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Don’t shoot the messenger

Richard says he’s sometimes felt the need for a hardhat when his inspections don’t go the way the customer or installer want them to

IN English we call it ‘shooting the messenger’, in Latin it’s known as Ad hominem. I don’t know Latin and have only included this to show the problem has been around for many years, probably existing well before the Romans gave it a name.
When you can’t win an argument by logic or reasoning, attack the person putting forward the opinion. If you can discredit them, you can hope their opinion loses its value.

It’s a familiar tactic when you’re called on to inspect a failed floor, although it has several forms, some of which are easier to see through than others.

Mrs J welcomed me to her home and showed me the problems she was having. Before I could carry out any checks or form conclusions, she told me she knew what I was going to say because I’d have to protect the interests of the company who’d called me in.

Ben, the installer, told me how many floors of this type he’d installed over the past 40 years and how he’d never had a problem. He didn’t say this because he thought it would prove he was right; he said it to show he knew more than me and outranked me by experience.

Brad teamed up with Mr L, his customer, to send a joint letter to the retailer who had forwarded on my report. In it he referred to me as ‘your guy’ and his customer stated I’d made it very clear I was attending on behalf of the retailer – which was true in the sense that they were paying me, but not in the sense that he was implying.
My report, in his eyes, was ‘an attempt to provide (the retailer) with justification for not honouring their warranty. It’s not a balanced report, it lacks important detail…’

Occasionally a disgruntled installer will challenge me to go back and confirm my findings and I’m always happy to do this, offering to do it without charge if it’s found I’ve made a mistake. I’ve made this offer quite a few times, but have never been taken up on it.

It was a surprise, therefore, to have two instructions to go back to floors which I’d previously visited but which had been rectified and had then failed again. In both cases the retailers were happy to pay my fees. I inspected both jobs last week and made sure my hardhat was in the boot just in case.

In the first case I’d inspected some flooring in a kitchen and had found the feet of the kitchen units were standing on the flooring preventing the natural expansion and contraction of the floating flooring.

My report had advised that this was the cause of the problem, and the photographs had shown some of the feet on the flooring. I was assured it had been put right, and this was confirmed by the end-user at the time of my visit. The installer didn’t turn up.

I removed the kitchen plinths from the peninsular units of the kitchen. Sure enough, the feet had been wound up so they weren’t touching the flooring at all. All the weight of the kitchen units was on the end panels of the kitchen. Same amount of weight, same restriction on the flooring.

In the second case the flooring was also a floating floor, this time a herringbone SPC. The kitchen had been altered by the insertion of overhead steel work supported on a central pillar to create a large open-plan living area.

On my previous visit I’d shown how the flooring had been close-fitted along the bi-fold doors which formed the end wall of the property so the fitter explained how he’d now cut an oversize expansion gap. This was visible because he hadn’t fixed any beading or trims in place and the gap was twice the size it needed to be. It was so big, in fact, I could see glue on the subfloor and when I tried to lift the edges of the tiles they wouldn’t budge.

‘Oh, yes,’ said the fitter. ‘When you fit this you have to start with all the small cut pieces along the framing to start the herringbone pattern and work out from there, so I stuck these down to prevent them moving while I was working.’

I’ve just improved my Latin by one more phrase, courtesy of Google: Non potes ducere equam ad aquam, sed non potes facere bibet. In English that means ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’.

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