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Question DetailsAsked on 9/3/2015

What steps do I need to take to fire a contractor for a poor installation job?

A sub-contractor of the general contractor did a poor job of installing porcelain wood like plank tiles. They're blaming the installation problems on the floor not being level and the tile material; definitely not their workmanship. They've agreed to remove the flooring; but are limiting the porcelain tile to a 12x12 tile, stating that the floor rolls. The floor area is approx. 800 square feet of an open floor plan with the kitchen, hallway, and living space. The old flooring was hardwood in the front room, carpet down the hallway and living room with vinyl in the kitchen. I never noticed a rolling floor feel to the floor prior to their installation. With this open floor plan, installing a 12x12 tile will make the flooring look like a hotel lobby. They will be removing the flooring within a day. I've taken multiple videos and pictures of the flooring. What are my choices?

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7 Answers

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Did you see this response to your other related posting on this issue ? [BTW - you can respond back to answers or post more info on your question using the Answer This Question button right below your question - can also post photos using the leftmost yellow icon right above the Your Answer box that comes up when you hit the Answer This Question button]. IF you can post a few distance and low-angle photos of the "waves" we might be able to give an opinion as to the cause and how much of an issue an independent person might consider this to be. Photos (for your use) of the gaps under a long (truly straight) level might help prove your case too - showing gapping as you move the level across the floor. You can rent 6-10 foot long ones for maybe $5-10/day at tool rental places. Of course, the "level" issue does not include the greater gaps under the level due to the rounding of the edges of the tile - would relate only to differences out-of-plane of the field of the tile, or of comparative centers if a tyhpe of tile that slopes off from the center to all sides (hopefully not with this large format a tile) -


https://answers.angieslist.com/Floor-...


On the "firing" the subcontractor issue:


You cannot "fire" him per se, because he works for the GC, not you - and ALL your dealings should be with the GC (who is the person you are contracted with), NOT the tile sub. I have been on jobs where the customer made the GC redo work several times because he chose to reuse the same contractor for the redo's - so he made the same thype of mistakes or demonstrated the same incompetence to do the work right. Saw one neighbor house repainted 3 times before the contractor gave up and abandoned the job and refunded the payments and told the owner to find another contractor who could make them happy (It WAS a poor painter who did not know how to do cedar refinishing, not an overly picky customer). Here is another post on that issue I did yesterday, by coincidence, that might be of use FYI -


https://answers.angieslist.com/Is-fin...


Blaming it on the tile material issue - first, would be easy to pull a few leftover pieces and check for the backs being planar within 1/8". Second, unless you bought the tiles yourself (which leaves you wide open to that sort of complaint, and the main reason to NOT buy materials yourself except for DIYI jobs), defective tiles would still be their problem because providing materials suitable for the job is part of THEIR job responsibility. If they provided the tiles and they are warped or curved, is THEIR responsibility to get suitable replacements from the manufacturer and replace the defective ones - and for large format (over 6 inch) tile I would have checked each and every tile first, BEFORE starting placing them - so a failing on their part if they are blaming it on the tile. Even if YOU provided the tile, you could argue (granted, with a weaker case) that they should have confirmed suitability and noticed the defective tile BEFORE placement.


Even if the tile is a bit out of planar (within reason) that can be accomodated with thicker thinset and using plywood pieces to get it flat with adjacent tiles and a lot of LONG (6-8 foot with that large a tile) level use when placing the tile, to get it correct - provided of course it does not have twists or bends in the tile SURFACE that cannot be accomodated without leaving waves. Sounds to me like they are not experienced with large format tile - takes a different mindset putting it in, and you HAVE to either work from the unfinished side (best) or work on large pieces of 3/4" plywood properly supported at the tiled/untiled edge to avoid the worker's weight pushing the ends down out of plane.


On the argument that the subflooring is wavy - it is THEIR responsibility to assure the base is properly prepared for the tile placement - so they should have used self-levelling compound or a mudcoat to prep the surface first. AND should have checked for planar suitability BEFORE starting the work, right after taking the existing flooring up. Granted, if the existing flooring was not wavy but the subflooring is, which sounds highly unlikely with hardwood flooring as opposed to a heavy padded flooring type, they might argue that the levelling would be an added cost to correct a hidden defect they could not see during bidding - but that should not have been over a hundred or two $ to do the self-levelling compound. And any price adjustment for that should be based on assuming it was done BEFORE the tile placement started originally - NOT tearing out the new defective tile job to do it now. That tearout back to subfloor and cleaning the subfloor well enough to do the levelling is on their dime as defective work. Granted, levelling compound or mudcoat will raise the flooring at the junction with adjacent rooms a bit, but that is what transition strips are for - or if not dramatic, making tile transition strips by placing the transition pieces of tile on a bevel or grinding a step face in the back to fit (if thick enough tile to do that).


Options I see at this point -


1) if they will not put in the product you contracted for, then they would be in breach of contract, so negotiating a contract change to eliminate the tiling from the scope of the general contractor's work and bringing in an independent tile contractor to do it from here. Would not make GC happy AND means he has to pay the sub for work done and not accepted, or argue with the sub about not paying him at all for it, so would make GC unhappy with you at best, and of course if there is other tiling to be done don't count on the tile sub showing up.


2) demand the originally specified product be put in per contract, and convince the GC to get another tile contractor who is experienced with large format plank tile and can do the flooring correctly, though on that format tile if this is over a wood subfloor you might have trouble finding a good experienced tile contractor who will do it. I know in my tile contractor past we automatically added 25% to the total job price for tile over 8 inch, and 100% for tile over 24 inches in maximum dimension, assuming there would be a fair amount of defective tile (so overbought substantially) and assuming at least a couple of callbacks over the next years (we provided free fixes for most cracked / loose tile callbacks if not due to direct impact damage) for cracked tiles due to tile flaws or subfloor movement, and avoided the large format if possible everywhere but on reinforced concrete or concrete-on-steel frame slabs like office building foyers and halls and such.


3) Another option is (realizing this will totally scotch your relationship with the contractor on any other work going on under the contract) calling his Bond for contract default if he will not put in the agreed-on original tile format. This would likely cause him to abandon the job entirely - so his bond company would then have to get another contractor to pick up on and finish the job off. Causes lien (especially subcontractor) and permit issues, issues about who is responsbile for which final punchlist defects, as well as significant delays in most cases, so an option to be avoided if possible.


4) Last option - bite the bullet and accept smaller tiles - maybe they will agree to replacement with smaller tiles in a decorative lay (not just straight rows), smaller but still rectangular tiles, or interspersing two different colors or finish tiles to break up the "lobby look". Bear in mind though, if they do not fix the base to eliminate the waves, you might be right back at the same place in a week or so, with the same issue all over again, so if you accdept that you might still try to convince him he needs a new tile sub to protect HIS interests - or if a larger tile firm, maybe just a more senior, experienced tile layer or the sub's boss or some such resolution.


5) If you are a - what is it, just Premium - or maybe Plus and Premium - member, you have the AL dispute resolution process available to you if you are not up to negotiating this with the contractor directly. Or you could bring in an architect or interior designer (especially if you used one to design the project) or a Home Inspector or a second tile contractor as a second opinion on the issue of flooring acceptability - though in that case you always risk them not agreeing with you.


Of course, after all is said and done, sounds like appropriate reviews on AL might be in order for the sub and the GC. Good Luck.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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Answered 5 years ago by Guest_9474852

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Based on these issues you mention in your answer, would another option just be another flooring type, possibly a high end vinyl or engineered hardwood. With the removal of the tile; the sub-floor is the durock. Can these products be installed on the durock, or does that need to be removed? Also wouldn't the installation cost be lower?

One more question, how are these products rated for pets?

Answered 5 years ago by Guest_9474852

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In my contract proposal, there is no mention of the contractor using sub-contractor to complete any of the work. When I added the installation of the tile flooring; it was with the understanding that their employee was doing the installation. He had done a excellent job installing a previous floor for me. Based on the general contractor's work load, this employee was not able to do the job and the sub-contractor was hired by the contractor. In fact. this employee pointed out the flooring problems to his employer and was ignored.

Answered 5 years ago by Guest_9474852

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Wow - unfortunately the photos are not high enough resolution to be able to really zoom in on the specific tiles to see if warped tiles or base are the issue, but at least the first photo very clearly shows the waves and dips - CLEARLY a substandard installation for whatever reason. If there are leftover tiles check the top and bottom surfaces for planarity - could be warped tiles are the problem. With as much wow as shows in that first picture, especially in the near-field leading off that stubwall, I would guess either the tiles are bowed (and that should have been readily recognized when handling them BEFORE installation), or they are showing that much bend because they cracked on the back as they tried to conform to the waves - I can't see rigid tiles taking on that much wow during installation without cracking on the back, which should be visible on the front as microcracks or maybe spalling of the surface.


Either way - needs to come out as you said they will be doing - options remain as I stated before, with the addition of waiting till the GC's tile guy is available as an alternative to getting a new tile sub, if he thinks it can be done right ewith the large tiles. Would still need correction of the wave issue, because unless all those dipped tiles are cracked to conform to the waves, it is highly likely that the durock has the waves in it too - so subfloor would need to be levelled first. Not a major task, but added labor and a bit of cost for materials.


Certainly tearing the tile off and cleaning up the durock for another flooring type is an option - engineered wood or laminate, but they are not as spill/accident resistant and dogs will eventually scratch them up which they will not with tile. Unfortunately, I don't think the flooring material is the problem - with that much wow, assuming thinset or mastic on the durock to place the tile, there would not be enough thickness in the adhesive to allow that kind of waves, so they almost certainly exist in the durock - so changing flooring type would not correct the wave issue in all probability. Bad news - if the subfloor is out by that much, the best way to fix it is to remove the durock, use cementatious levelling compound to level the subfloor, THEN put durock down for the tile to be placed on. Less professional way (because of the risk of the levelling compound popping free of the durock and causing loose tiles) would be levelling compound right on top of the durock.


Since you say the GC's guy told him of the problems and he ignored it, it is clearly up to the GC to make it right - first by checking the tiles, then by checking the planarity of the durock after it is cleaned down, then either replacing the tiles if warped, or more likely have to relevel the subfloor. I am guessing the wood flooring had the waves too and just did not show them for some reason - during the bidding he should have slapped a long level on the floor to check for planarity before bidding it assuming no subfloor levelling was needed.


Good Luck.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD

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Thank you very much for your advice.

Answered 5 years ago by Guest_9474852

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Now the GC is willing to lay a new floor; but doesn't want to remove the faulty tile floor. The floor is already at a high level (can easily change light bulbs from ceiling fan). I have a copy of their certificate of liability insurance and looked up their charter number. What are my options?

Answered 5 years ago by Guest_9474852

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Offering to overlay a wavy tile floor with anything else is just plain incompetent or lazy - any overlay will have the same ripples or waves, plus be way high as you say - probably with transitions to adjacent floors that are unacceptably high and likely a code violation to boot.


I would say time to tell him take it out and do it right from scratch - or if he is refusing, then time to call his Bonding company and file a claim to have them get another contractor in to do it right, because obviously with that offer he is trying to cut his losses at this point rather than do it right. Depending on how much hassle they give you, you may need an attorney - and using one up-front to do the letter writing can facilitate the process in most cases.


And don't accept an argumentthe original flooring was wavy - unless they tear the new flooring back down to the subflooring and can show it is wavy, in which case you should get a 100% refund (basically back to where you were originally) and then you go to another contractor. Arguing the problem is your fault does not cut it, because if the subfloor is wavy, they should have recognized that and not done the flooring install in the first place.


And of course after all is said and done, appropriate review on Angies List, etc.

Answered 5 years ago by LCD




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