their clients. Tile installers also have similar advanced classes to learn custom or specialized tile installation. That allows an installer to expand their services and market those services to their customers where many of their competitors are unable to due to lack of training.
MASTER. I know from growing up around trades people there are carpenters, electricians and plumbers. Once they finish basic education they can practice and often are called journeyman (or women since ladies are entering the world of trades in my life time). But to become a MASTER carpenter, master electrician, master plumber or other trade requires more experience and education and passing advanced level testing to earn that title.
NWFA Master CRAFTMAN class is called this for a reason. A good friend of mine has been a NWFA installer for decades. He went to take this class and found out firsthand how difficult the training and other requirements are to earn this credential. This is from a guy who worked in New York City for decades and VERY experienced in specialized decorative or custom work. He will keep taking the NWFA class until he passes it. He told me he went in the first time thinking it would be easy, but found out it was much more challenging and they will not just hand this credential out to anyone.
MASTER floor inspector….there is NO industry recognition for this certification. One of the schools decided years ago to create a special class and like NWFA, required a minimum amount of time (ten years) as an inspector and other advanced training to be able to take this class and earn this. BUT, inspectors age out and inspectors with 2-3 decades under their belt and proven track records did not run to take this class as the owners of the school anticipated.
Within a year or two, the bar was lowered and continued to be lowered to get enough people willing to spend another $1500 to earn a title. I have found inspectors with less than two years under their belt who took this class; many with less than five years who are now called, not considered (the credential is specific to this one school and not industry approved) Master Inspectors.
Other than one other inspector in NC where I am located, there are no other inspectors with more time under their belt than myself. I can look to states border north and south of me and count on one hand with fingers left over how many have as many years in the business as myself. Sadly, only one I can think of ever decided to spend money for this class; we all know the credential is basically a farce and not worth the time or money to add a title with little value.
I looked over the training offered for this class; most of us have been doing this for decades so not only do we have more experience, we have field experience. Some newer inspectors who earned this credential have little or no experience in these areas, but because they spent $1500, took a week off from their business, and attended a class (which was more demo by manufacturers of the equipment than hands on by the inspector), they were awarded a piece of paper.
I love these inspectors and schools. They send out newly trained people to do the same work and not as qualified; seasoned inspectors like myself can be hired to go behind them when a claim is denied and the report is so poorly written and unsupported. Retailers, installers, homeowners, builders and other involved parties in a claim are then required to hire another inspector to get another opinion. This means the price increases because the 2nd (or 3rd or 4th) inspector has to spend more time on site and gather more data to be able to refute the findings of the previous inspector. More than 80% of the time, I have found the inspector was either incorrect, inconclusive, or found something totally unrelated to what they were sent to inspect and got a claim wrongfully or incorrectly denied.
As I stated early in the post, there are several different kinds of flooring; each one is NOT the same. Carpet can be made from plastic (manmade fibers) or natural (plant or animal based). They perform differently, require different installation methods, maintenance, and this is not easy to teach in a four day class. If the inspector does not have a cleaning background, they may not understand why or why not some maintenance can or can’t be done.
With tile, wood or specialized flooring, there are advanced levels of classes and credentials for a reason. Most seasoned inspectors will take the installation and cleaning/maintenance classes so they can expand their knowledge to be able to properly inspect the floor and assess what happened, why and who is responsible. THIS is where you find prices for inspections vary widely. I refuse to price match other inspectors, especially newer, less experienced (50-75% less certifications) than myself.
I carry the proper insurance and maintain too many certifications/continuing education requirements for me to work at their price. You will get what you pay for…..or you will get what you deserve for price shopping for the cheaper professional. The choice is yours to make; it is your time and money. But know that hiring the wrong inspector will cost you a LOT more than hiring the right inspector. If they fail to deliver, hiring another one makes it look like you are shopping for one to get what you want to hear or read. Manufacturers will find out and make overturning a claim harder.
In closing, the inspection process can require a window of time depending on floor type and what is being inspected. Someone can have the most expensive tools and all of the credentials, but can’t write a good report that is clearly written supported with pictures, findings and supported with industry documentation making the report hard to refute. THAT is where you separate true master inspectors from ones who may have a school specific title on their business card.
Does the inspector have a good website? Are there testimonials from all facets of the industry on there to read. My website has reviews from homeowners, retailers, installers, attorneys, insurance adjustors, and manufacturers I have worked with. One of my testimonials is from a manufacturer that my report found at fault, but he said the report was so well written (and supported), he would proudly where the “bus prints on my back are warranted.” Not many inspectors will get that about them.