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Old 01-08-2015, 11:27 AM   #1
SWB04
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Contractor walked off the job

Hi folks,

I've read the forums quite a bit in the past. I'm a "DYIer" and have installed tile, travertine, and pavers before. For the current job, a master bath remodel, I hired a local licensed contractor to install approximately 230 sq feet of 18"x18" travertine, including a separate shower, bath surround, and 80 sq ft of flooring.

I work at home, so I've observed and monitored progress. I'm probably more of an "active" client than this guy has experience with, because, frankly, I have some skills and know a bit about the area of work. The only way to ensure a job is done right, in my experience, is to monitor the project.

Thus far, he performed demo (of original builders white tile, including haul away), hired a 3rd party contractor for the shower tub hot mop job, installed the shower and tub faucets, and installed 1/2" Hardibacker "wet area" cement board throughout the rest of the bathroom.

I was away when he installed the CBU. As part of the remodel, last evening I removed one of two "dutch" closet doors, and replaced the other with a sliding door (modifications that the contractor was aware of). I had to peel up a strip of the backer board when framing the wall, and discovered that it had been applied with glue. Additionally, when I had asked the contractor about sealing the floor cracks earlier that day, he reluctantly agreed and applied a fiberglass tape with Redgard. (He sealed all CBU joints with Redgard).

Between the two issues, I was concerned about the sub-floor preparations as I was aware that Hardy requires a thinset base, and thinset on the surface between the joints. I confirmed this with a phone call to Hardy this morning, and then asked the contractor about the installation.

He responded that:

* He'd never been so micromanaged in his life.
* He felt personally insulted. He would not discuss the issue further.
* He'd been installing this way for 13 years and never had a call-back on one of his jobs.
* He picked up his equipment and walked out. He left a new "Harbor Freight" saw behind that he was testing (called it "garbage") and may or may not return for it.
* He offered to refund a third of the cash received thus far; don't know if that'll happen, and I doubt it'll cover the difference remaining for the demo, rework, and travertine installation.

I tried to discuss this with him, but he refused. I asked "this is business, the issue is how do we make this right, I'm not trying to 'injure' you financially or professionally, I just need to ensure the installation is done to industry standards." I never raised my voice or got angry; I played it "straight" as an arrow, and was friendly with the guy throughout.

I have already paid two-thirds of the total contracted price, so in addition to having tons of travertine in my front yard, an unusable bathroom, work that needs to be redone, I'm probably out part of the cost of the installation.

Any advice from the pro's here on how I should proceed? As far as I can tell, all the work has been done well, except for the floor. The hot mop, plumbing (replacing the tub and shower plumbing), and CBU on the shower and tub appear to have been done well, except that the joints in the latter areas should probably have been sealed with mortar before Redgard.

I really don't want to hurt the guy - he seems like he does quality work. I want to be fair, but I'm on the hook here.

Thanks for reading, and in advance, for the advice. I can send pictures if it will help.

Regards,

Scott
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Old 01-08-2015, 11:47 AM   #2
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Welcome, Scott.

If you'll add a geographic location to your User Profile it'll appear permanently so folks will know in what part of California this is taking place and perhaps to help answer some of your other questions.

"Micromanaging" is something all construction contractors are a little sensitive to, some more than others, obviously.

Pointing out that product manufacturer's installation instructions are not being followed is not micromanaging.

Hardibacker, among the available CBUs, is particularly sensitive to errors in installation, especially on floors. Installing it without the required mortar bed under it is a recipe for failure. Failure to properly treat the joints between panels is the second worst thing you can do in that application.

Not at all sure why they'd install CBU on all the walls of a bathroom, but that's another discussion. And treating the joints there with RedGard is not per manufacturer's instructions, either.

Did anyone ever evaluate your floor structure to determine if it qualified for a natural stone installation?

What do you do now? I dunno. Best choice would be to complete the project yourself, but if that's not to your taste, you gotta find another contractor. And getting someone to fill in behind another contractor who has abandoned the job is never an easy thing.

Photos are always welcome and might help. Use the paper-clip icon above the Reply dialog box to attach photos from storage on your computer.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Old 01-08-2015, 01:18 PM   #3
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Quote:
He responded that:

* He'd never been so micromanaged in his life.
* He felt personally insulted. He would not discuss the issue further.
* He'd been installing this way for 13 years and never had a call-back on one of his jobs.

Translated to ... he had been caught doing unscrupulous work.




Only thing I can add is it pays to research contractors before hiring one, I have never asked for money up front, I get paid when I'm done with the project ...
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Old 01-08-2015, 01:28 PM   #4
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Follow up:

Contractor returned to get his saw and returned some of cash, so we parted with a handshake. I've essentially paid for 50% of the job, with not a tile laid. I'm losing some, but not as much as I could have if he'd finished a sub-standard job.

re: "Did anyone ever evaluate your floor structure to determine if it qualified for a natural stone installation?"

No. The original installation was white 4"x4" builder's tile there floated on a 1" thick bed of mortar. Also, the (second story) floor construction is one foot high composite I-beam's, 12" on center, covered by tough and groove composite sheet subfloor, i.e. a 1992 era house built by a developer with a good reputation, so I was pretty certain that the bath floor was stable enough handle stone.

Photo's attached.

I'm looking at other options now. I realize that it'll be tough to get another contractor to pick up the work, without demo'ing everything and starting from scratch. I was tempted to do this job originally, but my back isn't all that good, and I've been jammed between work and other renovations.

I still may pick up the work anyway. If so, I'll probably demo the floor and reinstall the backerboard properly on thinset, do the same for the joints, strip off the tape and redgard from other joints (wall/tub) and seal those with thinset, and then cover all the CBU on all surfaces with redgard.

Thanks for the advice.

Scott
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Old 01-08-2015, 02:00 PM   #5
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Well, my son-in-law's Dad is a professional contractor in Florida, he reviewed the preparation, and said that gluing CBU to a wooden subfloor is how he'd do the installation, too, as would everyone he works with.

The subfloor feels plenty solid. I asked the Hardy customer service guy "why" they recommend a thinset base versus glue, and he said "it fills any possible voids". If my floor is solid and has few if any voids, then the glued on CBU should be as solid, particularly after adding mortar and travertine on top, as the CBU over thinset base installation.

I'm wondering if I'm nuts or if I'm the only guy out there that reads directions and attempts to build to "best industry practices".

Scott
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Old 01-08-2015, 02:33 PM   #6
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Scott, if you'll visit our FAQ you find a brief tutorial on how to post and attribute quotes here on the site. Very simple once you see it.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott
tough and groove composite sheet subfloor
I'd wanna know more about that "composite sheet."

If the original plans did not call for a natural stone installation it's rare that the floor structure would meet the L/720 deflection requirement for a natural stone installation. That's twice as rigid as the requirement for ceramic tile.

Natural stone also requires a double layer of subflooring, regardless the joists spacing. You also don't meet that requirement.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott
my son-in-law's Dad is a professional contractor in Florida, he reviewed the preparation, and said that gluing CBU to a wooden subfloor is how he'd do the installation, too
While he may accept money for his services, if he refuses to follow product manufacturer's installation instructions he's not being very professional at all.

We constantly recommend work according to building code, product manufacturer's instructions, and best building practices here, Scott, but our visitors report many, many contractors who care little about any of those requirements. And in your part of the country it seems they care even less than most, I'm sorry to say.

I know that James Hardie has done testing of his product specifically to determine if incorrect installation, including lack of mortar under the panels on floor installations and lack of taping and filling the joints and concluded that your risk of tile installation failure is enormously higher with those defective installations.

And I can't imagine what they hoped to accomplish by painting RedGard over the joints in the floor panels and the fastener heads.

All that and you'll be installing Travertine, one of the weakest of the available natural stone tile selections.

Entirely up to you, though.

My opinion; worth price charged.
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Old 01-08-2015, 03:04 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CX
I'd wanna know more about that "composite sheet."

If the original plans did not call for a natural stone installation it's rare that the floor structure would meet the L/720 deflection requirement for a natural stone installation. That's twice as rigid as the requirement for ceramic tile.

Natural stone also requires a double layer of subflooring, regardless the joists spacing. You also don't meet that requirement.
"Composite" is a lazy guy's way of saying, "I didn't cut up the floor and look at it", but code for this area in 1992 would have specified tongue and groove OSB (it's not plywood), probably 1/2". You are correct. I need to know this, so I guess after I pull up the hardibacker, I need to also pull up a floor board, verify the joist type, spacing, and dimensions, and the flooring as well.

I already have 1/2" CBU over OSB. I considered possibly installing 1/4" CBU properly (with thinset) over the 1/2" CBU + OSB subfloor, but that wouldn't solve a deflection problem. Plus, 3/4 hardibacker + thinset + versabond + travertine = a mountain-sized step up from the carpet. However, with a double subfloor, there'll be a sizable ramp at the transition anyway.

LOL.. I guess that I'm going to do this myself, since I can't (or don't) trust a contractor to do this. I interviewed several contractors prior to selecting the last guy. Measuring deflection should have proceeded the statement of work and bid; none reviewed or discussed deflection.

I want this resolved fast and the bathroom done quick, which is a good reason to SLOW WAY THE HECK DOWN, and get this done correctly.

Thanks again,

Scott
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Old 01-08-2015, 03:43 PM   #8
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As stated above, it's always best to do the job right. So many people/contractors have issues with that concept, just because others shortcut their work doesn't mean its Ok to do so ..

Do not add a layer of 1/4" of any product, anything that thin is useless for your application ..
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Old 01-08-2015, 04:48 PM   #9
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Subfloor calculation dementia

I've been researching the requirements to properly achive L/720+ deflection over a wood subfloor, and the results are beginning to freak me out. I've seen instructions calling for multiple layers of 3/4" plywood over multiple layers of unmodified thinset/mortar, plus the CBU and/or membrame, etc.

How does one upgrade a bathroom floor to L/720, plus mortar and 1/2" travertine, without having a 3" step up from the adjacent carpet floor? Second, there doesn't seem to be anyway to accurately calculate deflection unless I pull the subfloor (and new CBU) up. My review of the construction was while working on plumbing and other projects from below (i.e. kitchen is below, bedroom & master bath above). I'm beginning to think I'm going to have to install the base subfloor between the trusses, supported by cleats, and then start with the mortar, second sheet of 3/4" plywood, mortar, then CBU, then mortar, and travertine.

So in summary, that's 3/4" Ply #1, 1/4" Thinset, 3/4" Ply#2, 1/4" Thinset, 1/2" (CBU), 1/2 (Or 3/4"?) Versabond, 1/2" Travertine. = 3 3/4", or 3" if the #1 ply subsurface rests between the trusses. Heck, I'd need a 4" step-up/curb between the master bedroom and bath. Do people actually do this? Why not simply poor a 4" slab over reinforced tresses in the target install area?

There's almost "too much" information on sub-floor preparation. I could spend a month just trying to verify all of this. No wonder some contractors take "short cuts". If the "simpler method" works for 95% of installations, or even 90%, the extra cost and labor required to prepare a subfloor or natural stone over a wood subfloor correctly becomes difficult to justify.

Thanks.
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Old 01-08-2015, 04:59 PM   #10
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Scott,

I don't know where you're getting a 3 layer recommendation Stop reading that site.

To get the proper deflection has nothing to do with plywood. That's all on the joists.

We've made it pretty darn easy with our handy dandy deflecto-lator linked in the dark blue bar above. Once you enter your information, you will get your current deflection. If you need to beef up your joists, you can keep adding joists (sistering) or adding joists (spacing less than 16"OC) until the proper deflection is reached.

Let us know what you find.

Natural stone requires 2 layers of plywood which is usuall 3/4" covered by 1/2" installed in a very specific manner. But we'll get to that later.
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Old 01-08-2015, 05:30 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan, post 8
Do not add a layer of 1/4" of any product, anything that thin is useless for your application ..
He was talking about his tiling substrate, Dan, and the 1/4" is perfectly acceptable for that and is the recommended thickness from all CBU manufacturers who make a 1/4" board.
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Old 01-08-2015, 07:34 PM   #12
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Deflection

I've got deflection estimated at L / 1916, based on:

* 12" SCL "I"-joist (assumed)
* 3" wide (assumed; 3-6" W)
* 14' long between two load bearing walls
* 12" on center (assumed)

I have a section of the floor that I'm framing (closet; replacing two doors with one pocket door), which I will open up a strip of subfloor there tonight to verify those assumptions. I've been into that ceiling/joist area 2 or 3 times, and those dimensions are as I recall it, i.e. very tall I-beams, 12" on center. Opening up the floor will also verify the OSB subfloor dimensions.

More soon.

Thanks!
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Old 01-08-2015, 08:04 PM   #13
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Nope... you cant run your I-joist numbers through the Deflecto.. It doesnt work that way..

Who told you to bed multiple layers of plywood in thinset?
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Old 01-08-2015, 10:47 PM   #14
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It's unusual that your joists were placed 12" on center, I don't see that very often...or ever. However that's a good thing for you, and if you have some access to them you might be able to find a manufacturer's stamp that will lead us to the right answer.

14' span is not especially long for an engineered truss, so it's very possible that they're adequate for your travertine installation.
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Old 01-09-2015, 10:02 AM   #15
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Nothing irks me more than seeing waterproofing membrane applied ONLY to the seams. Betting the jokers that do this are charging for the whole gallon... over and over.

If it's not a continuous, integral sheet, just don't even bother.
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