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\"change horses in the middle of the stream\"?

We bought our house; a Dutch colonial built in 1927, a year and a half ago. This fall we decided to change our ancient steam boiler,and water heater. We decided to use Home Depot. We met with one of the owners of RepCoe plumbing and heating: he came across as being curteous and professional. Additionally he told us that he would make sure that our entire heating system would work properly; and that we would be satisfied.
Unfortunately, this is not thew case. The partner we met was not around when our old system was removed, and the new one was installed. There were a series of things that took place that did not fit the image of the company that he projected when we first met.
I don,t know a thing about steam heat. So, I felt that it was time for me to start learning. I called Utica
to ask about the peg 112c that was installed. During my conversation, I found out about this web site, and about the book that I purchased;" We got steam heat".
My contractor dosen't think that the entire system needs to be flushed out. He feels that a cleaning compound, and skimming off impurities are all that is necessary. I asked him about the "near boiler" copper piping; he said that it is more expensive then steel, and that he has used it for fifteen plus years without a problem. However, he said that he would change to steel, if that is what I wanted.
Here is the deal. Fortunately for us, when the unit was installed a few weeks ago, they never compleated the job. The only money I laid out was a deposit of five hundred dollars. Obviously, the contractor wants his money, and Home Depot wants this problem to go away. I am torn as to what to do. It seems that the more that I learn more about steam heat,the more I question the professionalism of RupCoe. Although the one owner keeps telling me that he will do what ever will satisfy me, I do not want to keep telling him how he should do his job. When I hired RupCoe, I never focused on how much the job would cost that wasn't the most important part: I wanted the work to be done by professionals who knew how to do their job, understood the meaning of "service", and had the high standards you would expect to find in individuals who professed to be experienced professionals in a very specialized field. I don't believe that this is what I got. Consequently, I no longer trust the owner of this company; nor can I trust his work that was done by his company.
Does it make sense to hire someone else to re-do the job, or try to find a steam heat specialist to evaluate the work done? I could use some help with this; Thank You.
Peter Morone


  • kevin_5
    kevin_5 Member Posts: 308

    Peter, I sincerely feel for you. It seems that merely expecting excellence labels one as "nit-picky" or worse.

    You tried to pay good money to get someone highly skilled, and the more you learn, the less you trust them.

    I have run into this problem in other areas of life too.
    You are not out of line to expect excellence.
    It does sound however like the contractor is willing to work with you. If he is willing to fix things, I think it would be big of you to give him a shot. The trust issue is a big hurdle. I wonder if your idea of getting a knowledgable third party to evaluate what you have would be helpful. It seems to me it could be beneficial if you got the right guy, and if contractor number one is humble enough to learn some things and take some advice.

    I'm know that as a contractor I always need to be able to humble myself and learn something, because I have way less experience than most of my peers. And even the most experienced among us has way less experience than the total of the rest of us. I wish I had more advice for you, but I can at least be a sympathetic ear. My bottom line is: Try to go the second mile with your contractor, but don't feel as though you must compromise your high standards and expectations of a quality installation.

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  • Well said Kevin.

    My inclination would be to continue talking with the contractor that will do what you want done. He seems reasonable, and even if you both don't agree on everything, I'll bet he get's you closer to it than anyone else will.

    Just my feeling from your discussion.

  • Mad Dog
    Mad Dog Member Posts: 2,595
    Unfortunately, you've learned the hardway about Home Depot

    and their subs. If the contractor is willing to make it right, I guess you can let him. However, is he going to do what ever it takes ? i.e., do all the flushing , skimming, and balancing that this job will require? Most guys that are not too good with steam (copper header-types) are going to get frustrated and walk away before everything is the way it should be. Unless this contractor is really conscientious and willing to see it through till the end, I would find a competant company to take over. If he is willing to read Lost Art over a weekend and Got Steam heat, I'd give him a shot. If not, move on. Try find a contractor in your area. Mad Dog

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  • Tim Gardner
    Tim Gardner Member Posts: 183

    I am a homeowner who has been reading this list for several weeks and who has been learning about steam heat via Dan Holohan's "Lost Art" book.

    If your goal is to have it done right, my suggestion is to use the "Find a Contractor" feature of this site to find and interview a heating specialist that you trust. You can also use the search feature to look at their previous posts on the wall, if any, which might give you an idea of their level.

    Once you find someone good, you will have to pay them to tell you what you need to have done. Based on their recommendation, you might decide to continue with the original contractor or switch to someone else.
  • Bill N.
    Bill N. Member Posts: 18
    Get a professional to consult

    Find a good contractor (use "Find a Contractor" on this site). Talk to the guy, explain the situation. Pay him to review the job and write down what the incumbent contractor should do. Make sure what he writes down is clear and concise. While he is making the list, have him give you a price, on a seperate sheet of paper.

    Give the list of changes to the incumbent contractor. If the owner of the firm agrees to do it, have him give you a written statement saying so. Let him try it. Have the consulting contractor meet with the formean the day they start.

    If everyting is good at the end, pay your whole bill minus the cost of the consulting contractor. Then write a letter to HD telling them the whole story.

    If the incumbent tells you no way, then tell him no way and hire the consulting guy.

    Good luck,
    Bill N.
  • Earthfire
    Earthfire Member Posts: 543
    steam install

    Get a copy of the installation and owners manual for the boiler that they installed, and compare the installation to the factory specs. If the install does not at the minimum match the factory instructions, tell Home Depot to do a proper install. If you don't get satisfaction file a complaint with your your states steam boiler board, and you may have to get an attorney. The thing that HD home install division hooks people with is the quoted install price for "standard install". That is usually ," for example, remove the water heater and slide in the new one" any material or labor to change any piping or wiring as may be required is an extra. There is no such thing as a "standard install" when it comes to a steam boiler unless you are replacing a defective unit under warranty, and then only if it was properly installed in the first place. An installation per factory instructions, at minimum,is the only acceptable way to deal with a steam boiler but that may not be what Home Depot sold you. Also installing a boiler does not include repairing and or rebuilding the piping and or vents in the rest of the building, that would be an extra cost item with any competent contractor.
  • jackchips_2
    jackchips_2 Member Posts: 1,338
    I'll leave the

    heating direction to others, Peter. Just wanted to pass on something that just happened to my daughter with Home Depot in Naples.

    She hired them to replace the entire floor in the kitchen, dining room and living room. Long story, short, it didn't work out and after many conversations with HD she did get her money back.

    I only pass this on to give you encouragement with dealing with HD. They are really just a middle man but they do back up their dealings with homeowners. Be sure to keep them in the loop. Although I do warn, it does take perseverence in your dealings with them.

    Good luck.
  • Mark Wolff
    Mark Wolff Member Posts: 256
    Contractor Woes

    I can sympathize with your plight. I would offer two suggestions to you. You have a contractor who may or may not know what he is doing. It is sad but often true that the professionals hired to do jobs aren't always very professional. However they appear willing to work with you. Make extra effort to come to an agreement with them regarding any modifications or safety corrections needed. If you bring a second contractor in, 99% of the time you are going to have 20x the headaches you are experiencing right now. I even would question how professional another contractor is that is willing to finish a job you are holding money on to another contractor.

    That brings me to the second point. There are times when a job is performed so poorly or so inadequately that payment would not be appropriate. In those cases, Home Depot should be told and dealt with, not the contractor. Holding money is an opportunity to create unbelievable strife and problems for yourself. If the contractor can prove they installed the job to code, or to contract specifications, you will be liable not only for the money, but attorney fees, and court costs if he decides to pursue it legally.

    The best course is to keep communication open, contact the owner you originally saw before the job started and let him know what is going on. I'm sorry you are having to go through this. I know it is frustrating.
This discussion has been closed.