Need advice - Hump in hardwood floors

jmcrequeApril 5, 2012

We started our remodel two months ago, and it hasn't felt like much has gone right. And now this:

I walked in to the house last night to find the hardwoods had gone down in one day for the kitchen and adjoining den. However, almost immediately upon walking in, noticed a distinct slope in the den from about the middle of the room down towards the French doors. It turns out what looked like just a slope was actually more of a "hump" in the middle of the room. Either way, it was impossible to miss. My husband texted the G/C and the project manager to figure out how this could have happened. And the PM response was "yes, I noticed that after they were put in". But he didn't say a word to us? And we have texted with him quite a bit on the job. So we found it very odd. When we asked how this was going to be fixed he responded that "it must be a foundation problem" and that he would get us a couple of quotes in the next few days. When we met with him in person the next day to discuss, he let slip that he had actually noticed it when the floors were "close" to being done, and he still let them finish. It was almost as if he was hoping we wouldn't notice.

I actually had noticed that the subfloor did not appear to be level some weeks earlier but then forgot to mention something to the PM and GC as we had a succession of crises that demanded our attention - from a budget buster requiring that we rip out and replace our entire driveway, to a break-in where our garage was gutted, every tool/piece of equipment was stolen, and the house broken into and the musical equipment my husband had left at the house was stolen as well.

So my questions are:

1) Is this something my GC/PM should have caught before the floors were laid? Should we have expected them to bring it to our attention before hand - maybe offering the option to choose a more forgiving flooring? We had carpet in the den for 7 years and never had an issue.

2)Is it unreasonable to expect them to foot part of the cost to remedy this situation? We got the first quote back to lower the middle of the floor (about 3 - 5 piers) about 3/4 inch and it is $3500. If I add that to the $4300 spent on the hardwoods that is $7800! Had we known that was the cost we might have done tile in the kitchen (which is flat) and carpet in the den.....maybe. Are we crazy to feel like he bears some responsibility here?

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    Bookmark   April 5, 2012 at 11:18PM
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Part 1 ..yes they are responsible to bring it to your attention and you have the right to withhold payment.
part 2..It is not accurate that they should share in the cost to fix the issue. With that said I would guess that the floor may need removed and reinstalled after joist adjustments are made. If the work they do going forward is strictly repairs to level the floor than that is on you. but any re-installation or removal of existing floor should be on them as they are liable to not install a floor with a high joist area. You are in a tough spot. The point you bring up that you would have maybe done tile if you would have known is a tough argument and only an argument for a judge to hear. I tend to side with the contractor that he does not need to share in the remedial cost other than he must absorb any flooring labor or repurchasing of material to correct flooring issues after repairs to substrate is made. Good Luck again.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 12:52AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Both you as the homeowner and he as the professional should own and use a level. There's no getting around that fact. He should have known there was an issue and brought it to your attention. But at the same time, you saw that there was an issue there before the floor was laid. And you just assumed that it would be "handled". That's lesson #1 in ANY renovation. NEVER ASSUME ANYTHING. If you see something that looks wrong to your eyes, bring it up. A good contractor won't mind explaining to you that something is normal at the half finished stage, or that yes, it's a problem, and it needs to have a fix found for it.

As Floortech says, the fix for the underlying problem is all on you. But the removal and reinstallation of the flooring should be on him. He should have never gone forward without the out of level issue being corrected. And personally, since he attempted to gloss over it, I would want a structural engineer in to give me an unbiased report as to exactly what the real problem is that is causing the out of level situation for your floor. While home settle, and some settling is normal, what usually results is a low spot, not a high spot. That on a crawlspace foundation is unusual enough that I would want a "second opinion" from someone whose economic interests were not tied in to the actual fix for the issue. The problem could just be careless original construction, or it could be a symptom of a much larger issue. But, you should know and understand that issue before agreeing to any repair for it.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 10:58AM
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Thanks for the feedback, we figure we were on the hook for the foundation issue as it would have come up whether we found out before the floors were in or not.
However, when it comes to repair/replacement of the floors that have been installed, my GC is not even willing to discuss it at this time. He does not think the floors need to come up at all. Instead he believes the foundation can be fixed (with the floors still in) and that the hump will "fix itself" once the foundation is lowered. I have no idea if this is true or not. Do I wait until after the fix to see if he is right or is this something that could come back to haunt us longer term (with seasonal changes etc)?

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 2:16PM
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Ask him if he'll put it in writing that the foundation repair will fix the problem without the floor needing to be removed and installed, and if it doesn't, and it causes buckling, even down the road 6-12 months, that he will have the floor removed and reinstalled on his dime. If he's not willing to put it in writing, then tell him you're not willing to gamble on something he won't guarantee, and that it needs to be done correctly, like it should have from the beginning and he won't get another dime until it IS fixed.

And I'd for sure have the report of a structural engineer to back up my bully club here. I'm betting the engineer would recommend the floor be removed and then the foundation issue corrected.

If he won't do the job right, then all you have is the original contract, plus your documentation of his failure to live up to the contract. But, he shouldn't get another payment until the problem is corrected. You just have to take the right steps to protect yourself should that occur. You may have to get a lawyer involved if you don't want to end up having a lien put on your house. But the first step would be to get an independent engineer's report on the situation.

    Bookmark   April 6, 2012 at 3:07PM
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