A pig of a job
Sid Bourne meets the most stubborn Bob the Builder yet. When it came to this job, ‘sorry’ was the hardest word.
I RECENTLY attended a site meeting between a construction company and the installers of LVT flooring that had failed in the first six plots. It’s not uncommon for me to be invited to such a meeting, but in this case, the discussion didn’t go quite to plan. I know you won’t believe this, but Bob the builder was the installer in question.
The problem was that there was shadowing through of the uneven subfloor and header joints opening up. I’d carried out a conclusive report as to how and why the issues had occurred and thought the meeting would be a simple discussion about how to avoid the same problem.
At this stage, I was unaware Bob the Builder had installed the flooring.
On attendance, I was met by the building construction manager who was very friendly and polite and who introduced me to Bob who looked at me as though he wanted to put me through a mincing machine and feed me to pigs. To be fair, he wasn’t alone in his apprehension; I couldn’t understand why the construction company had used Bob in the first place. Why hadn’t they chosen a professional flooring company?
We entered the first plot with the construction manager asking how we could resolve the issue. I said that I thought I’d made it quite clear in my report, which he acknowledged. He added: ‘I hear you, but how do we resolve this without replacing the floor? Can we use underlay on top of the underlay that’s already down?’
I didn’t have to say anything as the manager said: ‘OK, forget that. This meeting is a bit awkward.’
I said: ‘There’s only one way to resolve the issue and that’s to uplift and start again - and this time do it correctly.’
Bob was still glaring at me, but it was agreed that on the empty plot we’d uplift the LVT to further inspect as they were all adamant this could be resolved without doing anything to the subfloor.
On removal of the LVT, the subfloor looked like a volcano had erupted and believe it or not the construction manager and Bob said it wasn’t that bad and they’d seen far worse.
‘Really?’ I asked, unable to conceal a hint of sarcasm.
‘Are you saying I’m incapable of putting down a smoothing compound?’ Bob snapped.
I turned to the construction manager. ‘Can you confirm you’d like an open and honest discussion about this?’
I turned back to Bob. ‘It’s not that you can’t do it, it’s that you can’t do it correctly to acceptable standards. That requires a flooring specialist.’
Bob giggled. ‘Don’t give me that! Flooring specialists are a bunch of unqualified cowboys.’
‘Well, Bob,’ I said. ‘It’s your work I’m inspecting, and it’s not right, so let’s not knock flooring specialists. Anyway, I thought this meeting was about resolving the problem, not slinging insults at each other.’
The construction manager stepped in at this point. ‘OK,’ he said. ‘Let’s settle this.’
I showed him the damage to the headers and how uneven the subfloor was. ‘How on Earth can you think this can be resolved by doing nothing?’
I turned to Bob. ‘How did you put the header joints together?’
‘With a hammer.’
I was astounded. ‘The instructions for this product clearly said not to use a hammer.’
‘What a load of b*******,’ said Bob.
At this point, the area director popped in and asked me my opinion. I told him how to resolve the issue and, to my surprise, he said: ‘Right lads, that’s what we’re going to do.’
‘You need an LVT flooring expert who has contacted the manufacturer and been given the details of a local specialist.’
I was getting into my car when Bob tapped on my window. ‘You thinking you’re so f****** clever has cost me the job.’
‘I don’t want to argue about this,’ I said. ‘I wish you the best, have a beautiful day.’
On driving away, I couldn’t help but notice the expressions on Bob’s face. He could’ve won a gurning competition – it was terrific.
Soon thereafter, I was phoned by the director of the homebuilders who asked if they could pay me to oversee the subfloor preparation and installation. I told him if he found the right company, he wouldn’t have problems, so it was agreed I’d return on a suitable date.
On my return I met the flooring contractors who were taking photos of the subfloor, not believing what they were seeing and laughing in derision. They scrabbled away the latex and eventually laid the smoothing compound. Believe it or not, they actually used a spiked roller which resulted in a perfect finish. When I returned a couple of days later, they were in the process of installing.
‘I need to check the subfloor,’ I told the installers at this point. It was perfect. ‘I’m not being funny, but I was paid to review everything,’ I said. They were a bit shocked as this was their routine job and they couldn’t understand why I’d want to check their work. I explained, and they understood.
I watched them install with great skill and care and noted they’d measured correctly, working to lines. They completed the installation that day. The director met me onsite, saying he was amazed at the standard of work.
Bob was then summoned by the director, and in front of me, was told: ‘Bob, I need you to observe the job – that is how it should’ve been done!’
Bob inspected the job and said: ‘It’s no better than mine.’
I was stunned. Now my face resembled Bob’s after he’d confronted me in my car, but I simply couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
‘OK,’ said the director. ‘Let’s go to plot six and test your opinion.’
It was a shock: there were large ridges, trowel marks, bits under the flooring, which was so uneven that I felt seasick.
The director said: ‘Bob, please tell me you can see the difference?’
‘No,’ said Bob.
‘You’ll never install another floor for this company again,’ the director told Bob.
The result was the flooring specialist got the contract. It’s incredible what ‘unqualified cowboys’ can do. Manufacturers learn your lesson: don’t let Bob install your LVT; it’s just not worth it.