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Bathroom Reno Gone Bad

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Posted by: from Whitby
10/19/2013 at 10:35:07 AM

We thought we did our research. Had lots of referrals, saw his insurance papers, but now we sit with a ton of quality issues.

We had a leak in our shower stall and hired someone who diagnosed the issues and tore up the floor and redid that only. After finishing and patching the kitchen ceiling, it leaked again. The contractor then came in and reassessed and indicated that the floor AND the shower wall must have been leaking and now we had to gut the shower.

We opted to go for a frameless glass shower instead. This has taken a month to complete and we have halted the job with lots of quality issues. There is up to 3/4" of caulking in some areas filling gaps in the glass. The grout is sketchy and the tiles don't match up in some areas. There are also spots of grout missing in the floor and some cracked tiles around the edge of the floor that they have just siliconed over.

We had the contractor back for a site meeting yesterday and he says he can fix most things. I don't think some of these area easy fixes. He would rather put a metal frame around the base of our shower instead of replacing glass the right way. He indicated he could fix most of these items in a month when he is free. He did not take a deposit, however states that he now wants 50% of the money before fixing anything.

Looking for advice and real experiences on how to proceed and if we have a legal case based on quality issues should it come to that.

Photos linked here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/105416338@N06/sets/72157636552092904/

Any advice or suggestions would be very much appreciated.

REPLIES (7)
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Robert from Electrilight Ltd. in Oakville
Date/Time10/19/2013 at 12:58:30 PM

Mara,

It is not always easy choosing a contractor for many fields.

There are a lot of people with many skills and try to apply them to their entire portfolio, which is sometimes a huge problem. One-stop person is not always the answer.

I see easily from your pictures where there could have been 4-5 specialized trades doing their job 100% as they are trained. So not knowing how many people/trades were involved, some various simple mistakes are clear.

A rough framer will rarely brag of their finish work and vice-versa. Tiles are not always easy to lay properly if the rough framing is not done 100%, but if the walls and floor of the home were out of "square" the whole job would be tough to get 100%.

Grouting and clear silicone is clearly not right, but the frameless glass install shows it's ugly face to "not so square walls and floors" as you must fill those voids with something, people can use rubber seals rather than trying to silicone that huge area, but time and money may not be within the job.

If the floor pan, drain and tiles on the floor are not 100% sealed, you will be in more trouble than just some simple leaks.

If your contractor is willing to work out the issues, get it in writing with dates and what will happen. Money should not exchange hands in large amounts and may be paid everyday upon completion of work areas.

Viewing your photos, I think you might be picking at his work too closely as you are a bit frustrated with what is happening. Silicone on glass and tiles is easily cleared up, holes in grout can appear as grout dries, easily fixed as well. I assume he is willing to work with you and get it right, give him a chance, our calendar bookings are always filled so we have no downtime and go with no cash flow. With your photos, get him to sign what he will do to fix each problem, but don't hound him and peek over his shoulder at everything he does. The job looks complex and I think over all it is a good install, it just needs some repair.

Good luck.

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Date/Time10/19/2013 at 1:05:03 PM

Mara,

First, I am truly sorry to hear of your experience. As an independent contractor, I run into this situation on occasion. In this case it may not entirely the errors of you first contractor. It sounds as though the leaks are what caused many issues in the first place. If they were the culprits, they should have been the first priority. Your contractor may not have noticed the leaks and just fixed the after-effects rather than the real problem. A legitimate plumber should have been called for this.

Next, some wall corners, although all looks good initially, may not be at right angles. This creates a problem during renovations, especially with items that are pre-made to fit true square spaces. This is where the extra caulking was done. There are other ways to correct this issue but that requires more work. Tiling and grouting take time to prepare the base (under the tiles) correctly to unsure the area is strong enough, won't move too much, and is level. If this is not done, cracking can result.

At this stage I believe the contract is as frustrated as you are. You both want the job to be done and move on. As it is his livelihood, be understanding and consider his time, My suggestion is to write down everything that was to be done in the first place, what was actually done, and specific issues that you have. (take pictures). Also consider a couple of things. quality of material, cost of the work, time. If the material was "econobrand", then expect what you paid for. If the work was estimated on basic things (i.e. shower installation) but additional issues were found once the reno began, did he/she get paid for the extra. Time is an on-going issue with small contractors. Ideqally, the contractor wants to get in and get out with a satisfied customer, as quickly as possible. Other projects are often pending.

What to do? I'd suggest a sit down "cool" discussion about the entire project. Legally, it's one of those maybe things. Nobody really wins and you both are out some money. Just ensure that you are talking about your expectations and what the results actually are, and how to correct the issues. Who will pay? Shared costs? And, discuss timing. I wish I could be of more help but this type of issue happens. Often through no fault other than a poorly constructed structure itself. I hope it all works out in a civil manner and you can enjoy the renovated home.

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Date/Time10/19/2013 at 6:38:40 PM

I saw the pictures. Really bad job. If I was you, I'd ask for my maney back and hire a real contractor to do the job.

I'm really sorry.

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Date/Time10/19/2013 at 7:16:43 PM

Hi Martha,

I have read your post as well as those of some other contractors. I can comment as a general contractor who does most of the work within my company, but always sub-contract plumbing and the Glass wall and installation work.

When you have a leak such as you did, I always open up the entire area that caused the problem. If that had meant tearing out the whole shower base the walls, so be it. After removing the drywall on the cieling below, you can get a great idea from where the leak migrates from.

Whomever you hired to tear out and rebuild the area, Should have taken a level and a square to see if the walls were: a) level b) Square and c) framed properly for mounting new material. That could have been acomplished with a stud finder.

If there were any problems in those area's, I would come to you and say this must be rectified prior to commencement of the rebuild.

If there were not major problems with the framing and drywall, there is no excuse for the horrible workman ship you have displayed in your photo's. As noted by another contractor, silicon smeared on the glass is no big deal. But I must point out, even something as simple as that would never occure on one of my jobs. And we always return to touch up if anything occurs later.

I would insist on the tile being removed. As well as the glass suround for the shower.

I would not pay for any of the work associated with those items. If you are out the money for the tile etc, I'm sorry.

I would walk away from this contractor. He can't tile. He should not be installing the glass, that is for people who do that and nothing else. It's like having a general contractor like myself try to install a granit countertop in a kitchen. Cutting it out on site for counter top stoves etc. No thanks, it would not have the fine finish companies who specialize in that and only that can provide. Again, sub-contract these types of things. We run electrical in reno's and additions, but I always have the electrician I use come into inspect and hook up the lines to the box prior to the installation of insulation and drywall. I always have a plumber in for anything but the simplest hook ups. I wish I were out your way as I would be happy to tear it all out and build it properly for you, but sadly I am far to far away.

Word of mouth, or sites like this are ways to find a contractor. Ask to see some of their work.

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Date/Time10/21/2013 at 8:29:35 PM

Mara,

You need to rip out the shower and start over. Sorry to say what you don't want to hear. I have been doing this type of work for over 25 years. There are so many so-called contractors out there now, its hard to know who to choose.

Your best bet is to ask around and go and see their work in person. Most of the estimates that I give today, the people do not go out and look at work that I do. The vast majority of people make their selection by price. This was never the case in the past.

For this type of work, experience counts.

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Mara in Whitby
Date/Time10/21/2013 at 9:38:04 PM

Thank you so much for all the great feedback. I am sure I have picked at his work a lot more, just due to the larger issues. I took all the photos to give him clear ideas of what still had to be done. They sent us the invoice telling us they were coming to seal up that open area of silicone the next day and to please have payment ready. But yes, I am sure I started picking it apart far more out of complete frustration.

The work was done my mostly one person and another guy helping out in some areas. While we thought the owner himself was supposed to do the work, it turned out he had his lead guy doing it. At no time did they say anything about anything not being level or square etc.

He has asked to come in and remove the glass as he says it is not safe to leave. However, he first told us that was the way it was supposed to be installed. I have a feeling he wants to take the glass and walk away.

I am just about to put together a full letter about what the expectations are and send to him for a response.

I personally have a problem paying him 50% before he fixes anything, when there are so many issues already outstanding. I get that he did not take a deposit at the beginning in good faith, but to insist on half of the contract amount before he fixes a single thing just seems off to me. This can't be the norm?

Thanks again, I truly appreciate all the great feedback. I have a feeling we may be starting new with someone else.

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Date/Time10/22/2013 at 11:22:37 AM

1st what did you agree to pay? A basic bath reno runs $15-20,000. If you are paying less there is your first problem.

As to the fix....he has the option to fix it first, do not accept half butt repairs get a 2nd opinion from a proper contractor and insist it be done that way. A incentive will keep the contractor from "walking"..which by the way is really bad for a contractor to do but if he is making nothing may do just that. So pay him the 50% on the condition he gives an exact date to fix it, in a month when he has time is not "acceptable". If he reneges hire another contractor and then sue him in small claims for all costs to repair it..."you must have a contract with him". If no contract it is his word against yours and good luck getting a dime.

As I have stated a zillion times to clients "you get what you pay for"

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