If problems arise during a home renovation, use these methods to get results from your contractor.
You’ve planned and designed. You’ve scrimped and saved. You’re finally getting the new kitchen floor or the remodeled sun porch or the finished basement you’ve dreamt of for years! But now there’s a problem. Maybe the contractor delivered the wrong colored tile. The windows for the porch are definitely not the right size. Or, maybe the contractor’s crew left the basement full of trash. Whatever went wrong, you want it fixed — and fast. Use this guide to get the best results from your contractor and get your project back on track.
1. Speak up early with your contractor As soon as you notice the problem, you should say something. Do not wait until the job is complete to bring up issues. Nothing is worse, from a contractor’s point of view, than sending your customer an invoice only to receive a list of problems in return. If you think the technicians are installing tile in the wrong direction, ask them about it. A problem will only become bigger and more expensive to fix at the end of the project. Ask your technician to stop and make a phone call to your sales person right then.
2. Take photos of the remodeling project’s problems A lack of photographic evidence for a complaint makes for an uphill battle. Plus, having photos removes the element of the unknown. When you share photos with your contractor — and often you can do this immediately through text messages — he or she can respond more directly and quickly to issues. You’re also not left trying to describe the errors and their severity over the phone. I recently had a customer call about too much wood flooring stain on her door jambs. She felt the marks were more than I had asked her to anticipate. I told her I would happily take a look, but her painter had just painted over it. Sadly, she didn’t take any photos of a problem that was already remedied. While we did come to an agreeable outcome, it is a much easier road when both parties are able to see the trouble. As an added bonus, your contractor can use your photos to promptly address issues internally with the technicians or externally with a product manufacturer. All around, it is a great help to have photos.
3. Put the home improvement problems in writing The best way for most contractors to address your concerns is when you lay them all out in writing. Emails, or even text messages, allow you to timestamp the complaint, and they give your contractor a list of issues to address. Also, adding those previously mentioned photos gives you an easy way to reference problems and generate solutions. If things happen too quickly and you end up with a phone call to deal with an issue (see step 1), then be sure to follow up with an email for everyone’s records. Unfortunately, there are times when problems can’t be resolved and a homeowner will end up in court with a contractor. Those emails can help clarify the story, taking it from a he said, she said situation to a documented series of events.
These steps will help pave the way for the best outcome if trouble arises during your construction project. But it’s also important to keep a cool head and remember the contractor and crew are human, too. Mistakes happen. Transposed product numbers, chipped paint and even broken garage doors can be remedied. Believe me — we’ve seen it all! Do your part by addressing problems quickly, taking photos and putting it in writing. These steps will set you up for an understanding contractor who’s ready to get your project back on track.
You can whittle down all flooring to one of these two categories: floor coverings or structural installations. It’s easy to know if the floors you have are just floor coverings by process of elimination, because there are only three floors the industry considers structural installations. The three are solid hardwood, ceramic tile and stone. If you don’t have one of those floors, you don’t have a structural installation.
Structural installation flooring
Solid hardwood, ceramic tile and stone flooring all become part of your home’s structure. They are considered a permanent floor. They add a structural value to your home, too.
Engineered wood, laminate, luxury vinyl tile, luxury vinyl planks, carpet, vinyl and everything else — all of these flooring types are considered nothing more than floor coverings. They are not part of the home’s structure, even if you nail or staple or glue them in. They may add an aesthetic value, but that will never be considered permanent flooring.
The importance of knowing your flooring
“So why does this matter at all?” you might ask. Well, first off, it matters when you are purchasing a flooring product. There is value attached to real, solid hardwood flooring and tile installations that you will never get out of engineered wood or laminate. You should also expect to pay more for the permanent flooring products and the process of installing them.
On top of this, there’s a rumor floating around that engineered wood flooring gives up nothing but the bottom half of the product, so it’s a structural installation, too. There are many differences engineered and solid hardwood flooring, both pros and cons, but that’s a different article. The bottom line is: Engineered hardwood is the same as installing carpet from a structural standpoint, because it’s nothing more than a cover for the plywood subfloor.
Don’t let anyone mislead you. When in doubt, check this guide to decide whether a type of flooring will add structural value to your home or just look nice.
Is your vacuum ruining your new floors?
It seems like we spend so much time talking about the new flooring itself, that it is easy to overlook antiquated cleaning tools that also need to be upgraded. So we'd like to take a moment to talk about the vacuum cleaners, brooms, and mops that fill our hall closets. Whether you are attempting to salvage what you’ve got or are ready to purchase new, use our short list to find the features to look for and what to avoid…
When to throw it out:
Disrepair - Split ends on the bristles aren’t good
Dirty – Bristles that won’t come clean can lead to scratching
What to look for:
Strength – Look for soft but sturdy bristles that won’t scratch
When to throw it out:
Smelly Mops – Mop heads are notorious for holding onto odors (and bacteria!)
Disrepair – Look for any sharp or hard plastic pieces pushing through the mop head
What to look for:
Replaceable – Look for mops with removable heads. Some can even be thrown in the washing machine to be cleaned and sanitized there
What to avoid:
Grimy – Avoid “spongy” tops that don't allow you to properly control the amount of liquid you are putting on the floor and may carry bacteria
Just Say No – No steam mops for real hardwood floors
When to throw it out:
Broken - Frayed or broken electrical cords
No Adjustments - If the beater bar on your vacuum is not adjustable
Beater bar - Bristles are worn away
What to look for:
Adjustable beater bars! – Be sure to adjust based on what you are vacuuming
HEPA-filters – You’re moving around a lot of dusty air
What to avoid:
Avoid Too Much Suction – Get a strong vacuum but some are so strong they can pull carpet fibers out of the backing
Bottom line? Don’t overlook a small change to protect your investment. And, if you are still unsure if your new investment requires cleaning gear updates, ASK YOU FLOORING CONTRACTOR. Anyone worth hiring for the installation should be able to answer maintenance questions.
Getting Your Home Ready for Winter Traffic
Winter is here and Jack Frost is knocking on the front door! Don’t let him in without taking a few precautions. We’ve compiled a list of easy ways to keep your investment looking great all winter long.
Walk-Off Mats – Get a sturdy mat for both outside your entry doors and inside. Good outdoor doormats will not hold onto moisture (think moldy mildew) and will act as your first line of defense for keeping out mud and muck.
Water/Snow on Shoes – Some moisture is bound to get in. Keeping another doormat INSIDE the door for wet or snowy boots is a great way to keep the moisture from tracking into your whole house. Look around at a home goods store for hard plastic boot trays. They give you great place to leave wet shoes to dry. If you are using a fabric or carpeted area rug, be sure that you don’t let those wet mats sit on your floor for too long. Once boots are dry enough to move, pick up wet mats and allow them to dry off the floor, if possible.
Vacuum the Salt – Salt is about to line the streets; don’t let it line your floors! Salt can scratch even the toughest of hardwood finishes. Our suggestion? Sweep or vacuum the salt often. Be cautious when using “Swiffer” type dusters; grains of salt can get trapped under the head of the Swiffer and too much pressure can add to the scratching.
Cleaner – Get a strong floor cleaner for hard surfaces. This time of year, even with the best efforts, you can see spotting on ceramic, hardwood, LVT, etc. A good spot cleaner (we recommend a product Squeaky Clean, sold in our showroom) will allow you to easily keep floors looking great in-between deep cleans.
Get Carpets Cleaned – Most carpet manufactures will require your carpets to be professionally cleaned once every 18 months or so to avoid voiding warranties. A great time is NOW. Winter months often leave us stuck indoors, breathing in the dust and dandruff left behind in our carpets (YUCK!) Professional carpet cleaners use hot water extraction to get your carpeted areas clean and will keep you breathing easier, too.
These simple steps will keep your floors looking great all winter long. For those of you with floors that may need some work to begin with, give us a call for a free estimate. We can tell you if it is time to replace your flooring or if just a good scrub is in order.
How to Spot the Wrong Contractor Right Away
Peruse the internet for just a few minutes and you will find a lot of information about how to find a great contractor. There are even entire websites like Angie’s List and Yelp completely devoted to helping homeowners call the right guys first. Great contractors make you feel at ease about your project right away; they offer solutions; they bring knowledge and skill to the table. But sometimes, we overlook how to quickly spot the wrong contractor! Entertaining (or worse – hiring) the wrong company can cost more than just time, it can be expensive.
I have listed a few things for you to think about as you start your hiring process, but remember that the most important indicator is your gut! Trust yourself, your judgment, and your research.
Tools – Is he renting the tools necessary for your project? A good contractor has the tools of his trade. While he may need to rent a specialty piece of equipment every once in awhile, most items should be kept on hand and in good repair. Beware the “floor guy” that needs to rent a drum sander or a nail gun. What would you do if your dentist told you his drill was a rental? The renting of a drum sander by a “professional” may not be as painful, but you can expect the same tears.
Trash Talk – What’s he saying about his competition? Good contractors know that there are other good contractors bidding and doing work (in fact, we sometimes count on each other for help). Contractors that bad mouth the “other guys” with blanket statements or make you feel silly for getting more than one estimate probably have something to hide.
Time – Is he available to start today? Unless this miracle schedule opening is due to a last minute cancellation, be wary. Most skilled contractors keep their schedules filled at least 1 – 2 weeks in advance. That means the floors he is bidding for you today should not be expected to start for at least another few days. If the guy is ready to sand your floor now, there is usually a good reason he isn’t booked up with work… And that reason is probably not because he is really good at what he does.
Low Ball Pricing – If you are getting three bids, you should expect the prices to vary. Many times, companies are using different product or different types of labor. But if you have someone that is hundreds or even thousands of dollars cheaper, you should be asking why. Why are the other companies asking $3 per square foot, but “Jimmy Floor Man” is willing to do the work at $1.75 per square foot? Lower overhead? Probably. Works for himself? Probably. Using the same products and materials? Probably NOT.
Technology – With the explosion of the internet in the last few decades, new technologies are out there for everyone to see. If you have seen something “new” your contractor should at the very least know who/where to ask about it. A good contractor will be aware of a lot of the technological advances in his industry (whether or not he is embracing them or not is a different story). A great contractor will not only know about the latest and greatest technologies, he will have advice and a professional opinion about them. Great contractors are well-read!
Insured – This is a big one. Does he have proof that he is bonded and insured? Many contractors won’t carry this information around with them at an estimate. But, if you ask about insurance, lien waivers, or workman’s comp – they should be prepared to get that paperwork to you. If you sense hesitation on this topic, I suggest you look for another contractor.
In my own 30 years experience in this industry, I have seen many things. I’ve seen terrible installations, dreadful sand-jobs, flawed finishes, and erroneous designs (plus everything in-between). Worse, though, than bad craftsmanship is seeing homeowners struggle to get back thousands of dollars from dishonest contractors doing sub-par work. Which is why hiring the right guy begins with the ability to spot the wrong guy, right away!
A lifelong St. Louisan, Ralph has spent a majority of his career in the flooring industry. He and his wife started Champion Floor Company over 25 years ago and never looked back. Not only has he built one of the most respected hardwood flooring companies in St. Louis, but he has also been able to keep the business family-oriented and quality-driven. If you are looking for answers to your flooring questions, you have come to the right place.