Discussion on The Challenge of Interior Renovations in Occupied Senior Living Facilities

An Interview with Director of Commercial Flooring Joe Finkey

Please describe this recent commercial flooring project at Fairmount Homes in Ephrata.

Joe – This is a commercial interior renovation project for Paul Risk Construction at Fairmount Homes. Fairmount is a familiar place to me and to our owners, Mike, Barb, and Weston Martin. My grandmother lived there for over 15 years until she was 100 and my in-laws are currently there.  Mike’s mom is also living there. The project scope as stated on Fairmount’s website “includes painting, adding and removing walls, installing new lighting, and installing new flooring in the corridors, lounges, dining, and common areas.” Our scope includes removing the existing floors and installing new carpet tile, luxury vinyl planks, and wall base. Our company mission statement and project goal is always “Working together in harmony to meet and exceed the expectations of our customers.” In this case, our customers are Paul Risk Construction, and Fairmount Homes’ staff, residents, and visitors.

Fairmount Homes living space carpet installation from Martins Flooring

What was the design process leading up to the work? How were colors, textures and looks determined?

Joe – Design and selection of materials was a team effort. The architect firm (RLPS) started with the plans of where they wanted different products (vinyl plank, carpet tile) to be, then we provided input on which products were best from a standpoint of longevity and ease of cleaning. We provided a color palette that harmonized with the existing décor and Fairmount chose the colors in conjunction with RLPS’s designer. The goal was to make it seamless with existing materials that were staying, and with the new paint and ceiling colors, and the new desks and nurses’ stations.

Fairmount Homes reception desk flooring and carpet installation from Martins Flooring

Were there any special considerations for the flooring material, because of traffic concerns or easy cleaning needs?

Joe – Using commercially rated products was a must because these products have longer warranties. Beyond that, for carpet tiles we chose one with a cushion backing for sound and comfort. In a commercial space, using carpet tile is better than wall-to-wall carpet because if something is damaged then Fairmount can remove the single damaged carpet tile and replace it themselves. Same with vinyl plank. We provide extra carpet tiles and vinyl planks for this purpose. The other nice thing about carpet tiles and vinyl planks is that you can create different patterns. Fairmount chose basket weave. Other options are vertical or horizontal offset, or you can even lay it all using same direction so that it will look like wall-to-wall. We also try to provide a really good value for all of our customers. For Fairmount, we probably saved them about 20% on material cost because we recommended some really good products at really good price points.

Fairmount Homes hallway flooring installation from Martins Flooring

How is this type of renovation organized and structured once you start work?

Joe – In the planning stages of the project, DJ Risk, President of Paul Risk Construction, and Dan Snyder, their Project Manager, put together a phased construction schedule. The project was in phases because it is on two floors and all wings of the building. The goal was to keep disruptions to a minimum and return finished spaces regularly throughout the 8-month project. Most of the work was performed on weekdays, but some had to be done at night to keep services uninterrupted.

The construction schedule was communicated to everyone internally and publicly on Fairmount’s website. Weekly and daily communication about the schedule was done by Brent Martin, Superintendent, Paul Risk Construction, to the Fairmount facility leadership. Jerry Lile, CEO Fairmount Homes, told me that daily communication about the schedule via email went to over 300 people. Frequently communicating with the staff and residents is a high priority for Fairmount. So, when something happened that extended the schedule in an area, more than 300 people were informed about it.

As we prepared to begin work in each phase, we assessed the size of the area, the type of demolition equipment needed, and the manpower needed to meet the schedule. Our Project Manager, Don Cronin, did all the scheduling in coordination with Brent Martin. Brent likewise communicated his needs to Don Cronin or Derek Eide, our Field Supervisors. We did most of the existing flooring removal with a ride-on floor scraper. The goal of keeping the demolition noise to a minimum was achieved with this equipment. Once we installed the carpet tiles and vinyl planks the areas were able to be walked on immediately. This kept the disruption to a minimum.

When we take up old flooring we are also laying the new flooring right away, removing dirt and debris as we go. It’s a true continuous process so that nothing is ever out of order. The hallway was still totally usable even while we were working because we staged the work based on the sections between doorways (about 20 feet at a time). The staff would notify each resident to either stay in their room or go into the communal area just for an hour or two while we worked in that section.

One of the best parts of this project was that Paul Risk brought us in early which really helps. By being involved in the design phase that helps us understand priorities, scope, and needs. In this case noise was a big thing; we didn’t want percussion sounds or jack hammers, so we had to modify equipment we used. Typically we’d use a walk-behind machine that makes a tapping/percussion sound. Instead, we brought in the ride-on machine which is so heavy that it just scrapes up the old flooring with no percussion. Often, construction managers don’t think to bring in the flooring team until the end, which makes it harder to adapt to the unique situation at each job site. So we were very appreciative of being brought in at the beginning so that we could plan for using the right equipment to reduce noise.

Fairmount Homes hallway carpet installation from Martins Flooring

Keeping noise down in a retirement community is definitely important; were there other special concerns for this type of facility?

Joe – Along with concerns about noise, cleanliness was also a top priority. This required cleaning up multiple times a day. In occupied spaces, the residents and staff need to see and feel the care we have for them. On Fairmount’s website it says, “An emphasis is placed on meeting spiritual needs.  The Christian ministry of Fairmount’s staff and volunteers is a very important element of the facility. Because of the compassionate, loving care, Fairmount is home to people who value personal relationships and care for each other.” That is how we approached this project. We strive to treat everyone with care and respect.

Were there any surprises during the project?

Joe – It wouldn’t be a real construction project without some hiccups! On one occasion, our ride-on floor scraper weighing over 2,000 lbs. broke down in the middle of a 2nd floor corridor. A motor went out and it would only turn in one direction. It was quite a feat for Don and Derek to figure out how to safely get it from there to the downstairs dock.. This caused rescheduling and a request for some extended time in that area. Both Paul Risk Construction and Fairmount were understanding and gracious in helping us get it done with a delayed schedule. Changes during the project can be another source of anxiety for everyone. There were a couple of areas where changes were requested, but all parties worked together to find a solution, assemble costs, and put together a new timeline for the additional work. Thankfully, all the flooring products were readily available.

Fairmount Homes living area with fire place carpet installation from Martins Flooring

Sounds like Martins Flooring has a lot of experience in this area. How much commercial flooring work do you do, vs. residential?

Joe – About 50% of our work is commercial flooring. We’ve done floors for churches, schools, hospitals and office spaces. In general, anything involving healthcare is more challenging because infection control is critically important. Protecting and containing spaces with air filtration and barriers is very important; we really have to separate ourselves and our work from the rest of the space. In terms of senior living spaces, we are actually in the process of doing four more projects that are similar to the work at Fairmount.

Any final thoughts?

Joe – It has been a pleasure to work with Paul Risk Construction and Fairmount Homes to enhance the living spaces at Fairmount. The finished spaces have been transformed and are beautiful. We’ve heard many compliments about the new layout and look. This has been accomplished with good planning, communication, noise control, housekeeping, and care. Many thanks to everyone involved.

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