Wood you believe it!

Bob the Builder is switching his attention away from wood and more towards LVT, as Sid Bourne discovered on a recent inspection.

THE tide is turning, as they say. I’ve noticed a significant change in complaints, with wood flooring being at one time the most common complaint – not because there’s anything wrong with the product but mainly because Bob the Builder loves to fit wood and because, as he quite often tells me, there’s nothing to it.

Well, now Bob is switching his attention to LVT, especially the click systems/looselay systems. The complaints are getting steadily worse and more regular.

I recently got involved with a dispute with LVT, where refurbishment works were being carried out at a property which dates to the ‘30s, involving an extension to the kitchen and new conservatory also being built.

The complaint by the consumer (who had Bob install about 70sq m of LVT to the existing kitchen, utility, existing rear study and new extension and conservatory), was that the LVT was lifting and was very uneven especially in the existing kitchen.

Both parties shared my fee which is surprising for Bob; however on attending site with Bob and his heavies along with the consumer’s son (as the property owners were very elderly and upset with what was occurring).

The lady of the home explained her husband wasn’t very good on his feet and that he’d already had a fall and had been hospitalised so they felt unsafe owing to the LVT flooring.

The only way I can describe the kitchen is that it was like walking the cobbles of Coronation Street, so bad was the flooring. I immediately took part of it up to expose the original quarry tiles, which were so uneven even kneeling on them took some balancing skills.

I politely asked Bob why he’d installed directly over the old quarries. He quickly replied that you can go over anything with these and that he’d gone over worse floors in his time. Bob promptly got an empty box to show how LVT will bridge voids in the subfloor and can go over any type of subfloor. This annoyed me. I have to ask: Why do some manufacturers make such stupid statements on LVT cartons? Don’t they know that this is exactly the type of ‘evidence’ Bob looks for in order to take advantage of a situation?

Besides the quarry tiles, there were all sorts of installation errors. I asked Bob to confirm whether he’d used a flooring specialist to install, to which he responded: ‘No, the labourer installed it for me - he always does a good job.’

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I asked Bob whether he thought that was acceptable to which he replied: ‘Why, what’s wrong with it? We can stick some underlay under the LVT to resolve this and it will give you a nice soft feel.’

The owner’s son wasn’t amused and accused him of ripping off his parents. Bob countered that the expert (me, in this case) would prove in my report that Bob had done an excellent job. I started to gently cough, thinking Bob would burst out laughing at his joke but no, he genuinely thought he’d done a good job.

Now I’m not exaggerating when I say the lumps in the flooring from the quarry tiles were so uneven, that I couldn’t believe anyone in their right mind couldn’t see it. I contacted the manufacturer who defended the product, which to be fair was a very good product, but which had been installed in such a poor manner on the basis of the quotes on the carton.

I asked the manufacturer: ‘Why on Earth do you put such stupid quotes on the outside of a carton? The reply was: ‘We have to compete, and you can put this on any subfloor providing it’s prepared correctly, which it clearly stated in its installation instructions - which Bob clearly never read.’

Once my report had been completed and submitted, I got the inevitable call from Bob. He called me names I never knew existed and, for good measure, threw in a few you certainly wouldn’t find in an Oxford dictionary.

I nonetheless thanked him for being so lovely.

Bob’s solicitor was soon in touch – with somewhat less colourful language – telling me Bob wanted to go to court over the matter. His main argument was that he’d been following instructions on the packaging that said the product can be installed on the subfloor and will go over voids. On the strength of this quote, Bob believed he had a chance. After proceedings were put in place and after replying to Bob’s solicitor, it was agreed the monies charged would be paid back to the consumer.

I was glad it had now been resolved, with a flooring specialist now carrying out the required works after the old quarries were dug up and a mechanical ground DPM was put in.

Several months later I got a call from the consumer saying the floor looked stunning, and they were very pleased, inviting me to see for myself, which I did a couple of weeks later as I was in the area. What a difference! The floor was installed perfectly – it was flat and laid out to perfection.

I often wonder if it had finished up in court, would the builder have got away with it on the grounds of the quotes on the packaging made by the manufacturer? I think it would have been a close call. I fully understand it’s a business, but to mislead untrained installers is asking for trouble.

I hate nothing more than going onsite to inspect a failed floor installation and getting stupid comments from the consumers, usually stating that they employed Bob because he’s more qualified than professional floorlayers. I also have a bugbear about Bob and his friends saying that installing a floor doesn’t take much skill.

If that was truly the case, why do I end up having to attend so many complaints where Bob has messed up? Usually he blames the product, not the installation, and often a pathetic attempt will have been made at subfloor preparation - if any has been done at all.

I hate to admit it, but when consumers back Bob up even when it’s glaringly apparent the problem is with the installation, they deserve what they get because they chose to believe Bob over everyone else.

I had a consumer book me to carry out an inspection after the supplier sent their independent expert to carry out a report. The consumer sent this report to me, to which I said: ‘Well, if the installation is as this reports states, then save your money because I’ll be saying the same.’

The consumer said: ‘No, that’s incorrect. Bob has been installing floors like this for years and is exceptionally skilful and I had to wait months before Bob could do the job for me, so good is his reputation.’

‘Are you sure?’ I asked. ‘Yes!’ said the consumer, resoundingly. ‘Please come out to inspect the floor as Bob says the product is cheap and nasty and is made by a manufacturer which doesn’t know how to make these floors (honest) and that’s why the joints are all open.

Once again, I found an incredibly bad installation with no subfloor preparation having been done at all. The job was only 40sq m, and Bob charged £35sq m to install and complete this in the same day (not bad for a day’s work), only for the problems to arise within two days after install.

Needless to say, I blamed Bob, with the consumer eventually coming around to this and pursuing him. But he still wouldn’t accept liability until the consumer went to court and won her case.

I received a call several days after the lady had won in court, asking if I knew any excellent builders to fit the floor. I said: ‘Why, after what happened to you the first time, are you still asking me to name a builder? Why don’t you just contact a local flooring specialist?’
‘But builders are more qualified,’ the lady protested.

‘They are not specialists,’ I insisted. ‘It’s like going to a carpet retailer to get building work done in your home – you just wouldn’t do it.’
‘Don’t be silly,’ giggled the lady, ‘you can’t have building work carried out by a carpet shop.’

‘I rest my case,’ I said. ‘I can’t recommend anyone unfortunately; as I carried out the report, I must be seen to be impartial.’
Hopefully, the lady now realises that builders shouldn’t be let anywhere near flooring installations.

Please LVT manufacturers - help stop Bob ruining the industry with poor installations and only guarantee your products if they’re carried out by a qualified flooring expert who has attended installation courses.

A trained installer will know how to install and prepare the subfloor correctly. Courses in LVT installation are held at FloorSkills and are tailored to take installers through all levels of experience – from beginners to highly skilled motif and custom designs.

To conclude, I’m now getting typical comments from consumers who say they’ll never have another LVT flooring, as it’s rubbish, when in fact it’s not rubbish – it’s just that Bob has ruined it for them. So, Bob – go off and build a house and, for goodness sake, just stay away from the flooring!