Vinyl fitters require an array of unique skills which they can only acquire through proper training and experience.

With more than 50 years’ experience in the local and international flooring industry, Denver Coleman, Chairman of Polyflor SA, answers questions posed by installers, architects and readers. In this issue, he discusses the latest developments in formalised training that will recognise vinyl floor fitters and improve their skill sets and, ultimately, increase the quantity and quality of fitters entering the flooring industry.

“Where can I get my fitting team trained to install Vinyl Flooring?” Sam Pringle, Somerset West.

There is currently no official, recognised training course being offered for Vinyl floor fitters, although many of the manufacturers offer training on their own products. However, there has been a significant step taken towards creating formalised training with the recent formation of FITA (Flooring Industry Training Association), an industry body where all players can come together to improve and formalise training for floor fitters. This will hopefully attract new people to the industry.

The initial course, which is currently being run through selected service providers, is mostly focused on carpet installation, but the long-term plan is to branch into more specialised areas and create courses for all types of flooring. Due to the decline in skills as well as the ageing of the skilled fitter population, this is an absolute necessity for the flooring industry. I would encourage all flooring contractors and manufacturers to support FITA and get involved wherever they can. The long-term benefits will be well worth it.

Vinyl floor fitting is more complex than products such as carpet, wood laminates or ceramic tiles and requires the fitter to understand certain factors and master particular skills to achieve a good-quality installation.

A fully comprehensive training program will deal with all aspects of a project and should be taught by someone who has good knowledge and practical experience of the skills required, as well as the complex site conditions that fitting teams are required to deal with.

Some of the very important topics that should be covered include:

Understanding the correct tools required. This is vitally important as many fitters use make-do or old-fashioned tools which lead to a bad quality of fitting.

Learning how to conduct proper site preparation is vital and should include assessing the site for correct moisture levels. Knowing how to test for these, as well as understanding the method and recording the results, is becoming very important. Also, assessing if the surface is sufficiently level to give a good vinyl installation is very important for the flooring fitter. If possible, training on the application of self-levelling screed can be very useful as few screeds these days are sufficiently level and usually require the application of a levelling compound.

Understanding how to measure and plan the layout of the installation is also vital. Tiles and LVTs require proper planning, especially if pattern work is required. Site conditions are also important and a discussion on lighting, ventilation and heat is necessary.

Depending on the product being installed, and the type of project, there are many factors that need to be taught so that the fitter has a full and proper understanding of what is required. Knowing which adhesives should be used, with which products and why, helps a fitter to make the correct choices and avoid costly mistakes.

Welding techniques are probably one of the most important factors in fitting vinyl flooring. Over the years many people have devised shortcuts such as leaving a gap between sheets and welding into the gap. The correct method requires using the ‘overlap, scribe, butt join, then groove and weld’ method. Using the wrong technique has led to many problems and a whole lot of installations with weak joins. Make sure that the training centre teaches you the correct welding method as this will stand you in good stead for many years to come and ensure you don’t have problem installations.

These are some of the basics that should be covered when training to fit Vinyl flooring, but there are also many other important areas. A step-by-step practical approach to training along with the theory to back it up will ensure you and/or your team become successful vinyl installers.