Who is Right?

Lisalj3September 1, 2014

I recently had 450 sq feet of 18 inch porcelain tile laid. I like the man who did the job very much but many of the tiles are up higher than the others. My main contractor walked in and instantly commented on it, said he screwed up my floor. Several tiles were extremely high. Many others slightly but very noticeable especially as the sun went down in the front of the house from the back of the kitchen I could see them all over the floor from the shadows.

The tile guy really made me feel terrible for asking him to fix this. He implied I am fussy and he is only changing these tiles (a horrible job) because I am unhappy.

This makes me feel horrible.

Shouldn't tile be level?

This post was edited by Lisalj3 on Mon, Sep 1, 14 at 11:13

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Who hired the tile guy to do the work? You or your main contractor?
I'm not a tile guy but I agree with you that it should be level.

I am a prof hardwood guy and I can tell you if a customer ever complained about a job I did the absolute last thing I would do is make them feel bad about asking. I'd apologize and fix the issue and be done with it.

You are the one writing the check. Don't forget that.

If you're contractor hired the tile guy, why isnt he dealing with this issue. One of the main points of getting a GC is so you as the customer doesn't have to deal with those things.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 1:46PM
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I hired him and he is making it right. I am just upset that he is pushing the problem back on me. I want to hear from others who know whether I am in the right. I wish I had taken pictures of the really bad ones. He took some out and is returning this week to remove the others and to re-tile.
He made me feel horrible and as glad as I am that he is fixing this (hopefully it will be right) I wish he didn't try and make me the bad guy. I was very kind to him.
I am also not happy with some of the grout. It is level in some spots and shallow in other places, I haven't even mentioned that.
He left here the last day of work to do another job (which is wrong as I am paying him not his helper) and left a kid with 5 mo experience to finish the tiling. That was wrong. The tile he laid was uneven as was the grout. Then he is laying a guilt trip on me that I didn't like bumpy tiles.
Please God let this job be over with no more troubles.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 5:21PM
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You are being too nice. If you take a car to a mechanic because of a "tick-tick" noise and it comes back with a "boing-boing" noise, are you being picky? I don't think so.

Excessive lippage is more than a credit card height between two tiles...and even that is irritating. Large foremat tiles require expertise to set correctly. First, the floor should vary no more than 1/8" over 10 feet. If it does, he'll be fighting it all the way. The tile needs to be reasonably flat, as well. Floors don't care about "level," they care about "flat."

If the floor wasn't up to par, he SHOULD have addressed the situation before doing anything else.

Any good tile mechanic should be able to get consistent results with grout.

This is the kind of installation that shouldn't be left to an amateur. I hope he can resolve your issues, but I'm not holding my breath............

    Bookmark   September 1, 2014 at 6:29PM
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Thank you for bringing clarity. I have no background in these things. There is far more than a credit card difference. I took some pictures last night when the light was right to show the problems.

The man advertises to have done flooring since 1980.
Again though he left the job I was paying him to do and let his helper lay the tile. Then he was indignant when I suggest the young man was not experienced enough.

Thanks again for taking your time to advise me.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 7:47AM
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"I like the man who did the job very much"

This has nothing to do with whether or not he can do the job correctly. Besides, his behavior after the fact is unprofessional and I see nothing "likeable" about it.

A helper should not be left alone on a job to do work he isn't qualified to do. You didn't hire someone with 5 months experience to lay your tile; you hired someone who had 20 years of experience. Had your installer disclosed that an inexperienced helper would be laying your tile unsupervised, you would have likely chosen someone else for your install.

Unfortunately, you are not alone. I've seen loads of poor tile jobs done by people who were supposedly qualified and experienced. Some people just don't take much pride in their work and others just don't know what they are doing.

Don't let this guy make you feel guilty or "horrible." You hired and paid for a qualified, experienced tile setter and that's what he should have delivered.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 3:15PM
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Carpet One Columbia

I am glad you shared your experience. You are in an uncomfortable spot because you paid the tile setter directly and you don't have a GC or Store to be responsible for the installation - which is the most important(and expensive) part of the flooring equation. The problems you are seeing on the surface, may just be the tip of the iceberg. Much of a tile setter's work is hidden or covered, until a floor fails after their "one year" warranty has expired, many people have no idea shoddy workmanship has occurred. You might want to tap on the tiles and make sure you don't have hollow spots or voids under the tile before he comes back and he can fix those too. Don't feel guilty or horrible - hold him accountable and ask him why there are so many high spots. Whatever his answer is, it's his responsibility (unless someone walked across the tile before it set up - in that case the installer should have said something before he grouted).

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 4:31PM
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" ... you don't have a GC or Store to be responsible for the installation"

A tile setter IS a contractor and is as responsible for his work as a GC or a store, either of which would have to do the same thing the OP is now having to do ... insist on having the job done right. Some of the worst installations I've ever seen have been done by "stores." For this portion of the job, the homeowner IS the GC and needs to act as such. A good place to start is to stop feeling sorry for the tile guy and worrying about hurting his feelings. Good CG's don't feel "horrible" for insisting that a job be done correctly.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2014 at 4:41PM
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Sophie Wheeler

What type of foundation does your home have and what type of prep was done in order to be able to use large format tile successfully? Was medium bedding mortar used instead of thinset as should have been? Was any leveling system used?

When you act as your own GC you have to do enough research to be able to do quality control on the job. And it matters not one whit that you hired the nice guy for the job. You want competence, not Miss Congeniality. A cranky old fart who has the experience would have the edge over the nice guy. Either way, you have to be the hardass here and insist that the job gets done correctly, and that they earn the their fee.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 7:52AM
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Carpet One Columbia

"A tile setter IS a contractor and is as responsible for his work as a GC or a store, either of which would have to do the same thing the OP is now having to do ..." - Sounds good and almost true in theory, but no one is as responsible as the party who provides the material and installs it. Too many times the homeowner is stuck holding the bag, like this one, when they "write two checks." If you accepted a bad install from a business who provided the material and the installation, then that, sir, is your fault. That store owes you a new floor and there is no one to point the finger at but them.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 8:02AM
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So now we should only use store-supplied installers to install our flooring as a way to mitigate the risk of a bad install? There are plenty of independent contractors out there doing fine installs without selling the flooring materials, too. I'd rather get a good install from the get go than have to fight for a new one.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2014 at 8:27AM
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Carpet One Columbia

Most stores utilize independent contractors for their installations. You said it yourself, the worst installations you have seen were done by stores, which by the way probably used independent contractors. That being said, why would you think a home owner would be more successful dealing with an independent contractor on their own? At least by writing one check, they have the accountability that a store should provide. It's not like they can walk into an independent contractor's storefront and register their complaint. The "write one check" rule - at least the retailer/store has a store front, reputation to uphold, and some assets and ability to replace bad installs, facilitate performance claims with the manufacturer, and handle the customer's concerns throughout the time of the ownership of their product. When you "write two checks", you unwittingly let the vendor and manufacturer off the hook (read their installation requirements, like "installation is acceptance", "concrete moisture testing requirements performed per ASTM F2170, floor flatness requirements, acclimation requirements - open boxes, don't open boxes, don't set it directly on the concrete, cross stack it, etc..., etc..., - read the warranties like "warranty void if improperly installed", read what their remedies are limited to - like "labor costs excluded" and other fine nuggets). The cost to replace a botched job or defective product can approach 10 times the original cost of the installation on some hard surface and resilient jobs - all things considered and in some circumstances. Retailers and stores(should always) are most likely to facilitate these unfortunate circumstances. Don't let the retailer who sold the product or the manufacturer off the hook by letting them or an independent certified inspector(who are typically sticklers) deem the installation as faulty and walking away with their middle finger extended blaming the installer - who most likely cannot afford to replace a floor because of a technicality he overlooked and will in turn point the finger at the product and there you have the homeowner stuck holding the bag. See it everyday and keep busy helping people replace their "two check" floors at their expense while I listen to them regret their original decision that saved them some money.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2014 at 7:31AM
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When we replaced our 12" ceramic tile with 18" travertine we had significant issues with the 1st installer. He installed about 30 Sq ft of travertine before we first looked at it and found out he did not really know what he was doing. The GC had to rip it out and start the job over with a sub that really knew what he was doing.

I watched both installers (bad and good) and the technique difference was obvious.
- The inexperienced installer put down enough adhesive for about 4 pieces of travertine and it was a fairly thin layer. Then he would try to lay the four tiles in place and deal with the lippage. Lippage was often very significant after he got done.
- Travertine is thinner than ceramic tile, and there is more variation in its thickness since its cut stone. The experienced installer put down a thick bed of mortar for one tile and installed the travertine one piece at a time. Since the adhesive was thicker he could use it to adjust the height of the tile on all sides and compensate for differences in the height of surrounding tile more easily. The job took longer but the results are much better.


    Bookmark   September 4, 2014 at 10:41AM
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Too bad your GC wasn't being proactive, by qualifying his installers first, avoiding the rip out. This is what we pay them to do. While he may have been good enough to take responsibility at the point of issue (not always the case), we consumers still pay for these careless errors in the end, as they pass it along to cover their cost of doing business.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2014 at 11:21AM
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"That being said, why would you think a home owner would be more successful dealing with an independent contractor on their own?"

Because Homeowner's are not helpless and are actually quite capable of a good many things, dealing with contractors included.

Sure, it's easier to write one check, but really, how hard is it to write two? There is no guarantee that your job will be any less problematic if you hire a store do do the whole thing. When choosing your own contractor, you at least have some control over who it is that is doing your install, rather than letting the store send over whoever they want. Personally, I want that control.

This post was edited by jellytoast on Thu, Sep 4, 14 at 13:53

    Bookmark   September 4, 2014 at 1:43PM
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Considering the failure to comply with both manufacturer and trade building standards that I experienced the two times I went with a "real" professional with a store front, I will not feel confident entrusting my projects with them again. GC's are absent and seem to hire the cheapest labor they can find to muddle through the job unsupervised, also for a price. So I am back to the independents. I want to select my own workers. Hopefully I have learned something about what questions to ask. Just be sure they are actually the one doing the work!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2014 at 2:23PM
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Carpet One Columbia

Guess it depends on the market you are in and what your expectations are. Always like to let people know the right way to have their flooring installed, maintained, and what it will and will not do (no matter who they buy from or use for installation) up front because they are going to find out sooner or later any way. That is usually appreciated.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2014 at 3:08PM
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Thank you all very much. I appreciate the comments. I am not very confident this guy is going to show up tomorrow to remove the rest of the tile and re-lay the ones that were removed.

What happens if he doesn't show? How do I get reimbursed for the next flooring guy I have to pay to fix his bad installation?

He also tore my wallpaper going up the steps (removing the plastic) and now I am going to have to spend $1000 removing foyer- stairway- and second floor hall wallpaper and painting it.

he was going to lay 1/4 round on my tile area to make up for tearing the paper. But what if he doesn't show up?

he hasn't replied to my text.

Thank you!!!

    Bookmark   September 4, 2014 at 3:08PM
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I'm not sure what you mean by 'depends what market you are in'. My expectations are that things be installed properly and neatly. I don't think that is asking too much, but should be a given.

    Bookmark   September 4, 2014 at 5:23PM
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Carpet One Columbia

jelly toast - if everyone knows as much as you say they do, then there would not be forums like this.
snookums - Some markets are more competitive than others, more choices of vendors and their methods and how they respond when something goes wrong. My question is, Why would you be more successful selecting an independent contractor than a retailer who uses independent contractors daily and probably does a few million bucks a year in business? They are not immune to bad installs, but I suspect they try their hardest to have the best installers on the market or else they will be replacing jobs with zeros on the end. Anyone who buys from a store, writes one check for everything, and comes away angry or settles for a bad job shouldn't even think about dealing with an independent contractor on their own - unless the independent contractor has certifications and qualifications and a list of happy customers going back at least 10 years. Good Luck!

    Bookmark   September 5, 2014 at 7:08AM
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Good news. He showed up here at 7 am to fix the floor. Hoping he can do it right but at least he is keeping his word.

I was up all night worrying... Maybe since he will do the floor himself and not the young guy with no experience (:-() things will go better.

Many thanks again to everyone.
I greatly appreciate all your comments and suggestions.
I am alone in this and really needed you.

    Bookmark   September 5, 2014 at 10:20AM
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"jelly toast - if everyone knows as much as you say they do, then there would not be forums like this."

It's not the homeowner's lack of knowledge that is causing the majority of problems that people come to discuss on this board. Purchasing from a store does not guarantee that anyone will get a better job than when they hire the contractor directly.

I know this much ... people are going to disagree on internet forums. You and I disagree, and that's okay.

This post was edited by jellytoast on Fri, Sep 5, 14 at 20:16

    Bookmark   September 5, 2014 at 6:50PM
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How did it work out Lisalj3 ... did your floor get fixed?

    Bookmark   September 6, 2014 at 7:08PM
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The flooring guys came back and over a 2 week period tore out the worst of the floor and retiled it. It is much better but still not ok.

I can barely look at it. Its really robbed me of the joy of the remodel.

I have a well reputed guy coming soon to do my backsplash. I may see if he thinks he can fix some of the worst ones.

I sure am sick of the filth the tearing out of tiles causes.

This is a nightmare and doesn't even cover the other problems we have had with the cabinet guys (well reputed).
Like he forgot to order some of the cabinets, ordered others wrong, and traipsed off on vacation.


    Bookmark   September 13, 2014 at 8:36AM
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That tile will not only be uncomfortable to walk on, the raised edges will be open to chipping. Start over with someone else and take the original guy to small claims if he won't pay up. I hope you have a balance to withhold (forget). If you paid by credit card, they can help with this. Dispute the charges.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2014 at 10:41AM
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