How stuff works- Tender/Bid Edition

We have been quoting a lot of banks, restaurants and large commercial jobs lately. The bid process is very interesting. Bear with me, this post will have some industry jargon. I'm going to break down the pieces of the bid process to give all of you (both of you?) readers out there an insight into this part of our industry. 

To Begin, the business owner or group of owners decide they want to build or renovate something. They then hire an architect (or engineer or design firm depending on what the project entails). The architect then approaches large scale General Contractors with the job. In Saskatoon these are groups like Wright Construction, PCL, Ledcor etc. The big guys. Those builders then put together a quote. In order to do that they contact businesses in different sectors for supplies and specialty labor. Luckily we qualify for both of those categories. 

Usually the point we get involved with starts with an email or phone call with an invitation to bid the job from the big guys. When we agree to participate in the process, we get access to the plans/blueprints. Usually the designer involved picks the products. We contact the tile or carpet tile supplier and they give us the same pricing as every other bidder. These bids are always on a tight-ish time frame. We spend 3 days or so working almost exclusively on the project at hand, pouring over the details and praying that we miss nothing, and that our competitors also miss nothing. Usually bids are chosen based on the lowest price. Every Flooring place does things different, some installers are paid hourly, ours are paid in piece work; some suppliers are aligned with specific suppliers; some have one dedicated person to bidding commercial jobs, we don't; some include transitions or base, some charge separately.

Its very difficult to compare apples to apples except by the bottom line. We are always in a tension of hoping our quote is the lowest and hoping we are quoting high enough to pay for the work. There is very little margin to be made in commercial work, but the volume usually makes up for it. There are so many parts of this process that are more difficult than residential jobs. One mistake, we could lose a lot of money. Beyond that, a store at our level has to submit our bid to the right construction company in order to have our bid carried.

Its a big learning curve. Our bids have done fairly well and we have won about 1/3 of what we submit. Ideally it would be great to have a better grasp on the ever-changing, fluid process and get every single one. I am used to slaying the competition, not just meeting them. We will get there in commercial work too. 

Consumer Edge: Hardwood

What can be said, hardwood is what every other hard surface category is trying to be. Its gorgeous. It lasts. Its naturally (and often sustainably) sourced. It's benefits are infinite. It can be refinished; it lasts forever; its easy to care for; its warm; its customizable. At Allied, most of our hardwood suppliers have a big Canadian focus too.

Right now the technology is growing leaps and bounds: wider planks are now more possible thanks to improved engineering; colors are achieved in new ways like fuming and oiling. Oiled finishes make wood easier to keep it looking like new than ever before. Finishes are stronger than they have ever been. Armstrong offers two really cool options for nearly bullet proof finishes. The diamond ten finish is made with diamond dust in the wear layer and is very difficult to scratch. Armstrong also offers an acrylic impregnated wood that is resistant to gauging, indents and scratching. Its incredible. Its an exciting time of change for a category of flooring that has been stagnant for generations. 

The downfalls to getting wood are the same as they have always been. You have to maintain humidity CONSTANTLY, it can permanently damage your wood if you don't. Its harder in prairie climates like ours that change so frequently, but most people get an HVAC mounted on their furnace, then its a no-brainer. Installation takes precision and expertise, so that is not cheap either. Most companies offer coordinating stair nosings and reducers (but you guessed it: also not cheap). 

I would argue that in the right application, you DO save money by putting down a permanent option. You will never have to replace it and it can be refinished. The oiled options offer easy "refreshing". You can mop on a new oil layer, making it easy to look like new. There are entry level woods on the market that are priced lower than higher end laminates and LVPs, so wood can be an option for price oriented customers. 

The average household in Canada changes their flooring every 5-7 years. You can get a timeless option one time or go through the hassle of change multiple times with sub-par looks.

Liven up your Bathroom

There are so many possibilities with tile layouts and combinations. Here are some highlights on custom work we have done in bathrooms over the last while. There are options for every taste and budget out there. All of the work featured here was done by our in-house tile setter, Tadas Kubilis. He also took these pictures for us. 

University of Saskatchewan President's Residence

U of S Prez res exterior.PNG

The University has become a favorite for staff here at Allied. Its a project we all enjoy getting involved in and being a part of. I love working on the president's residence because of it's unique challenges. We are tasked with finding products that embody a timeless look and will last a lifetime but can fit a budget that the board will approve. Designer, Edie Reikman leads the charge and we try to fill in the blanks. 

During this phase, we are aiming to replace the stair runner and redo a bathroom that needs help. 

New runner going into the President's residence, replacing one that did not suit the character of the house. This will highlight the stained oak and intricate woodwork. 

New runner going into the President's residence, replacing one that did not suit the character of the house. This will highlight the stained oak and intricate woodwork. 

Consumer Edge: Vinyl Plank and tile (FTW), An unbiased article

Okay, I lied. I'm biased. I confess.

I like vinyl plank and tile, I have BOTH in my own house, I don't get any call backs on LVP, I feel good about selling affordable options that look great, the industry is aimed that way and has the best designs and color offerings in this category. It also has HUGE flexibility when it comes to design compared to other categories (you can do borders or herringbones, angles and mixed colors).

There are some problems with this overall category, like anything else. Tile can crack, wood can dry out, laminate swells, sheet vinyl last so long that it "uglies-out" (that's an actual official industry term). LVP has two main downfalls overall: it is susceptible to scratching and to expansion and contraction with temperature changes. THAT said, these problems have been substantially dealt with in most major manufacturers.

Glue down planks compensate for expansion/contraction problems but are often thin so a good subfloor is absolutely necessary. This is the best price point option by far (sometimes more than $2/sf difference in cost!). Most commercial settings use a glue down with a beefed up wear layer. 

The idea of a click floor is that it will expand and contract as one whole piece. Imagine it like breathing, when you inhale-expansion, exhale contraction; When the floor is heated it will all swell and when it is cooled, it will shrink as a whole. Doorways need expansion joints, t-moldings so you don't create points of tension. You also need to leave space around the edges to avoid buckling. I'm anticipating the click category will go away soon because there is a lot of room for mistakes in install, but its a decent option in the right space. Its cost effective and can compensate for a BIT more sub floor issues than a glue down. 

LASTLY the latest addition to the line-up: the friction fit plank.It's engineered to be more stable than any vinyl product out there (no expansion/contraction problems) Its hefty, usually thicker than any other LVP and can compensate for the most sub floor undulation. It is safe for surface water when the floor is flat. Most brands only ask for a perimeter glue and an "x" through the center of your space to give the planks a barrier for movement. It literally takes longer to open the boxes than to install the floor. Its a more expensive option than the others simply because of the BULK of material required to make it, but offers the HUGE benefit of easy install and repair. If one gets wrecked, just pick it up and put a new one in. 

For the do-it-yourself-ers: DON'T glue a click floor, don't loose lay a glue down. Follow directions every single type of plank is different. Other wise: go nuts. This is the easiest category to do yourself and leaves the most rooms for mistakes. I installed LVP for years and have some great for anyone who is interested, drop me a comment or "contact us".


Consumer Edge: What's the deal with sheet vinyl?

There is a lot to know when it comes to vinyl. Firstly, it comes in a lot of different formats. To name a few: sheet vinyl, plank and tile. Plank can be further broken down into application method: click, glue, self adhered, friction fit. For the purposes of not overwhelming you, my kind reader, I'll be breaking these into multiple posts. You can come into the store if you want to be bored with further excruciating detail. For now, I'll focus on the sheet vinyl aspect.

Personally this is my category of choice. I am not a rich person, I don't love cleaning everyday.  I want something that will last and be able to take an accidental beating from time to time. 

Sheet vinyl gets a bad rap from the old days of battleship linoleum only available in a pebble pattern in mint green, mustard yellow or dingy cream. One thing that can be said is it has some serious staying power and can withstand years of abuse. It often outlives it's fashion. The new improved vinyl has engineered the old problems and discomforts out.

It used to be hard, now cushioned back vinyl is the most common for a softer warmer feel underfoot. 

It used to be ugly, now... some is still ugly, let's get be honest. BUT there is a lot of designer vinyl that borrows inspiration from the best tile, wood and other designer textures that are out there. So its not all ugly anymore, you've just got to persevere through some uggos to get the right look. 

It used to get gauged/torn easily and was difficult to repair. It's not now. It can be repaired seamlessly with a chemical bond that makes the previously damaged area the strongest part of your floor. Beyond that, our preferred manufacturers have great warranty coverage on gauging, scratching and warping.

It used to fade so you couldn't move your furniture. This is not a problem that exists anymore, even the cheapest options have figured out how to make an effective UV wear layer.


Shower tile; Too Many choices

When it comes to shower tile, there are so many options. Too many, if you ask me.

One look that we have been seeing grow in popularity is a totally homogeneous look. One tile, one direction, from floor through to the ceiling gives a continuous visual, a sweeping clean look. Most customers opt for a grout that coordinates, to add to the smooth visual. The below pictures are in a home by Kandr Developments with work by Jordan Lucyk. We are proud to be a part of the team making these visions a reality. 

Price wise, this is  great choice. Using the same tile throughout cuts down on waste and a larger format tile will generally cost less than a mosaic floor tile. A mid-range mosaic tile can cost upwards of $25/sf, where as the tile featured here is closer to the $8/sf mark. Install is  a bit more for larger format floor tile, but you save a significant amount on materials. 

Consumer Edge: Take a look at Laminate

In Flooring, hard surface choices have exploded in the last decade. Every supplier/manufacturer we use has a line of laminate or vinyl plank. As a consumer it's tough to know what choice to make. Here's a quick buyers guide to the pros and cons of each hard surface choice. 

I have some obvious biases. Let me just put that out there. I have worked in flooring... forever. One of my earliest childhood memories is being on a job site with my Dad cleaning up carpet scraps while he did install work. I started up myself at 13 and haven't looked back. *Except for a brief stint at Tim Hortons when I felt I needed a "real job" as a surly teenager, but we don't talk about that. Flooring has been my career of choice for more of my life than not. 

LAMINATE. Let's get these aforementioned biases out of the way first. I hate laminate and almost always try to move customers into a different product. Most laminate warranties say any moisture or liquid must be removed from the surface immediately or the warranty is void. If you can't over-water a plant accidentally or have a pet accident on your floor, in my opinion its not a good floor. Water? Too bad, get a new floor, try better next time. the core is made of HDF, a denser material than your ikea furniture, but essentially offers the same performance. 

BUT, you say, Isn't it cheap? Well, when you compare to hardwood, yes. Install is less and the material is less money. There are more than just the two options out there now. Why not pay the same for something that won't self destruct in 3-5 years. Like a vinyl plank, maybe?

To be fair, there are some good options out there. Armstrong makes laminates that have VERY HIGH standards for expansion and moisture tolerances, they stand out as one of the best finishes and cores. They have invested a ton of research in creating quality products that perform how they need to (

So not everything in the laminate category is a no-no, but I would say MOST. Some of the visuals are amazing, some offer textures that are impressive, there are some good things. BUT just maybe those good features are available in other categories.


Fisher Homes in Grasswood Estates

Grasswood Estates is a gorgeous area with huge lots, natural landscapes and groomed walking paths. Its a short distance outside of the city and offers a type of quiet that just can't exist within the city limits. Fisher has completed a few projects in this area, I'd say it suits them. Check out our Fisher Homes feature on our website's front page as well. Here are pictures of some work we've done with Fisher Homes at 41 Grasswood Estates. Also in case you were curious, this house is for sale.