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However basement waterproofing gets done, by AquaGuard or any other contractor, someone must be responsible for ensuring quality. This is especially important when the company has subbed out the entire job to another outfit. Identifying that person or the process should be part of your “homework” when deciding on a contractor. In our case, even after the fact, getting that information from AquaGuard Waterproofing Corp proved difficult and confusing at best. One shouldn’t be surprised at such behavior if quality takes a back seat to making a fast buck.
If you are dealing with telemarketers who are more interested in moving “product”, i.e., making money, than delivering quality products, you have a problem. Furthermore, if the business model is to sub out work, unsupervised and uninspected, and then insist all issues be dealt with through the sub, you have a worse problem. During our AquaGuard nightmare I never saw an AquaGuard employee who actually did waterproofing work. They were all salesmen, telemarketers, managers, etc.
It might be instructive to specifically examine some of our experiences. What we observed is the following: In performing the basement waterproofing at my house AquaGuard repeatedly ignored facts and failed to take the simplest steps to address examples of clear and gross negligence. For example, no one inspected what their workers were doing during the work or at its completion. Worse, when any number of serious issues were raised, they denied a problem even existed. Here’s how AquaGuard acted at my home:
See No Evil: Willful blindness, unwillingness to objectively view the evidence, something else? Regardless, by giving the subcontractor free rein throughout the job, AquaGuard lost several opportunities to witness and act on outrageously poor workmanship. Consequently they were simply, or purposely, clueless about what had happened in my basement. This “See No Evil” approach made matters worst when compounded with an attitude that can best be summed up as “The Customer is Always Wrong”. For example, when I complained about the tar on the walls, obviously a total mess up, they responded by telling me in essence that they had done me a favor! Note that I had paid approximately $7,000 for them to clean the wall and coat them with a cementitious waterproofing product manufactured for that purpose. Instead they simply smeared my walls with exterior roofing tar using a product that cost less than $50. The tar material can itself was clearly labeled with the following warning:
CAUTION: COMBUSTIBLE MIXTURE. HARMFUL OR FATAL IF SWALLOWED. KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN. FOR EXTERIOR USE ONLY. USE WITH ADEQUATE VENTILATION.
This was either not read or totally ignored. When I called to complain, no one from AquaGuard took the time to travel 20 minutes to my house to inspect the mess. I sent them pictures, data sheets, anything and everything I could gather to inform them of the seriousness of the situation. Their response can be summarized in their recommendation that I live with the stench and health hazard for 2 weeks in the vain hope that the “odor” would go away, as if that were the only issue! In the same spirit they ignored my numerous complaints about irregularities in the drainage trenching, or the so-called French Drain, which was the bulk of the work. A simple inspection at any time during the work would have caught the obvious problems but, then again, you have to want to check on the quality of the work.
If the customer persists the company can always…
Hear No Evil: When I called to complain about the tar on the walls, I was shuffled between three different AquaGuard employees, each in turn trying to convince me that they had done a “superior” job! How many times do you have to tell someone that something is wrong before they act? When I finally got the message to them that I wasn’t going to live with this outrage and they needed to take action, they failed to make a serious attempt to correct the damages. Instead, they sent back the same incompetent, unlicensed subcontractor who proceeded to do a reckless grinding and demolition of the wall without adequate sealing of the job site, protection of his own workers, or adequate ventilation. In the end, I told them to go away before they did more harm.
AquaGuard will claim that they aren’t perfect, made a mistake, blah, blah, blah. There is no question they hired a disreputable contractor, failed to check on his qualifications, etc. Where they fundamentally failed was in their willful ignoring numerous warnings that something had gone terribly wrong at my house. In the face of massive incompetence, they insisted on sending the same idiot back time and again to wreck more havoc. This behavior goes beyond simple ignorance. Why they behaved in such a manner is something they would have to explain.
I was persistent in my attempts to get them to address the issues. AquaGuard’s response? Read on.
Speak No Evil: There was extreme reluctance, to put it mildly, to admit any errors on their part. My complaints were either ignored, as stated above, or they had one excuse after another for why what was done was somehow OK. The first response was that the use of tar on interior basement walls had been done in the past as if that justified an obvious breach of contract, let alone the health and safety issues associated with the interior use of this material. When pressed for an example of such an outrage they naturally couldn’t provide one, but what the heck, it was worth a try if I was dumb enough to live with it. Their next attempt, more ludicrous than the first, was that they had done a superior job that cost more than I paid and they weren’t even going to charge me for it!
The above treatment of a customer by a company defies explanation. More than any thing else this series of attempts to blow off my concerns or intimidate me into thinking I was somehow being unreasonable convinced me that I wasn’t dealing with a reputable outfit. All their subsequent actions confirmed my fears.
When they were forced to remove the tar, they botched that job by doing an uncontrolled grinding and demolition of part of the basement wall. This sent massive amounts of poisonous crystalline silica dust throughout my basement. In the face of such obvious incompetence and gross negligence AquaGuard had the audacity to say that the only issue was the fact that their foreman didn’t stay to supervise the workers!
You can understand someone making a mistake. The correct response is to recognize the problem and make a good faith attempt to correct it. AquaGuard on the other hand insisted on sending back the same incompetent subcontractor time and again, totally unsupervised, to wreck more havoc on my house. They were blind to what was going on, deaf to my appeals for help, and simply unwilling to admit there were any problems at all.
Which gets back to the question at the start of this posting: Where’s the Quality Control? The simple truth is there was none. How they attempted to explain this lack of quality control is the subject of a future posting where we will dig into the various outrageous statements they made.