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Ms Sparky gets duped by a contractor

This is an exterior photo of our 28'x40' shop. It still needs painted to match the house.

As most of you know I try to refrain from posting personal stuff on MsSparky.com. Occasionally my grandson does something that has me beaming with pride and I just can’t resist sharing it. Today I make another exception.

My husband and I have been planning and saving to build a new shop/garage on our property. We did not want to finance it we wanted to pay cash. This is not a pole barn. This is a nice building, it’s 28′ x 40′, has 2″x6″ exterior walls, 10′ ceilings plus attic storage and designed to match the house. We even moved our septic drain field so we could put the shop exactly where we wanted it. That cost us.

One would think that my daily dealings with unethical and corrupt defense contractors I would have a heightened ability to detected and ward off contractor issues. Apparently not! I thought I had done the appropriate amount of due diligence when checking out contractors. This contractor came highly recommended and was licensed and bonded in the State of Washington. After the designing and permitting phase, work finally started mid April 2010.

I am an electrician not a carpenter, but I have an eye for “square, plum and level”. The carpentry work was great, no issues. Anyone who knows me is aware, if I had any issues, the contractor would know about it immediately.

Because we were building during the rainy season the contractor opted to pour the 28’x40′ slab after the building walls were up and the roof was completed. I didn’t see a problem with that.

Working feverishly to get that slab poured.

The day game to pour the slab…woo hoo! It was a chaotic but exciting time for me. The pouring of the slab meant we were almost done with the exterior and I could focus on the interior. There were two concrete trucks, a pumper truck and numerous vehicles parked down our country road. There were 6 people working the slab, 2 working the pumper truck and two concrete truck drivers.

At this point it appears all was well and ALL 15 yards of concrete were poured. The trucks left and it was like the calm after the storm. The cement finishers went to work. They worked for hours “floating” the floor. I had told the finishers I was intending to painting the floor so I didn’t want a glass smooth finish. I needed something for the paint or other finish to adhere to. We has specifically discussed something between a “broom finish” and “smooth as glass”. What I eventually got was nothing close to either.

I checked on the finishers periodically and they claimed all was good. When I could see they were about done I mentioned a very rough spot about 8 feet in and Tim the lead finisher patted me on the shoulder and said “Don’t you worry about that, that’s just an optical illusion. It’ll all be gone in the morning.” I know nothing about concrete work and took him at his word. Tim told me not to walk on the slab for three days and informed me it wouldn’t be totally cured for almost 30 days.

The next morning I went out to look at my new slab.  OMG!! The “optical illusion” was still there and in the daylight I could see other “optical illusions” as well. Some of the trowel marks are so bad they are tripping hazards. It looked as though my 7 year old grandson had finished the floor with a Mega Blocks! (click HERE for floor pics) Now I am getting very very concerned. The carpenters show up to work and I told them I didn’t want them walking on the floor for three days. I show them the floor, they agree it looks pretty bad and I sent them home. I contacted the contractor and expressed my concern about the finish. Keep in mind, I haven’t been able to closely inspect the entire floor as of yet because I was told not to walk on it.

The contractor stated he would make good on refinishing the floor but never did, so I fired him and contacted other concrete contractors to come out and bid on refinishing the surface. That’s when I am informed we had a MUCH MUCH BIGGER problem with the slab. The slab does not slope correctly. According to code it is required to slope out towards the garage doors  and this one does not. I actually found out first hand when a rain storm hit and water was flowing in under the door and puddling inside the garage.

In order to better determine what was truly going on with the floor, I divided it up into an approx 6’x6′ grid and used the intersecting lines of the grid as reference points (RP) for measurements. I hired a contractor with a laser transit to come out and measure the height of each reference point. I gave that data to my very smart husband and said “Here honey turn this data into a visual depiction of our concrete slab.” And as any very smart husband would do, he said “Yes, dear as you wish!”

He used 3-D graphical analysis software (don’t ask me anything about that) and input the data I gave him. He also input data of what the slab should look like using the industry standard of a 1/8″ per linear foot slope from the back to the front of the shop. (Note: It is difficult for the naked eye to discern measurements as slight as these, so the “Z” or vertical axis on both graphs have been adjusted to better illustrate the elevation changes)

This is what our garage floor should look like with the darkest red being the lowest point where the garage doors are and the lightest red being the highest point in the back of the shop where two storage rooms are.

This is what our garage floor actually looks like. With the dark red being the lowest points and the light red being the highest. You can see the highest point is near the center of the floor and slopes in all directions. Also, the lowest point RP31 in the front is where the water puddles when it flows in under the garage door. Note how the water will flow back towards RP01 into my two storage rooms

I have had several concrete contractors come out to see if there is any viable repair other than ripping out the slab and starting over. Everyone one of them stated there is no repair for this FUBAR’d floor. So the cost to rip out and replace the defective slab is an additional $8000. OMG!!!

The contractor is refusing to warranty his work as per the contract and now I have to sue him in Washington Superior Court just to get to his bond. Even with that there is no guarantee the bond company will pay. They are nothing more than an insurance company and we know how they operate. We are completely held up on finishing the interior until this floor issue us resolved.

I am asking all my REALLY REALLY REALLY smart readers for their opinion on this one. Any legal advice and or repair/replacement advice on this would be appreciated. This is going to be costly and I want to make sure I have thought it through thoroughly.

I am refraining from publishing the name of the contracting company at this time in an effort to make sure he doesn’t acquire any new “corporate” allies or financial benefactors in this fight. He is already claiming to have dissolved his LLC in an effort to not pay for this screw up.

If some of you have been wondering what has me a little distracted from MsSparky.com…….this is it!

Ms Sparky

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39 Comments

  1. Comment by Diane:

    I am a general contractor. This is so avoidable. I am based in Alaska, not Washington so my advice is limited…

    Contact his bond company directly, and tell them you want to file a claim.

    Also, I’m not sure how small claims works in Washington, but if your goal is to get paid for the demo, you might be able to file up to $10,000 – it might not be the full amount you are due, but it will bridge the gap.

    Also, going public with your local paper or others might shame the contractor into getting his a** out there to demo it himself and allow you to have the new (qualified) contractor reinstall the new floor.

    Best of luck.

    • Comment by Ms Sparky:

      To file a claim against a bond you have to file suit against the contractor and bond company. If you get a judgment in your favor then you have to deal with the bond company. The bond company won’t pay for attorney fees though.

      In Washington the small claims limit if $5000.

      Thanks and you are right. This is was so avoidable. In your opinion do you think the slab should have been poured in two separate pours?

      • Comment by Diane:

        Continuous pours are fine. It is not that hard to slope and finish a garage floor. They either (falsely) claimed they knew what they were doing it or “poor boy’d” it by staffing it with inexperienced people. Was the owner/contractor out there himself supervising?

        Their mixture may have been too thin to be finished properly, which would be the fault of the concrete supplier.

        Half of the problem with these things is identifying the problem… and making them accountable. If I were you, I wouldn’t give up on making the contractor make it right. It’s your best chance to avoid losing a bunch of $$.

        Dontcha just love Construction Claims? =-)

  2. Comment by Keven Barnes:

    Where is the rebar ? Sounds like a horror story Ms Sparky.

  3. Comment by Hermit:

    Is there any way that they can sand it down then apply a top layer that slopes correctly? It’s a hard job, but possibly an option to breaking it out completely.

    Note that if this option is used, there needs to be an adhesive applied between the old concrete and the new or the new stuff won’t stick.

    • Comment by Ms Sparky:

      There has been a lot of discussion about whether or not another slab could be poured over the top. If we lived in a drier climate that might be an option. But we get about 45″ of rain a year and 6″ of snow in the winter. If any water were to get between the slabs and then freeze it would crack and break out.

      This was my first plan of action but the concrete contractors are advising against it.

      Thanks!

      • Comment by anonymous:

        i just want to say that it seens you know everything about everything…..LOLL…..yes, tends to make one nervous about the more important issues you interject strongly on such as deaths of loved ones..why don’t you linit your obviously very capable intellect to issues of a positive nature which help humans? I think God would shine on you a little more then.

  4. Comment by Diane:

    Not necessarily Ms. Sparky. It’s much akin to an auto policy, you don’t always have to win in court to get paid by the (offender’s) insurance policy.

    It is worth a try, and if nothing else it might put that contractor’s bond in jeopardy. If you don’t tell the bond company, who will?

  5. Comment by Jackson:

    I know your instinct is to fight. I can’t imagine you wanting to let him get with screwing you or someone else over. This fight could rack up legal fees. You may be better off financially to turn your back and walk away. Keep that in mind as you prepare for battle.

    I’m not even sure why I just said that. Can anyone see Ms Sparky turning her back on a legitimate fight? :)

    • Comment by Ms Sparky:

      My husband has the same concern. But what am I supposed to do? Without a judgment from the courts there is no record that there was even an issue and he can go on screwing other people. It’s the same thing as when KBR allows a bad manager to resign so they can go on to screw something up for some other company. To me that’s irresponsible. If I use his name and blog about what a crappy job he’s done without a judgment he can sue me for slander and libel. So I can’t get the word out that way. It appears my only course of action is to get a judgment, which I can’t imagine is going to be a problem to get. I have all the records. But, collecting on the judgment is a whole different ballgame.

  6. Comment by gerg:

    By your admission, the contractor did a good job on the framing and then boloxed the finishing of the concrete. He promised to make good on it, but he never did, so you fired him and brought in another contractor who told you you must tear out the concrete slab. Now you wish to use the law and the power of the internet to destroy him, his business, and his reputation so that he can never bolox another slab again. You will most likely lose in your quest for unmerciful justice because, and as a contractor yourself you should have known this, when a contractor makes a mistake, by law he has the right of first refusal for correcting that mistake. You don’t have the right to arbitrarily decide when his time is up to fix his mistake. You would have to have given him the proper notices by registered mail etc., as per statutes in your state. You didn’t do that, did you?…I did’nt think so. By firing him you screwed yourself and let him off the hook. Also having a website where you bash contractors probably wouldn’t help your case.
    I question the contractors who claim it cannot be repaired without a complete tearout. (of course they are going to want a complete tearout, after all, the insurance company is paying for it.). If it turns out that you have to eat the cost of repair, I would get more opinions. Look for companies that specialize in the repair of concrete. Yes, there are topping solutions. Although you may have hire someone to come out and grind down that hump with a diamond wheel.(make sure you hire an American!) If it was me, I would go directly to the concrete plant and talk to them. They usually have engineers, and would be the most knowledgable about what products are available, and they might even be able to recomend a contractor.

    • Comment by Ms Sparky:

      By beloxed I am going to assume that to mean FUBAR’d! He did more than screw up the finishing. The slab DOES NOT slope correctly! And doing one task correctly does not absolve him from any responsibility to not perform another correctly! And, I’m not a contractor. There is a warranty clause in the contract and my attorney did send a demand letter before we decided to file in Superior Court. And yes….absolutely 100% that’s ALL I do at MsSparky.com is bash contractors nothing more!!! (sarcasm) You might try reading more than just one post before you start sniping.

  7. Comment by NEW YORK:

    Just do an informational picket line as we do in New York I have never been sued by the deadbeat contractor .My hall does this on lots of job’s we even did it to Orange County Choppers the job went non union but the public got the word on how they run their business . they got lowball prices and went with out of area workers . My way is to put a 4×8 plywood in my truck and drive around his home area so it informs people he lacks the know how to do his job may not see his face but it sure pisses him off it holds up with the union’s when we do it so I take my sign and drive around ! now if he takes it out he just broke into my truck and let the cop’s take him in DON’T GET MAD GET EVEN it works better when the cop’s get him than his lawyer gets to get his money and you get free press. SORRY A STAND UP PERSON LIKE YOU HAD SOME S— B– RIP YOU OFF ! could you pour gip creat over it and install pins in old slab ? BRO #363 N.Y.

    • Comment by Ms Sparky:

      What a great idea! But, he claims he has dissolved his LLC so unless he tries to do business under another name I think the impact would be insignificant. How do people like that sleep nights?

  8. Comment by puleeze:

    I don’t see how reporting the facts, as you have on here, can be construed as either slanderous or libelous. You are simply reporting facts.

    • Comment by Ms Sparky:

      I agree, but at this point in time I do not want to show my entire hand. And….if he were to sue for libel or slander it would involve more attorneys and misdirect my attentions from the original case.

  9. Comment by Al:

    How long did you wait before you fired him? What is a reasonable time to a homeowner to correct a problem is not what the court will acknoledge. Make sure all your ducks are in order. I’m a general contractor and have been involved in one dispute that went to court(I won handely and they paid $9000 dollars of my costs). On a side note, this prompted me to look up the code. I can’t find the 1/8 per foot slope. What I did find was mention of a slope or floor drain. Since you said you were planning on coating the floor this seems like the best option, especially in a shop. So if the contract says build to or comply with code this would suffice. Just think, you could wash your car in the winter. I fell like you havnt given all the info, assumably because of pending legal action, but it doesn’t sound like this will go in your favor. You know no matter what BS we’re feed, the laws are geared to protecting business. Keep up the good work, but better think twice about throwing away more money.

    • Comment by Ms Sparky:

      I fired him after to told me he WAS NOT going to do anymore work. In Washington the code required is R309 of the 2006 International Residential Code. There was no drain designed into the floor for a reason. There are two storage rooms at the back of the shop. With the high spot in the center, just where would one put in a floor drain? They way this floor was finished, you would have to cut one in all the way around like mote.

      1/8″ – 1/4″ slope per linear foot is the industry standard that is needed to get the slope required to meet the requirements of R309.

    • Comment by Ms Sparky:

      I see you are local. Come out and give me your opinion.

      • Comment by Al:

        If you are in Portland or Clark County then yes I guess I’m local. I looked again at the code, and all it says is water must mitigate toward a main opening or a floor drain. Nowhere does it state how much of slope is required. Industry standard is a pretty loose term, one that the court would have a hard time recognizing, especially since the code does not lay it out. After looking at your husbands illustrations(he did a nice job) it looks like there is a low spot on the back wall that the water would drain to for a drain. I know that might not be ideal, but it would meet code. The point I’m trying to make is unless the contract said specifically that there would not be a drain, he might not be in any breach if he was to install one. Now since he’s been fired, I don’t know where that would leave things. If the contract did not say build to industry standards, that implies it will be built to code. I am not certain about WA state, but in Oregon there are required notices that must be sent to initiate any lawsuit. Mine happened in Oregon so I’m still unsure of WA if thats where you are at(I should know since I due some work there). One of the notices gives the contractor the right to fix the problems. You said he told you he was not going to do any more work, but if it was verbal, without the notices sent certified mail, it may be hard to hold him accountable for not fixing the problem. I also looked at the photos of the trowel marks, that sucks. A quick grind though could fix the problem without compromising the integrity of the slab(think of grocery stores with concrete floors). I know you want everything fixed and I;m not saying the contractor is in the right, but it really seems like a very loose case on your end and could cost you alot of money(it would not shock me if you spent $20,000 if you lose between you legal bills and his. Just remember lawyers are in the business jto make money win our lose. I still remember my first invoice for $2500 for a stack of photo copies that I know a $10 dollar an hour temp copied. BTW, whoever quoted yo $8000 is trying to take advantage of you, even with tearout, in our area.

        • Comment by Ms Sparky:

          As far the 1/8″ – 1/4″ industry standard goes…if you don’t have some rise….say and 1/8th” per linear foot then you don’t have slope to anywhere. It’s flat. Google it.

          The two back rooms which have always been in the designs are, a food storage pantry and seasonal storage room and the other one is an electronics/computer repair and storage room. I don’t want water in either of these rooms. And how would the water get there? Flow under the walls so it can wick up the sheet rock?

          The reason the floor finish is such a problem for a shop is the main room was intended to be used for martial arts practice for myself and my grandson. That’s the reason I paid extra for trusses that wouldn’t need any support posts in the center.

          • Comment by Al:

            You got to be careful with google, I could google BP and find hunreds of sites that tell me how wonderful they are. It really comes down to source content and you seem to be relying on the IRC. This brings up another point, if your not using the space as a garage, section 309 may not apply at all. If your conditioning the space, which I can’t imagine you wouldn’t in an electronics computer room, a garage floor code may not even apply. In California slab on grade houses are built normally, and I could be wrong, but I don’t beleive they require any slope. In your pictures I don’t see any slab insulation or vapor barrier. It’s my understanding these are needed for a conditioned space. It seems that if you want to retain a chance at winning you should not ever mention this, unless it was in the plans. All that it takes is one upset neighbor and you’re looking at a fine from the municipality. Another way to keep water out would be to put a drain between the apron and the slab, this vey common, so common in fact that local masco dealers stock it. It looks like the first several feet of the floor from the graph does drain to the door. I hope this helps, I got to get to work!

            • Comment by gerg:

              …”In your pictures I don’t see any slab insulation or vapor barrier. It’s my understanding these are needed for a conditioned space.”…

              Good call. I didn’t notice that. My license is in florida, so I don’t know anything about insulation, but vapor barrier, moisture barrier very important. Look here: http://www.architects.org/emplibrary/UnderSlabVaporBarrierPPP.pdf

            • Comment by Ms Sparky:

              The same number 1/8″-1/4″ number came up with every contractor that I had bid on it.

              This is a garage shop, with two storage rooms, one for electronics and one for food and seasonal items. Those rooms have always been in the drawings. The same drawings that were approved by Clark County. The building was inspected, but Clark County doesn’t inspect slabs for garages. I will have to check on vapor barrier. None of the contractors that I had out mentioned it.

  10. Comment by General:

    This is just a classic example of an unprofessional unscrupulous contractor. It should have never gone this far. If he screwed something up and by the looks of the graphics he clearly did he should have bent over backwards to make it right. I’m a General contractor, first of all I would not have made such a stupid mistake on a slab, slabs are not rocket science, but if for some odd reason I did, I would make it right because I am not an unprofessional unscrupulous contractor!

    Ms. Sparky I’m sorry you have to go through this after all the work you do for others and now this too. I hope you prevail. Keep us posted.

    • Comment by anonymous:

      ALL CONTACTORS ARE NOT UNSCRUPULOUS AND UNETHICAL ..YOUR WORDS DAMAGE LIVES AND CORRUPT, AS YOU KNOW….CHANGE YOUR UNDESERVED POWER TO A POSITIVE SLANT AND LIVE WITH A FREE CONSCIENCE FOR A HIGHER UNSELFISH GOOD.

  11. Comment by General:

    Don’t Tell me you hired KBR to build your garage! ;)

  12. Comment by Elizabeth:

    I’d contact the state Attorney General’s office, for starters. I know somebody who resolved an issue such as this by posting photographs of the construction work on Craigslist blogs and asking opinions of other contractors as well as stating she’d give the name of the owner and company via email to anybody who was comparing companies for residential work or to anybody who had a similar circumstance and thinks it might be the same owner/company. That got the owner’s immediate attention, when nothing else worked. They came out ASAP and fixed the problem.

    • Comment by Ms Sparky:

      What a great idea. If anyone wants the name of the contractor who screwed up this work send me an email by via the Contact Us tab above.

      I have contacted Washington State Attorney Generals office and citations are being issued for this work.

      He bold face lied about what he was licensed to do, I verified on Washington’s Website that he was licensed and bonded but it was evidently unclear to me that “Construction Contractor” didn’t mean General Contractor.

      I am contacting the Attorney General about pursuing FRAUD charges as well. I feel like I have been had by a band of Gypsies. Maybe I should contact the Country Prosecuting Attorney.

  13. Comment by gerg:

    Since your building is a shop/garage its unnecessary for the floor to be sloped. Just call it a shop, and level the floor. If water is coming in under the door, that means that the hardscaping on the outside is sloped in the wrong direction. I would be more annoyed with that than with the floor not being sloped in the interior.

    • Comment by Ms Sparky:

      The front apron is fine. The water comes in under the door when there is a hard rain hitting the doors. I have tried adjusting the door to get a tighter seal, but the front edge of the slab under that door is just to messed up. The water comes and pools in that front left corner.

  14. Comment by KBR TOO BIG:

    Sounds to me like KBR did this work. Maybe the contractor is a subsidiary of KBR and uses the same codes in Washington State as they do in Iraq. Better watch out for bad electrical work as well.

  15. Comment by Al:

    i just poured a slab today and it made me think of your garage. Has there been any resolution?

  16. Comment by Matter:

    HELLO MS.SPARKY!
    THANKS FOR STAYING ON TOP OF WHAT WAS BEING POSTED REGARDING CSA/ITT SITE. INFO SAID WAS A REAL PAIN(AND LIAR) ANYWAY, I HAVE BEEN SEARCHING FOR AN ATTORNEY THAT WILL TAKE ON A CLASS ACTION SUIT AGAINST ITT. NOW, AS SOON AS ONE IS FOUND, I WOULD LIKE TO CONTACT YOU SO YOU CAN PUT THE WORD OUT TO FORMER CSA EMPLOYEES. THE TIME IS NOW TO GO AFTER CSA’S MANAGEMENT AND I,ALONG WITH MANY OTHERS, WOULD LIKE TO GET OUR MONEYS OWED,ALONG WITH HELPING THE GOVERNMENT GET BACK MILLIONS THAT WERE STOLEN, BY THE CHOSEN FEW. THANKS AGAIN FOR YOUR HELP.

  17. Comment by noone:

    I will join also.

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