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On Your Side

Cutting Corners on Home Improvement Could Be Costly

‘My new floor has me bent out of shape!’

The glue had barely dried on AARP member Theresa Bolyard's new floor when things started to come apart. Installed in January 2008, the hardwood quickly began to buckle. Over the next few years, Bolyard's attempts to mend the $22,000 project in her Volcano, Calif., home were frustrated by pointing fingers. Neither the retailer who sold the wood nor the contractor who installed it would take full responsibility for the fractured flooring.

See also: Are penny auctions real or ripoffs?

Bolyard had picked out the hardwood she wanted from Lumber Liquidators, but it was her contractor who bought the flooring and had it installed, not the store's recommended installation crew. That turned out to be a mistake — now two different companies were involved in the final product.

Initially the contractor filed a warranty claim over the damaged floor with Lumber Liquidators; when the housing market crashed, however, the contractor declared bankruptcy and vanished. Bolyard had a hard time negotiating directly with Lumber Liquidators for the replacement flooring because she was not the purchaser.

The company offered to replace the warped wood but rightfully declined to pay for or guarantee the original installation. Tired and out of options, Bolyard finally contacted On Your Side.

I approached Lumber Liquidators and explained Bolyard's dilemma: She could not take advantage of their new flooring offer until the old floor was ripped up — whereupon she would still have to pay thousands of dollars for a second installation.

Lumber Liquidators' chairman and founder, Tom Sullivan, called the next morning and said his company would redo the floor, including installation, at no charge — easily a $20,000 tab. I wish every company were as customer-compassionate and forward-thinking as Tom's team.

But you can't count on getting the same treatment if you're in a similar predicament, which is why it's typically wise to stick with the store's recommended installation crew when launching a home-improvement project. Even if the initial price is a little higher, there will be little question of who's responsible if the product fails.

Have a complaint about customer service? Write to Ron at aarp.org/ronburley.

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