09/20/10 — Working' it - A puzzling puzzle

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Working' it - A puzzling puzzle

By Laura Collins
Published in News on September 20, 2010 1:46 PM

The Job: Floor installation specialist

The Company: Thad's Carpet One

The Location: Goldsboro

When I was a kid, some cruel family member got me a jigsaw puzzle for Christmas. The fact that it was a puzzle didn't make it cruel, it was the fact that it was a puzzle of a white harbor seal surrounded by snow. I think I made it as far as the eyes, then quit because all the other pieces were white and it was too hard.

Little did I know, 15 years later I'd be in a similar situation trying to install hardwood flooring at Thad's Carpet One, with all the pieces looking exactly the same but being different sizes and only fitting together a certain way.

Going into it I thought putting down some flooring would be a breeze, mostly because I watch a lot of HGTV and they get a whole room done in 30 minutes. I learned very quickly that was the magic of TV. The whole thing started off confusing when store manager John Morris explained how the floor was supposed to look. Since the store sells hardwood flooring, the floor we were putting down was going to feature six sections, each a different stain or type of wood.

"OK, what we're going to do with this one here is we're going to start it here and take it here so it can be right up against here," Morris said.

I looked around to make sure the other two installers, Ponce Trejo and Gustabo Ponce of Ponce Flooring, were able to differentiate between all the "heres" Morris had used. Morris also made it "clear" that he wanted the wood used on the top half of the floor to go from a section of the dark sample to the medium sample to the light sample. Then the bottom half of the floor would be opposite and start with a section of the light sample then switch to the medium sample in the middle and end with the dark sample. That way the dark and light sections of the hardwood would be opposite and make each other stand out. He put a small piece of the different hardwoods in each section of the floor so we knew where they each went.

That's where things got sticky.

After Trejo and Ponce put down the foam padding on top of the concrete, they needed to run to the hardware store before we could start installing the hardwood. I stayed back and hung out at Thad's, partly because the other employees were a lot of fun, but also because there was a secret bag of candy stashed behind the counter. When they got back, Ponce started on the bottom section and Trejo and I started on the section right above his. Trejo gave me a rundown of the basics.

"Both of these hardwoods have different looking systems. His type is just male and female, and our type is also male and female, but ours has a ledge to hold it in place," he said. "The seams have to be at least six inches apart from the seam in the row above or below it. And you can't just throw it down, it has to stagger so there isn't a stair-step look either. Though some customers will ask specifically for that look."

I took in about 50 percent of what he was saying and figured I would learn the rest as we went. The highlight of my day came when Trejo showed me how to work the chop saw to cut some of the wood so it would fit length-wise.

A while after we got to work, we were each about halfway done with our first section when Morris walked in.

"I thought we were going to do it so the dark wood and light wood were the first two sections," he said.

Trejo and I were laying one of the dark wood samples on the lower right side of the floor and Ponce was laying the other dark wood sample on the upper right side of the floor. The wheels in my head got to turning. At one point while Ponce and Trejo were at the store, and in between me chatting with Morris and eating the candy, I picked up a couple of the small pieces of wood Morris had laid on the floor to help us remember what went where. I just wanted to look at them closer. I didn't know there were so many different varieties of hardwood flooring.

"It's possible I accidentally rearranged some of those samples on accident," I said, using the word "accident" as much as possible, and braced myself for the worst.

But it wasn't bad at all. Morris brushed it off like it was nothing and just rearranged the remaining samples so the concept still worked. I could get used to working at Thad's.

I decided to let Trejo and Ponce handle it from there. They are experts at installing the flooring and perfectionists at what they do. And I had more than proven that I was not.

I was also impressed with Morris. It was easy to see why customers would feel so comfortable at Thad's with him and the other employees. With his quick rebound after my flooring mishap, it was clear that he's more than qualified to work with customers who change their minds a lot, or are unsure about what they want or what they're looking for. Luckily he and the other employees are well-versed in the ins and outs of flooring and are there to guide a customer, or reporter, who might be a little mixed up.