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BuildDirect and Vanier: A Review

Posted by cdigs (My Page) on
Mon, Oct 5, 09 at 10:39

Growing up in the Internet Age, I've become fairly accustomed to and comfortable with buying just about everything online.

But even for me, ordering wood floors online -- by the pallet, no less -- was fraught with "what if's" and a bit of trepidation. It isn't one of those things that you can just return if you get it and you don't like it or it's damaged or something and it's not exactly easy to get more product if you happen to be short a few square feet.

After doing much research and collecting dozens of samples (over a period of a few years...), I finally decided that I was ready to pull the trigger a few weeks ago and decided on BuildDirect.com for a couple of reasons:

* They were having a sale on some really nice engineered mahogany.

* Their prices couldn't be beat, even factoring in delivery charges (which are very high compared to some other e-tailers).

* Their web app was top notch; very well done.

This review is for people who are considering ordering from them (or ordering flooring online in general) since there weren't many online resources when I was researching them (even on this forum).

Ordering Samples

The sample ordering process is pretty simple and the samples are free (minus a delivery fee). I've ordered at least a dozen samples from them over a period of two or three years, trying to find the perfect flooring. Compared to other online flooring companies, I've found that they give pretty generous sample sizes in terms of length so you can get a better feel for the wood. I will note that there are some products which you have to call to obtain a sample for.

I would recommend that when ordering certain types of wood, get multiple samples since with mahogany or Brazilian cherry, for example, different boards can show dramatically different colors and patterns. We were considering mahogany, Brazilian cherry, acacia, and some of their twisted strand bamboo (really, really nice floors, IMO - definitely check these out).

I particularly like how the web app displays the weight information, the delivery source, and calculates the cost of shipping and adds it to the price per square foot calculation.

Their sample ordering process gets a 5/5.

Ordering Product

Once you've decided on your flooring type and measured your square footage, the next step is to go online and order the flooring. It should be noted that you should probably order at least 110% of your measured square footage. We had installers put down our floors and the first crew wasn't very conservative with their usage and we ended up one box short. At that point, you really have a tough choice to make; for us, we've decided to sell the extra flooring (or give it away to family members) instead of ordering additional flooring since the shipping costs would be silly. Our kitchen was supposed to get the wood as well, but since we were short about 30 square feet, we decided to just leave it for now.

The initial ordering process is generally pretty easy. It's not much more difficult than the sample ordering process. However, there does seem to be this extra step of having to call their offices to confirm the order and what not. At times, it can be difficult to reach anyone in the office (a secretary always picks up, but then you need to be transferred to the right department). This became a pain-in-the-ass game of phone tag trying to reach the guy.

It was also a bit of a pain to adjust the order size once I had the installer come out and measure and estimate. Again, it was hard to reach someone in the right department.

They were also initially somewhat inflexible with their pricing. I had purchased a large quantity (most of it) on a sale price but then wanted to add an additional 400 or so square feet and some accessory pieces. The sales rep. initially gave me some beef about adding the additional square footage at the original sales price until my wife called and threatened to cancel the order. We did get the flooring at the sale price, but I don't understand why they made us jump through hoops to get it considering this order was coming in at several thousand dollars already.

One minor gripe is that you can't just go online and order more accessories; if you try to do it online, you have to order more product to be able to do it. It seems like you should be able to go to your original order and add a limited quantity of product or accessory pieces. In the end, I simply had to call them up to get one or two more transition pieces, but still, it would have been easier to do it online.

Their ordering process gets a 2.5/5.

Delivery

The delivery was probably one of the most annoying aspects. The first issue is that their delivery window is very large; you won't know when you'll get it until you get a call the day before asking you to schedule delivery. This is a pain in the ass.

The second issue is that while their web site is generally pretty well done, their delivery estimates aren't very well integrated with their stock levels as we were delayed by a month as their stock levels were low. This wasn't an issue for us since our schedule was flexible, but I can see how this might be an issue if you're in the process of building a house and you have a much less flexible timeline.

The actual delivery itself was a bit of a pain as well. The product comes in pallets, but the pallets for our product were like 8x4 (oblong), which makes it a bit harder to store (say in your garage since you have to clear out a lot more space). Not only that, they're only supposed to drop it in your driveway! As I wasn't home that week, we asked my father-in-law to accept delivery for us. He gave the driver a $50 tip to help him get it into the garage using his hand lift. Just beware that the delivery process is less than optimal for average folk.

It would be one thing if they could give you a very specific delivery date and then you could schedule your installers to be there at the same time to move/install the product, but the combination of such a wide delivery window and delivery service (driveway drop) makes it a bit of a pain.

On the other hand, I have to say, the product was very well packaged and had no damage at all. This was one of my primary concerns, that there would be damage during transit and that we'd have to deal with a messy return process.

Their delivery process gets a 3/5.

Product

Despite all that, the wife and I absolutely love the floors. The engineered material is pretty good at this price point when you compare it against the stuff you'd find in big box stores like Home Depot or even from Lumber Liquidators. The specific engineered flooring that we got, their house brand Vanier Santos Mahogany, came with a 4mm wear layer. At this price point, if you were going to get it from HD or Lowes, you'd probably be getting something like a 0.5mm wear layer. With a 4mm wear layer, it can be sanded and refinished at least once in its lifetime (probably twice).

From a durability perspective, we've only had it for a few weeks now, but we have three cats and as far as I can tell, it looks to be holding up well to their claws. I was worried about rolling around in the office chairs and leaving marks, but so far, it's been fine, even without a protective plastic mat or an area rug.

I was a bit worried watching the installers handle the product since they were pretty rough with it, tossing around pieces here and there, stepping over them, hammering it pretty heavily with rubber mallets...but it held up. There were only like one or two places where their rough handling was apparent (possibly from dropping a nail gun). Otherwise, the boards seemed fairly resilient - no breakage, no splitting of the veneer from the base, no cracking. I should note that watching the installers cut the boards lengthwise, they did it by simply using a hand held circular saw and they were able to get very clean cuts. I would think this speaks a bit to the workability of the product.

Overall, in the 60 some boxes that were installed, there were probably only 3-4 boards that had defects in them (hairline cracks in the finish, splintered tongue, etc) and only a few boards which weren't very attractive (only based on the specific tree or the section of the tree that it was cut from - we set these aside or used them in closets). Otherwise, the boards were remarkably well milled and 99% perfect in terms of being square and straight. The accessory pieces also matched nicely in terms of color and finish.

The packaging should also be noted as well: the contents of each box were sealed with fairly durable plastic and there were thin layers of foam sheets between each layer of the product inside the box. I was pretty impressed with the lengths they went to ensure that the product wasn't going to be damaged in transit (although I wasn't too happy about how much waste this generated).

The product itself gets a 5/5.

Overall

I'd say I'd probably order from them again in the future and would recommend them to friends and family. In the end, I think it's a great value as long as you're willing to plan it out properly and accept the risks with ordering this stuff sight unseen (it can be really hard to judge some types of flooring based on samples).

I'd say it's a solid 4/5.





Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: BuildDirect and Vanier: A Review

Wow Cdigs. I cant thank you enough for taking the time to write and post this thorough review. My husband and I are trying to make this decision and this helps a lot. We too are looking at the Stranded Bamboo specifically Teragren as they have a click-lock installation which would be an easy DIY project.

However, we also really like the Santos Mahogany and your pictures look beautiful (drool)! It sounds like you nailed these? Can the floor you choose be floated? Ill head over to BuildDirect now and take a look. If you dont mind me asking, what was the sales price you received? This will help me to wait for a good deal if you dont mind sharing.

Thanks again Cdigs and congratulations on your beautiful new flooring.

Jeri


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RE: Review

It looks like BuildDirect has 2 Santos Mahogany: Vanier & Jasper and both can be floated (Yea!). I now see from your heading that you have the Vanier :-)

The Vanier has a Semi-Gloss. Ive not done extensive research, but was leaning toward a more satin finish. How do you like the Semi-gloss?

The Jasper is a hand scraped. I like the hand-scraped look sometimes. If it is not too much and not too repetitive so as to look fake if you know what I mean. Did you receive any samples of this???


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RE: BuildDirect and Vanier: A Review

jeri,

I didn't receive any samples of the Jasper. It came out just after I ordered my flooring already.

The semi-gloss finish works for me; I think that it could also be accurately described as "satin" as well. As you can see, there's not many reflections coming off of it.

Our floors were nailed, but it was the preference of the installer. If you look at their blog (http://blog.builddirect.com/), there are some videos of how to install it using float/glue and various videos explaining the products.

The price was $4.55/sqft (not including delivery) which is unmatched against big-box stores or the local lumber liquidators for a wear layer of 4mm. Ultimately, we decided on the Santos because of a few reasons:

1) We preferred the random length look.

2) It has an faint iridescence and depth that's unmatched by the bamboo.

But it was a really close call; my wife really, really liked some of the darker bamboos and their "Equinox" strand woven bamboo is *kinda* in the same shade as the Santos: http://flooring.builddirect.com/Bamboo-Flooring/stained-strandwoven-bamboo-Equinox/ProductDisplay_8749_P1_10064209.aspx

I would recommend ordering samples (since they are free except for shipping cost) and making the decision yourself. You may also consider ordering multiple samples of the same items (or call them up and ask for two pieces) just to get a better feel for the variation of some of the boards.


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RE: BuildDirect and Vanier: A Review

Wow - $4.55 for a 4 mm that sounds like a fabulous deal. Thanks again for all your help and taking the time to post. Im sure it will help many of us. :-)

Jeri


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RE: BuildDirect and Vanier: A Review

Wow, cdigs; Thank you so much for your very detailed review of what its like to order flooring online from BuildDirect.

Our purpose as a company is to transform the building materials industry, meaning we remove a lot of cost and pass on the resulting savings to our buyers. Because of our structure, many of our products are literally 1/2 the price of comparable products. One challenge in providing that kind of value is trust, or lack thereof. It seems that there is a natural tendency to distrust something that seems too good to be true.

The way we think about the business is to win one buyer at a time by making sure their experience is fantastic. That way, our customers become advocates of our business and share it with their friends. Were not perfect. We sometimes make mistakes, but one of our core values at BuildDirect is a passion to get better every day. We do that by listening and engaging with our customers. Your thoughtful comments(where we can improve) will help us ensure we deliver even better service going forward.

Thank you very much,

Jeff Booth
Founder and CEO
www.BuildDirect.com

For the other contributors to this thread, thanks to you as well for your questions and comments. If any of you need more information please contact me at the office or leave a comment on my blog at http://blog.builddirect.com/industryinsights,


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RE: BuildDirect and Vanier: A Review

Wow, look at all those "H" joints!!

Other than that, it looks great!

How did you go about finding the installer, or was it installed by a representative of them?


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RE: BuildDirect and Vanier: A Review

fantastic thread, thanks for your insight about the product and process. We just ordered 1300 sqft of vanier product mainly because the price was right and the wear layer was at least 2x thicker than anything id seen in that price range from big box stores and smaller retailers. The only concern i still have is the time for delivery. Im really hoping we get it in less than 2 weeks, but it's not a huge deal. The pics look great as well, im feeling a lot more confident about my purchase.


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RE: BuildDirect and Vanier: A Review

cdigs,

How is your floor doing? Are you still happy with it? I am thinking about going thru Build Direct to get our engineered hardwood. Overall, they have very good reviews but on one website I read that the product is various grades of wood.

If anybody else has experience with them, please let me know.


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RE: BuildDirect and Vanier: A Review

Any update on the flooring? We are seriously considering the same Vanier brand from DirectBuy. We would love to hear what your thoughts are some two years later!

Thanks


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RE: BuildDirect and Vanier: A Review

My Build Direct Vanier Cosmopolitan Santos Mahogany floor installed in Sept 2011 is continuing to delaminated and crack as we speak. Build Direct has blamed my installer. I have sent them a report from an independent certified hardwood flooring inspector which determines that delamination and checking (cracks) are a manufacturing issue. All Build Direct has offered is to sell me DIFFERENT flooring at a discounted price. Of course this would means tens of thousands of dollars of additional costs to replace the current ugly flooring that I have. Go to BD facebook page to see pics of my flooring.

http://www.facebook.com/builddirect

I expect that BD will take down the photos since they do not want anyone to see an actual floor installed with their product.


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RE: BuildDirect and Vanier: A Review

I certainly don't want to bad mouth the company, as I don't know much about them, but unhappy consumers should "hold their feet to the fire" in cases such as this one. It may be difficult to sue, because you or your attorney would need to do so in the Canadian jurisdiction, but it is not impossible.

Everyone in the flooring business has at times found themselves unknowingly selling defective merchandise or products that do not meet marketability standards. However, that does not excuse the business from liability. Your expert would have to prove that the product is defective or not suitable to be marketed for the given purpose.

Sometimes it is not the flooring itself that is the problem, but conditions within the house where it is installed.


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Mr. Jeff Booths blog is censored

I posted a comment on Build Direct's founder Mr. Booth's blog.

http://blog.builddirect.com/industryinsights

So much for openness and unedited comments. My comments apparently were not allowed by the moderator since they never appeared on this blog since I have had a bad experience with his products. My comments were factual, without profanity or personal attacks, but frank.


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RE: BuildDirect and Vanier: A Review

Great thread very helpful. Thank you.


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RE: BuildDirect and Vanier: A Review

I want to buy white marble tile and montauk blue slate from Build Direct because the prices are unbeatable. Has anyone purchased slate or tile from them?


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RE: BuildDirect and Vanier: A Review

It took 10 days to get sample floor tile from these guys. It was supposedly going to be overnight shipped. And I tried 3 times to reach the sales rep before he would respond to my messages. Very unimpressed with the customer service/sales and haven't even ordered from them yet!


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RE: BuildDirect and Vanier: A Review

I received samples from them quickly and they emailed me with follow-up. Although after reading about the above issues I might just stick with a local company to avoid the headache of a "possible" problem.


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build direct is 100% incompetent... avoid at all costs

Wow... where to begin. I honestly signed up with Epinions just to help ANYONE who might consider doing business with this company to avoid making the same mistake I did. I could paste the series of BS emails that went back and forth between the company any myself, but I don't want to ruin anyone's day. I purchased a condo, which closed a month ago and planned on replacing the bedroom floors with some high quality cork. I was interested in the Evora brand, but builddirect is the only distributor for this. I thought it was a good business gesture to send me a free sample and the product was excellent. That's where the "good business" ended. I contacted two different Brents and David in the flooring sales department. Brent sent me the sample I requested and I told him I'd need to the cork right away so my condo would be ready to move into by 7/19/13. He said this specific type was due to arrive in their San Jose, CA warehouse on Thursday, 7/11/13, which is about 50 minutes away from me, so I went ahead and placed the order on 7/10/13 for about 360sq ft of Evora Canvas cork. I arranged with my contractor to pick this up, but builddirect notified me that there was some "mix up" with the shipping/purchase orders, and that it should be ready for pickup the next day (Friday). They contacted me the next day saying they are still sorting out the issue and to plan on picking it up on Tuesday morning instead. Of course, Tuesday morning came and went and they were still "looking into it". I told them this was very urgent and I MUST have this, no later than Tuesday. Tuesday at 5pm they tell me it can be picked up on Wednesday. My contractor made a special trip in traffic to go pick up the order and upon bringing it back, I discovered it was not the correct item... or even close to the correct item. Then I get the run around again, as they had been doing for a week, and told me they'd send a delivery truck to pick up the order and drop of the correct item. Thursday comes and more BS from this company. By this point I had contact James Komenda, the VP of Sales, along with every other manager involved to complain for nth time. They ensured me it would be delivered Friday, 8 days after it "supposedly" arrived in their warehouse. Friday morning builddirect setup an overnight truck service to replace the product, but at the end of the day on Friday, I get one final BS email stating that they don't even have the product I ordered in the warehouse... so basically they BS'd me for 9 days. Apparently, their overnight truck was just going to pickup their mistake at 8am on Saturday morning. I told them to come on Monday, which they finally did to pick up the error. In return they were willing to offer me a full refund, plus $400 for the inconvenience. Since the property has concrete floors, because of them, it is not liveable or rentable. Tenants were lost because of this and I'm not able to move in as well. The $400 token is going toward motel costs while I find a vendor who can expedite some comparable cork flooring. Lots of apologies, lots of hot air, and MORE INCOMPETENCE THAN ANY COMPANY I HAVE EVER DEALT WITH... AVOID AT ALL COSTS.


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RE: BuildDirect and Vanier: A Review

I've read quite a few reviews of Build Direct and your experience is an exception....I like many other ordered products from them and found them to be sub-standard crap. BD understandably could not rectify situation as they are in business of hawking very poorly manufactured products.


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Why you should NOT buy from BuildDirect

I have posted my terrible terrible experience with BuildDirect flooring product. I learned many lessons which others considering buying from this company should know.
1) The company is based in Vancouver British Columbia making it difficult to pursue them if there is an issue with your product.
2) The Terms of Use on their website WAIVES your right to sue them in small claims court if their is a problem with your product.
3) The Terms of Use on their website means that you agree that any issue will be decided by an arbitrator who works for an arbitration organization that BUILDDIRECT chooses. You decide if this places you at a disadvantage.
4) IF there is a problem with your product and decide to pursue the issue with THEIR arbitration organization, you MUST go to Vancouver British Columbia to pursue it.


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