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navyson
04-01-2010, 07:43 PM
Hello Everyone,
I have a question that I'd like to get some advice on if possible. I sealed the grout joints on a job I did in April 2009. New construction. Used Stone Tech/Dupont Advanced Aerosol Grout Sealer. Since it was aerosol, I did two good liberal coats to be safe. Get paid, and no further contact with the customer. Then, out of the blue, early this month (March) I get a letter from a lawyers office. In the letter they're telling me the grout stains very easily and it's "apparent" the grout was not sealed at all, and to make it right at my expense or someone will be hired and I'll be billed etc., etc.. Anyway, to make a long story shorter, I meet with the customer, and prove that the job was sealed. Even after a year the sealer is holding up. Then they are blaming the sealer for failure and want the grout joints cleaned. Well, the only areas that are dirty are the traffic areas (i.e. entry, hallway, kitchen, breakfast room). There are two adults, two kids, and two dogs and doesn't look like they've kept up with the cleaning as advised. Where does ones responsibility end, any answers?

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Davestone
04-01-2010, 07:48 PM
What kind of written warranty did you give?Did you give cleaning recommendations?Seems like you've proved it was sealed,and as i tell people sealers only guarantee they help grout(resist) staining.I'll put you in the pro section....

gueuzeman
04-01-2010, 07:54 PM
Seems the money they spent on the lawyer could have paid a pro cleaning outfit to clean the grout. I'd talk to my lawyer, and not do a thing.

The fact that they didn't try to solve this by calling you before having their attorney send you a letter says volumes about them as people. I bet they do stuff like this all the time.

.

khelman@charter.net
04-01-2010, 08:07 PM
That is why in ALL my contracts I tell the client although I will seal the grout this in no way shall be interpreted as a guarantee grout will not stain. It is put there just for jerks like these.

navyson
04-01-2010, 08:10 PM
As for care, I told them to use a tile and grout cleaner from Dupont if the grout joints started to look dirty (Lowe's is very near their house, told them they could purchase it there), or a mild cleaner that would not harm the coloring of the grout. I tried to nail down what type of cleaners they've used since some can strip the sealer off even after one wash, but they only said they recently have been using steam cleaner with no additives. And I also told them that the sealer wasn't stain proof, but stain resistant.

I'm kind of wondering if they are wanting a free grout cleaning and re-sealing since my workmanship warranty is about to be up, I think...

tilejoe
04-01-2010, 08:13 PM
geueze hit it on the head. talk to your lawyer. Good Luck

silvercitytile
04-01-2010, 08:19 PM
aerosol sealer sinks. i'm asuming the spray on kind. thats not gonna do what the paint/brush on penitrating sealer does:shake:

cx
04-01-2010, 08:23 PM
Depending upon what you have in writing between you and the customer, I'd send the attorney a brief note indicating that you had sealed the grout per your contract with the customer and sealer manufacturer's instructions (presuming all that is true and accurate) and assume no liability for the maintenance of the tile installation, citing ANSI A108.01.3.9.

And that's all I would say to anyone about that there. :)

Perhaps their attorney friend or relative will not be quite as anxious to bill E.I. Dupont for the cleanup of their grout.

My opinion; worth price charged.

SABoyt
04-01-2010, 08:24 PM
If you didn't have a written contract stating to the customer that the grout would not get stained, then it will become a he said she said situation. No judge is going to listen to that. The lawyer is probably a family member. They are notorious for not paying for anything and trying to scare everyone into doing work for free. I would just say, sue me! that's why i try to avoid doing work for attorneys.

Dan Kramer
04-01-2010, 08:25 PM
Well put, CX.

navyson
04-01-2010, 08:25 PM
aerosol sealer sinks. i'm asuming the spray on kind. thats not gonna do what the paint/brush on penitrating sealer does
Well, that's my fault, Daltile was buttering me up to try it out and I caved in. Too bad I can't foist this on them.:D

Edit: I have to admit that the sealer is holding up like I said, I usually use different product.

custombuilt
04-01-2010, 08:40 PM
do what cx said and forget about it. No matter how well you sealed it or didn't seal it you are not responsible for the cleaning and maintenance.

People like this are a joke.

navyson
04-01-2010, 09:28 PM
Depending upon what you have in writing between you and the customer, I'd send the attorney a brief note indicating that you had sealed the grout per your contract with the customer and sealer manufacturer's instructions (presuming all that is true and accurate) and assume no liability for the maintenance of the tile installation, citing ANSI A108.01.3.9.


Hi cx, would it be possible to give me a synopsis of ANSI A108.01.3.9 regarding maintanence, and if possible let me know where you obtained the ANSI book? Much appreciated.

cx
04-01-2010, 09:47 PM
I can't copy and paste from my version of the ANSI Standards, but here's kindly of what it says in salient part:

"3.9 Maintenance

All tile installations.................. require periodic inspection and maintenance.....

It is the owner's responsibility to provide for routine inspection and appropriate maintenance. Consult materials manufacturers and maintenance products manufacturers for recommended procedures."

This applies even to customers in the People's Republic of Austin where you say you sometimes gotta work.


OK, OK, I made up that last line, but the part in quotes is from ANSI A108.01.

You can purchase the tile standards publications online from the TCNA website (http://www.tileusa.com/publication_main.htm). Is where I get mine.

Well, 'cept if I'm atta trade show or manufacturer's seminar or if I just whine extry on here and one of our very generous manufacturer's reps sends me one to shut me up. :)

LAN1870
04-01-2010, 10:28 PM
When customers inquire about grout sealing, I let them know beforehand that sealing will only do so much. I tell them they can upgrade to stain resistant grout if they choose.

The last time I sealed a floor that I installed, I provided the customer with a brochure 'How to care for your tile floor' which I ordered from the TCNA website. I additionally gave them a business card for a professional grout cleaning service in my area that I recommend.

As far as your situation goes. I would tell them to contact the manufacturer regarding any warranty, etc. on the grout sealing product. You are only the installer of a product. You do not make the product.

Of course they're looking for a free grout cleaning. Call their bluff. :goodluck:

PS: It helps to have a contract and put everything in writing!

navyson
04-01-2010, 10:55 PM
PS: It helps to have a contract and put everything in writing!
Ah yes, it figures on something like this, one wasn't obtained. People lived in Houston, moved to Austin. Builder didn't offer grout sealing and so the story goes. There any printable contracts for grout sealing specifically? Not something you see everyday. (I know, stupid question, but how else to learn?)

cx
04-01-2010, 11:32 PM
OK, got my A108 back from the locksmith (thanks again, Dave :) ) and here's the full quote from the applicable section:

3.8 Damage to tilework

After completion and cleaning, the obligation of the tile contractor ceases as to damage or injury which may be done to the tilework by others.

3.9 Maintenance

All tile installations and especially exterior installations require periodic inspection and maintenance. All exterior installations require inspection and routine maintenance including the application of hydrophobic sealers, repair of movement joints, and replacement of cracked or missing tiles and grout. It is the owner’s responsibility to provide for routine inspection and appropriate maintenance. Consult material manufacturers and maintenance products
manufacturers for recommended procedures.

Houston Remodeler
04-01-2010, 11:39 PM
There is a difference between threatening to be sued and getting sued. People can stomp their feet all they want. The only thing you have to respond to is a lawsuit. I would chat with a good attorney before writing any letter to anyone or calling for that matter. You don't want anything written down that can bite you in the --- later.

My guess, they had a friend/ relative write the letter as a way to get free work. They do this all the time. Their house may be going up for sale soon or is listed already. I'd check the local listings.

Bill Vincent
04-01-2010, 11:50 PM
Hi cx, would it be possible to give me a synopsis of ANSI A108.01.3.9 regarding maintanence, and if possible let me know where you obtained the ANSI book? Much appreciated

That's not your problem. You give the lawyer the spec, and tell HIM to look it up. Make this miserable customer spend some money on this lawyer's time. ANSI is known and respected as the standard for all building specs in this country. That lawyer will know it.

Houston Remodeler
04-01-2010, 11:56 PM
Just be careful. Being right can still cost you a ton of money. I am the plaintiff in a lawsuit now entering its 6th year. The defendant lost at the Texas Supreme court and is still fighting. She is on her 8th lawyer.

You decide where to draw the line in dollars and aggravation.

navyson
04-02-2010, 09:49 AM
Thanks everyone for the input. It's much appreciated, honestly. Another question, what about offering compromise? Like: "This really is no longer my responsibility, but if you pay for labor, etc. I'll clean and reseal". Payment up front obviously. I'm not so much concerned about the customer as relationship with builder. I've worked with them for three years so far.

Edit:So far the builder hasn't said anything, since it's my deal with the customer. But, you know, if enough stink is raised......

cx
04-02-2010, 11:07 AM
For a customer who threatens legal action without even contacting you to let you know they think there is a problem? No, I don't think I'd make any effort at all on their behalf. I'd respond to the lawyer once, and not a word more.

If your builder should question you about it at some time future, just tell him what transpired, show him a copy of the letters if he's interested, and let the chips, if any, fall where they may.

Doubt you'll get any hassle from him at all.

2MinutesHate
04-02-2010, 11:38 AM
I don't think sealer is worth the paper is written on. People expect that because it's sealed that there's no reason for proper maintenance. When homeowners want me to seal something, I just tell them what product to use and caution them that it is not the be-all-end-all solution to grout discoloration due to dirt. Plus I tell them that they can save money by doing it themselves. That alleviates me from having to worry about how they maintain the tile work.

If they truly want something that resists staining, use epoxy grout or forget it.

Bill Vincent
04-02-2010, 04:36 PM
Thanks everyone for the input. It's much appreciated, honestly. Another question, what about offering compromise? Like: "This really is no longer my responsibility, but if you pay for labor, etc. I'll clean and reseal".

I'm with Cx. I wouldn't piss on their teeth if they were on fire without a court order at this point.

ob1kanobee
04-02-2010, 06:14 PM
Exactly what CX and Bill said, that is where I stand and good stuff there CX. Another thing, do they have receipts for the product they gave supposedly been purchasing over time? Also some kind of maintenance/cleaning schedule, any kind of documentation?

I had this happen to me with a high profile client where I went to the job to meet wth the homeowner and the daily made. I took a photo of all cleaning supplies expecoally the vinegar and talked to the made. After a few minutes of interogation Ben style lol I was able to get the made to admit she was using vinegar to clean the floor. Our proposal specifically states vinegar is not acceptable. It also states there is no waranty either expressed or implied on sealing of stone or grout unless they aquire a maintence contract with our company.
Only ever had one inquire about the maintenance contract or was really interested in one. I thought I charged enough to make them fall over but they took it. I eneded up subbing it out to a local restoration company and in short time with our blessing the restoration company took it over.

Rtile
04-04-2010, 11:31 AM
sounds like the kind of jerks that do a pre-warranty-expiration punch list to try to get as many free or pseudo free services as they can.

But to send a letter from a lawyer. wtf.
I like cx's idea. don't talk to them.