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Old 10-27-2009, 09:13 PM   #16
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Crumbling Grout


I think the posts have gotten way beyond the available information. So far, no pictures, and precious little evidence of what really went wrong. Simply a HO comment that the grout crumbled in several places.

I spent almost ten years of my career doing forensic engineering investigations, and I can assure everyone on this forum that at this point, there is simply no way anyone can formulate a reasonable opinion as to what the cause of the problem is. The only "evidence" available are the HO comments regarding their opinion that the grout was probably OK, the floor was squeaky before tiling but apparently felt solid afterwards, the grout crumbled in several places, and an architect friend opined that the joists met standards.

The possible causes of the problem have already been discussed. What is more interesting is the range of opinion about who is responsible for the problem. One post suggests that the tiler is automatically responsible, since he did the work. One post suggests that the tiler cannot be held responsible unless he did something wrong. Another suggests that the tiler is not responsible for the outcome of the project if the floor was structurally inadequate.

United States law distinguishes the responsibility of a professional as opposed to a craftsman as opposed to a supplier. Each has a different standard of performance. A professional, such as a licensed engineer, is held to the standard of "the average engineer". As hard as that may be to believe, all you have to do is be as good as the average engineer, and in theory you have no liability if something goes wrong. In practice, you can always be sued, but to prove negligence and collect, in theory you have to show that the professional was below average. Same goes for doctors by the way.

A supplier under certain circumstances is held to strict liability, meaning they are absolutely responsible for the performance of their product. If you supply grout, and the grout is defective, you absolutely have to make good on the grout. Things get much more complex when you ask if the supplier is also responsible for repair costs, loss of service, or derivative costs due to product failure.

A craftsman (electrician, plumber, tiler) is not supposed to design anything, in theory they are supposed to execute a design in accordance with normal standards of practice of the industry. In practice, it is almost impossible to draw a line between the design and the installation. Take plumbing, the average plumber sizes the pipe (generally in accordance with code), selects the type of material, and developes the alignment of the run. Generally there is no engineer involved in the plumbing, electrical, framing, or flooring of a house, it is typically done in accordance with code, or if the house is custom built, in accordance with architectural plans. Possibly in one house out of 500 is a structural engineer called upon to size a beam. I have never heard of an engineer being called in by a tile layer to offer an opinion as to whether the floor is strong enough to support a particular type of tile.

So what do you have? The grout supplier may be responsible if the batch of grout is bad. The tiler may be responsible if the installation failed to meet normal standards. The homeowner may be responsible if the grout was good, the installation was in accordance with standards, and by sheer bad luck the grout failed. I have no idea in this case who is responsible, but I am certain that the cost of a forensic investigation to determine the cause and origin of the failure would exceed the cost of repair. So I go back to an earlier suggestion, call the tile installer and offer them the chance to fix the problem. The alternatives do not seem appealing.

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Old 10-28-2009, 07:17 AM   #17
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Crumbling Grout


Some good points made above...I guess I just deplore the general lack - or lowering - of standards and responsibility that people who pass themselves off as 'professionals' claim they adhere to. The shell game; promise more but deliver less...as long as you save money...dumbing down etc etc.

At the same time, I am reassurred to know that at least some people buck that trend - and have made themselves well known here. They all have my respect...

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