Lew Migliore, the Industry's Troubleshooter and President of LGM & Associates Technical Flooring Services. LGM specializes in the practice of consulting on and trouble shooting all flooring related complaints, problems, and performance issues having experts in every category as well as related educational services.
Flooring not suitable for installation
Help me please! I've been told all along that a certain percentage of pre-finished wood in a typical box is actually unusable or requires installer modification. Typically, and this is what I've been told by reps, that "select" wood may have only 10% scrap if you will and the percentage goes up with A, B, and C grades until you have utility grade which is all seconds. I've never heard of selling new product in this industry where some of it isn't suitable. What do you know about this? I need education. Then, as I understand it a certain wood manufacturer will not go on a wood inspection. They want the dealer to hire only a NWFA certified inspector and pay the fee. Is this usual policy for them and is it Kosher? Thanks!
These were questions posed by a dealer who is obviously frustrated. I consulted one of our wood experts for an answer in this case and his response is as follows.
These are issues that have been widely misunderstood and unknown by the great majority of retailers so we'll try to clear this up for you.
1. Prefinished wood essentially has very little in the way of "industry standards". Each manufacturer sets their own "proprietary" standards. These standards can vary from one product to the next, as would seem reasonable, based upon price. The standards can also vary based upon who the customer is or if the wood is part of a "special" purchase. The same labeled product sold to a big box can be made differently and have different standards than that product intended for specialty retailers. For instance, 2 coats of a lesser quality finish can be used in place of 3 coats of a better finish to give the same finished film thickness but offer diminished performance.
2. Every manufacturer that I know of allows there to be up to 5% of product that the installer may decide is not up to his final inspection standards. The boards can have structural or cosmetic issues that land them in the cull pile. Some of these may have the bad portion cut off and discarded. Some may get used in areas which will not cause an objection, such as under a fridge. Wood is a natural product and will have variations, some of which the end user will find objectionable. If they are fussy, they should select a "better" product which has tighter grading rules. This is one reason why some wood flooring sells for $7 a square foot and another is $3 a square foot; the grading, selection of the wood and finishing are simply better.
3. Some manufacturers have significantly reduced the number of claims they will inspect in both hard and soft surface. They are cutting costs. For a wood inspection manufacturers requires the dealer or end user to hire a NWFA certified inspector before they will even consider a claim that they did not look at first. The mills used to send out inspectors who were not NWFA certified and found they did not understand the product nor could they determine intelligently the answers to concerns. Some inspectors have certifications from other organizations but these certifications are not as respected as from NWFA. Inspectors with NWFA (National Wood Flooring Association) certification are typically more expensive since they have been trained to know what they're talking about. The chances that the wood is "defective" are slim since the proprietary standards are a moving target. Most people have no idea what the quality of a product is that they are buying.
4. Manufacturers and others have determined that it is easier to donate a box or two of wood and forego hiring an inspector. It is likely that the mill did nothing wrong but it is a "customer accommodation" in an attempt to appease the dealer.
Hope these answers help but if you need more, let us know.
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