Newly installed shower a crushing disappointment

EffingerOctober 11, 2013

Hi all!

My wife and I recently purchased our first house and decided that while we're renovating anyway, to have the nasty fiberglass tub in the master bath taken out and instead have a nice walk-in shower installed.

We hired a contractor after talking to him at length, seeing loads of reference pictures and even calling some of his former clients. To the best of our knowledge we had hired a skilled person for the job.

We picked the tiles (bathroom floor, shower floor and shower wall), and the contractor quoted us a price of roughly $2,000.00 for what he called a turnkey solution.

Yesterday then he called stated that they were done, and if we could stop by the house (we don't live there yet) to take a look and pay the remainder of our bill.

We stopped by the house while they were still finishing up (wiping floors and such), saw the tile work from a few feet away, and at first glance everything *looked* just fine. We paid the outstanding balance and the contractor was on his way.

Now we were finally free to take a closer look, and within minutes our excitement turned into crushing disappointment. Chipped tiles, tile spacers left in the grout, crooked tile cuts, edges as sharp as a knife, tiles overlapping by almost half a centimeter in places, uneven joint widths throughout, and as the cherry on top, the tile surrounding the shower pipe is cracked straight through.

See photo of our shower at the end of this post: Each of the pink post-its in the photo below marks a spot where tiles overlap by at least 2-3mm, are chipped, extremely uneven joint widths, or tiles that are simply set crooked.

I'll add a couple more photos with brief explanations as replies to this post.

We called the contractor within half an hour of him leaving our house and mentioned that there were quite a few things we weren't happy with - he offered to stop by next week to discuss what may be done to remedy the situation.

I've done a little bit of DIY-tiling a few years ago, so I have a decent enough idea of what can be done with tiles, and what kind of result I thought I could expect.

To you experts - does the work shown above conform to what you would consider your professional standards? In other words - would you consider this a job well done? We feel utterly helpless at this point and have no clue whether we were expecting unrealistic levels of craftsmanship?

Any tips on how we should deal with this situation would be greatly appreciated! :)

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This picture shows how much the tiles overlap and how uneven the tiles are set

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 9:32PM
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The three extremely unevenly cut "tops" of the step into the shower (~2mm longer on the left than on the right), the odd overlap of wall tile over the step (not even the same on both sides), a tile spacer left behind, and the leftmost "top" tile that is set crooked.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 9:33PM
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The step with its zigzag pattern:

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 9:34PM
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The odd overlap on the right

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 9:35PM
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More chipped tiles and odd joint widths

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 9:36PM
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No two joints are the same width (except for the mosaic that cam on a net, of course)

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 9:37PM
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The tile surrounding the shower pipe is craked through entirely

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 9:39PM
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Ceiling finish, joint widths, crooked tiles

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 9:40PM
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Floor tile, set crooked

    Bookmark   October 11, 2013 at 9:41PM
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On a scale of one to's pretty bad.

Remediation? It is too bad you didn't catch the flaws prior to paying.

I wish I had more to say, but it really comes down to talking to the tiler when he returns.

The cap on the curb? It almost makes me think that the fence or sliding table on his wetsaw is not set correctly.

Lippage everywhere.

Misaligned sheets.

Cracked tile?

An asymmetrical layout where it doesn't look like the left wall layout mirrors the right wall?

Severe problems with worksmanship. Plus a poor eye for design. Exposed cut edges of with non through-color tiles, etc.

It's bad. Quite bad. My condolences.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 12:30AM
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If you paid by check stop the payment. If you paid by credit card reverse the payment. I don't think I've ever seen a worse job. If you can stop payment you'll probably have to eat the material cost and hire someone else to redo it. First check if this guy is able to have someone else completely redo it. The crew you had in there were not competent at all. If he did it himself then I'd just find someone else.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 12:31AM
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Effinger I am so sorry, that doesn't even look like they tried. Don't wait until he comes back, stop the check. Also make sure you document your dissatisfaction in written communication, like an email to him saying as we discussed on Friday because upon closer inspection the completed job is unacceptable that you are stopping the check until it has been corrected and confirming he is coming next week to rectify the situation and attach a couple of pictures to the email.

I really hope he does the right thing by you, I am no expert, but it looks to me like a tile re-do might be in order

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 7:06AM
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I am no expert, but can understand how in the excitement of walking in and seeing the shower that you paid him and sent him on his way. First photo looks nice, and I'm sure that at first glance it was a huge improvement over what had been there. Then, when I saw the close-ups, it just appears to be a crying shame. I had two similar experiences. Both with granite installations by the same company. In both cases, after they left, I realized the mistakes and had to contact them to come back, rip out the granite and redo it. I hadn't paid them in full however, but hopefully as others have suggested, you can stop payment (from what I know this may not be possible).

It was a very uncomfortable conversation for me to have to contact the company and the person who did the install. But, I can tell you that even with our limited experience with laying tile, that my DIY hubby and I would NEVER have done anything this poorly. Is that red on the wall and baseboard from waterproofing? That they would have thought that that was OK to leave there, is perhaps a 'red flag' (pun intended) that they take no personal pride in doing a job well. Aside from all the bad cuts and spacing issues, that they would leave that cracked and chipped tile around the shower head is almost criminal.

In my conversation with him, I would find out if this was someone he had used before, and when it gets redone, if he will hire someone else who he knows is competent. I am so sorry this happened to you.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 8:59AM
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Can you get to the bank right now, today and stop the check? He will have deposited it as soon as he had it in his hand.
The only other suggestion I have is small claims court. I'm so sorry. It looks nice from a distance, but wow that is bad when you get close up. : (

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 9:21AM
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Don't underestimate the value your contractor places on his reputation. The last thing on earth he wants is a calm and reasonable person documenting a poor tile job on the internet.

Maybe this was a new sub for him and he feels he's been burned too.

I would never use tile as a threshold cap, especially one that was cut. That's what they invented Corian for.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 9:39AM
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Oh my, I am so sorry you have to deal with this. I have no experience setting tile, but I'm sure I could do a better job. It's not even finished at the edges (bullnose, etc.). It's a shame you didn't see any of this before paying him, because it's pretty glaring.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 10:37AM
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Thanks a million for the advice and kind words, everybody. Both are much appreciated!

It's good to see that my wife and I apparently are not completely crazy, and that there really does seem to be something wrong with the quality of the work delivered by our contractor.

We didn't pay with a check, but instead insisted on paying with credit card. So that may actually be a tiny light at the end of this particular tunnel since that leaves us the option of disputing the charge and having it reversed.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 3:33PM
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That is excellent news! If it comes to it all you have to do is include the photos with the dispute to the credit card company and they will give you your money back with no problem. I've always had good luck with the credit card companies.

However you will also have to try to resolve it with the guy directly. Keep track of any conversations, corespondents or communication with him on the issue and document it so you can show the credit card company you tried. Even if he never answers you back all you have to do is show you attempted to contact him.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 3:53PM
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I would stop payment and simply tell them that this "Isn't Amatuer Hour" as far as the tile work goes. Tell them that you'll have to pay at LEAST that much to tear it out and twice that to put in in properly.....

    Bookmark   October 12, 2013 at 5:17PM
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So any update on this? Have they come back to explain how they could believe this job deserved payment? I'd love to hear what they said as this looks like one of the worst jobs I have ever seen.

    Bookmark   October 15, 2013 at 5:58PM
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Yep, we did finally get an update today.

Original contractor had promised to get back in touch this past Monday, but stood us up (said he "forgot"). In the meantime we got our ducks in a row (opinion from second tile contractor which confirmed our suspicions, checked on the original guy's license, met with attorney, etc.), kept trying to get in touch with him, agreed to meet today, and he actually showed up.

Initially he offered to take out the current shower and build a new one, but when we remained insistent, and without too much further discussion, he agreed to refund the money we paid for the shower plus a little extra to have his creation demolished.

So, it looks like we're going to be alright. Aside from the lost time, the stress and the hassle, of course.

Thanks for all the advice, everybody! :)

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 8:18PM
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Great news! Best of luck getting the bathroom you expected in the first place. Live and learn :)

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 9:28PM
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Good for you! You deserve much better than you got, and I certainly hope you get it next time around!

    Bookmark   October 16, 2013 at 10:11PM
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I'm so glad to hear that you have a positive resolution, because that was a really bad tile job! I hope the replacement shower turns out perfectly.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 10:40AM
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Everyone deserves quality work for their hard-earned cash. Kudos to you for hanging in there and calling BS. The delay and annoyance will fade pretty quickly once you get your nice new shower.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 10:41AM
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Babka NorCal 9b

Kudos to you for doing your homework and standing your ground. Often, when people are enduring a remodel, the thought of going through more demolition and construction is too much to bear, so they accept a lot of less than perfect work.

You'll get a morale boost every time you use the shower looking at flat, straight tiles. Congrats on your very first house!


    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 1:02PM
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Wow - that it great news for an awful shower - I am getting dizzy looking at the tile job - gag. I think I could do better!

    Bookmark   October 17, 2013 at 3:46PM
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And now for the final update in this particular chapter of our home renovation - met with the contractor this morning, he returned the money we paid for the shower plus a bit extra for the demolition, *and* he apologized for the project going sideways.

Doesn't make his previous behavior right, but the relatively painless refund and subsequent apology were appreciated all the same.

Now on to hiring someone else and hopefully getting this shower malarkey laid to rest for good.

Again, thank you all for the advice and kind words - those, too were very much appreciated! :)

    Bookmark   October 18, 2013 at 7:23PM
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