Installers need to be trained and skilled in order to ensure a successful flooring installation, and South Africa needs the support of industry to achieve this goal.

To ensure the success of each and every flooring installation, the correct tools and equipment need to be used, without which an installer cannot complete the specified project. Of equal importance is learning all there is to know about the flooring installation trade and how to select and use the correct tools for a specific floorcovering.

This is where obstacles and challenges creep in, as installers too often take a one-size-fits-all approach to their tools, resulting in further challenges and even potential floor failures. For example, using the wrong-sized trowel can cause too little or too much adhesive applied to resilient flooring, leading to costly installation failures. There are installers that could even try to cut corners by using the same trowel for all types of adhesive installations. While this may result in initial savings, it could potentially end up costing a lot more than expected, especially in an economy taking strain.

Furthermore, with the rapid advancement in technology, installers have to ensure that they stay up to date with the latest developments while making a conscious decision to learn what the differences between the various products are.

This identifies the critical role that education and training play in terms of flooring tools and equipment. Without the necessary knowledge on using the various types of tools, the installer cannot guarantee the performance life of a flooring installation. From a South African perspective, there is a growing concern regarding the skills gap when it comes to trained and experienced installers that are thoroughly educated and competent in using the right tools for the right job. Without a doubt, the industry needs more intensive training on tools, and just because a fitter has received training, it doesn’t automatically imply that his training ends there, especially not when new tools are continually appearing in the market. This is of significant importance especially as the introduction of new flooring tools saves both time and money.

There are those in the South African flooring industry that have placed much emphasis on upskilling fitters and installers, so much so that it ignited the formation of the Flooring Industry Training Association (FITA) that aims to provide solutions to these challenges. However, without the participation of the industry, this notable objective cannot be achieved. Too often, there is one installer in a team that has the expertise and experience, but he hardly ever passes this knowledge on. The South African flooring industry needs to empower its people, which is why there are companies that offer ongoing training to achieve these goals.

These and other training courses enable learners to identify and correctly use installation equipment; to identify and select commonly used tools and equipment for floorcovering installations; to ensure that the tools and equipment are in a good condition; to enable them to perform preventative maintenance i.e. electrical equipment, plugs, damaged cables, blade sharpening, etc; and to safely use tools and in accordance with operating procedures.

This lays the foundation for the development of further floorcovering competencies while contributing to the development of a professional community of floorcovering practitioners who understand the challenges and opportunities in the South African construction context.

As already noted, it is paramount that the industry explores the latest developments in tools. Even though the most modern machine may very well be extremely expensive, the chances are good that this money will be claimed back after just one hospital installation. As cost plays a big role here, installers need to look after their tools and keep them clean (and more importantly in good condition), especially because they are expensive and able to make life easier.

On the topic of cost efficiency, it needs to be emphasised that there are several affordability challenges regarding fitters. Too often, unskilled fitters are employed to work on a flooring project who are inept for the task at hand and at the same time are supplied with incorrect tools or even a lack of tools. These workers are used as cheap labour, creating a trend that adversely affects the flooring industry. Manufacturers and contractors alike need to embrace solutions to these problems, such as ongoing training for fitters (however, this increases labour costs) and supplying them with the proper tools (which once again increases costs).

Modern equipment and machinery, combined with extensive training and skills development, enable the trade to, for example, complete 1 000m² of self-levelling in one day (when using a modern machine and a team of five fitters. It is however critical that the team applying the self-levelling is properly trained, otherwise the result can be worse than a good quality 200-400m² per day correctly installed manually). Without such a machine, one would be stretching it to complete 200m² in one day, demonstrating how using the correct, modern tools provides speedier, more efficient floor laying and, consequently, more satisfied customers.

South African flooring industry players can rest assured that their knowledge will be passed on to future generations, but only if they instil their passion and dedication into training and upskilling installers to use their tools efficiently and in a manner that achieves ongoing installation success.

Acknowledgement and thanks are given to www.fcimag.com; http://regqs.saqa.org.za and Roy Sinclair’s input in VOL 31.6 of FLOORS in Africa Magazine, 2013, for the information contained in this article.