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A point to prove

Richard Renouf is encouraged, while dealing with a recent carpet complaint, to hear someone thinking more about their customer than proving their point.

‘I’M right’ or ‘they’re wrong’ is the usual motivation for people requesting an independent inspection report, so it was refreshing to receive a call which took a different angle today.

The call came on the same day I’d received an email from a homeowner whose flooring I’d inspected some considerable time ago at the request of the flooring company which had installed LVT more than five years ago.

I’d highlighted some structural changes to the property which had caused damage to the flooring installation, and had concluded this wasn’t the contractor’s liability as the work had been done to BS 8203 and the subfloor wouldn’t have cracked if the structural work hadn’t been carried out.

My report was challenged by the homeowner and his ‘expert’. How could I be sure, for example, that the ply was fixed at 150mm centres unless I’d taken up the tiles and smoothing compound?

It sounds a fair question, but having seen the photographs of the work in progress, I was confident.

The email had an attachment: a picture of a piece of plywood about half a metre square which had apparently been taken up during remedial work by another company. The picture showed the underside of the ply and the protruding fixings which had been levered out of the timber subfloor. A tape measure showed two of the fixings were 200 mm apart, therefore my report was wrong! There was nothing to show where the ply had been lifted from, nor any other part of the installation to show this was an endemic problem.

The omission of one fixing was, technically, a fault, but it wouldn’t have caused the extensive cracking the customer had blamed on the floorlayer.

There was no point in replying as I knew the contractor had settled the matter anyway and the remedial work was being paid for by the generous refund the contractor had given in spite of the age of the flooring and the clear cause of the problems. The customer wanted, and had, the last word on the matter.

The call also came on the day I’d written up a report of a site inspection where I’d been met by the property developer who watched my every move. When I got out my moisture meter and he noted the high moisture readings, he challenged whether the meter was in calibration.

‘It can’t be right’, he said. ‘This slab went down more than 18 months ago.’ We checked the tiled floor in the hall and utility, and we checked the anhydrite screed in the garage (complete with flowmarks where it had not been spread correctly) but the difference in the moisture content readings because of the chemical differences between gypsum and cement only added to the developer’s suspicions, and there was not time to go through the kind of information that would be covered during a professional ‘understanding moisture’ course such as the one provided by FITA.

My report had included additional information to try to forestall any further challenges by the developer, but I’m expecting the results of an ill-informed perusal of Google results to head my way before too long.

The call that had now diverted my attention, however, was about the results of some carpet cleaning which I’d looked at a few weeks ago. The stair carpet had, according to the consumer, developed a striped appearance on the kite and winders at the bottom of the stairs which were, unlike the rest of the staircase, in natural light from a small window.

I’d lifted the carpet to check the backing and also brought away an offcut which had been in the loft for three years and had done a few tests to check the yarn and the cleaning chemicals used. If there was a problem, and in my view there wasn’t when you considered the age of the carpet, it wasn’t the cleaning company’s fault and my report had made this clear.

‘What do you think it would take to resolve this?’ was the question put to me by the proprietor. I quickly estimated the amount of carpet that would be needed for the stairs and landing (the hall wasn’t carpeted). Three linear metres would be plenty. Not a huge cost for the company who also had a flooring shop.

‘Although I know you’re right that it’s not our fault, the cost of not resolving this is likely to be much greater than doing so, don’t you agree?’ I did. And I was encouraged to hear someone thinking more about their customer than proving their point. 

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