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Unread 06-12-2021, 02:06 PM   #1
benHaskett
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My Home Repair Company Nightmare

Hi, everyone. First-time poster here, I believe*, from Sacramento, CA. After I finished typing this message, I looked at it and I now see that it is really, really long. Sorry about that. But I could really use a few pairs of eyes on this. I'm not construction savvy, and I'm worried the construction company we hired isn't doing a very good job.

First, I'm curious if someone can help me interpret a building code. I work as a court clerk, and it always surprises me when filers call and cite a rule as proof they can do something, but they almost always conflate or misattribute the rules. For the record, I think that's understandable; the California Rules of Court are hard, and first-time litigants will of course occasionally glean the wrong information from them.

Now I'm worried I'm doing the same thing about the California Plumbing Code, haha. Up front, I realize that I'm asking for opinions here; I'm just curious what others think.

Anyway: I am a homeowner. I hired a construction company (a big one, around 150 employees) to do a number of things. One of them was replacing the bath tub and tilework in the primary bathroom. This is a weird bathroom, by the way. It's small, it's crowded. Before I move on to the tile, see this tub they installed in the image down below. It has a 12-inch long, 40-degree slant on the end opposite the drain (apparently, this is the norm with tubs now—called a soaker tub). This end of the tub is the only convenient entrance; the other end has the toilet only 14 inches away.

My worry is that someone is going to slip and fall on this wet tub (namely, me!). I brought it up and they said (reluctantly) that they can pull it out and replace it with a shower pan, but that it would be really costly. But I started wondering if this was even up to code. Code 408.5 of the California Plumbing Code states "Thresholds shall be of sufficient width to accommodate a minimum 22 inch door. Shower doors shall open so as to maintain not less than a 22 inch unobstructed opening for egress."

The shower door would be 29.5 inches wide, and with the 40-degree slope there, it only leaves 17.5 inches of flat space to step into (4.5 inches short of the required 22). So, the question I have is: In your casual opinion, would you consider that 40-degree slope an obstruction? You definitely cannot walk on it. Or, am I interpreting this code too broadly?

--

Okay, that's issue number one. The second issue is the tilework. We asked them if they could do subway tiles, you know, brick style, and they said yes without hesitation. They ripped out the existing tiles and walls. They replaced it with Hardiebacker until about 20 inches from the ceiling, and then Fiberock for the last 20 inches to the ceiling. Then they painted over the whole thing with RedGard. And then they finished tiling two of three walls. Before you look at any of the pictures, please keep in mind they haven't applied grout yet, so it looks worse right now than it really is.

Please see the attached images below. As you can really easily see, especially in the image where the tiles end, the offsets are super uneven. The bottom tile sliver there is about 2.25 inches long. Go up two rows and it's 2 inches long, two more and it's 1.25, so on and so on until it's just a little sliver, and then we're back to a whole tile. I attached little "plumb lines" in various spots on the tub (metal washers tied to strings, haha) and the tilework is simply very inconsistent. Is this normal for home tilework? When the construction worker came in and saw me looking at it, he said, "Looking pretty good, right?" Should we ask them to tear it down and re-do it?

Also see the window trim image. Those long white strips are plastic grout liners. That looks really hokey to me. I expected tile on tile. Is this normal?

Third issue is that those tiles in the on the edge bulge out from the rest of the tiles. I mentioned this to the contractor before he left, and he said, "Well, of course they do. the Hardiebacker isn't as thick as your existing drywall, so that depth difference is going to result in slightly slanted tiles. It's no big deal." He then took a straight edge and showed me on the un-tiled wall that there was indeed about a .25 inch difference in thickness between the two walls. (See the image where I hold a plank of wood up to the wall). But come on... they installed the new walls—shouldn't they make sure the thickness matches and then build out if necessary? This isn't normal, is it?

Fourth, and finally, please see two images of the ceiling. Those jagged edges are from where they pulled down the original tiles and walls. I asked the construction worker what his plan was, and he said he was just going to paint and caulk it together. But... I mean, that can't be right, can it? Shouldn't they cut out and replace it with new sheetrock on the ceiling?

If anyone actually reads this long post, thank you for your time. My gut tells me to have them rip it all out and start over Monday morning, but 1., I'm not sure if I'm being reasonable, and 2., I'm honestly not sure if I trust them to do a thorough job. This isn't some mom-and-pop contractor—again, they have over 150 employees. The boss told me he was sending over his "tile guy" to do the job. And man, if this is his tile guy... is this really the best he can do?

*When I tried to sign up for an account, it said I already had one. Perhaps this forum runs on the same backend of other forums I've visited?
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Unread 06-12-2021, 02:35 PM   #2
Lazarus
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Looks pretty amateurish to me, Ben. I wouldn't put my name on it or accept it....
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Unread 06-12-2021, 03:00 PM   #3
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I agree with Laz. I would put a halt to the work and call a meeting with the boss man. I'd leave the plumb lines in place and ask him if anything looks odd.

Get ready for him to tell you your walls are out of whack and that's why the tile stagger isn't plumb. He should have plumbed the walls if they weren't already.
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Unread 06-13-2021, 12:54 AM   #4
benHaskett
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Thank you both for your responses. I think I'm going to push for a do-over on Monday.

If anyone else sees this and has opinions on the code question, I'd love to hear it!
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Unread 06-13-2021, 12:55 AM   #5
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I really hope he doesn't try to argue that the walls are the issue—they tore down the walls and built new ones, so if the walls really are at fault, then it's their fault.
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Unread 06-13-2021, 08:26 AM   #6
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Every other row should run parallel with your plumb line, or real close to it. I agree with you, if they built the walls, they should have made them plumb. Common sense says to draw plumb lines on the walls to keep this from happening. I'm not sure where they started the layout.
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Unread 06-13-2021, 12:50 PM   #7
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The layout needs to be changed to avoid those slivers at the end of every other row.
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Unread 06-13-2021, 01:09 PM   #8
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Welcome back, Ben.

If you'll click on your User Name to see your profile and look under Statistics for Find All Threads Started By...... you'll find this thread from 2011. That's why our site thinks you've been here before, eh?

I think you'll find the minimum shower door opening per the building/plumbing code refers to just that - the door opening. The dispute about what's inside the door is gonna be a discussion between you and your code compliance inspector. I don't recall any code specification that deals directly with that, but I'm a bit out of touch these days. I agree that it could constitute a slip/fall hazard, but everything about a bath tub constitutes such a hazard. Talk with your compliance official. I suspect the only thing he's gonna recommend is that you use great care in entry and exit from the tub.

The requirement for the toilet location is that the center of the toilet drain be a minimum of 15" from an obstruction on either side. You've got plenty of room there according to code.

The tile layout is poor, as others have pointed out, and that is always the "fault" of the installer. If there was actually a problem with your walls, the tile contractor should have pointed it out to you and you would either agree to pay to correct the situation, live with the result as-is, or find a different contractor. In your case, where he actually built the walls, there's simply no question of who's responsible. He is aware that it was his responsibility. The only fix I can see is a do-over.

What waterproofing method was used on the shower walls?

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Unread 06-14-2021, 08:29 AM   #9
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I don't see a shower door so I'm wondering where you got that 29.5" dimension from; is that your own estimate? Are you planning some kind of sliding shower or hinged glass door -- the actual opening dimension could be even smaller than 29.5"?
If you end up keeping that tub with bench, I think you may just want a curtain rod to allow easier entry/exit.
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Unread 06-14-2021, 11:30 AM   #10
benHaskett
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Thank you all for your replies! CX, thank you in particular for your insight about the code--you saved me from making a fool out of myself! Further, oh my goodness, I remember that old thread now! I totally epoxied that soap dish back into place and it held perfectly until it was all torn down in this construction project.

The waterproofing used was RedGard. The plan was indeed to have a sliding glass door.

This forum rocks. After they finished up last Friday, I asked the boss to come out and take a look at it. He said he couldn't, and in retrospect, I am so happy because it gave me time to re-discover this forum and start this thread. Your replies gave me the confidence I needed to be assertive. Further, because I was so stressed about this upcoming confrontation (only slept about six hours over the last three nights), I read thread after thread after thread here about y'all discussing best practices. I'm not going to quit my day-job and become a contractor any time soon, but thanks to this forum, I know what RedGard is. I know what HardieBacker and Fiberock is, and I know the difference. I know that you can work with drywall of differing thickness if you properly apply the mortar and feather it. And I know when caulk is a good tool and when you should drywall mud instead.

(Davy, for the record, the boss did indeed arrive with a level this morning and he initially suggested the walls might be the issue.)

I left all my homemade plumb lines in place to show how stilted the tilework was and he immediately said some of it should be taken down and redone. Then I showed him the patchy RedGard application. Then I showed him that they replaced the underlying drywall with a mixture of 1/2"-thick Fiberock and 1/4"-thick Hardiebacker, and then connected them with mortar but never flattened or feathered it out (it was so thick that it cast a shadow). I showed him how they didn't even let the mortar dry before applying the RedGard. And finally he was like, "Sorry, our tile guy was on another project and our dry rot guy said he knew tiling, so we assigned him to this project." He agreed to have the guys come back in, tear everything down to the studs, and then schedule the actual tile guy to come out here and re-do everything. And that extra cost I mentioned for switching from a tub to a shower pan? Gone. We're sticking with the original price.

So, once again, you're all awesome, this forum is awesome, and I wish this was in person because I'd definitely buy everyone a round.

I will say, though, that I do feel a little bad. Even though the guys who did the tilework weren't cut out for it (yet), they were some of the friendliest people I've ever met. They were conversational and willing to engage. They were the ones who pointed out to me that they were using two different types of drywall for the project, and that he didn't think Fibrerock was as suitable but that it would be okay because he was only installing near the top. I feel terrible that I sort of used that information against him, but I was just so scared I'd be stcuk with that tilework.
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Unread 06-14-2021, 11:33 AM   #11
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Also, Phil, sorry, I didn't fully answer your question. The 29.5" was an estimate on my part. I measured the distance from edge to edge of the tub and it was 60". I split that in two and then figured that there would have to be at least a little overlap of the glass doors to prevent water spillage, and I simply guessed an inch. You're absolutely right that it might have been an even tighter opening. Thankfully, after we get the shower pan in there, it won't be an issue.
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Unread 06-14-2021, 07:36 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben
He agreed to have the guys come back in, tear everything down to the studs, and then schedule the actual tile guy to come out here and re-do everything.
Glad to hear that. Only acceptable response.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ben
...our dry rot guy said he knew tiling, so we assigned him to this project.
I've hired a lotta subcontractors in 30+ years of residential new construction and remodeling, but I ain't never had a "dry rot guy."
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Unread 06-15-2021, 12:14 PM   #13
benHaskett
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Necessary to fill in screw holes and make clean drywall cuts?

Hi there. I recently hired a home repair company to re-do part of our bathroom. This involved tearing the old tub and tile walls out and replacing them with a shower pan and subway tiles. Unfortunately, they were a bit short-staffed and instead of rescheduling, sent in a guy who clearly knew a thing or two but had never taken the lead on a project like this. You can see this thread here for pictures of those results.

After some mild pressure, the boss man agreed to have all the work torn out and re-done, all the way down to the studs. The two demolition guys were done in two hours. Next monday, their legit "tile guy" is going to come in and do the project.

The cement board screws are still in the beams. I guess I can see why; it probably would have taken a long time to remove all of them (there are easily over a hundred). So the tile guy will have to remove them, of course, before he begins the job.

To be completely honest, I don't currently have a ton of faith in these guys. I'm worried about them cutting corners. And so my question is this: After these drywall screws are removed, should the holes be filled with wood filler, or is it totally fine and safe to just throw up new HardieBacker and drill new holes in the 2x4s?

And if it is necessary fill them, and you were me, would you just go ahead and do it yourself to ensure that it gets done? Or press the tile guy to do it himself?

On a related note, the original drywall was mortared over poorly before the demo work (see the picture below with the yellow mesh tape). Is it feasable to sand all this down and then connect the new HardieBacker to the same joint? Or should the drywall be excised to the next stud and replaced?

Thanks for any advice. I don't want to be a bad customer or anything, but I want to make sure they don't come in and cut any corners or rush through the stuff that will be out of sight.
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Unread 06-15-2021, 02:10 PM   #14
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Hi Ben. Yes, they will remove the old screws, no need to fill the holes. I would make sure there's no big splinters sticking out like is in your second picture.
They won't drill new holes, no need for that.

The Hardiboard will be thinner than the sheetrock. It's about 7/16 thick and the sheetrock is 1/2 inch plus the added drywall mud and texture. It really should be made plumb, straight and flat vertically and horizontally. Sanding the texture might be needed although it would probably need to be touched up after the tile work is done.
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Unread 06-15-2021, 03:06 PM   #15
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A couple of things to note...cement board is not waterproof...it's generally not damaged by being wetted, though. Your shower will need some moisture management. There should only be one layer...that can either be some plastic or roofing felt on the studs, then the cbu, or some waterproofing on top of the cbu. That surface waterproofing can be a liquid or a sheet, like RedGard or Kerdi (as examples, there are other similar products). The junction between the walls and the receptor/pan need to follow the industry standards and the manufacturer's instructions. Using a waterproofing over the cbu, especially HardieBacker requires carefully following the Hardiebacker and waterproofing company's instructions. Once you know what they're planning, you should at least read the instructions so you'll know if they're doing it properly.

Seating the screws on Hardiebacker can be a pain if they use the wrong ones, or don't have much experience. It's easy to screw jack the sheet (where the screw through the sheet doesn't immediately start to go into the stud, so there's a little bit of the shank and it doesn't pull the sheet tight). That can lead to wavy walls. Some other cbu panels are less prone to that issue. Some screws have ridges on the bottom of the head that acts like a countersink to help you get the screw flush. Unless you're using a sheet membrane on top of the cbu, they MUST use the alkali resistant mesh tape to bind the panels together. If you're using a moisture barrier behind the panels, that can be done while tiling, otherwise, it needs to go up prior to painting on any liquid waterproofing. If using a sheet like Kerdi, the sheet acts like the tape, so you don't need to do anything to the seams.
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