Contractor damaged our hardwood floors - now what?
July 11, 2008 3:25 PM   Subscribe

We're in the middle of having a new kitchen installed. As part of the remodel we knocked down a couple of walls. The house has hardwood floors throughout yet the contractor did not put anything down to protect the floor(!!) when they did the demolition. No surprise then that there are scratches and a couple of gouges on the floor. We're not happy. How to approach this? What rights do we have?

When we first raised the issue with him he said they were planning to "buff and varnish" and this would take care of all the scratches and he apologized for the gouges. He also mumbled something about possibly resanding / finishing that level of the house and that he would split the cost.

His floor guy just came round, took one look at the scratches and said that buffing wouldn't fix them -- let alone the gouges. The kitchen floor wasn't fantastic before but it didn't need all these extra scratches. The other damaged room was fine before.

So it seems our only option to recover the floors is to sand and refinish this level of the house. It's 800 sq ft, which at $2 for just two coats, is a cost I could do without. Should we contest that he should foot the entire bill? Or, if we decided to live with the damage, should we be asking for compensation? He's bonded by the way.

We went with the cheapest contractor so perhaps it serves me right -- someone else is doing the cabinet installation. I don't particularly want the guy to take a loss (we're paying around $9,500k) or not make any money but nor do I want to be a chump because of his incompetence. (I mentioned the lack of protection on day 1 and they didn't remedy it for the second day of demo either.)

(Old oak floor. Been refinished at least once before. Denver.)

I thank you all.
posted by NailsTheCat to Home & Garden (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's 800 sq ft, which at $2 for just two coats,

What's that number, $2 per sq ft?
$1600 to refinish. Seems a bit high. But since you selected the least expensive contractor, you might ask to split the cost, and everybody stays on good terms. In any case, don't let him do any part of the refinishing. It will take skill & experience to match the look of the other rooms.

Hard to believe the floor was not protected. We don't even allow work boots on our wood floors!
posted by artdrectr at 4:07 PM on July 11, 2008

wood floors wear down after a while, and it sounds like yours was already in not so good shape. you should probably have him cover a portion of the cost--but only maybesomething like 20% or so to allow for depreciation of the existing finish.
posted by lester at 4:28 PM on July 11, 2008

artdrectr, $2 per sq ft is what the hardwood guy said after I balked at $2.50. I think the contractor originally estimated that as well. What sort of price do you think it should be? (And for how many coats - only two seems a bad idea.)

lester, the only floor that was a little worn was the kitchen's. The other three rooms (dining, bedroom and, um, other room) were fine. So we had no intentions to refinish them -- we have too many other projects waiting for money.
I'm not being (I hope!) one of those posters who only wants to hear what they want to hear. Just wanted to emphasise that the floors were fine until now - not new, but already sanded and refinished.
posted by NailsTheCat at 4:44 PM on July 11, 2008

Can you get a couple more quotes?
posted by jerseygirl at 4:44 PM on July 11, 2008

It's Boston, so YMMV, but my parents refinished (and repaired some areas) their hardwood floors in the entire house (including a split staircase with landing - about 10 steps) for $1100. Living room, dining room, 3 bedrooms and a hall way. They received quotes anywhere from 1100 to 1900.

So yeah, if you can get a couple more quotes...
posted by jerseygirl at 4:49 PM on July 11, 2008

Oh. And it's the kitchen and a smaller room that are damaged. All the rooms are connected -- the hardwood guy said there was no way he could only do just the damaged rooms and have not have an obvious join between them.

Meanwhile I'm busy cleaning globs of plaster off the floor since I don't trust him to do it without further damage.

jerseygirl, you're right. I should (and shall) get more quotes. I'm not holding my breath since this hardwood guy seemed cheap for a separate repair I wanted him to do -- but it's worth a try. And, on preview, Denver must surely be cheaper than Boston. Thanks.
posted by NailsTheCat at 4:51 PM on July 11, 2008

Have you paid the kitchen contractor in full already? Hopefully not.
You should hold back whatever you think is a fair compensation for the damage done. Say, $800, half your refinish cost on the theory that the floors were already kind of half beat up. Or maybe a bit more to provide some negotiating room. Or, the full amount if the floors were really pretty good and you were not planning to do anything to them at this point. Take a few pictures before the floors are refinished, also. Tell the kitchen guy you're not paying him the full amount because of the damage done, especially because you told him on day one he was damaging floors. He has already taken some responsibility by promising the buff and varnish and bringing in someone to do it, so that helps your position.
If you've already paid him in full you're going to have to go via his bonding and make a claim that way.
posted by beagle at 5:54 PM on July 11, 2008

Thanks all for your advice - much appreciated.
posted by NailsTheCat at 8:03 PM on July 11, 2008

$1600 for two coats on 800 sq. ft. is pretty fair. I recently did a job about that size, and the cost worked out to around $2.50/sq. ft. That was for three coats, but didn't include a kitchen -- working under the cabinet toekicks is tedious and difficult. If you've removed the old cabinets and haven't yet installed the new ones, your floor guy shouldn't have that problem, though.

Two coats isn't necessarily a bad idea, but I think three is better. See if he'll do three coats at $2.50.

Sure, you can find someone to do it cheaper. But you've just seen what going with the low bid sometimes gets you. Your piece of mind that the job will be done right and on time (you don't want the flooring guys holding up anyone else) should be worth something. Also, are legal workers earning a living wage important to you? That costs money, too.

Finally, your contractor most definitely should have protected the floors. And especially after you pointed it out to him. It's not unreasonable for you to ask him to split the cost. He should be fine with that, because you could be a hard ass and demand that he pick up the full tab. Half is fair, and $800 or $1000 on a $9500 job shouldn't break him. It will wipe out his profit, and I bet he learns to cover the floors next time.
posted by lost_cause at 7:36 AM on July 12, 2008

You're paying him just under 10k and he was too lazy to cover floors? Even after a warning? Unfuckingbelievable. I'm generally inclined to give people some benefit of the doubt, but in this case I think that it would be fair to withhold the full cost of refinishing. Anything less than that is a present.

And yeah, three coats.
posted by desuetude at 6:49 PM on July 12, 2008

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