Guiding you every step of the way

Richard Catt points out why the latest CFA’s Guide to Contract Flooring is probably the most comprehensive update he’s yet seen

THEY say you learn something new every day; it’s an idiom with which I wholeheartedly agree. One that’s clearly illustrated when you take time to read the latest version of the CFA’s Guide to Contract Flooring, a hard copy of which accompanied last month’s copy of CFJ.

It’s important to point out that the latest version is probably the most comprehensive update I’ve seen during my time at the CFA. Assuming you’re familiar with the previous copy, you would have to compare to fully understand what I mean, but I will provide a few examples and highlight some important areas to consider.

Within section 5 (moisture testing), there are now helpful graphics to explain the different moisture meters, testing methods and the principles of how they work.

As is regularly covered in these pages, establishing the moisture condition of a floor (particularly when fitting resilient, impervious sheet and tile products) remains critical to the success of the installation and if overlooked, leads to failed floors.

Part of the problem is of course that while it isn’t exactly complicated, it’s a broad subject and you ideally need an understanding of the science around moisture in floors, as well as preferably the meters, to carry out an effective moisture survey.

In the true spirit of the Guide to Contract Flooring, the 2017 version now explains the difference between RF and impedance meters or scanners, pin meters, hygrometers and variations on themes such as sleeves.

The guide describes the difference between them all and crucially in respect of the RF and impedance meters, clarifies for the reader that they are indicative tests and only give an indication of the likely moisture condition of a floor. And so, if a dry reading is obtained it isn’t a guarantee that that the concrete slab is dry throughout (ie beyond depths of 20-25mm).

Further areas to highlight in this edition of the guide include the fact that the CFA guidance on plywood has now been incorporated. Very slightly updated, the guidance note previously issued has now been fully adopted as part of the CFA’s wider guidance on installation. You’ll find it in section 4.

I found this whole project and that we were able to transfer this work to the guide very rewarding as it shows the CFA’s influence and value at its best.

Developing and publishing guidance on plywood that I feel we can definitively claim has raised the awareness of the need for good quality plywood to prepare wooden subfloors to receive floorcoverings.
It then goes the next stage in providing guidance that generically helps industry to identify suitable products. I remember in an article in 2011, I asked ‘commercial opportunity anyone?’ and it’s now further rewarding to see products appearing that mention our work and the Guidance we publish.

Before leaving plywood, I should share and mention one of my learning points.

Our guidance has also been included in the latest edition of BS8203 (the standard for the installation of resilient floorcoverings) but as an independent body, BSi has taken a slightly different approach. While the spirit of our work has been translated, as is custom and practice within a standard, Annex A is written more as a specification, whereas the CFA’s approach is wider guidance.

They work well together and of course British Standards are referenced in many places throughout the guide including pointing readers towards Annex A.

The most important point being that the understanding, knowledge and quality of plywood available and being fitted, has moved forward leaps and bounds. A big tick for the CFA, even if I say so myself!
In fact, to ensure balance, I should mention that hardboard as an overlay has also been updated in this guide. My learning point here being that hardboard has moved on and can now be supplied pre-conditioned, meaning the pre-wetting that perhaps in practical terms limited its use before, is now not necessary if you buy pre-conditioned products.

Managing complaints and disputes isn’t always easy and the CFA’s guide even offers some support in this respect too. Turn to section 22 and there’s a whole section on complaint handling including valuable tips in areas that are probably not discussed in the same terms in any other forum or publication. I refer to matters such as gaps between LVTs. Why do they happen? What is acceptable?

Similarly, for scratching and scuffing and subfloor imperfections, where I’m told that an independent view can be very valuable in assessment and in reaching an amicable resolution. Section 22 also covers, textile and wood products with ‘thorny’ issues for those materials also explained or discussed.

While there’s a great deal more I could talk about, I guess you really need to read the guide. But I’d just mention one last area where this CFA publication now offers important, independently developed, industry consensus and best practice guidance: the installation of floorcoverings onto chipboard.

I won’t attempt to reproduce all the information on offer but the guide does talk a lot about chipboard subfloors to help contractors identify what they’re dealing with, because that isn’t necessarily straightforward, and then goes on to ask and answer a question I’m sure has been raised many thousands of times with technical departments and other industry experts: ‘Can I install a floorcovering directly to a particleboard sub-floor?’

Forgive me, but I’m going to leave you with that cliff-hanger. To find the CFA’s guidance on that subject within the 2017 edition of the CFA’s Guide to Contract Flooring, go to section 4.

The Guide to Contract Flooring is free to members and non-members, providing an essential tool to the industry through your trade body.

Further hard copies can be obtained via the CFA offices by using the contact details at the end of this article, but it’s also available to download in digital format from the CFA website. Members get an additional ‘member-only’ benefit.

In the member’s area of the website, or again if you contact us at the CFA, you can obtain each section of the guide in a separate data sheets format.

Smaller bite-sized versions of the guide that can be sent out with tenders, quotations or attached to email correspondence to more easily highlight or clarify an issue you may be trying to clear-up or explain.
If the message of the CFA members’ handbook and website entry is to use a quality, established, and vetted CFA member, the guide gives an understanding and common language around how members will deliver a contract to a high-quality standard, on budget and on time.

This is another way of demonstrating why it’s preferable to use a CFA member with the support they receive.

I can’t write an article launching the 2017 version of the CFA Guide to Contract Flooring without mentioning the army of people who’ve contributed.

Part of what makes this guide so significant is that it’s written by industry for industry. Many contributors come from our manufacturers’ committee. But it also includes contributions from contractor members of the CFA council, as well as other relevant experts.
There are genuinely too many people to list, so I can only thank you once again through these pages for your help.
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Richard Catt is ceo of the CFA