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The importance of training in LVT

Shaun Wadsworth explains the benefits of LVT training to installers and how the CFA and FITA can help.

SHAUN Wadsworth is the training manager at the Contract Flooring Association (CFA). Shaun is firmly focused on promoting industry training in textile, timber, and resilient flooring, primarily through the benefits of CFA membership and CFA publications such as the CFA Training Guide, but also through the Flooring Industry Training Association (FITA).

FITA and its two training centres in Loughborough and Kirkcaldy offer a range of flooring courses to all levels of the flooring industry. Amongst those courses regularly delivered is luxury vinyl tile (LVT) training, with some of the training driven towards newcomers to LVT fitting and other training available specifically aimed at floor layers who may be experienced but require additional expertise in the more complicated skills required for working with LVT. This is becoming particularly important considering its revolutionary rise in popularity over recent years. Shaun explains the benefits of LVT training to installers and how both the CFA and FITA can help:

Training for LVT flooring is far more overarching than just how to cut the tiles and stick them down, with resilient flooring as a whole, there is a lot more to consider when advising and guiding on installation to ensure a successful end result for those learning. When training existing staff, trade newcomers, apprentices and career changers the guidance given should be aimed at the whole process from subfloor preparation upwards. This is essential to ensure a correct end product and a long-lasting floor. This is not to say that other flooring types do not require the same level of detail when fitting, but with the rise in LVT fitting it has most certainly bought to light some of the more complicated aspects of flooring that might be overlooked otherwise.

Within our own training arm; FITA, all courses include structured training on subfloor recognition, preparation and moisture prevention at the appropriate skill level. Failing to understand and check moisture in particular so that precautionary or preventative measures could be taken, is the biggest cause of problems with resilient flooring. Subfloors should be in a suitable condition for the end product to be installed on and even at the most basic level of teaching this should be key.

Providing information on acclimatisation, British Standards BS8203 and manufacturer guidance for installation is vital. Acclimatising the product before installation at the agreed temperatures and ensuring it is maintained throughout the period of installation is something CFA have and continue to promote through their ‘Winter Warning’ campaign with a toolkit available to members, aimed at helping educate clients and main contractors to ensure that temperatures on site are appropriate for floorcovering installations particularly with non-operational sites and newbuilds in winter.

Alongside British standard, training should also make delegates familiar with the specific installation guidelines provided by the manufacturers, especially in terms of acclimatisation. One piece of advice given is that, ideally, LVT should be stored in the area in which it is to be fitted. For instance, storing it in a cold lockup or on the back of a van and then fitting it in a household is asking for trouble.

BS8203 is not regulatory, to be followed or else. It’s merely advisory. Manufacturers, however, expect their specifications and instructions to be followed to the letter, and, should a problem arise, will investigate how the flooring was installed. If it was not completed according to their recommendations and there was no obvious issue with the flooring itself, then it becomes an installer issue and left with them to resolve, possibly out of their own time and own expense.

A correctly trained installation workforce is the ultimate control measure for reducing risk of flooring failure and safeguarding a quality installation resulting in a higher level of success. A lot of manufacturers also run their own training courses and here at the CFA we signpost all training opportunities through our dedicated training guide, available in print, as a download or to be read online. It lists the majority of manufacturer training courses along with contact information too.

Some of these manufacturer courses are free to attend, others are not but I think the motivation for the free courses is simple, what a manufacturer spends on running courses to train installers is offset by eliminating the cost of having to dispatch a technical team to inspect a flooring failure, only to discover it was not a manufacturing issue at all but an installation error.

For the installer, training will give them the confidence to install LVT correctly and efficiently increasing earning potential without compromising quality. Training is not only for installers either, Manufacturers, FITA and other training centres involve sales reps, wholesalers and retailers as well. Even the person in charge of estimating and planning the job needs to understand the installation requirements and processes, so the fitter does not arrive to discover the surface is not suitable for laying LVT directly onto it and the original quote has to be amended.

Through FITA, CFA and NICF members along with the wider flooring sector have access to a 3-day basic course aimed at both domestic and commercial installations. The course teaches installers how to correctly identify subfloor types and moisture, prepare the subfloor, see what might affect the product and make sure they use the correct type of flooring. Delegates learn the fundamentals – how to correctly prepare and how to install in line with British Standard and manufacturer guidelines. Just the basics – no angles or curves, no borders, no designs – just the correct ways of fitting; marking out, laying patterns, how to deal with skirting, doorways, etc, and which adhesives to use where and when.

The FITA 3-day intermediate LVT course deals with more complicated fits and is designed to improve on already gained skills of a design floor installer including approaches to more complex installation techniques such as border work, 45-degree fitting, feature strips and the latest addition – straightforward herringbone work, something we have added due to the sheer volume of work in that style now becoming common in installations.

In 2021, after speaking to the industry we also introduced a 3-day advanced LVT course too. This course is purely aimed at those looking to incorporate advanced techniques into their LVT installations. Focusing on complex herringbone installation with/without borders, stairs, and motifs/inset designs. We think it is a must for any installer looking to enhance their range of skills, allowing them to truly stand out from the crowd.

Ultimately, there are courses for everyone depending on the skills required or the budget available within the sector ranging from manufacturer led courses to independent training opportunities from the various training locations in the UK. You could be just starting out on the road, having recently completed your apprenticeship, and would like a bit more training to ensure you’re doing things right. You could be an old hand in the trade – a good installer wanting to improve your skills to enable you to access another avenue of work – giving the business competitive edge and maximising profits.

Training is not something that suggests you are no good at your job, it’s a continuing development in most cases and it’s an indication that you’re actively trying to improve your knowledge, efficiency and ability to complete a wider range of jobs with greater confidence.

This all boils back down to being aware of existing knowledge and realising when an update to skills and techniques is required. It’s too easy to think ‘I can’t learn something new’ or ‘I haven’t got time’ but development is like all things in life – the more effort you put in, the more rewards you will gain as a result. A multi-skilled workforce is important now, more than ever, as we approach uncertain futures in the manufacturing and flooring industry.

For more information on The Contract Flooring Training Guide, Contract Flooring Association, FITA training courses or anything else please do not hesitate to get in touch.
0115 950 6836
Shaun Wadsworth is the training manager at CFA and FITA

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