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Honesty and fair dealing are minimum expectations when contracting for basement waterproofing or any home improvement work. If you agree with that then beware of AquaGuard Waterproofing Corporation! Practically everything they promised was not delivered or sloppily done when provided at all. Add to that the grossly negligent smearing of hazardous exterior roofing tar on the interior walls of our basement and you’d think you’d seen it all. Not so! The twisted logic of their General Manager when actually trying to justify all this demonstrated an arrogance and total disregard for basic fair play that beats anything I had ever seen or heard of, till I ran into these clowns. In the end I was forced into arbitration to recover the tens of thousands of dollars in damages that they cause to my home. Don’t let that happen to you.
The following posting reviews yet another example of the ridiculous lengths to which AquaGuard would go in a pitiful attempted to justify their abysmal performance.
The self-styled “Trusted Name in Waterproofing” failed, among other things, to install the plastic vapor barrier as described by their sales representative and as described in their proposal. In fairness to AquaGuard, the Arbitrator noted in the Award of Arbitration: “…the Proposal is not a part of the Contract and the Owner had no contractual right to receive … the plastic sheet.” I will not comment here on contractual rights, obligations, or the relationship of the proposal to the contract itself as these are topics that rightfully belong to others to judge.
I would note that the basement waterproofing proposal was quite clear on this matter. Furthermore it was my expectation that what was described to me by the salesman and what was presented to me in word and in the proposal was exactly what I expected to receive for my money. As stated therein, the AquaGuard Foundation Water Management System would provide “A cover of 6 mil polyethylene will be used as vapor barrier between the Aqua Guard Mira drain and the floor slab. The crew will then complete the job by hand troweling a cement replacement over the trench using a Portland cement mix.” This could not be clearer.
Why wasn’t it done?
As the Arbitrator stated “…Contractor had stopped using plastic because the concrete would not set up properly.” Unlike the relationship of proposals to contracts, I will delve into this aspect of the work not performed. By highlighting the testimony of the expert witnesses and the statements of AquaGuard’s General Manager regarding the use of the plastic vapor barrier, I hope to provide the reader with some insights into pitfalls and challenges associated with contractor and customer relations. Simply put: Buyer Beware!
This polyethylene or plastic cover was described by AquaGuard’s so-called senior inspector as part of his sales pitch. As he said in his sworn deposition, where questions (Q) are from my side and answers (A) are by the salesman:
Q. So in addition to the Miradrain, a vapor barrier is put down, just like you see in new construction in my house, I remember seeing a ton of plastic from one end to the other over the gravel, right?
A. Yeah, right.
When AquaGuard’s Independent Inspector testified, rather than recount each and every failing in the system, the inspector was simply asked the following, where questions (Q) are from my side and answers (A) are by the inspector:
Q. Your entire professional career you’ve been in the waterproofing industry?
Q. Are you familiar with industry practices, procedures, standards?
Q. Are you familiar with industry practices, procedures, standards?
Q. And I’ll cut right to the short of it. You looked at the Rzemien’s property?
Q. Did it meet those standards?
Let’s examine for a minute what the purpose of the vapor barrier is. At the Arbitration hearing I had a home inspector testify. This gentleman has been in the construction business for over forty years. With respect to the vapor barrier he had the following to say when describing the finishing of the trench path: Questions (Q) are from my side and answers (A) are by the home inspector.
Q. All right. Then a vapor barrier goes on the top?
A. And that’s for the concrete to set so the concrete won’t seep down into the cloth itself, because a lot of times, they have a tendency not to use — basically, we use a sump. It’s what we call a slump test. I don’t like to pour any greater than a five inch slump. Some guys will get it eight or nine so it’s really surrey (phonetic) to move it, so I keep the sump in four to five, in that area.
Q. How does the concrete set up on top of the vapor barrier? How does it set up?
A. Just like anything else.
Q. Just on top and sets fine?
Similarly, I had a waterproofing contractor inspect the work and provide a sworn deposition for the arbitration hearing. In his deposition he discussed the vapor barrier. The following are excerpts from that deposition, where questions (Q) are from my side and answers (A) are by the contractor:
Q. So the vapor barrier goes on top of the filter fabric?
A. Yes, right before the concrete is poured.
Later on, the contractor explains…
Q. And is that —
A. The vapor barrier as well, yeah.
Q. Okay. And is the concrete applied directly on top of the vapor barrier?
A. Yes, it is.
Q. What is the vapor barrier made of?
A. Just a glorified piece of plastic sheeting.
Q. Is there ever any problem with adherence with concrete to the plastic, or is it just on top?
A. It could. It doesn’t really matter. We just don’t want it to — we actually turn it up so it doesn’t fill in the, fill in the drainage boards, so it would actually, it goes across as a vapor barrier and it turns up so the slab is, you know, doesn’t get concrete into the pores of the drainage.
In summary, the plastic on top of the trench serves to hold up the cement covering the trench, preventing it from seeping into the trench gravel, plugging part of the drainage path provided by the gravel itself. It is worth noting that none of the witnesses, with the exception of AquaGuard’s General Manager, expressed any concerns about the cement drying.
Though AquaGuard likes to blame the gross negligence and numerous breaches of contract on the hapless unlicensed subcontractor they sent to do the work, the failure to install the plastic vapor barrier was something AquaGuard’s GM defended. In doing so, he stands in stark contrast to statements made by his own witness and other industry professionals as shown above. Let’s examine exactly what he said, where questions (Q) are from my side and answers (A) are by AquaGuard’s General Manager:
Q. Okay. And it’s your position that the vapor barrier is never installed by you, notwithstanding that it calls for one in this form?
A. Yes, because the cement doesn’t form.
Q. Are clients, are customers told that?
A. They’re supposed to be.
Q. So your salesperson should be saying to people something to the effect that this vapor barrier that’s called for here, we’re not going to install it?
A. Right, unless they insist, and then we’ll do it, but then you can’t put things down like rugs and things because the cement doesn’t dry.
Q. Well, I’ve been doing construction litigation for a long time, and I know we’ve all seen house basements when they’re poured with the gravel and then you have the wired rebar and you have the plastic —
A. Uh-huh, uh-huh.
Q. — and then concrete is poured over that plastic vapor barrier, right?
A. We don’t like doing it that way because it doesn’t set up.
Q. Well, why is it done in every — why is it called for in code?
A. Well, I don’t care what they say. If you go out there and you dig up these homes, some people do it. Some people use the sock that they were talking about, which we don’t. Some people do this. We found that a lot of those things don’t work, so we don’t do it. Now, if the customer says put it there, we’ll put it there, but then don’t gripe to me that the cement is still wet six months later.
Q. Why is it, then, that you, if you can explain, have a vapor barrier called for in the proposal?
A. It’s probably old forms that we have that it hasn’t been taken off.
First, why would the cement not dry, even after “six months” as the General Manager says? Does that strike you, dear reader, as a bit odd? Even making allowances for exaggeration, this is pretty lame.
Second, why seek to shift blame on old forms, the salesman not telling the customer all the facts, gripping and/or ignorant customers, etc? Is it not far more likely that AquaGuard’s handpicked, unlicensed, incompetent subcontractor simply blew it? Is this what AquaGuard means when they say on their website “Aquaguard provides you peace of mind in knowing your basement is waterproofed with uncompromising pride, integrity, and value for life!”??
Third, what exactly is the General Manager saying when, in response to the question about construction codes, he states “Well, I don’t care what they say”??? Recall from my previous posting that AquaGuard has already been fined not once but twice for violations of county codes and regulations.
This has been an especially long posting. If you’re still with me, thank you for your patience and remember that you are your own best advocate when dealing with home improvement contractors. Words can be twisted or simply ignored and your options are limited when things go wrong. Do your homework, watch carefully what’s happening in your home, and stand up for what is right.