Saturday, 26 January 2013

Down the drain.

Dear Joe,

I had a “contractor” (and I use the term loosely) into my home to install some porcelain tile around the bathtub and on the floor.  I did all the prep work: plywood, waterproofing etc, and did a pretty good job, a job any tile guy would find acceptable.   All this guy had to do was come in and tile.  I supplied all the material and would’ve supplied anything else he required to do a quality job.  I left for work on the day he came to tile.  Upon my return I was shocked to see the quality of work this man had done on my house.  It is an understatement to say that he misrepresented himself, and now I’m stuck with this bathroom tiling job that I am truly embarrassed to show my family and friends.  My wife is upset, I’m upset, is there any way to repair the damage done to my home and how or should I seek some sort of damages from this guy? 

Tiled Out


Well Tiled Out,

That is quite a fix that you find yourself in.  My deepest condolences go out to you because I know the frustration, anger and disappointment that go along with a job not so well done.  I have been on two ends of this unhappy  triad, I’ve been the guy who’s paid for work that I am completely unsatisfied with, and also been the contractor who’s been asked into someone’s home to repair the damage done by a careless, heartless contractor.

At a time like this it’s terrible of me to say I told you so, so I won’t. I’ll just take this opportunity to tell everyone reading this that this is why I preach:  never hire a contractor out of the blue.  Get referrals.  Talk to your dad, your boss, your bowling buddies, even your garbage collector.  Find out who’s doing the best work around, which contractors are making people happy.  A satisfied customer is all the advertising a good contractor needs but in order for that advertising to work, the consumer has to do his or her due diligence when hiring someone to work on their home.  That’s how trust is built.  You wouldn’t let a doctor you didn’t trust cut you open, so why would you let a contractor who hasn’t earned your trust to do the same thing to your second most valuable asset?  But I digress…

Back to your question: First, There’s not much you can do to fix it, if it’s that bad that you can’t live with it the only remedy for a bad tile job is rip it out and begin again.  Problem with that is in ripping it off you will also ruin all the careful prep work that you did before this all happened.  More mess, more money, more time…

As far as seeking reparations from this guy, all I can say to that is good luck.  What you see as a waste of time and money, this guy sees as a hard day’s work and a well-earned paycheck.   Giving you any money back is essentially taking food out of his kids’ mouths and clothes off his back; sorry to say I doubt it’s going to happen.  Yes he screwed up, yes he took your money but he like you has bills to pay and mouths to feed.  He probably shouldn’t be in this line of work, but the best thing you can do is warn him that you are not satisfied.  Take your complaints to a place that you can use them to protect other consumers: local retailers, the better business bureau, chamber of commerce.  If you really need to see some money back, your last recourse will be to take him to small claims court.  But be warned this is an arena that if you are not familiar with it, it will prove to be a frustrating fruitless exercise in law 101.  Yes, you’ll learn a lot, but you’ll probably not get much of your money back and spend more in the process.  The hours spent preparing, copies, days off work, and all that even if you don’t hire a lawyer.  If you hire a lawyer then it’s strictly about principal, but there’s a lot to be said for principal. Then again, principals never paid the bills…

If you prepare yourself and handle everything yourself you could hope to recoup about 50% of what you’ve  lost, the courts are fair and will probably penalize you to some extent for not exercising your due diligence.  Going forward let this be a valuable lesson to us all that a little bit of leg work before starting a project will pay dividends in the long run.

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