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Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Posted by kolorblinding (My Page) on
Mon, Jul 28, 14 at 14:24

I made the mistake of hiring my floor refinishers to replace the treads and risers on my stairs, and I think they may have turned out badly. The miter joints on the trim pieces have this big gap, and the treads themselves are not level from side to side.

If I have them come back to fix it, what problems should I have them focus on?

I think the trim pieces (which are glued and nailed on) can be replaced easily enough...but what about the unlevel treads?

We never discussed leveling the treads before they started the job because I assumed they would know what they were doing. I did not notice that they weren't level until my electrician pointed it out. Maybe it's because the house itself isn't level (it's 150 years old), but the slope is only slightly perceptible when going up the stairs. I think it looks okay visually but I can feel something slightly "off" in my feet as I ascend the stairs.

I already paid them the entire $2000, including materials and labor...Do you think I should have them redo the entire job? Is this a safety issue at all?

What if the house itself is not level? Should stairs be level if the floors are not level?














Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Did you write up a contract specifying what needed to be done?
My concern is that a re-do may come out no better. It may be that they have done their best on a job they may have never attempted before.
It very well may be that they may be great floor refinishers and not at all good at other things.
Whether this passes for 'OK' might be a question for a jury, certainly off or not it seems as if it can be used, but it is not the fine work of experience.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

What about the railing or a lack thereof (the way it is is not to code obviously)? Replacing stair treads on existing in place stairs is not a job for an average carpenter (in my opinion) let alone a floor re-finisher!


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

I doubt they have the experience or the skills to fix the poor workmanship. I have seen(and fixed) worse.

Sadly, the best solution is to hire experienced pro's who will tear out the existing job and do it right.

The cost will probably be at least twice what you paid, but a $2,000 lesson could wind up being cheap. If you have learned cutting corners usually does not work.

I installed a stair for a customer whom I knew was very particular. When I told her what I had to do(including installing treads by using screws theough the treads) she objected, afraid she would see the screws.

I made her a deal---I would do the work and she could inspect the job twice---before finish was applied and after. The deal was if she could see any screw position standing anywhere on the stairs, I would do the job for free. She had no idea I had experience in hiding the nine 1/2" holes that had to be drilled in each tread for the screws. Because along with the rosin paper under the new treads, screwing from the top almost guaranteed no squeaks. Ever.

There were 13 treads----117 holes and 117 plugs in the holes. She finally got on her knees and found three possible locations---and those were after the three coats of varnish had been applied---actually making it easier to spot the plugs. Only one was a plug.

My point is simply experience is necessary to be able to do a job correctly---and experience iis usually more expensive.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

These guys are clueless hacks. Fire them and do not pay.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Thanks for the pictures. Maybe they thought you were going to paint everything? You did not have a hugely complicated project...but..

Flooring refinishers are not carpenters and very few carpenters are finish carpenters and very few finish carpenters do solid wood clear finish trim work well. You needed a finish carpenter with experience on solid wood clear finish trim.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Sorry that you got what you paid for. That should have been your first clue. Craftsmen do not come cheap. They obviously do not have the skills to address this. It needs a tearout and do-over. Expect a qualified guy to be 3x -4x as much. Or more, since he'll have to tearout the crap first and do a bunch of old house personalized leveling tweaks.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Hollyspings - The treads and risers are plywood. I doubt they have $300 in materials into it. They made good money on this. I would never hire a craftsman by how much they charge. Some just like doing the work and don't care about the money. It all boils down to skill of craft. Verify that first.

I do agree on redoing other's mistakes and working on old houses. It adds considerably to the cost.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

" I would never hire a craftsman by how much they charge. Some just like doing the work and don't care about the money. It all boils down to skill of craft. "

I fully agree with this statement.

$2000 is a whole lot of money for tread replacement. I don't see that the OP was trying to skimp or should have expected it was somehow a $4000-$8000 job. At those rates, people could not afford to have the most basic of necessities done. And would indeed have to skimp and settle for the best they could afford, poor as that might be.

That these people took your good money, and a lot of money, for a hack job is their responsibility.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

While the price paid doesn't always correlate with the quality of the work done, it's one of the closest ways to assess if you're dealing with an unlicensed hack vs. a licensed and insured professional. To have a business license and insurance and a be a member of the Chamber of Commerce and BBB, and major trades organizations costs money. When someone shows that connection to the community and has invested in achieving a reputation for quality, their services do not come cheaply. You won't be talking to "floor guys" or "tile guys" or hangers on at a parking lot on the corner.

Quality workmanship does not come cheap. Telling me you can't afford quality workmanship isn't going to make me lower my price. Sure, I'm sorry that your finances leaves you with having to save a long time to be able to afford to do a project correctly, but that's YOUR problem. And you only make your problem worse by hiring hacks.

This guy was a hack. Good quality stair work is costly. 2K is way way too low to have expectations of someone being licensed, insured, and a good experience level doing specialty work. If you hire a shadetree mechanic, you are taking a chance that your car won't get fixed. It's the same with hack contractors. You're gambling. This was a losing gamble.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

From a technical standpoint, there is a reason wood stair treads are solid, not plywood. The veneer on plywood may be 1/64" thick on a good day. Several months or years of foot traffic and you'll be through that with no trouble.

This is what I meant when I called them "clueless hacks".


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

"Some just like doing the work and don't care about the money."

Where are these people? Please send them to my place and I will keep them busy doing what they "like" for as long as they still like doing it.

Everyone I know who has a skill that they use to make a living generally wants to get paid for using it, unless he/she is doing a favor for a friend or family. Most skilled craftspeople ARE working for a living and certainly do "care about the money." If you find one that doesn't, that might be like finding a needle in a haystack.

I completely disagree that membership in any organization whatsoever is an indicator of skill level or business expertise. I'd rather light money on fire than give it to the Better Business Bureau. A reputation for quality is not gained by investing money in any organization, it is gained by doing quality work.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

I guess the best think you should do is talk to them and tell them that you are not satisfied with their work and discuss for any solutions for the both sides. You can ask for at least have of the amount you paid ( for wasting their time and labor). Then, call for professional assistance..

I hope it can help to your problem.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Maybe better worded that it's not all about money for everyone. It's an internal drive for craftmanship, or good service. People like this love what they do and will do what it takes to do the job well and responsibly. It doesn't mean they don't get paid, or paid well, or work for dirt. Although many people *do* choose work they love even though the pay is not good. Which doesn't mean the work is easy or there is no expertise or expensive education involved! Not everyone is driven by money; nor feels comfortable charging a lot of money just because they could or others do.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

It may be that this person has just such qualities when it comes to floor finishing.
I'm, curious, did he propose to do the job, and propose the pay, or was he trying to accommodate when asked ?


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

How was the floor finishing quality? These companies often do trim work when they do the floors. They may not have known what they were getting into, and left it up to a laborer. Not that whoever worked on it shouldn't have noticed for themselves. But have you spoken to them yet about the issues? Did anyone review the work that was done or just send a bill? Or are you just preparing for the conversation?

Curious what the stairs were like to walk on previously.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Jellytoast - With that attitude, do you really think someone would want to "work" for you doing what they "like"?

Just poking fun. Snookums2 explained it well. To these people, their skill is their wealth. That takes priority over income and their skill ensures they never lack work. So, unless you have something interesting for them to do, good luck hiring one.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

rmtdoug, that was sarcasm.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

If anyone still wonders what I mean by what I said, Google the Loretto Chapel staircase in New Mexico and read about its construction as probably the ultimate example of building simply for the love of it.

This post was edited by rmtdoug on Thu, Jul 31, 14 at 0:54


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Meanwhile, in the real world, people work for money. Oh, the horrors! Perhaps those that want to turn the market economy into socialism should remember why that's not a foundation stone of our life here in America.

And those who can't afford large expensive projects on their homes should move to smaller homes with less upkeep that they will need to pay for. Or stop buying in to the HGTV ''home improvements tat raise the value of your home'' MALARKEY. Nothing at all wrong with carpet on stairs if tyou can't afford to do the job properly and spend the 8-10 going average for that project.

A 2K quote is the equivalent of the dimly lit alley with the guy in the raincoat showing you a selection of watches. It should set of warning bells. And if you do buy a watch, you should expect it to be a fake or stolen because reputable businesses don't set up shops in alleyways.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

I don't think so. Of course ymmv. It's really not something sales people would understand.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Maybe I can find one of these fine craftsmen to build me a staircase to fantasy land, where I will certainly need to go if I expect them to build it "simply for the love of building." We are talking about home remodeling projects and most in the construction business want to get paid a decent wage for doing the ho-hum and often extremely difficult projects around other people's homes. I'm not sure it's realistic to expect otherwise. While the building of the Loretto Chapel staircase makes for a lovely story, most of us here on GW are dealing with contractors working for a living, not saints.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

I didn't read the article, but he did say the ultimate example. I don't think anyone in the discussion is suggesting depriving someone of a fair and decent living and profit in exchange for their skills. Although I have known (and worked for) people like that. Just plain cheap and greedy who seem to think they are the only ones entitled to be making money. Most are reasonable however, I think, in my experience. If the job is done well.

I also think it goes a long way to acceptance and buy-in to explain the job so they can understand the work that needs to be done, and if they can see all the work, skill, time and care that's involved.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

I think the bone of contention here is what is the fair price for doing the OP's flight of stairs. If you don't get other bids, you don't know if the person you're giving the work to is in line with other, qualified people. Obviously, it is not enough to take the word of the person who is there to refinish your floors that they can also install stair risers. Even hiring someone who is qualified and licensed to do the specific task doesn't mean you're going to get someone who is a craftsman. That's why seeing examples of someone's work is important. The guy might have done a great job refinishing the floor, but if you haven't seen his carpentry skills, you're gambling. It could have been worse. The OP could have paid the $4,000 to $8,000 some say this job is worth and still had it turn out badly.

I have no idea what the going rate is for a project like the OP's, but I would have little faith in the people who did that job to tear it out and re-do it properly, regardless of the amount of money paid to them. On the other hand, I agree wholeheartedly that a skilled craftsman would not put out sub-par work, regardless of the amount of money paid to them. But if the OP had checked around first, he/she could have had a better idea if $2,000 was a reasonable amount for the job, and could have made a more informed decision than deciding to hire the floor refinisher for a carpenter's job.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

On a job like this, I think it's important to explain to the customer what's involved to justify a cost of $8,000-$10,000. That seems excessive and I think any reasonable and intelligent person would question and want to know what is involved, what they are paying for.

Btw, hollysprings, even wealthy people draw the line and say no. A lot.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Those $8k one-flight stairways must have some serious overhead attached. How many hands does that money go through before it gets to the person actually doing the work? It's a simple stairway requiring 30 hours of labor to do right. Is it really possible I could have charged $150+ an hour plus material to get to $8k? I know doctors who make less than that.

The OP got ripped off in every way possible and that's what makes me angry. The job could have been done correctly and nicely for $2k without anyone feeling cheated.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

I'm still waiting to hear exactly how the deal went down. I don't know that I would say that it was a ripoff until more details are given. Was the flooring person approached and was this done just to accommodate a request? He may have had no idea of how to do this stuff, no experience, but may have had every desire to do a decent day's work.
I'm not ruling out that this was a ripoff, but without more details I can't accuse him.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

They might have intended to do a good job but still accepted $2000 when it didn't turn out very well.

A GC sent one of his guys in to my place to do some work. It turned out to be more than he could pull off. I did not have to say anything. He came back later and told me someone else was coming over to do a better job because he knew it wasn't good enough.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

rmtdoug:

If I had to choose which is the bigger fantasy, that stair costing 10K or you completing it in 30 hours, I would choose the latter, no question.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

So then, what exactly needs to be done and how long would it take? Because if that's the case, It would seem more efficient, economical and with a better outcome to just rip this one out and start over.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Treb, I don't know why you would say that. We are talking about the work done as pictured, just the treads and risers with trim, right?

It's 12-13 treads with a 90 degree wind at the top from the looks of it and no compound curves. From the bare stringers, it would take 2-3 hours to diagram and measure the stairs, a day or two in the shop preparing and numbering the wood and the rest of the time installing it. For this installation, I would choose a small portable table saw, a Nobex hand miter saw, a few sharp hand planes with 90 and 45 degree shooting boards, and a good assortment of shim material along with my usual hand, power, and air tools.

I'm done with this thread.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

On a job like this, I think it's important to explain to the customer what's involved to justify a cost of $8,000-$10,000

I would've hired Hippy..

Labor & material

$1385 Total


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Thank you, Hippy, for providing some actual real-life figures for labor and materials!


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

How do you guys know the treads are plywood? I thought they were solid oak. The treads came out of a box labeled Lebanon Oak. Their website shows three grades of oak treads: clear, select, and special. Doesn't say whether their stair treads are veneered plywood or solid oak though.

Do you guys think I can just ignore the leveling problem and just have them replace the trim pieces?

Here is a link that might be useful: http://www.lebanonoak.com


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

hippy, nothing for nothing but there is more than $1000 in material costs in your picture, and I am sure you did not install it for $300.00!!!


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

The jagged edges where the risers were cut sure looks like veneer, but the website gives no indication that veneer is used. A phone call to the company could solve that mystery.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

I think Hippy is posting labor charges. The OP project is primarily labor. $8,000-$10,000 needs to be accounted for.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Building codes cover rise/run for stairs. To be able to do the job correctly without creating a trip hazard of an uneven rise, the stairs need to practically be rebuilt. A lot of guys don't, and you end up with a shortie. Which an inspector will red flag when you go to sell your house. The materials on a stair start at about 2K on the bottom end. It only goes up from there.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Hippy said his price included labor AND materials.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

hippy, nothing for nothing but there is more than $1000 in material costs in your picture, and I am sure you did not install it for $300.00!!!

Millwork
That is $1385 Total..

You will blow a gasket if you knew that I have less than $1200 total (minus the stove) in the kitchen counters and cabinets of the same cabin.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Okay, so let's say that Hippy's job costs are on the low end of the spectrum. That is still a HUGE discrepancy. How long did the job take?


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

kolorblinding:

I suggest you look at the flawless miters in the company's "return" style treads and compare them to yours. Crappy miters are one thing but mixing red and white oak on the same tread? Are you kidding me?

I tried to blow up the 6th picture down, but had mixed results. It doesn't look like plywood. It looks like MDF with oak veneer.

Your risers are unquestionably plywood. The tearout at the crosscuts have "rookie" written all over them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Return


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Posted by jellytoast on
Fri, Aug 1, 14 at 18:06

Okay, so let's say that Hippy's job costs are on the low end of the spectrum. That is still a HUGE discrepancy. How long did the job take?

I must confess. The only reason I got the stair & railing along with the kitchen counters and cabinets done so cheap is. I built and installed them both myself from rough cut lumber. Bought the hand rails and Bartered for the Wrought iron spindles from a friend.

I have less than $250 total in the wood and labor used on the ceiling of the living room. It came from the loft of an old barn that was being torn down. I cleaned it up, ripped to a 6" width and planed on all four sides.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

So you built the entire staircase from raw wood, including stringers, not prefab parts, except for the railing section. How long did this take you?


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Hippy

You are awesome. Beautiful work.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Lol, I knew it had to be something. I have not sold that type of building materials in 10 years but even now still know that is 2K worth of material retail if it is a dime.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

"I have less than $250 total in the wood and LABOR used on the ceiling of the living room."

Hippy, we obviously can't use your examples for comparison here since your "labor" amount is miniscule and you are using unconventional materials.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

I just want to know the manhours.


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RE: Hack Job on New Stairs? What should I do? :-(

Wow...what a mess! Nothing good about it.


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