Roland Vierra – The Life & Times of a Renown Flooring Inspector: Stories from the Dark Side in the Trenches!

Air Date: 4-17-2020|Episode 582

This week IAQradio+ will bring to a culmination its series on the Moisture Mob with the Mob’s “clean-up” hitter for a long line-up of subject matter experts from the flooring, roofing and inspection sectors of the industry and how it impacts restoration and IEQ related issues.

Renown flooring inspector from San Jose California will share the hard lessons he has learned over a career spanning almost four decades in the trenches. Roland Vierra is well known in the flooring inspection industry with flooring manufacturers, carpet mills, installation firms, retail outlets and cleaning companies.

When an issue arises involving warranties related to a possible manufacturing defect, installation issue, cleaning problem or consumer complaint, Roland is the “go to guy” called upon by industry insiders who want an unbiased 3rd party opinion to help resolve disputes!

Mr. Vierra’s problem solving projects often come down to moisture related issues at the root of the problem. Understanding product specifications installation standards, substrate characteristics, cleaning protocols and how materials are affected by moisture are a large part of an inspector’s work leading to their client report’s conclusions.

Roland has had a long history of working with the moisture measurement segment of the industry and in fact is known to have been the guy who suggested “A Stick” be developed as an attachment to moisture meters. That idea was long before the digital age and the “selfie” stick, but rather was born from the old adage that necessity is the mother of invention.

Inspectors have the same work related complaints that many flooring installers do, they spend too much time on their knees! Although that is part of an installer’s job function, the stick attachment for non pertaining moisture meters serves as a great tool for inspectors to more effectively diagnose moisture in floors and even roofs, it helps with back aches too.

Join the Z-man, Radio Joe and the Restoration Global Watchdog this week as they interview and banter with Roland “Mr.Stick” Vierra and talk about his life and times from almost forty years in the trenches. It will be an entertaining and informative show on the lessons learned that Mr. Vierra can pass onto IAQradio+’s growing group of loyal listeners to be better at diagnosing and resolving IEQ issues and restoring water damaged buildings!

LEARN MORE this week on IAQradio+.

Z-Man’s Blog:

Roland was raised in the construction and building maintenance trades. At age 13, Roland began working as a warehouseman in a flooring retail store. During his early years in the floor covering industry he learned the flooring trade through stints in customer service, sales, estimating, installation, and claims handling.

He began making flooring inspections in 1982. He wouldn’t advise anyone to go into the flooring inspection business today.

Roland’s business model is to troubleshoot flooring problems, not to sell or broker flooring. Inspired by the TV show Quincy; he coined the business name Flooring Forensics. Seeking a slogan like the New York Times’ “All the news that’s fit to print” after some refinement he settled on “Third party observation & comment on all floor covering issues, problems and complaints.”

After troubleshooting a situation, he often is asked to develop and implement solutions. In these situations, he develops written remedial recommendations/specifications.

Due to personal decisions and selectivity, his business has changed from 8-10 residential inspections daily 5 days a week to commercial orientation where projects are much larger, more complex and time consuming.

Nuggets mined from today’s episode:

Flooring industry stats

Extravagant warrantees cloud consumers thinking but more importantly, their expectations of product performance.

There are more flooring claims and warranty issues now than ever before. However, most of these issues are not related to product defects, they are related to labor (problems with the installation) and to unreasonable expectations.

The great work done by truly professional dealers (retail or commercial) is found in their approach to working with their customers.  Those that address issues, problems, conflicts and questions up-front by maintaining a positive communication strategy fare much better over the long term.  He acknowledges the strong and positive efforts of parties to take care of warranty and claims issues.

Conflicts of interest:

He opines that a conflict of interest does not exist when he performs an inspection and then upon customer request provides remedial recommendations. He opines conflicts of interest do occur when an inspector who is also engaged in the same business as the trade work he is going to inspect opines on the workmanship or service of a direct competitor.

Large flooring manufacturers (e.g. Shaw and Mohawk) don’t attempt to meddle in his reporting, other entities do attempt to influence the report. Roland maintains a strict policy of not discussing the contents of his reports prior to the release of the written report – no exceptions.

This photo from Roland’s website demonstrates an extreme case of osmotic blistering caused by hydraulic pressure. Osmotic blistering happens when fluid is trying to equalize on opposing sides of semi-permeable membrane. This is the second failure of the flooring system pictured. The only remedy for this is to remove everything from the surface with shot blasting and then start over.

Pictured is Bill Lepito; photo was taken by Peter Craig.  Photo is used with permission.

Twenty years ago, Roland was a big proponent of trade associations and trade-specific training and recognized the value of cross-pollination with allied industries to create and sharea body of knowledge. His opinion has changed with the birth of a new industry – training.  The development of private schools offering any number of training options and certifications has diluted the value of any of the programs.  And there was never an attempt to validate the information being taught by drilling down into the basic material science of the products involved.

ASTM is the organization where Roland spends his industry volunteer time.

Integrity is the most important skill. Don’t become entangled if you think your integrity may become compromised. Roland has many friends in the flooring industry who on occasion ask him for inspection and reporting assistance. He advises them that their friendship is more valuable to him than the inspection fee and recommends they hire someone else if they are unwilling to let him call the situation as he sees it.

Roland is an advocate for performance-based standards!

The biggest cause of flooring problems is caused by people in the flooring industry who didn’t know what they were doing when they were doing it. In new construction there often is a mad rush to project completion. He provided the example of luxury vinyl plank flooring being installed in a mock-up building without temperature and humidity control. The building is cold and sometimes damp and the flooring is sensitive to temperature and RH. He knows the flooring installation will fail.

Many flooring complaints are related to installation and failure to follow manufacturers specifications. Some flooring defects can readily be seen such as inconsistencies in glossiness. Product defects (adhesives & underlayment) rarely occur and are often visually obvious.

Many flooring complaints are related to moisture issues caused by installing flooring prior to closure of the building envelope. Many moisture-related issues are caused by ambient conditions (lack of interior temperature controls, leading to dew point and condensation).

Moisture testing method is determined by manufacturer’s specs.  A manufacturer will require certain test methods prior to the installation of the floor; it is that guidance the governs which test(s) will be necessary.

Moisture testing is most beneficial immediately prior to installation and should be scheduled for immediately prior to installation. Too often moisture testing is scheduled during breaks in the schedule and may be done weeks or months before installation. Ambient conditions may significantly change between the time of testing and installation without adequate time for mitigation.

Most flooring litigation is caused when no one understands or will accept responsibility for the problem and parties pass blame and point fingers at others. Communication breaks down when parties don’t respond to calls and letters. Then the parties lawyer up. These construction defect claims rarely go to trial. Judges consider these cases too big, too complex and too boring. Settlements in these cases are often 5 times the cost of the flooring.

What about adhesives guaranteed for all conditions?

The adhesives are sold with RH testing up to 100% RH. When you look at the materials water isn’t a problem. When troweled onto plexiglass and allowed to dry, the adhesive can be submersed under water for months without adverse effect. Alkalinity will cause adhesive failure not water. RH is moisture vapor which is different than moisture in liquid form. Both alkalinity and moisture are problems in flooring. The source of moisture is commonly from above the floor rather than below. Adhesives sold with RH testing up to 100% RH have an advertising niche the competition may not have.

Roland recounted a flooring inspection that he made at a university. When he arrived all the parties and attorneys were present. He saw a pallet of flooring adhesive and removed two 5-gallon pails. He sat on one while he read the label on the other. They asked him what he was doing, and he answered, reading the label instructions. The flooring installer asked him why he was reading the label, and then stated that they have been doing the same thing for years all adhesives are the same. Roland then advised him that the both the product and the instructions had changed 18 months ago. Putting breaks on things is an important part of the client service he provides.

Ambient RH and temperature change over time, do you use data loggers to monitor jobsites?

Roland advocates the use of dataloggers when possible.  However, leaving test equipment on a jobsite for extended periods of time leads to unfortunate outcomes.  He recounted the story of a recent project where 10 dataloggers were placed (2 per floor, 5 floors) and when he returned after testing to collect the dataloggers only 3 could be found – the other 7 had simply disappeared.  At a cost of $100+ per unit that adds significant cost to his service.

It never rains in southern California, where do the moisture problems come from?

Moisture test close to the time of installation to prevent problems. Citing an example when 2”-3” of standing water was on a concrete slab for 3 weeks before the building was underroof.

Why don’t general contractors invest in structural drying?

Due to very tight margins on construction projects GCs must be tight-fisted and not pay for anything they consider unnecessary.

Pete Consigli: Restoration Industry Global Watchdog

  1. Good flooring guys know a lot about moisture that can help restorers better understand how to moisture test and determine “dry”.
  2. The disaster restoration industry is rooted in the flooring since it is a horizontal surface and gets wet on almost every water loss due to gravity.
  3. The IAQ industry has a big focus on moisture, mold and related health issues. Often flooring issues contribute to bad IEQ.
  4. We need to hear the sermon again, that when communication breaks down, litigation happens. When building owners don’t listen to tenants (odors, malaise, insects, etc.) it can lead to litigation. The IAQ and Flooring industries have that in common. Roland’s comments should resonate with IEP’s!
  5. Lawyers take plaintiff cases on contingency, often due to a lack of communication. Not returning calls and emails leads to bad outcomes!
  6. Is it improper drying or incorrect installation that leads to determining who is responsible for flooring issues on insurance claims?
  7. Not all contractors have the necessary skills and experience to dry concrete.
  8. Contractors who don’t use moisture meters to document their projects don’t have a leg to stand on if a flooring replacement fails.
  9. Service providers must be able to explain to clients the value that their service provides.
  10. Most complaints and subsequent lawsuits are based on the perception of wrongdoing rather than the reality of having done something wrong.

Roland Vierra Final Comments

  1. You can’t tell material dryness by looking (though the statement “the concrete looked dry” is commonly heard while on the job).
  2. A “dry standard” or goal is established on every moisture monitoring project.
  3. Forensics means scientific study.

Z-Man signing off

Trivia question:

When a form of mechanized carpet making was developed after World War II, what US city became the center of this new industry?


Dalton, GA

Answered by Clayton Shull, All Flooring Inspections Abbottsford, BC Canada