Need input on 'hidden' costs on my tile installation invoice

diymidwesterngalDecember 4, 2010

Hi - I have several questions embedded into my story here, and would greatly appreciate your second opinions :)

We hired a contractor to install hardwood floor and tile, and complete a few little projects in our kitchen.

This week he did the tiling work and hit us with an additional $2200 in costs, then expected the payment the same day. I'm not opposed to paying him, but I want to make sure that the extra costs are justified to the project first.

Contract says "Furnish and install tile in area (approx 90 sq ft)- $1540." The tile I picked out was $6 sq/ft MSRP. He said he gets a contractor discount, but I don't know how much.

So, his estimate of $1540 for 90 s/f is $17.10 per square foot tile and installation. What should I expect "furnish and install" costs to include? Even if he DID pay a full $6 s/f for my tile... he's still at $11 s/f install.

Demo fees were extra and pre-set. All has been torn out and hauled away. He found 2 small (less than 6 sq inches) areas of mold on the sub-floor and we said yes, replace it. Then he tells my husband "I need to replace the whole subfloor because its OSB and can't handle the tile." Wouldn't he have known this 3 weeks earlier when he installed the hardwood floor in the adjoining room? I knew there would be some sort of issue with the subfloor, but I was under the impression (from earlier considering this a DIY job) that most floor tiling would need a hardibacker between subfloor and tile. Anyhow, contractor cuts out the whole subfloor (approx 90 s/f) and lays 2 new layers of plywood. Why 2?

Oh, and then he also needs a "special tile membrane" to protect the subfloor that wasn't included in the original quote. He charged us an additional $650 for that.

So at $1540 for "Furnish and install" just under 90 sq ft is it reasonable for me to expect that this cost includes labor, tile, grout, mastic, hardibacker and/or tile membrane? The tiles were set brick pattern, so I don't think too complicated? Can I negotiate on his charge for the membrane and the TWO layers of plywood? Is it typical to need a "tile membrane" that he should have mentioned in the original quote that we might need it? I need any input!!

Thank you! -MM

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You should post this in the flooring forum. I think some of the tile pros will see it more quickly over there.

As for me, a guy who's done a fair amount of tile (but I'm not a full time pro), I think they steered you into some major work that may not have been necessary, not to mention these numbers seem high altogether. Using a couple small spots of mold as a means of coaxing you to pull up a floor is b.s in my humble opinion.

As for needing two layers, yes, sometimes it's needed to get a really solid floor so the tile doesn't crack. Same for the membrane, it isolates the tile layer from everything else, again, so it doesn't crack later on.

When you post in the flooring forum, please provide more details: type and size of the tile, spacing between your joists, any hints of a bouncy floor beforehand, etc. Good luck.

Here is a link that might be useful: Flooring Forum

    Bookmark   December 4, 2010 at 11:43PM
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Thanks homebound. I thought I looked for a flooring forum, but I obviously looked too fast ;) I appreciate the input too!

    Bookmark   December 5, 2010 at 11:17AM
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I am sorry to say that your story is very much like the ones we are trying to educate homeowners about. First and foremost, if he did not provide you with an allowance of the cost of the tile in his budget, then you should not be obligated to pay. The contractor discount is not the issue -- it's about his allowances. If the contract says "furnish and install at $1,540 then that is what you should pay. If there is other language in the contract that allows for changes, then he may have the right to charge extra -- though totally unethical if you did not approve those extra charges. The extra $650 for the "tile membrane" should also be included in the install price. If he did not add it in his original quote but is a needed part of the project, then he should eat that.

Overall, your expectations are reasonable. However, if your contract allows the contractor to bill for extras WITHOUT your approval, then you might be liable for the additional charges. If nothing is stated in the contract, it could go either way. I also recommend asking for receipts of additional materials he purchased without your approval.

Definitely check with the tile flooring forum for the particulars.

Finally, when we price out a job, small or large, we provide one fixed price. Period. The project includes installation and materials. If we miss materials, shame on us. Replacing the entire subfloor would depend on the age, tile, etc. Those are unknowns for any contractor until the area is exposed. When the types of changes you describe are required, we will issue a "change order" for final approval and signature. Nothing is done until the homeowner signs off.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hafer Construction, Inc.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2010 at 11:32PM
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The membrane is instead of hardi, not in addition to it.
Using the membrane made it easier on him.
It doesn't cost much and it's a breeze to install.

Two layers of ply is often done.
Questions to ask him are Which ply, How laid down, how screwed down.
Just to get him answering and defending his workmanship.

Yes he could have told you about the subfloor much earlier.

All his prices are too high, but whether you pay him all or only a portion of his bill is something I'll leave up to you to discuss.

All his work sounds like the right work, not overkill, not frivolous.

Since he takes himself so seriously (methods), let him give you a longer guarantee than he has ever given before. After all, he did spring a number of surprises on you instead of doing all the selling and explaining in advance, so let him stand by his work. He can at least guarantee that the tiles won't delaminate, for a longer time period than usual. Delaminating depends a lot on the workmanship, not the house (joists, bending floors). Web search to find out more.

    Bookmark   December 17, 2010 at 11:49PM
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