Since Monday, August 1, I’ve been trying to complete a couple of unfinished objectives: hard tile and legal tender. The tile in the living room was only half way grouted when the contractors left. The FEMA money held in escrow by my mortgagee was wholly withheld by the bank from the start. Following will be a description of who and how I had to literally get on my knees to finish the grout route and figuratively get on my knees to end the mortgagee dead end. I will be forced to tell you of some of the sins of my contractors. I will be delighted to tell you about my mortgagee’s many misdemeanors. My uphill battle with the grouting was a result of my contractors taking the path of least resistance. My demeaning descent with the little bank that couldn’t was a factor of too many people ascending the corporate ladder and not enough on the ground holding the ladder in place. As always, and with both, my endeavor endured the pattern of the seasons. From the dead season of “this should be easy”, to the spring of “lets follow the rules and trust in others so that things will get done”, to the summer of “I should have known it would be like this and when it comes to money, money rules”, and finally to the fall of “you reap what they sow, you don’t get what you pay for, and your urgency doesn’t constitute their priority”.
Grouting tile is a simple yet tedious process. How to do it is described in step by step instructions on the back of the grout bag in both English and Spanish, along with simple pictures for the simple minded. There are quicker ways of grouting known to man, men who have grouted standard polished square tile projects. That brisk quick method spreads grout over a reachable area and uses a wet mop to mop the still wet grout up before it dries. Rinse, mop and repeat. Done. This method is only fair but mostly fast substitute for the conventional approach (trowel out, trowel up, sponge off, sponge clear) because the smooth tile allows for the wet mop to easily sop the tiny excess grout sand in its large roping tentacles and drag them off the slick tile beach into the slop bucket lagoon. However, this method I rate (irate) poor to inadequate for tile that has a rough texture such as slate stone or wood look porcelain. The latter, wood look porcelain, is what I have, and what I have is a mess.
Grout contains cement and is easy to apply and clean when wet, impossible to manipulate when it is dry. The entire tile work that WAS completed in my house was left with dried grout on ALL of the tiles. In order to clean this residue off the tile there are no easy solutions. If there is a large amount of grout dried on the tile, I read where one could use a hardwood plank (1×4 oak) to scrape and remove the chunks. The rest is accomplished by wetting and brushing with water or cleaning solutions and a non abrasive brush (nylon) each crevice of each tile until the hardened artery softens. I’m referring to scrubbing over 400 square feet of tile needing to be cleaned of a disturbing white grime. I’m going to roughly estimate that I paid $2400 to have 2 workers lay and grout 400 square feet of tile at $20 an hour, taking 120 hours. I’ll then estimate that it will take be 15 minutes per square foot to clean each hardened tarnished tile.
That comes out to (400 sq ft X .25 hours) = 100 hours. We already spent many hours cleaning up the tile project work area, minimal cleaning grout for furniture delivery, and grouting and tiling the remainder of the project, for an approximate total of 32 hours. Add the 100 hours for cleaning the remainder and you have 132 hours to complete the tile job the workers started. It will cost me more to complete the job (@ $20 hour) than I paid the workers to get 2/3 of way through it.
I deposited $10K of FEMA insurance money with my mortgagee to be held until repairs were made. The exact process of what it would take from me to get them to release the money was not worked out but I trusted that it would a simple process. I started working with one person who knew the ropes but was moving up the corporate ladder. He said that since he was familiar with my case that I should talk to him with questions and issues. From that point forward, there was no one else that seemed to be familiar with my situation, able to respond or concerned about me getting my money.
Two months went by before I started to probe the mortgagee about getting my $10K. I called on a Monday and was told that the guy I needed to talk to was in the corporate office and that they would get back to me. With no call back I called back later in the week to be told that they were working on it. Honest. The next week, I called and was told the fella I had originally talked with was now acting vice president and that the local office would be handling the case. Still nothing happened.
The following week, I called the main office to get someone who might care, perhaps the acting president. Instead, the call was routed to a different branch office. I asked for the acting president by name. The woman on the other end asked which office my loan was out of. I told her but added I was asking to speak to the person who was now acting president. She told me there were 400 employees with the bank and she didn’t know them all by name. I said he’s your president. She said she would look up who was his immediate supervisor. She got the number and the name and transferred me back to my local office.
When the local office answered, I explained my circumstance and she said she would get someone. That someone was the top guy at that office and he knew all about my situation. He told me what he needed from me (receipts, pictures) and what I needed from him. I stopped everything to deal with this glimmer of hope. I sent my spreadsheet of expenses immediately. I sent the copies of receipts, payments, and progress pictures that night. Two days later – nothing. I called the office again. The receptionist said she was not familiar with my case. She put another woman on who was. Apparently the guy I had spoken to two days ago had handed my case over to her. I had sent all of my documents by email directly to the top guy at the local office. The woman now in charge was not aware that the signed documents were returned because he turned it over to her and didn’t open his emails.
She said she would take care of it and send me my money. Hours later – nothing. I called her and she said had everything she needed and would be sending the money electronically that afternoon – and she did. That should be the end of the story. However, a larger check arrived that same day with the mortgagee’s name on it. This will have to be deposited with them and the same process repeated. We are back living in the house but that does not automatically mean they will be giving us the money. I must now make this place look good for the mortgagee so that the rest of the money is easily released. Good luck with that.