General Question

Cupcake's avatar

Is this tub repair advice reasonable?

Asked by Cupcake (15502points) November 1st, 2013
15 responses
“Great Question” (2points)

We have a ~4 year old fiberglass tub. It is a non-standard size (extra long, wide and deep). It was relatively new to the house when we bought it 3 years ago.

It cracked when my husband was taking a shower. He immediately turned off the water and kept the tub dry while we tried to figure out how to fix it. He had a couple of people (including our regular plumber) come to the house to advise. Since we’re short on money (and hubby isn’t so handy), we went with a company that cut a fiberglass mat to size/shape and adhered it to the bottom of our tub (I guess they sanded down the crack and filled it with cement first). This is supposedly a long-term fix and will make the bottom of our tub more secure than when it was first installed.

We kept it dry for 3 days. When I took the first shower, there was some standing water in the bottom of the tub (old house, slow drains) and I noticed that their was an air pocket over the old crack and when I stepped on it, air bubbled out of the side of the mat. This was concerning to me because obviously water would get under the mat and would eventually get moldy/mildewy. Gross.

So they came back today to look at it, and since the glue was secure in most places, they just caulked around the edge and told my husband that he needed to maintain the caulk in the future.

After spending almost $500, this seems like an unreasonable solution to me. What are your thoughts? Is it reasonable for us to accept that the mat was not completely adhered to the tub and it is now our responsibility to maintain a bead of caulk around the mat?

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thorninmud's avatar

Not acceptable. Was the repair warrantied? The caulk thing is completely bogus.

Cupcake's avatar

1 year

thorninmud's avatar

They know they’ve screwed up. They also know that fixing it now is going to be really hard. They’re just hoping that you’ll accept this bogus “fix”. Bust ‘em.

ccrow's avatar

Not reasonable. “Well, we ‘fixed’ it, now you just have to keep fixing it over and over as long as you have it”? I don’t think so.

snowberry's avatar

I’d wonder why the tub cracked in the first place. I would say it’s probably because it wasn’t properly supported from underneath, and that if you don’t fix that first, everything else is going to be a bad job.

Also, I think they screwed up and need to come back and fix it for free. But first look at your paperwork and read all the fine print.

Cupcake's avatar

@snowberry Our plumber had a plan to address re-installation of our tub (or its replacement), which would be far, far, far out of our price range.

The guy who came to our house today (with no call or any kind of notice) said something like, “My wife told me that this needed to be pulled up and reglued, but since it’s mostly secure, I just put a ring of caulk around the edge.” I think that if we make enough fuss, they’ll fix it. I just can’t believe he showed up with no warning while my husband was busy working and a) didn’t fix it, b) told us it was our responsibility to maintain the caulk and c) we can’t use our tub for another 2 days.

Judi's avatar

Call them back and tell them that this is unacceptable.
I don’t know what state you’re in but I would guess that this guy is doing business without a contractors license. Look up the regulations in your state and look up his license status.
My daughter had a guy do work on her house who did a bad job. It turns out he didn’t really have a license like he represented himself to have. He ended up going to jail over her job!!

CWOTUS's avatar

I’m in general agreement with most of the other responders here:

1. The original repair should have worked – and probably would have, if the fiberglass mat had been applied and adhered properly. (I once fixed a Volkswagen Bug that had a rusted out inner fender and cabin wall which allowed water from the street into the passenger cabin. I ground the rusted metal to clean and shiny all around, and then fitted and adhered a layer of fiberglass mat over the hole and fixed to the irregular shape and corner of the rusted metal. Not only did it keep the driver’s feet dry after that, but it stiffened the car, too, since the rusted fender and cabin wall had actually been flexing as the car rode over rough roads.) Properly applied, fiberglass is structurally very sound.

2. I also agree with @snowberry that the cause of the original failure should be examined to determine what the original problem was. Bathtubs don’t often crack for no good reason. (I understand that budgetary concerns prevent a replacement at this time.) It might be worth looking at the sub-floor to see if there is any deterioration of the structure under the tub. Do you have access to the floor beneath the tub? While it may be expensive to do the thing correctly now, consider how much more expensive things can be – if not even “tragic” – if the floor under the tub is rotten, and what can happen if that is the case.

3. I would consider cutting out the entire bottom of the existing tub in order to properly examine everything underneath, and then replacing that tub bottom with the cheapest possible tub insert until you can re-do the entire tub and enclosure the way I’m sure you’d like to do. Not only will that reassure you about the structural integrity of the floor, but it will give you a tub bottom with more integrity (and even support, if that is necessary). The tub insert would certainly need to be caulked around the edges, but that’s normal in nearly any tub.

4. Failing that, it should be possible to remove the current repair mat (grinding may be required, which can be dusty and messy, and fiberglass dust is a real irritant and potential breathing hazard) and apply a new mat with better technique.

5. If I were to take on a job like that – and I’m no contractor! – I don’t think that I would offer a warranty except on “quality of workmanship” for any length of time. It’s a non-standard stopgap repair, and “we’ll do the best we can, but it’s not the repair we recommend”.

snowberry's avatar

There’s a good chance that it peeled up because there was no support underneath. The edges of the patch were just weak enough that when someone stood in the tub, the weight broke the seal. There is no point in fixing or replacing your tub until the support structure under it is fixed.

thorninmud's avatar

When you add fiberglass to fully cured fiberglass, the new layer can’t bond chemically to the old layer; it forms a mechanical bond (i.e. it “grabs” onto it). That means that the old fiberglass has to be thoroughly roughed up so that the new resin has some physical purchase on the substrate. If that’s not done adequately, the new layer has more of a suction bond than an actual grip. Whatever flexing occurs during use breaks that suction and the repair delaminates.

Bagardbilla's avatar

As a general contractor, I can tell you, they messed up.
BTW, a qualified plumber/handyman can replace the tub (with a slightly used one) for that price!
I’m just sayin’...

Cupcake's avatar

Well, I guess the excuse that we can’t afford it no longer holds. The tub leaked through to the kitchen below. We’re going to try to get our money back from the failed tub-mat glue job and hire our regular plumbers to properly install a new tub. Of course, we’ll also have to have the floor/ceiling/studs whatever all checked and fixed too, as well as the kitchen ceiling re-hung when all that is done.

So far they are insisting that this is not their fault and that we will not get any money back from them. We’ll see. They obviously did not fix the leak and their caulk “fix” was bullshit.

Any chance our homeowners insurance will help out with any of this??

Judi's avatar

Your homeowners insurance SHOULD help!
Did you check with your state contractors licensing board? Take lots of pictures and take them to small claims in the least! Keep the bid you got to replace the tub, his bid and the repair bid you now have.
Also, ask if he has liability insurance! I think your homeowners insurance will help you our with that.
You are entitled to a refund plus the additional expense to repair minus the original bid to replace the bathtub.

Cupcake's avatar

Thanks @judi. We didn’t get the original plumbers bid in writing, but we will follow through on all of that. I pulled up the number to check on his license late last night.

Judi's avatar

If he’s licensed the. You can file a complaint against his license. In CA there is a fund to help homeowners get reimbursed for shoddy workmanship. I don’t know where you are though.

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