DIY Outdoor Pallet Projects for the Summer

Warm weather is finally upon us, which means summer is just around the corner. I don’t know about you, but summer is my favorite time of the year. Why? Warm weather allows people to spend more time outside, so why not make your outdoor area as beautiful as the interior of your home? Whether you have a large outdoor area or a small outdoor area, there is always something you can do to make it amazing.

DIY projects are on trend and there are plenty of ideas out there that focus on helping make your patio pop. Rustic and shabby chic are very popular trends right now, and I don’t see them going out of style anytime soon.

So what can you use to get all these things in one and make it your own? Pallets!!! There are numerous things you can do with pallets, including making flooring out of them! I stumbled upon this website when I was on Pinterest. It is amazing, and has a lot of great project ideas! Click Here to see some different projects you can do yourself.  Here are some super simple ideas and look how beautiful they turn out! You can also make furniture out of them to go along with your new pallet flooring. I am in LOVE with this look! Even if you just wanted to make something as simple as a walkway, pallets make it easy and the look is stunning. I love working with these things and the endless  possibilities they have. Click Here to get step-by-step instructions on how to make your own lovely pallet walkway. I found it all on this amazing DIY website, by Donna. Let’s get to making those outdoor areas gorgeous again for the summer.

A Herringbone (or is it Chevron?) to Pick

This Certified Flooring Expert is having a Herringbone moment. And, why not? The zig and zag pattern is trending in popularity and better yet has timeless appeal.  But, alas, nothing is ever a simple zig or zag, now we have choices.  Chevron, herringbone, flame stitch … all zig and zag but have specific details that one should consider when choosing types of flooring.

So is it really that I have a herringbone to pick or maybe I really want a chevron or flame-stitch? What exactly is the difference and what do the differences mean in terms of flooring?

The herringbone pattern is the placing of rectangles in a pattern. It is the most common zig zag as it requires less cuts with its softer angles.


This differs from the Chevron pattern where the material is cut at an angle to create a true point. It’s distinguishing letter “V” with its sharp point works great with tile and wood.  The chevron is stunning with its detail and really makes the statement of superior design. (see below)

And then, there is the flame stitch.  This design is usually multicolored sharp peaks in a varied pattern, it resembles – yes, a flame. This pattern is most popular in fabrics, carpet weaves and accent tiles. Common in patterns that a cool and updated vibe but also offered in lighter, timeless offerings, the flame stitch is also ideal when choosing carpet for areas with heavy traffic.

So the moment of truth?  I love them all … but herringbone doesn’t cost more (and this certified flooring expert is all about design on a budget) and provides great timeless design.

What to do before you have new floors installed.

So you’ve made the ever so important decision and selected the perfect new flooring for your home. That was the hard part right?  But what happens next?  How do you prepare to have new floors installed? What do you need to do next to complete the project? Here are a few tips from our Certified Flooring Experts to help ensure the success of your flooring installation.

1.       Select the flooring contractor to install your new floors. This is really important because a good flooring installer can work with the product selection and know exactly what needs to be done and be able to make adjustments to ensure the finished product is perfect. If you purchase the materials yourself, ask your contractor beforehand of exactly what is needed before the project begins.

2.       Measure (twice) to purchase all materials needed. Depending upon your product selection, the proper installation will require padding, underlayment, tar roofing paper (for hardwood), or thinset (tile). You will also need transition pieces such as quarter round molding to cover the space between your new flooring and the walls or baseboards.

3.       Your product needs to acclimate to the temperature in your home.  Wood and laminate will expand and contract under natural conditions. To reduce this movement, give your floor 2 to 3 days to get used to the climate conditions in your home. Flooring likes climate control. Keep your AC/Heat system at a steady temperature before and after your floors are installed to minimize changes in temperature.

Once your product is ready to go, remove your furniture and existing flooring. Your flooring expert should fix any squeaks and level the subfloor. (Make sure this is included as part of the installation process). 

 

Keep your eyes open and look for matching lines. Make sure the joints and connections make sense. Does the pattern work?

Asking questions, staying informed, and working with a good flooring contractor equals a high quality installation, ensuring your long-term satisfaction.  

Outdoor Flooring Brings Beauty to Your Patio

Sunshine, warm weather, and beautiful sunsets brings us outdoors. We like to create the perfect space for relaxing and socializing by proving the most picturesque of patio views. First consider how you want to use your outdoor space. Will it be for family dinners, kids play area, couples evening or hosting large gatherings? Is there a pool or water feature to consider? The furniture, décor, and landscaping are all important features to every patio… however, an important piece that cannot be forgotten about is selecting the right type of outdoor flooring. Flooring must be able to withstand the elements of both Mother Nature and its usage. If you are re-doing or putting in a patio this year let us give you some tips on the best floors for your new charming patio. Keep in mind, that your outdoor décor style should complement and reflect your indoor design style.

Flagstone is one of the best materials for patios, mainly because its narrow packed joints that allow water to permeate instead of running off. Flagstone gives that natural look. It comes in earthy shades such as browns, reds, and grays. Flagstone is durable and will last for years. Flagstone comes in different patterns. For more organized looks go with the random rectangle pattern. If you are creating a more casual space try the irregular pattern or crazy paving. Flagstone is a little more costly than some outdoor alternatives ranging $15 to $30 per square foot.   You can’t deny how great it looks in either pattern!

rectangle flagstone
rectangle flagstone
crazy paving
crazy paving

Concrete is another popular outdoor flooring option. Concrete is not only visually appealing, but very functional. Concrete will last longer than wood decking. It is also less time consuming and costly than other flooring alternatives. A simple concrete design usually runs for $6 to $10 dollars per square foot, but with more elaborate designs ranging $12 and up. Stamped concrete is very popular because it can give you that imprint or texture into concrete to look like flagstone, slate, or cobblestone. This beautiful walkway/patio below is actually stamped concrete.

stamped concrete
stamped concrete

Brick is another timeless option for outdoor patios. Brick has been popular for years. Centuries ago people were using brick to build walkways and patios. Brick patios have an unmatched look. The color of brick never fades, there are hundreds of pattern options, and brick is easily repaired. Brick patios can be designed in any shape. Classic brick patterns are running bond or herringbone. Brick averages $2 to $3 dollars per square foot.

herringbone brick
herringbone brick

We love all 3 of these options for your patio. Which one do you prefer in your yard for the upcoming summer picnics, bonfires, and relaxing?

Classic White - Not Grandma's Kitchen

Classic White – Not Grandma’s Kitchen After a seemingly endless winter, it’s time for spring-cleaning! And, there’s no better way to renew, refresh and clean up than with a good remodeling! Just as spring expresses flowers and fresh linens, express your fresh new look with tile, hardwood, laminate or one of the amazing new vinyls on the market. And, while we love the classics, we want our “new and fresh” to pop … no boring allowed! None of which comes to mind when you read “White Kitchen.” Well, we had similar thoughts, until the insatiable draw of Pinterest discovered boards dedicated completely to white kitchens. Oh the appeal! Definitely clean, sleek, and timeless is the white kitchen.

But is white practical as well as desirable?

White kitchens make the room feel spacious and warm. White is a timeless color.  And, surprisingly, white is the most “marketable” color. A white kitchen never goes “out of style.” White appliances are typically in stock and usually cost less than other finishes. Bonus! That leaves you extra money to spend on your flooring. White minimizes nicks, chips and blemishes on both cabinets and appliances. In general, white allow for easy updating of any kitchen.

Naturally, flooring becomes a focal point in white kitchens … bonus!

KitchenBefore
KitchenBefore
KitchenAfter1
KitchenAfter1

Hardwood flooring an excellent match to your white kitchen! And, dark hardwood flooring looks absolutely chic. Besides being trendy, hardwood floors provide a cozy, warm feeling, much like white kitchens.

Hardwood floor is also incredibly durable, something very important for a kitchen. Best of all, hardwood provides a good return on your investment should you choose to sell your home. (Always think ahead!) If hardwood is not in the budget, there are gorgeous laminates available at lower price points and even some remarkable resilient vinyl styles that will bring the spring inside.

Go ahead, brighten and whiten your kitchen this spring!

In Honor of St. Patrick's Day

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, our Certified Flooring Experts are decorating with the color green! From earthy greens of olive, kiwi or forest or coastal colors of aqua or mint to vibrant shades of emerald … green is fabulous! As flooring people we feel pretty strongly about flooring as art… so of course we showcase our art under our feet! Step out of the box and put your feet on some green this Paddy’s Day with gorgeous hues of green tile, stone or concrete … your guests will go green with envy!

From our home to yours …. An Irish Blessing

May your troubles be less, And your blessing be more. And nothing but happiness, Come through your door.

green herringbone   Herringbone Tile in Chevron Design

 

greenwood  Stained/Painted Hardwood

 

green&white floor    Classic checkerboard flooring

In Honor of Valentine's Day...

In honor of Valentine’s Day, we thought it would be appropriate to write about the fury loves of our lives.  Our sweet companions melt our hearts and make our hearts go pitter patter when they greet us at the end of a long day.  Yes, we love our pets and we’ve opened our hearts and homes – and furry or not, our four-legged friends prefer the indoor comforts over winter’s outdoor blistery chill. As much as we love them, we are floor people and we love our floors too!  Pet nails, hair shedding, even the occasional excited urine (it happens!) all pose threats to our floors.  Whether you have wood, carpet, laminate or even tile floors, they all need some extra protecting from Furry Friends.  Here are a few suggestions from our Flooring Experts to minimize Flooring Damage

If you have hardwood, here a few simple tips to try to help keep the scratches down to a minimum and the puppy kisses at an all-time high.

Place runners (long thin rugs) in high traffic areas.  Area rugs and carpet runners are also great for carpet protection.

Clean pet “accidents” immediately.  If your pet has an accident on carpet (and you are able to catch it “fresh”) be sure to soak up as much urine as possible. You can use newspapers or a towel.  Afterwards, rinse the area with clean water or a wet vac. If the stain has already set then use a pet safe spray carpet cleaner. Make sure to avoid using cleaning chemicals, specifically those with a strong odor like vinegar or ammonia. 

Trim pet nails regularly or invest in nail caps for indoor use.  It may take a few treats to get them to adjust, but your floors will appreciate the efforts as much as your enjoys the treat.

So go ahead let your pets enjoy unconditional love and warmth indoors!  With a little commitment we can have our beautiful floors, furry love and companionship on Valentine’s Day. 

snoopy

Winter Brings Us Indoors & the Remodelers Out

bathroom blog pic3  Winter brings out the “remodelaholic” in many of us, and we CFRN Experts are no different.  This season in-doors I’ve become obsessed with selecting tile for the new bathroom.  Of course, the bathroom remodel must have great design, be family friendly, with a stunning spa-like feel, yet classic as to not go out of style and, all within my budget.  Whew!  White subway tile is an easy and inexpensive way to freshen up a bathroom or kitchen, so I knew that was the direction we needed to go. I wanted the brightest white classic subway tile, but I wanted it a bit larger than the traditional 3” x 6” size.  The contemporary 4” x 8” will make my small bathroom larger and bonus, less grout to clean!

To the tile store we went and the Blue 15 x 15 stone tiles moved me (so much for my intentions of a white on white design) and I just knew it would be perfect under my soles.  We flooring experts adapt to design changes quickly and effectively!  And bonus – the stone was still within our budget for the flooring.  Next, Carrera marble was my plan for the sink-top, only to learn that marble is not the most durable choice for a family friendly bathroom.  Disappointment set in and my spa-like remodel suddenly wasn’t feeling so spa-like.  Enter blue pearl granite.  A stunning match to the stone tile and with a cost less than the marble, maybe I will save enough for another room redo?  Now, holding my breath and looking for the wow factor for my great design, enter a matte pearl mosaic. Spa-like perfection, sold!  Okay, cost is definitely on the high side, so only one room redo this year…  but my certified flooring contractor has a plan to add the mosaic to the floor tile and give this year’s redo a truly inspired design. Here are a few images of our selections … time for the tear-out!  What is the “remodelaholic” in you doing this season?

   bathroom blog pic1          bathroom blog pic4          bathroom blog pic 2

 

2015 Flooring Trends

It’s a New Year. A New Year often inspires goals and resolutions. Many people will find themselves dreaming of home renovations for their New Year. If you are one of those people here are some suggestions for 2015. Start with your floors. Not only can new floors add value to your home, but it can make you fall in love with your home all over again.  Here are some of the latest flooring trends.

Continental18_257_DesertSand_Rm

Bamboo. Yes, bamboo manufactured from the bamboo plant. It is becoming known as an alternative to hard wood. Bamboo is durable and “eco friendly”. Like hardwood though it should be treated very carefully.

Reclaimed Wood. If you are going for a rustic/classic look then this is for you. Reclaimed wood is salvaged from old buildings. Reclaimed wood has wider planks. Often it maintains original nail holes and watermarks. It will give any room a sense of history.

Cork. Cork is commonly thought of as one of the most resilient types of flooring. It is becoming very common in residential buildings. It is soft and will feel good beneath your feet. That is one reason cork is becoming more and more popular in the kitchen. Cork flooring is also good for insulation. It can help you save money on your heating and air bills.

Luxury Vinyl. Luxury Vinyl is becoming increasingly more popular. Not only is it durable, but it is affordable. There are several styles that will give off the sleek look just like hardwood. Luxury Vinyl also includes tile that mimics ceramic tile.

(Also becoming more popular is the use of gray Luxury Vinyl instead of the traditional brown to imitate hardwood.)

Cut-and loop Carpet- I know what you are thinking, Cut and Loop? Yes, Cut and Loop Carpet was fashionable twenty and thirty years ago then “went out of style”. The last few years have brought about new contemporary styles and is becoming more common again. Today the Cut and Loop Carpet has backed away from the old sculpted design and is using a more geometric shape approach. You can find diamond shape outlined in today’s Cut and Loop Carpet. If you are looking for a carpet that provides a nice aesthetic feel, then this is the way to go for 2015. This carpet is better for rooms with less traffic.

Lastly, Large Format Tile. Large Format Tile is just literally large ceramic tile pieces. Today’s tile is larger than the old standard 12 X 12 size. Now 20 X 20 or even 24 X 24 is typical. Larger tile makes a room look “less busy”. There are fewer grout lines to get distracted by. It can even help a room appear larger.

These are some of the latest flooring trends. Look to see more of this in 2015.

 

 

Maintaining your floors through the Holidays

shaw living room 'Tis the season. That means food, family, and friends. Throughout the Holidays your floors are sure to experience more traffic than usual. This puts your floors at a higher risk for spills and stains. Here are some Certified Flooring Expert tips on how to properly care for your flooring during this fun but busy time.

Use Area Rugs- Using area rugs in high traffic areas will lower the chance of damaging your floors.

Here are some solutions for any accidents that may occur. 

have a detergent solution- Mix 1/2 teaspoon clear dish washing detergent with one cup of warm water.

Here are some step by step tricks for what to do if you get something on your carpet.

muddy shoe prints - Scrape up mud. Apply detergent solution. BLOT. (DON'T RUB). Apply white vinegar using a damp towel. BLOT.  Apply water with a wet sponge. Blot again. Finish by weighing down a half-inch thick pad of white paper towels to absorb all the moisture.

coffee or wine-  Blot up much as you can. Apply detergent solution. Blot. Apply white vinegar using a damp towel. Blot. Apply water with a damp sponge. Blot again.

sodas, ice cream, jelly- blot a dry cloth with a mix of 1/4 teaspoon of white vinegar with a quart of water. Apply on spot. Then blot again with a white paper towel.

for hardwood-  For most spills simply get paper towels to wipe up the spill. Start at the edge and move to the center. You can also use a light mix of non-bleach detergent and water.  Just be careful about how much water you use.  Be sure to wipe it dry afterwards.

scratches- If possible put chair glides on chairs and furniture.  If not grab a wood stain marker or a wax stick to remove any scratches.

The most important thing for any spill that occurs on any type of floor is that it be taken care of immediately.

From every one at Certified Flooring Experts  we wish you a Happy, Warm, Safe & Spill Free Holiday!

Breaking into the Insurance Channel

Mike Lees, CEO, of the TradePRO Group develops service provider networks for the insurance industry. In 2010, a client requested Lees to build a flooring network and after months of research and investigation, the Certified Flooring Replacement Network began its journey to become a leader in flooring replacement services for the Insurance Industry. His goal is to provide the best flooring restoration, repair and replacement services in the nation through its network of independent Flooring Retailers. The Certified Flooring Replacement Network (CFRN) has entered into Service Level Agreements with national and regional insurance companies to provide flooring replacement for their policyholders when they incur damage.  The main goal of CFRN is to simplify the claims process for everyone involved. CFRN works with the policy holder, insurance company and the local retailer to achieve a high quality experience. CFRN receives claim referrals from claims adjusters and connects the policy holders and flooring retailers together for a smooth and seamless process. The goal is to get agreed repair estimates for the benefit of all parties and ultimately to get the customers new floor repaired or installed as quickly and efficiently as possible. CFRN has over 400 flooring stores in their network. Building a team of professionals to support high growth is an essential component of any strategic business initiative. TradePro added industry veteran Mike Adams to the team in 2013.  Adams came on board as COO and oversees the strategic operations for TradePro. Adams has over 30 years of insurance claims industry experience and leadership and held a variety key management positions such as National Claims Programs Manager and Director of Claims Operations where he oversaw vendor contracts with a combined spend of $300 million.

“We believe that they deserve the best and we are not content to only meet their needs, we are committed to exceeding them. Our certified experts and claims professionals have an extraordinary breadth and depth of experience. We are not just a service provider network, we help our customers and flooring partners for a long term partnership.” says Lees. CFRN has a close rate of over 70%.

Lees saw flooring replacement was underserved in the market place and a very good fit with TradePro’s overall business model. Insurance companies who write homeowners policies rate floor coverings as their number two spend in property repair payments. The overall insurance industry spend for flooring is around 5 billion annually.

To understand the insurance business you must understand the way claims are reported. This process has changed so much in the last 20 years. Many insurance companies want to take the agents out of the property claims process because agents are salesman/women and not adjusters. Typically large call centers exist with call center representatives that collect the basic information validate the policy is in force but cannot commit that the claim will be covered.

Here is an overview of the typical claims process. Policyholders report claims to agents or directly to insurance company. Customer service agents collect basic claim information but typically cannot commit coverage. Adjusters (in-office or field) are assigned claims. The adjuster determines if claim is covered.  The adjuster may then ask the policyholder to get repair estimates or a field adjuster will inspect and write an estimate.

Insurance companies then have to value the claims.  XACTIMATE is a very popular estimating software program that is utilized in the industry today. The estimating software is designed to develop repair estimates and can be used to completely rebuild a home. The home interior tool includes a room-by-room feature and allows you to enter all the material components to be removed, repaired, restored and replaced. It utilizes incremental unit cost items that are priced to include the individual labor and or material cost per square foot or lineal foot. The software allows the inclusion of overhead and profit calculations for subcontract trades. Other methods used are independent laboratory analysis for LKQ (like, kind and quality), scoping and estimating the areas to be restored.

After the damage has been assessed the policyholders are given options for completing repairs. Policyholders can perform the work themselves, utilize the preferred vendor recommended by the insurance company, obtain referrals from their agent or adjuster, or search on their own.

Payments get issued a few different ways. Once the repair estimate is completed, payment for the Actual Cash Value (ACV) of the repairs is issued, less the deductible. Once the repairs are completed, the insured can apply for the balance of the cost of repairs. Alternatively, the policyholder can accept the ACV and not complete the repairs. Or, payments may be issued directly to a contractor with appropriate payment request documents. Lien holders may be named as co-payee.

Insurance policies provide language that policy holders have a duty to mitigate their damages. Mitigation efforts save insurance companies and their customers billions of dollars. Water mitigation can decrease the amount of structural damage repairs needed to bring a structure back to pre-loss condition. Insurance policies provide language which allows them to restore back to pre-loss condition unless replacement is equal too or less than restoration. Insurance companies have the right to replace with like kind & quality materials. Like kind and quality testing for hardwood replacement can be difficult.  Some insurance companies have guidelines specifically restricting the arbitrary replacement of hard wood floors. Hardwood flooring can be a contentious area for consumers who are not privy to structural drying techniques that can prevent the necessity of replacement. Sanding and refinishing can be very effective depending on a variety of factors.

The most common issues that arise over restoring versus replacing have to do with unrealistic policyholder expectations, lack of adjuster knowledge, and continuous runs.  Policyholder expectations can be the biggest issue to manage. Issues arise when customers may have paid more than the current cost to install the same or LKQ product. Or when not every one is on the same page, when a contractor told the customer everything must be replaced and the adjuster believes sand and refinish is all that needs to done. Or sometimes customer believes the insurance policy is an annuity and wants new floors throughout the home.

Preferred Vendor Programs are becoming more and more popular. They provide companies with tremendous benefits. Many national vendor programs provide high-level customer service. They offer consistent pricing, improved cycle time, and reduced indemnity payments.

One of the biggest advantages to having a preferred vendor program is the central dispatch it provides, which accesses service providers in every state with one-call solutions. It also offers centralized billing, consistency and uniformity of process and one single point of contact.

Vendor credentialing is a critical management function and a variety of forms and qualifications must be completed before they can officially handle any jobs. All employees with a vendor have to have background checks, Federal Violent Crime Control Act Law compliance, and general liability insurance. All insurance companies require background checks on individuals that will be working in the home. Primarily for violent crimes and dishonesty claims.

Most insurance companies want to see specific and tangible financial benefits and may ask for a volume discount. Insurance companies look to third party networks to hold the policyholders hand through the entire process.

Insurance companies require third party networks to enforce Service Level Agreements.  SLA’s outlining the performance standards for all participating contractors. SLA’s contain specific guidelines such as time frames to contact the policyholder, inspections and completed estimates. SLA’s are the foundation of any national contract or program with insurance companies. Performance standards are negotiated and then enforced through monthly reporting. Monthly reports provide data on claim cycle times, average claim costs and customer satisfaction results

There are several typical industry guidelines.  One hour to contact the insured from assignment, eight business hours or less for on site inspection, estimate submitted within 24 hours from inspection. Photos of damaged areas are required.

Standardized forms like direction to pay, product selection form, customer satisfaction, and installation warranty.

There are several ways local contractors get insurance work. They develop relationships at a local level by working as a sub-contractor, calling on agents, calling on adjusters, join third party networks, and joining franchise groups. Your personal insurance agent may be a good source for referrals. Adjusters typically want to work with a general contractor so they don’t have to deal with tradesman directly.

Third party networks have grown significantly in the last 10 years.

They require annual fees for credentialing and commissions on completed and paid work. They will provide value to the contractors by obtaining adjuster agreement for the scope of work to be performed and the total cost of repairs. Claims professionals like third party networks because they can deal with one person that helps them negotiate with contractors and provide dispute resolution. Insurance companies like third party networks because they provide risk avoidance as well.

Some final points, being part of a network leverages national marketing, provides an advocate to assist local providers with disputes and opens a steady and consistent channel of new business.

Mike Lees is President & CEO at TradePRO, a national specialty trade provider of flooring and hvac networks.