Sid Bourne on judging the ‘good’ and the ‘bad’ customers
I WAS called out by a consumer who had a problem with a finger block oak flooring which had dramatically failed after being installed by Bob the builder.
To be fair to Bob, he made the most basic mistake. I see this regularly from other so-called professional installers, not knowing how wood works. In fact, they know diddly.
The call out came and merrily I went along to the site to find the floor buckled and lifted. In fact half the floor was gone with only the asphalt subfloor visible.
It was agreed with the consumer that Bob would be present onsite because he thought that there was something drastically wrong with the wood flooring. It was no surprise that the consumer agreed with and supported Bob.
On entering the room I realised immediately what had caused the problem. But as soon as Bob saw me he immediately went on that product was crap. Isn’t it mate, he said, with the consumer cheering him on with squeals of – yes it’s crap. ‘I have never seen anything like it before in my life’.
I didn’t get involved in the discussion on the merits of the floor. I just said I would get on with my inspection of the problem and write my report accordingly. As I was kneeling down for a closer look at the floor, the consumer began an outburst – make sure you tell the manufacturers that I will be suing them for the mess and inconvenience and for selling me a product that is not fit for purpose.
I politely smiled back at the consumer. OK, just let me do my inspection. But I did have one question for the consumer: what type of flooring was down previously. Apparently old Marley thermo plastic tiles had been down for many years. They had been removed by Bob. I asked how old the property was. It was at least the early 1940’s when it was built.
I also wanted to know if any works had ever been carried out to the concrete subfloor. The consumer said his father had owned the house and left to him. But no works had been carried out by him or his father. This meant that there was likely to be no mechanical ground dpm.
I asked the consumer for permission to take out part of the asphalt and concrete with a bore drill; he agreed. As I assumed, there was no mechanical ground DPM; there was what was known as a direct to earth subfloor.
I asked Bob if he would tell me exactly what he had done about subfloor preparation. And had he carried out any tests? Bob replied: ‘I am a builder not a surveyor; it’s not my job!’
Bob was immediately cheered on by the consumer. ‘Why are you asking Bob these questions?’ I replied that since the consumer had called me in, he wanted to know why the floor had failed. You paid me a fee to be honest. And I added: Unless I am 100% confident that I know the cause of the failure there is no point at all in you paying me.
The consumer agreed. But then Bob, starting to feel uneasy, said to the consumer: ‘He had better not try and blame me’.
But the consumer reassured Bob: ‘I am sure you have done everything correctly’.
Meanwhile, I found the oak floor had been fully bonded directly onto the asphalt subfloor. This was a big NO NO. It was a floating floor and would lift as the wood expands and, as what happened in this case, break and crack.
I found that the old thermoplastic tiles had been installed directly to the asphalt subfloor with a bitumen adhesive and only luck saved the original installers. I bet he could win the lottery with luck like that.
Also the original installer, however many years before, had glued a bitumen paper down and then the tiles.
Just then Bob left the house as the consumer was starting to get rather interested. He then asked if I knew the cause. I said yes I did, but it would all be in my written report.
Just then the consumer let slip a vital piece of information. He said: ‘I don’t know if this is important, but before Bob agreed to do the job I had a quote from a local floor specialist. He said he could not install the wood floor directly onto the thermoplastic tiles. They would have to be removed by an asbestos specialist.
‘He could also not install the wood onto the asphalt subfloor and would suggest that he chose another product’.
At the same time Bob the builder was working on the refurbishment and overheard the conversation with the flooring specialist. Later Bob told the consumer that the specialist was just trying to rip him off. According to Bob there would be no problems and he would do the work cheaper.
I didn’t respond to this information from the consumer, but I think that as he was telling me the penny had dropped. It was only a matter of time before the failure of the floor Bob installed, in this case just three weeks.
Bob had gone ahead and installed direct to asphalt. That, as I said before, is wrong. It left old bitumen and old bitumen paper still down and a big contaminate. That lifted the thermoplastics which could contain deadly asbestos, obviously wrong. And he left no expansion gaps and so on.
I completed the report which, no surprise, did not meet with Bob’s approval. He would see me in court, he said. However, the consumer eventually saw that Bob was at fault and started proceedings against Bob who, to be fair, paid up before the case had gone too far.
The consumer contacted me several weeks later, telling me he had now got a new floor from the specialist retailer who had previously visited the site and he was over the moon with the new flooring, even though it was not a real wood floor.
The customer ended up using a professional who knew his stuff and received a quality job.
I would just like to say please please to all you Bob the builders out there: Stick to building and leave the flooring to flooring specialists or one day all the flooring specialist will start building extensions and nicking your work and see how you like it.