Shoddy work by concrete contractor, what are my options?


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Old 11-07-12, 01:48 PM
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Shoddy work by concrete contractor, what are my options?

After seven years in our home, we decided to expand our backyard concrete patio from a 10 X 10' slab to a 10' X 30' slab by adding a new 10 X 10' slab on either side of the existing patio. I got referrals through Angie's list and chose a contractor after a few quotes; he was "A" rated.

He contracted to pour the two slabs with 4" concrete and #3 rebar at 14" centers on 2" of sand. The rebar was drilled and secured into the foundation of the house so it wouldn't separate from the house (the original slab was not so connected). The work was "guaranteed 3 years".

The job required his crew to relocate two sprinkler heads from their former location where the new slabs would be to new locations at the corners of the new slabs. He said this would be no problem; he had 40 years in the business and did this all the time. I trusted his experience.

Silly me. His crew removed the old sod, poured the sand, set the forms and rebar and moved the sprinkler heads on the first day. On the second day, they poured the concrete, and at this time I paid him the full amount in cash. After letting the concrete set for a day, I decided to turn on the sprinklers--they appeared to work just fine, but I was amazed to see a steady flow of water bubble up from between the house and one of the new slabs. The contractor was amazed, too. "That's not supposed to happen." Yeah, no kidding, I told him. I asked if he had tested the sprinkler lines for leakage BEFORE pouring the slab, and he said he didn't; he ASSUMED, he said, that I would be curious and run the sprinkler and check for leaks before the poured the slab (at no time did he ask me to do so; I thought he would do this as a matter of "best practice."). Thought that was a little ballsy of him to suggest it was MY fault I didn't check HIS work!

He came over a few days later and cut a 2' X 2' hole in one of the slabs to access the sprinkler lines underneath and discovered that one of his workers had inadvertently broken the pipe. This repair work left a nice big hole with unsightly patch on the slab, which he assured me would age along with the rest of the slab and would tough to see afterwards. I wasn't pleased, but accepted his explanation.

A week later, after running the sprinklers twice, I noticed that a big outflow of sand was spread out across the lawn near one of the corner sprinklers on the OTHER slab. A quick investigation revealed the sprinkler heads he installed were only 2 1/2" in height, not enough for the pop-up spray head to clear the top of the slab. As a result, they were spraying against the slab and scouring out the sand bed under the slab. Several hairline cracks--some not so hairline--had developed on that slab, running the full width and depth of the slab. At the same time, walking across the slab gave me a "hollow feeling" under neath; I could feel the slab flex as I walked. I went to the home improvement store and shelled out $1.67 EACH for proper 6" sprinkler heads and tried to pack what sand I could back under the slab. Obviously, the slab was now just suspended in thin-air with no sand under at least 1/3 of its area. At this time, I called him to come over and tell me about the sand, the insufficent sprinkler heads, and the cracks.

This was dumfounding him as well. Why didn't they install a sprinkler head with sufficient throw to get over the slab? He said they used whatever sprinkler heads were "available" in their truck when they did the job. He packed a bit of sand back under the slab, and then sealed the edges of the slab where it had washed out with more packed dirt. He then went over the cracks with a sealant solution he said he used and said that should take care of it. I might add that the same sort of cracks had developed on the other, already patched slab, originating from the corners of where the hole had been cut to fix the sprinkler issue. He did the same with those.

It's been a couple of weeks now since these repairs, and I'm still not satisfied. I purchased what I thought would be a professionally done job by an experienced team; the bumbling errors have created a sub-standard (in my opinion) slab that is already cracked and flaking in places. The old slab that came with the house--now 8 years old--doesn't exhibit a single crack. There's no pride in this work--I'm embarrassed when neighbors come over and look at the new patio to find it with an unsightly patch and cracks all over it. If I were the contractor, I wouldn't want my name attached to this job.

Am I out of line in demanding that the contractor remove the patio work and either refund me the amount of the job, or pour me all new slabs? I can accept natural cracks due to aging of the work, but not cracks that immediately occurred due the poor competence of the contractor. It's like buying a new car with a big spot-welded patch on door.

I look forward to your responses!
 
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Old 11-07-12, 02:10 PM
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From what you've said, I don't think you're being out of line.

I'm also not sure I'd want the new patios attached to my house....
 
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Old 11-07-12, 03:55 PM
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I've worked for a sprinkler guy & I've worked for a cement man. I happen to know both jobs but not everyone does. You might want to have the sprinkler guy reroute the lines, then demand the cement man to fix the patio. It's the easiest way out but it might not be the cheapest. The sprinkler man should have been there first.
 
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Old 11-07-12, 09:48 PM
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If I were in your position, I would proceed to get quotes from other licensed contractors to remove the junk work (concrete and sprinkler system) and replace it with new, using materials and workmanship that are satisfactory to you. Get references for all contractors this time! And don't tie the slabs to the house this time, either--that's just asking for problems (either from freeze-thaw heaving potential or expansive soils heaving). Document all of the current screw-ups with photos, and proceed to file a Small Claims Court case against Joe Gyppo for the amount you will have to pay to correct his shoddy work. You DO NOT WANT him doing any more work at your property. You also need to file notice with the Construction Contractors Board for your area (either a State or County agency that issues contractors' licenses), making a claim against his license number.

Based on your description, it sounds like you have significant delamination of the slab(s), where pressurized sprinkler water was eroding the fresh and very weak concrete from the bottom, up and into the middle. You can sound the slabs by dragging a short length of heavy chain over them--the delaminated stuff will have a more hollow, lower-pitched sound than normal, solid concrete will. FWIW, good concrete will not "crack and flake," except for controlled cracking at contraction joints. The only fix for your situation is complete removal and replacement.
 
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Old 11-08-12, 04:56 AM
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I agree with what the others say and add this:
1) contact Angie's List and let them know of the problem. See if you can get the complaint in their magazine. The contractor may want to fix the problem rather than get the bad publicity. Don't have him do the re-work though, just make him remove the bad work and get money back to pay someone competent.
2) tell him you are going to contact the local news consumer advocate/ investigative reporter. Those guys are pretty thorough and scary for a shyster.
3) threaten to call the state attorney general.

Even if you don't intend to follow up with the threats, they will probably get some action. good luck
 
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Old 11-08-12, 09:56 AM
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I wouldn't waste my time with reporters.
 
 

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