Blindsided By Mold: A True Story About A Bathroom Renovation Gone Bad – So Very, Very Bad – Part 3

2010 Jan.21,Bathroom renovation. by gardener41, on Flickr

In our previous blog, our homeowner, “Madeline” and her contractor “Fred” confirmed the source of her BIG BAD Mold problem – the result of a bathroom renovation that Fred completed 10 years earlier.  Here’s what they found:

  1. An improperly installed shower liner had left the area beneath the shower floor and all surrounding areas exposed to excessive (you could say buckets) of moisture.
  2. The tile in the shower had been applied directly to sheetrock instead of cement board – a big no-no.

There was no question that Fred and/or his crew was at fault.  As Madeline described it, a “sickened look” came over the contractor’s face when he saw what lay below and behind the shower tiles.  He saw the problem immediately.

Now, Fred knew how to complete a proper shower install.  The problem was, one or more of his hired help didn’t, and it was at this crucial juncture that Fred had his back turned. The result was tens of thousands dollars of mold and structural damage.

Time to Buy A Lottery Ticket, Madeline
Now here’s where I’m going to interject and say that Madeline, despite the fact that one part of her home was completely infested by mold, is one of the luckiest homeowners I know.

Why? Because her contractor acknowledged his mistake, and, without a fight, agreed to fix it.  This meant committing himself and his crew to 8 hours a day of labor for over 2 months.

During that time Fred replaced every bit of damaged or wet structural material, including floor joists, wall studs, subfloor, wood floors, drywall, cabinetry and closet space.  He also completely reinstalled the shower, waterproofing, tile, and all.

“Do you know how lucky you were?” I asked.

She did.  The mold remediator who inspected the damage and consulted with Fred, left no doubt in her mind how lucky she was.   When this type of problems occurs, he said (and it occurs “a lot”), homeowners are almost always left holding the bag.  Some homeowners end up in a legal battle with the contractor to recoup the restoration cost but it is always a long, hard fight that is ultimately hard to win.  Most homeowners just give up.

Fortunately, Madeline was spared this nightmare.  Her bathroom and all the areas surrounding it were completely restored at no cost to her, and she and her contractor remain friends to this day.

What Have We Learned?
So, what are the lessons here?  Only hire contractors that are close personal friends?  No!  Friendships tend to become pretty tenuous when thousands of dollars are involved.  Friendship has nothing to do with it.

If you want to avoid what happened to Madeline, show this article to your contractor and let him know that you read it twice and that you will be photographing your bathroom and shower installation throughout the process – particularly the waterproofing stages.  If he shows any signs of resistance to this level of scrutiny, rethink your decision to hire him.  A good contractor won’t have a problem with it – in fact he’ll be happy that you know the difference between good work and bad work.

Finally, be willing to pay for quality work.  The cheapest price is not always the cheapest long-term solution.  In fact, when it comes to home construction, it rarely is.  The $1000.00 dollars you save on a home renovation, may become the $20,000.00 you spend to fix the problem created by that renovation.  Think beyond the price.  And never ever underestimate the damage that water can do to your home!

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Author: Trish Holder of Greenspiration Home LLC

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