Problem: I have a situation which could end up costing my company a lot of money. I run a very successful tiling business. I have 2 retail shops in the East Midlands and a separate contracting company. The contracting company is basically the fixing ‘arm’ of the shops, for when customers want to have the tiles supplied and fitted.
The contracting company carries out work for a variety of customers – from private householders who are refurbishing a room in their house right up to commercial work. Amongst my customer base are a few house builders and it is on one of the housing developments for one of the house builders that I have a problem.
During the pandemic, sales of new houses have boomed, and in the middle of 2020, a house builder that my contracting company had never carried out work for, asked us to quote for the supply and installation of floor tiles to the kitchens and utility rooms of 54 units on a new housing development. We were supplied with general plans (each house was a ‘type’), and the plans had also plotted the layout of the kitchen units. As is usual, I allowed to take the tiles just under each unit (ie, not to the walls under the units). We submitted the quote and was then given a purchase order.
However, having now done the first batch of the units, we were instructed by the house builder to return to site and ‘complete’ the tiling – in turns out the builder wants all the tiles taken right up to the edge of the walls regardless of whether kitchen units are to be installed over the areas. I stated to the commercial manager that common practice is to take the tiles just past the plinth of the units, but he has insisted that this is not acceptable and requires the tiles to be taken right to the walls – but I believe this to be pointless.
The commercial manager has also pointed out that our quotation did not make any qualifications about where the tiles would not be laid, nor provided any measurements. I have since looked at our quotation and all it says is to supply and install the specified tiling to each of the “kitchens and utility rooms”. However, I am still insisting that it is common practice in the tiling industry not to tile under floor units. If I have to tile to the wall in all 54 units, this is going to cost me in excess of £20,000. Who is correct?
Response: Thank you for taking the time to write in with your problem. From your outline, unfortunately it will be the builder who has the better the argument.
Although I have sympathy with you insofar that it may be quite common and even an unwritten rule that tiles are only taken just past the plinth of the kitchen units, because this was not stated expressly, and given that your quotation offered to supply and install the tiles to the floors of each of the kitchens and utility rooms, in the absence of any caveats or measurements that may have restricted the amount of work, you will be under an obligation to lay the tiles right up to the walls.
Although I have said I am sympathetic to your position, I do not accept that it will be a pointless exercise. Firstly, if the tiles are laid on the whole of the floor surface, this allows the builder to make any custom changes that the end client may wish to make. Secondly, if there is a water leak in the kitchen, the sub-floor is protected. Thirdly, the future house owner can replace the kitchen layout at some future point, without having the headache of trying to match tiles to cover the places where the tiles were not laid.
It is so important when submitting quotes for work, that you detail exactly what you are doing, including the scope, nature and extent of the work, and even clarifying what work is excluded.
© Michael Gerard 2021
The advice provided is intended to be of a general guide only and should not be viewed as providing a definitive legal analysis.
Michael is a Solicitor, Chartered Builder & Registered Construction Adjudicator, and is a director at Michael Gerard Law Limited, a solicitors practice regulated by the SRA.