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Question DetailsAsked on 3/17/2017

Independent contractor or home depot lay fault?

We purchased a few doors from home depot 4 or so years ago with their installation services. We got leaks that caused damage and sustained wood rot due to poor installation that we feel is not even code? There is no flashing around the doors and no sill pan,board,nothing below the framing of the door. These are patio doors by the way. And was not until recently this had come to our attention of the skipped steps from the contractor. Who's financial responsibility at this point. Home Depot? the independent contractor they hired out to do their job for them? or mine?

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Answered 3 years ago by the new window man


Well - despite the downcheck he got, ultimately, with respect to who you could reasonably expect to MAYBE recover from, newwindowman is right - you probably need an attorney. And I understand he has been in the door and window business for a pretty long time, so I would pay attention to his opinion.

Obviously, the contractor is "at fault" for doing sloppy installation - though sounds like more or less normal for box store installers to me, because their subs typically get paid a flat rate or per-SF rate so the quicker they get it done and leave the more they make. The pay incentive is to do slipshod work and cut as many corners as possible, not to do a quality job. And because the payments are pretty minimal (ditto with home warranty providers) the contractors they get on board are commonly fly-by-night outfits or companies who cannot fill their order book by reputation so the ones who accept the low pay scales are tuypically not the ones you would find in the best-rated and reviewed category - more the opposite. In fact, from what I have seen of box store/home warranty work, the only contractors who I have seen doing work for them that I would ever consider calling on as an independent contractor were in out in the boonies areas where the selection of possible contractors is slim, so they had to call a local contractor with decent reputation on a one-time basis to do their work.

Legally, you had no legal contractual relationship (other than him maybe having a general duty for him to provide a merchantable product) with the subcontractor - your contract was with Home Depot, so they would be legally responsible, though as is typical an attorney might go after both using the "shotgun method" - the more people you sue the more likely you are to recoup something from at least one of the defendants.

However, sounds like, since you have had evidently continuing leaks and wood rot and so forth and it has been 4 years, that you have waited WAYYYY too long to be able to pursue an effective claim. I suspect the contract warranty was one year at most other than on maybe the door units themselves leaking, which it does not sound like is the issue here - sounds like totally an installation failure.

Ditto to a claim against their bond - because it has been so long and you presumably paid in full (indicsting acceptance of the job), unless there is an express (written) warranty that still covers the installation, getting compensation or repair from them is a lost cause.

You could pursue it directly with HD and MAYBE get them to give you a store credit for a couple hundred $ - I would be surprised if you got more than that out of them at this late point. Maybe, if you were REAL lucky or aggressive with them, they MIGHT redo the installation for free - but I would not count on it being done by a contractor who is going to do any better of a job - and might end up being the same one, who apparently either has noclue of how to do it or does not care - not giving you a very encouraging probability of it being done right the second time around.

An attorney (and no, there is no Angies List category for them - something about not wanting to swim with sharks, I suspect) MIGHT pursue this on a merchantability or implied warranty of fitness aspect. If the installation is actually contrary to building code (would take a written/photo inspection report by an architect or civil engineer to document that so it could be used in a suit or action, which would probably cost at leat $300 and maybe $500 or more) you might have a bit more ammo - but I suspect that the building code will not help much because that sort of detailing is usually in the manufacturer installation instructions, not the code. MOSt of the code requirements on door/window installation are pretty generic statements of "provide flashing and/or caulk as necessary" and things like that. And I suspect the contract did not say the items would be installed in accordance with the manufacturer's recommended (and that is usually the phrasing on the instructions) installation procedures.

One other thing an attorney MIGHT be able to make hay of is if Home Depot is not licensed to act as a contractor in your state - big box stores using subs for things like this are NOT licensed as such in many states, so an attorney might be able to use that as leverage to force a settlement under threat of a formal complaint with the state licensing board - or a fraud complaint in states where operating with a license is considered fraud. [In a few, doing unlicensed work means the FULL payment has to be refunded to the customer.] However, doors and windows are generally non-structural and are therefore onsidered "architectural elements" which in many states you do not have to be licensed to install or replace unless the structural framing is being modified, so that might or might not help.

Another possible legal ploy, but a longshot at this point in time, would be if you (with attorney) could prove that Home Depot advertised "first class workmanship" or "highly professional installations" or "weatherproof installation" or such, which could be shot down by an expert witness - so suing or filing a consumer fraud complaint to force them to pay up or redo the job. But again - redoing the installation (since there appears to be nothing wrong with the doors themselves) would be the likely remedy - and they would almost certainly want to redo it themselves with their contractor, not pay to have a more professional job done by a third-party contractor.

I doubt you will prevail in this, but depending on how many $ you plopped down for the job (you did not say how many doors are involved other than a "few") you could talk with ann attorney - many give free or quite cheap rate for the initial 15-30 minute consultation on potential cases.

Otherwise, if advised (as I suspect will be the case) that you are too late to have an effectvie claim, you have three approaches:

1) get a professional window and door company to come and either take them out and redo it right (probably ballpark $200-400 per regular entry door and more like $500-1000 for a sliding glass patio door) or to for maybe 1/3 to 1/2 that amount try a "cheap and dirty" approach - install flashing and caulk and such to try to stop the infiltration. Finding a door company to do this (especially the cheap and dirty approach) can be hard - most these days only want to do new unit sales and installations.

2) find a handyman with good reputation to do the job - but unless he has excellent exterior door installation reviews or you get a recommendation of a good one, you have no guarantee the result will be any better. And for a patio door that is a two-man job in many cases (depending on whether the two door units can be removed easily individually or not and how heavy they are - double/triple pane are almost certainly a two man job) so unless yuou are able to help take the units out and put them back in you might be paying two handymen firms for the work (most handymen arenot multi-man outfits).

3) a partial solution which can be added to 1) or 2) above - put an awning or porch roof over the exterior doors to block the worst of the water from hitting the door in the first place. Especially with french doors and most especially with inside-swing french doors (where it is not a case of "whether" they will leak but when), this is frequently the best overall fix (though flashing and caulk should still be installed to stop blowing rain), because very few exterior doors will be fully watertight when directly exposed to rain or wet snow (or snow drifting against the door sill).

Good Luck - but I suspect this is coming out of your pocket, and because this could lead to flooring and subfloor and foundation damage in the long run as well, if recouping from them is not going to fly I would bite the bullet and have the leaking (or all of them maybe even if not all are leaking at this time) totally removed and properly installed with rough opening watershield, flahsing and drip edges, insulation weatherstripping and caulking. And making sure that any drainage passages in the door sills were not caulked up or blocked off (a very common mistake), and that any sills with drainage channels in them were not cut to length, opening the drainage channel to the rough opening at the end. [many aluminum sills have interior drainage channels, or the interior is used as a drainage passage, which take water from drain holes in the track area and route it internally through the sill to weep slots or holes in the front face or underside of the outside edge of the sill - many installers see this as a possible water entry point and caulk them up].

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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