Archive for March, 2012

Beware of Todd Sauter of Sauter Custom Tile

March 25, 2012

In May of 2011 I contacted http://www.servicemagic.com, where you get matched to a screened and approved contractor for the kind of project you are looking to complete in your home. I was searching for a tile contractor to re-grout my twelve year old bathroom and was given the names of three contractors from their “approved” list. After receiving quotes from two of the three, I chose Sauter Custom Tile in Mason Ohio because his quote was the best and his website showed beautiful work. When I met with the owner, Todd Sauter, he also had beautiful pictures of his work on his telephone.
Once he came to start the work we ran into a snag in removing the old grout and he suggested replacing the tile completely as it would cost less than trying to remove the old grout. He would give us his “contractor” discount on the actual materials and could start the job immediately reducing the down time on the bathroom considerably.
We chose a beautiful classico ivory matt finish with a glass aloe green accent stripe with a small somerset edge (like a chair rail) at eye level through the entire bath. It was an exquisite design that went wonderfully with our color scheme!
Before I realized that Todd’s attention to detail was ridiculously low, I had also contracted and purchased tile to do the back splash in the kitchen as well.
I had to call his attention to multiple issues in both the kitchen and bathroom that were obviously done incorrectly and several times, with what I feel were ultimately, disastrous results.
Issues with the Bathroom (you can click on any picture to see a higher resolution/bigger version):


He installed the original recess in the bathroom which was crooked (please note how the outside border does not match the inside border of the accent tile) and then left for the weekend! Also note that the bull nose was “cut and pasted” in the most haphazard way possible as seen below. I was so horrified that he would leave the bathroom in that condition and not even notice the recess was crooked, I immediately called and pointed out that as well as the bull nose issue and let him know how disappointed I was with the quality of his work. He assured me he would be back on Monday and make any/all corrections to give me a high comfort level in his work. He told me several times during that conversation that he takes great pride in his work and fix the issues we discussed without a doubt to my satisfaction. I certainly felt better about Todd after that discussion but had the entire weekend to stew about the recess as shown below:

Bullnose issue - Crooked Recess

1. Upon his return on Monday he seemed surprised, even confused he would have installed such a crooked recess and apologized for his mistake. He assured me that once the bull nose was grouted the apparent haphazard nature of the installation would be seamless to the naked eye and not to worry.
Rather than take a chance on another problem with the recess, I asked him to remove the stripe and install a complete aloe green glass background which actually cost me $30 in extra materials which he never offered to repay me for. The final grout job on the bull nose was in fact TOO UNACCEPTABLE FOR WORDS and I did call him back and asked him if he would want that in his own bathroom to which he replied, no.  So I asked him to tear it out and re-do it. (sorry, no picture of that one as I lost my hard drive) The second time was somewhat better, certainly not perfect, but I could not take the chance on another attempt so it is with regret that I decided to try to live with it. My husband kept cautioning me if he could not do it right the first time why would I keep calling him back to try to fix things a second, third and fourth time, but I felt I paid for a service and wanted to be satisfied and certainly wasn’t going to pay someone else after I paid Todd.

Here is a picture of the final recess. You tell me if you feel it was a job you could live with? Please notice the difference of the grout in the right and left corners and the dreadful caulk job in the corners of the glass – and it is hard to see but the bull nose on the bottom of the recess is not flat and seam less as it should be – and that was his second attempt!!!! Had this been done correctly, it would have been beautiful don’t you think?

Bathroom Recess done second time
2. He broke the somerset trim in multiple places – when I questioned him, he again told me I would not notice the cracks once they were grouted – another incomplete truth as shown in the following photos – I was livid to say the least! ( not to mention the lovely silicone grout job in the corner in the second picture covering up the broken glass):

Another crack in somersetMore somerset cracks and uneven edges

3. The green glass tile was broken in the corner. Again he assured me I would not notice the broken glass once it finished with silicone caulk – this was the finished product once I asked him to neaten up the caulk – I ask you would this be acceptable if this were your bathroom?

Bad grouting to cover up broken glass in corner
4. He missed grouting in multiple spaces – I had to call him back at least 3 times to grout spots he missed over and over again…..at least 10 of the bull nose at the top border of the tile were only partially grouted as were many spots underneath of the shelves in the corner of the shower stall. I got so tired of calling him back I actually put sticky notes everywhere he missed as shown in the pictures below:

Missed grout top of tiles Missed grout under shelves - 3rd trip

When he came back to grout the spots he missed he tried to short cut by using silicone caulk instead of grout. (By this time I knew to watch him like a hawk) When I saw the transitions didn’t match in either color or texture and called him on it  – he was literally “caught in the act” and forced to use the grout as he should have in the first place. Just another incident of him “cutting corners” rather than doing it right the first time!!
5. He installed the shelves in the corner with silicone caulk, taped them to the tile and let them sit for a day. When he came back to remove the tape the following day he was “shocked” they had not held. He came to me and explained he would have to reattach them as he first used silicone that was outdated blaming Home Depot for the problem by selling him outdated tubes of silicone.
However, I firmly believe it’s the responsibility of a contractor to insure the materials he uses are compatible with the application and most certainly within date specification of the product prior to application. He has no business blaming Home Depot for his obvious oversight.
Also, I was told by another tile contractor that the shelves should have been cut into the tile not “glued” onto the surface in the first place and we will probably have an issue with them coming loose in the near future.
6. Most of the somerset border above or below the glass accent strip DO NOT butt up smoothly to each other. Before he grouted the tile I asked about this as I wanted him to know it was unacceptable and was told I would not notice this once the tile was grouted. Yet again, not so as noted in the pictures below and this is the case in multiple somerset strips:

More uneven somerset joints and cracksEdges in somerset that don't butt up to each other

7. The bull nose coming out to the wall is ¼” short as shown in the picture below. When I questioned him, his response was “This is the way I like to do the tiles that border the walls.” As you can see by the picture below, it’s just another indicator of not calculating his tile usage correctly and being too lazy to do the job right the first time.

one half inch left between edge of tile and edge of wall

8. He grouted around the fixtures in the tub and now they are cracking and dropping off into the shower. He should have used silicone rather than grout. I could not get him to honor his guarantee so I will now have to pay to have someone come in and remove what little grout is left and then silicone caulk the fixtures as they should have been in the first place to insure I don’t experience water leakage.

Faucet grout

9. He left grout, caulk, and grout dust all over the tub, walls and floor from the bathroom all through the hall to the outside of the house. There was so much gook on the tile we were unable to get a suction cup to it adhere to it!
10. The depth of tiles are spaced unevenly throughout the bathroom as noted in the picture below – there should be a solid surface when you run your hand over the tile and there is NOT:

Uneven spacing and depth of tiles in bathroom

11. The spacing between the tiles is not consistent throughout the bathroom as noted in the picture below (sorry it’s a little blurry, but look at top tile to bottom tile and the difference in grout width):

Eneven grout spacing in bathroom

Issues with the Kitchen:

1. He miscalculated the total square feet of tile needed to complete the kitchen a total of three times necessitating three extra trips to the tile store and a lot more money than initially planned.
2. The tiles installed above the stove were uneven and I had to ask for them to be removed and reinstalled.

Kitchen Tile spacing

3. He grouted the splash screen above the stove to the wall.
4. Tiles under the cabinets were installed unevenly, some were as much as ½ inch from the bottom of the cabinets – I was very upset by this and Todd said I shouldn’t be as no one would ever see underneath the cabinets unless they strained their heads underneath to look – I insisted they be taken out and replaced, much to his chagrin.
5. One wall socket was not securely fastened to the electrical outlet – when he announced it was fixed, I tried to plug something into it and it promptly came out of the wall as he neglected to connect the outlet with the screw to the inner wall – so much for attention to detail!!!!
6. He grouted the wall plates to the wall explaining it decreased moisture intrusion. We never heard of or saw anything so strange in our entire lives and since they mixed the grout at the wrong consistency (too dry), not a week passed before the grout cracked and fell on the counter.
7. The grout was applied considerably heavier in the corners of the kitchen and we had to dig it out causing an awful mess.
8. Grout and grout powder was left all over the cabinets, floors, rugs, and hard wood floor from the kitchen all the way to the front door.
9. He used the worst tumbled tiles in the most conspicuous spots in the kitchen despite the fact that we discussed my aversion to those types of tiles being used when he first started the kitchen project. When I asked him to come back and replace those unacceptable tiles he refused to do it free of charge as I had posted a VERY negative review of his work on servicemagic.com.   Instead, he blackmailed me into taking down my disparaging comments from Service Magic site before he would come to replace them.


He couldn’t even accomplish the second repairs with care. Instead of taking out his water saw, he manually cut the two tiles on the end of the wall with what appeared to be a serrated saw – the result was an uneven shaky cut – he could not understand my displeasure with this when I asked him to replace the tiles as shown below:

Kitchen tiles cut evenly

10. Take a quick look at the space under the shelf and then compare it to the picture below – see a big difference in the spacing? Again, Todd was chagrined at my displeasure about the difference and didn’t quite know how that happened….

Kitchen Tile spacing

11. After he replaced the “bad” tumbled tiles in the kitchen, we waited several days for them to “cure” before we replaced the face plates. When we did, we realized he cut one tile too short and the face plate would not fit over the short cut.
When I asked him to buy and install an oversize plate he was dumbfounded as to why I would ask him to run such an errand as he never provided me face plates before so why should he now? I had to show him before and after pictures to make him understand his responsibility as shown below – still it took him three weeks to accommodate the request:

Switchplate due to short cut

12. Lastly, the grout at the counter edge all over the kitchen has just begun to crack in the beginning of March 2012 – after 9 months – I have a 12 month guarantee. When I emailed Todd the pictures and asked him to come and fix this problem he told me to re-grout the counter myself!!! How is that for customer service?
Actually here is a complete transcript of the email exchange between Todd and myself – he has yet to answer my last request below – nor do I really expect to hear from him as ignoring me has become his “MO.”

On Mar 14, 2012, at 13:24, “Bernie Warren” wrote:
Todd,
It seems all the grout against the existing countertop in the kitchen is cracking and falling off the wall….what can you do to fix this? And when…..I need you ASAP please! Same problem in the bathroom…

Cracking Kitchen Grout

Ms. Bernie Warren

 ****************************************

From: Todd Sauter [mailto:tsauter8100@gmail.com]
Sent: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 3:26 PM
To: Bernie Warren
Subject: Re: Need some help please….
Sorry, i am in Atlanta

Sent from my iPhone

****************************************

From: Bernie Warren [mailto:bwarren1@cinci.rr.com]
Sent: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 5:10 PM
To: ‘Todd Sauter’
Subject: RE: Need some help please….
Importance: High

When do you return and when can you then come by?
B/
Ms. Bernie Warren

****************************************

On Mar 15, 2012, at 12:52, “Bernie Warren” wrote:
Todd????
Being in Atlanta should not preclude you giving me an answer…..
Ms. Bernie Warren

****************************************

On Mar 15, 2012, at 12:55 PM, Todd Sauter wrote:
You will need to caulk that edge

Sent from my iPhone

****************************************

On Mar 15, 2012, at 13:24, Bernie Warren wrote:
When will you be back in Ohio so YOU can re caulk the edge – you guaranteed your work and the work is faulty and needs YOUR attention, not MINE.
Please respond.

Sent from my iPhone
Ms. Bernie Warren

****************************************

From: Todd Sauter [mailto:tsauter8100@gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, March 15, 2012 2:50 PM
To: Bernie Warren
Subject: Re: Need some help please….
The work is not faulty you have movement between your countertop and the tile that is causing that, i will be back in cincy august 3, the work does not have a lifetime guarantee sorry

Sent from my iPhone

****************************************

From: Bernie Warren [mailto:bwarren1@cinci.rr.com]
Sent: Thursday, March 15, 2012 4:11 PM
To: ‘Todd Sauter’
Subject: RE: Need some help please….
Importance: High
What about the issues in the bathroom you can’t possibly say the root cause is movement in the bathroom as well?
Regardless, your work IS guaranteed for one year and my check is dated June 2, 2011. Since you are out of the state at the time this problem has been noticed (well within the one year guarantee period), you DO have an obligation to correct it. It’s not my concern that you aren’t in Ohio now.
Please contact me for an appointment to correct this problem as soon as your return on August 3rd.
Thank you for understanding and cooperation.
B/
Ms. Bernie Warren

****************************************

From: Bernie Warren [mailto:bwarren1@cinci.rr.com]
Sent: Thursday, March 15, 2012 10:25 PM
To: ‘Todd Sauter’
Subject: RE: I need to hear back from you please……
Importance: High
Todd – I do expect an answer to my question regarding the bathroom problem and a confirmation that you will call me upon your return in August…..I don’t want to have to chase you around; after all you are a professional and should stand behind your work as a professional.
B/
Ms. Bernie Warren

****************************************

I believe you can visualize my disappointment in Todd Sauter and Sauter Custom Tile by the many photographs of both my bathroom and kitchen projects and why I close my eyes and/or cry each time I shower. This is certainly not my imagination or a misunderstanding on my behalf. I let him know the unacceptable issues as they appeared and asked him to correct them. During each step of the project he assured me they would be non-issues and would not be noticed upon completion. As you can see by the pictures, I was consistently told whatever Todd felt I needed to hear just to keep me quiet until he could get his check.
I see by the service magic site and his other positive reviews that he has completed projects to others satisfaction. Certainly NOT mine.
Take your chances with whether he’ll treat your project the way he treated mine or hope that your project will go the way it should – based on this review I highly recommend selecting another contractor.

 

In fact I have a recommendation, Greg Neuman of ReNeu Contracting in Batavia – 513-520-0705 – does great work, good prices and is reliable.  Knows what is he doing and NEVER tells you otherwise.  Give him a call for a bid you won’t be disappointed and please tell him you heard of him from his friend Bernie.  Best of luck on your project!

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