Granite Tile Fiasco

wobbly1905December 22, 2012

We told the contractor initially that we wanted solid granite for our kitchen counter tops. He said that would cost much more than granite tiles. We had been to a local tile edging shop and had seen a beautiful example of an undermount sink in a tile counter top with very narrow and uniform grout joints, so we deferred to the contractor's supposed expertise and his desire to help reduce the project cost.
The tile edging shop had warned us that only a tile setter experienced with granite should attempt the job because it was difficult to obtain uniform lippage and grout lines.

The contractor assured of his expertise and said that he would do the tile setting himself.

After supposedly spending days polishing the edges of the tiles, the contractor brought them over prior to setting them. They were polished absolute black and not the honed absolute black that we ordered. The contractor said that he opened the tile containers and saw that they were black so he proceeded to polish the edges of most of them. He said that he thought that "honed" meant "polished".

He said that he would magnanimously "eat" the cost of getting and polishing the wrong tile. We actually felt sorry for him at that stage.

Come time for tile setting, despite confirming for the second time that he would set the tile himself, he sent over his hired helper and never showed up to supervise him. We were told that the helper was even more precise than the contractor himself and that he had a masters degree in Ceramics. We told the helper that we had been advised how difficult it was to set granite tile. The helper assured us that he had done more than a hundred installations.

After spending 5 or 6 days working on the layout, the helper and the contractor explained that due to the cabinet
dimensions (contractor built the cabinets!) we had two tile layout options for the corner. We could have a tiny strip of tile or he could make adjustments with miters. We said that we definitely didn't want a tiny strip of tiles.

The photograph shows the solution. This looked very goofy, so I offered to run down to the granite shop and get
a 18 x 26 tile which would eliminate the need for a little strip of tile and also eliminate the goofy miters. I didn't realize that the larger tile are thicker than the 12x12's.
The helper proceeded to cut the larger tile and had it setting on the counter without mentioning that it could never work. At this point we called the contractor and told him (for the second time) that his tile setter was not competent and that we would hire a granite fabricator to install solid granite counter tops.

When he came over, the contractor said that the tile job was perfectly acceptable and that when grouted the
variation in grout line thickness would disappear. Besides,
there would be things on the counter, so you'd never even notice.

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I have no words. I hope you haven't paid him for this.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 8:48PM
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Kind of a Frankenstein job. I'm sorry. Eek.

Did he actually say "besides, with things on the counter you'd never notice"? Right there he's admitting it's a hack job. Oy.

Please post updates as this goes along...

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 8:56PM
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Here's another shot.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 9:30PM
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Oh, Wobbly. Pardon my words, but that is horribly crappy. Not acceptable in my book. I knew the story would end badly as I was reading before I got to your pic. No. Just no.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 9:37PM
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Why do so called tradesmen say they know how to do something when they don't. You are not being picky and even with things on the counter you will always notice the poor installation. So sorry you have to deal with this fiasco. Hope you can get it resolved.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 10:30PM
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We are on day 85 of the remodel of a 14 x15 kitchen.

The contractor boasted of having taught cabinetmaking to the workmen of a premier local remodeling company. However, after he installed the corner wall cabinets, my wife noted that its doors would hit the doors of the adjacent cabinet because he didn't put in filler strips for door clearance.

He proudly showed me his ingenious method to install the simple shaker style crown molding we asked for. He stapled a 3" wide piece of 3/4" stock onto the cabinet top. He then took up the varying ceiling height by bending a 3/4" high piece of 1/4" stock to follow the ceiling dips, and then stapled it to the lower molding piece. This saved him the effort of having to scribe anything. It transferred all the variation in ceiling height to the reveal between the two pieces of molding. It looked terrible, but he said that it's how he's done it for dozens of kitchens and I'm the first one to ever complain.

Of course, there should not have been any dips in the ceiling because it was replaced under the contract.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2012 at 11:04PM
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So how did you find this gem of a GC anyway? Did you see his work before you hired him? References? Sounds like he does shoddy, crappy work all the way around.

Oh, and walls and ceilings are never plumb/level, but yours might be out of the range of acceptable given the examples of his other "quality" work.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 1:10AM
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He's on Angie's List and has a number of references.
Unfortunately we were so smitten with his BS about his craftsmanship, that we didn't check them out thoroughly.

One problem is that despite assuring us that "once I start a job I stay on it until it's done", he took several commercial jobs and put us on the back burner. He would send out his unsupervised helpers now and again, but he would rarely show. He led us to believe that he would be doing everything himself. When he told us that he only charges $35 an hour for his labor because he thought that everything was just too expensive these days, that should have been a clue that something was fishy. He charges $35 an hour mainly for the labor of his largely unsupervised workers.

Another problem appears to be that he is skilled at putting the customer on the defensive. "I've worked for 5 cabinet shops, and we ALWAYS do it that way". "I've put in 50 floors and I always did it that way- and you're the first person to ever complain".

I believe that he actually can do quality cabinet work if he concentrates on it. However, when he put up the corner cabinet that way and attempted to get away with the crooked looking crown molding, and of course the hideous tile job, we lost all confidence in him. All the delays, mess, mistakes, and countless excuses have all come to a boil, and we are seething.

He's had the cabinet doors setting in our living room for 10 days, and has appropriated our garage for almost 3 months.

We bent over backwards trying to be patient and understanding, and that was apparently a sign of weakness to be exploited.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 2:14AM
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Wow on that corner. We also have granite tile counters. Our remodel was completely DIY. We only have one corner and my husband, a carpenter but not a dedicated tile guy, started at that corner so it's a full tile there. Being DIY (and our $8,000 budget for a gut remodel!), I expected imperfections and trade offs along the way, but that corner wouldn't be one of them.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 8:07AM
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Good grief, lose this guy asap.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 8:59AM
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If you want to see granite tile counters done right, check out Bill Vincent's site. Bill has been a GW member a long time and gives good advise about tile, etc.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bill Vincent's site

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 9:54AM
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I am sorry to hear of this. No, this is not acceptable for a supposed pro job.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2012 at 10:07AM
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