Help w/ Flooring Contractor (lawsuit?)

mom2cohenMarch 18, 2011

About 6 months ago we had Bamboo floors put in throughout most of our downstairs. The contractor that did them was someone well known and we had used him for several other jobs previously.

Anyhow, long story short.....

In January the floors started coming apart....literally! We called him to come by for warranty work and he did. He said he could fix them and would be back on Monday. He didn't show. Over the next month of un-returned phone calls and lots of left messages, he finally called back and at some point we all agreed that if he would tear up all the wood floors, we could just replace them with tile (we just needed to get something done and knew that this would be the cheapest route for everyone). He agreed to do all the work and purchase all the materials (minus the tile itself) and said he would get started in about a week. Two weeks went by and we never heard from him. We called and called and called and he never answered (unless we called from a number he didn't recognize at which point he was busy and would call us "right" back....never).

About two weeks ago we finally sent a "demand letter" (suggestion from our business attorney) stating that if he didn't complete the work by March 25th, we would fill a claim in Civil Court for the total cost of the floor plus installation AND removal of the product that was improperly installed. He called us promptly and said no problem. Then two days later said he needed to finish one more job so that he could have enough money to pay another guy to work with him on our job (since it wasn't paying anything) and wanted to know if he could start on March 28th. We agreed but said he had to sign the contract (we drew up) and drop it by our home by March 17th at 6:00 pm. He didn't show and again won't return our calls!

What now? Do we sue and would it even be worth the effort if he doesn't have money? I am at a loss! We are looking at damages in the 10K range!!!! We have had other contractors look at the job and everyone agrees that the install was VERY poor.

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A) you should definitely try to sue in small claims court..Every state is different..on the amounts, etc. If he defends, you will need to prove that it was installation related. It probably is but but if it is climate or lack of will have to prove that your home maintained humidity levels between 35-55%?...and that he did not acclimate properly or did not check substrate to wood ratio levels. If he maintains all of this was must point your finger to a specific "incident" which caused the failure. He may maintain climate conditions or manufacturer issues and if he has a lengthy business history with a clean BB record, it will be his word against yours. Now the way he handled himself with the warranty will probably be irrelevant and not allowed as evidence unless you state that he admitted responsibility for the issue. He may maintained that he was strongarmed into agreeing to remedy the issue without cause. I am sure there is an implied warranty in your state that you will stand firmly on, but you must prove he did something wrong and point to incident. If you win a judgememnt will be declared and depending on the state you could seize property subject to liens and usually seize personal property. Also many times the awarding of a judgement or just the threat of legal action will bring him to want to remedy the problem...but now it may be a hostile enviornment between the two of you. You both would have to stand tall and let bye gones be bye gones. I would try small claims court. For the 100 bucks or so, it is surely worth the gamble. Good Luck.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2011 at 11:32PM
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How do you know that the installation was the culprit in your floor failing? Have you had an evaluation in writing from a certified flooring inspector? Has the manufacturer of the flooring been involved in the complaint? What did their inspector say? Did you in fact maintain proper humidity levels in your home? Can you prove it?

The flooring material warranty is through the manufacturer, not your installer. He may be an authorized agent of the manufacturer, but the only direct warranty an installer will give is for proper installation. He may facilitate the communication between you and the manufacturer and if the flooring itself is found to be faulty, he may give you a break on the labor for reinstallation of new product, but only if objective third parties and the manufacturer find the install to be the culprit would he be obligated to install new flooring.

You would need to be able to answer all of those questions above and in detail, and with proof in writing, in order to be able to successfully even attempt to go to court. Otherwise, you haven't taken the proper steps to have a winning court case. Without those steps, it's your word against his. That's not to say that a couple of lawyer letters might not work to get him motivated, but really, at this point, you don't have any documentation. Written documents, such as your contract and those inspection reports, are what anyone who would agree to service a warranty claim would need in order to do so. And, it's what you need to do NOW! Find out those answers!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 10:56AM
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After reading the post over again, it says a contractor. 1st off, I would bet that he is a general contractor. I would also bet that moisture readings were not taken. I would also bet, he did nothing to ascertain that humidity levels were even proper at the time of installation. This bamboo I am guessing is a 1/2 inch or 5/8 inch solid. If so rarely is it the product as long as it is not a finish issue. With that said...I believe your installer should be the 1st call. If it was an internet sale, you will struggle to manufacturer representation. It will have to be a 3rd party inspector perhaps paid by the consumer. If it was a retailer who sold it, then they should be involved big time. They can get manufacturer representation even get these people involved..they will need to know moisture readings at the time of install and very few installers do that. I actually do not know of any that do it in my part of the state. The store does it for them or it will not get done. It is a prerequisite of any hardwood install.A general contractor may be a good guy..but not a flooring expert and many times they save you money until something goes wrong. We have many excellent ones in our area but not a one owns a 600 dollar meter to accurately measure that water content and ratio and that is critical to a job. Letting boxes sit in the area for 3 days is just not enough for a professional install. Hey, I live in the real world and understand that it is not always done...heck there are times we probably don't do it. I pay my salespeople 1 % extra if it is an installed hardwood as I pay that to make sure all pre steps are taken and I make them do it...document when it blows up..I can point my finger at either the consumer or the manufacturer. We have recently implemented to where we actually give the consumer a humidity gauge prior to the install and let them keep it after the install.Many contractors just bang it in and pray for the best...That is why internet sales infuriate me as people will not get the installation service or manufacturer representation most times.There are some excellant wood installers out there who take the extra 10 minutes to do the test...but most (99%) do not. We have probably 10 wood installers that we use and not one of them that I am aware of ever used a meter..unless we do it. So with all of this said, yes I do think that 1st line of fire should be to the technician if not through a retailer. heck the manufacturer should not have to spend any money at this point prior to an installer or a retailer saying here is what I think is wrong or went wrong. !st off these 3rd party inspectors will ask many questions of the installation. He will not have a crystal ball to look back and see what was done. He will blame it on installation if he does not have installation facts and rightfully so. I still would like to know exactly what you mean coming apart. I believe you mean the wood is contracting maybe? Also, what part of the country do you live and what type of heat source do you have and exactly how long after install did it start and what did you 1st notice. Get you small claims action started. It will smoke him out of his hole. Good Luck

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 2:13PM
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Some very good responses to the poster's questions.

If your installer also sold you the goods and is therefore an "agent of the manufacturer"...he could be on the hook for the whole shebang. I've seen this happen in my territory. Very risky to do it all.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2011 at 6:26PM
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