Editorís Note: This article is the first part of a two-part series exploring issues surrounding stone flooring failure and inspection to discover the causes. The second part will appear in Fredís Stone Shop column in the May issue.
You have received a call from your customer that a failure has occurred, and they want you to come out and inspect it to tell them what happened or if it can be fixed. How does one go about performing such an inspection, and what does one need to do to find the cause of the failure? I have seen thousands of failures in the past 20 years and the following is the best way to go about conducting an investigation.
Your first task will be to plan what you are going to need for the inspection. In addition, you will need to gather as much information as possible before you arrive on site. I like sending a pre inspection form with a list of questions that I need answered to help with the investigation. This can be faxed or e-mailed to your client so that you can plan for what you will need, as well as what to be prepared for.
You next step should be to interview in person or by phone anyone who may have information about the failure. I like interviewing the installer as well as the general contractor. Remember everyone has his or her own side of the story. Your job as the investigator is to be unbiased and gather as much information as possible.
Collect information before the inspection, i.e., blueprints, installation specs, name of contractors, time installed, memos regarding installation, materials used for installation, MSDS for all products used, invoices for materials, change orders, when the problem was first noticed, etc.
The following is list of questions you may want to ask during the interview:
- What is your name, position and company?
- What was your role with this project?
- What was your knowledge of the site before this installation?
- When did you first notice this problem or failure?
- What events do you think led to the failure?
- Did you notice anything unusual during the installation or afterwards?
- Can you specifically describe for me how the stone was installed?
- Do you have any records, notes or memos concerning this project?
- Is there anyone else who may know something about the failure?
- Can you think of anything that could have happened to cause the failure? Was there a flood, AC breakdown, leaks, etc?
- How was the site cleaned up after construction?
- What chemicals or cleaners were used during the project?
- What was the weather like during the project? Prior to and after the failure?
- What do you think caused the failure?
- Have there been any reports from others on this problem?
- Can you think of anything else that I might need to find out what caused this failure?
Ask as many questions as you can; this may be the only opportunity you have to do so. Make sure to record the answers, as well as the date of the interview. Often, this will help you find discrepancies in events. For example, one person may tell you the failure was first noticed on a certain date, and then another may tell you a different date.
The Site Visit
When you first enter the clientís house or business, make sure to introduce yourself. Be friendly, but also watch what you say during the inspection. Remember everything you say will be used against you if the opportunity arises. Be professional and donít be afraid to ask lots of questions. A good investigator will learn how to ask questions in a nonthreatening way to get as much information as possible.
The first thing I do during the inspection is to take a close look at everything. Look at the floor, the walls, and the outside of the project. Donít leave anything out. You may find the failure was caused by something that had nothing to do with the floor at all.
Once you have a good feel for the site, it is time to start a more detailed investigation. The following is a brief list of things I would look for during my inspection: