This Isn't the Birds and the Bees
Contributed by Eric D. Lussier
You can never start a conversation early enough in construction. Why is it that we wait so long to have that difficult talk? This isn't the birds and the bees with a pre-teen. This is real world ramifications that can affect many on a project.
We' are working on a flooring replacement project that we bid in April of 2018. This project has been on the verge of installation since September. We go over and above to ensure that our proposal is very clear at the time of the bid: What we will do, what we won't do and what is the responsibility of others.
It's important to note that any flooring contractor is not the Clark Kent of a renovation project. More importantly, we are not Clark Kent's alter ego, Superman, on a project. Meaning, we don't have x-ray vision. Conditions underneath existing flooring are unknown to all until the existing flooring and adhesive is removed and the base slab is 100% visible. You could have unexpected layers of flooring or adhesives, hazardous materials such as asbestos, mercury or lead, excessive concrete cracking, delaminating patching or high concrete moisture. Since we've seen each and every one of these unforeseen instances in the past, we exclude any and all subfloor preparation.
If you are preparing construction documents or readying for a flooring project yourself and you have a certain end result in mind and it needs to be included as part of the base bid contract, you need to be very exact and precise with wording. The end result should be so clear in your documents that a layman can understand the proposed scope of work.
On this particular project, the scope of work included flooring removal and to provide the following:
What's wrong with that scope? From a flooring contractor's perspective, I offer you the following response on each line item.
If you're unsure if your scope of work is clear and sufficient, ask for help. Reach out to a trusted advisor for review and response of your specification. Or if you are unsure of what your proposed scope should be, carry an allowance so that all bidders are working with the same exact dollar figure. An allowance may not cover all of the work that needs to occur, but at least it ensures that everyone is on the same playing field and you have money to start working with, should it be necessary.
Fast forward on this project to the flooring and adhesive being removed by the contractor - which took three weeks for 9,000 square feet and not "two days" like they told us it was going to take. The spec noted 'Contractor shall examine existing concrete slab after removal of existing floor surface the concrete subfloor shall have no greater variances than 1/8" within a 10 ft diameter. Any deviations should be noted to Directors Representative and Architect.' We profiled the floor and created an elevation sheet, and have areas that are out over 3/4". Our suggested course correction? An approximate 3/4" cementitious underlayment overpour on the entire surface to bring it to within spec. The response by the architect? The prep was in the spec and the contractor should have made the architect/owner aware 11 months ago that the spec was in error and could not be properly bid as is.
Where does the onus lay on this? From our experience, we personally don't believe the general contractor was experienced enough with flooring replacements to realize that the specification was not properly written. So while the spec also said 'Contractor shall prepare existing concrete slab per ASTM F-710-08 (sic) Standard Practice for Prepping Concrete Floors to Receive Resilient Flooring', to what end is the general contractor liable for circumstances outside the norm?
From the architect's stance, they believe their scope was clear cut and the contractor should have made them aware of errors and omissions earlier in the process.
As we are contracted to the General Contractor, we will always fight for their best interest. If they look good, we look good. But from our stance, we've been clear since day one: our proposed scope WILL include this and that and will NOT include that and this. We've been very transparent in our mind and we will not move forward with an installation on a substandard slab. Nor will we incur extra time or money on this job that has already cost us well over fifty hours in project management time.
Is there a moral to this story? If there is, it would be to be clear - in your proposal, in your bidding documents and in your intent. If you see an error or omission? Declare it - early and often.
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