Additional information after posting the initial review:
Since the work has been completed I've found more issues with the work that August did. The floors that he created are not level - there is a 2" variation from one end of the rooms to another.
I also found that he had dumped leftover cement on my lawns, so several areas of the lawns are now concrete that goes down through the lawn/soil. It looks like he tried to hide it by hosing it over with water so that it would soak into the soil below.
Now I know why he has the clause in his contract about not being responsible for damage to lawns/plantings.
It's outrageous to me that this man who claims to have so much experience hasn't been able to find another way to dispose of left over cement and that he deliberately ruins peoples properties in this manner.
I read reviews of this company before hiring them. Overall reports of the concrete work was good, so I proceeded to make an agreement with the proprietor of Federal Concrete; a man calling himself August.
The project was to prepare and pour floors in two basement rooms and form/pour stairs to the basement.
Over the course of the project I had concerns pretty much every day. In my opinion, there was a lack of respect for me, my time and my home and the workmanship did not demonstrate the work of a seasoned professional. My account of the work and my opinions are detailed as follows:
• No protective barriers were used to prevent demolition dust or cement splattering. Not a clean worker.
• No real regard for my time, arriving hours later than expected and staying hours later than welcome. Initially he said that he would be here between 7 -730 am, but he was always several hours late; arriving at 930; 1030, 1145; 1150 and 930 respectively.
• Continually left my backyard gate wide open (when they weren’t coming and going and the work was at that point all indoors) , this continued even after my dog wandered out and went missing (animal services eventually bought her back) AND after August and his crew had repeatedly seen me making efforts to keep my dog safely on my property.
• Leaving the house door open when not needed to go in/out frequently. Very hot 30 degree days, challenging the air conditioning. Not a huge deal, but an example of the lack of respect for the client’s home.
• Being vague about payment schedule then asking for money in very definite stages, without giving me adequate notice to arrange to get money from my bank. Both my husband and I were present for our first meeting with August and both confirmed to him that he had been very vague and had not given us an idea of how he expected to be paid. In fact, he indicated that he didn’t like to stress people over money and was flexible, just to give him $100 upfront he said. When we broached this with him he got very defensive and insisted he had told us both what his payment terms were. This was not true.
• Applied an outdoor finish to indoor stairs and then argued about it with me as if I was a ‘stupid woman’ and didn’t know anything. The look I wanted was contemporary interior, not DIY garden path.
• Lack of quality workmanship; some of the finished concrete surfaces were acceptable I would even say some were good - but there were areas that were poorly done. I pointed this out to August and he tried to repair it as best he could (after he had initially dismissed my concerns). A couple of areas were not prepared correctly - the forms weren’t built properly on one side of the steps, so they had to repair them by hand, which looked a very amateur. It looked as if they had tried to manually shape it with their hands – not the same crisp flat finish you get with a form. The corner where the floor met the steps wasn’t a nice crisp 90 degree angle, there was a lump of concrete in part of it creating a sort of oversized concrete quarter round. It looked awful and would impede flooring to the edge of the room, or if framing the room it would have impeded being able to frame against the wall. My husband, luckily was home before it had set, so he quickly scraped it all off and properly smoothed out and shaped any questionable areas that were still wet. We discovered why there was a nasty lump of concrete hand formed at the corner of the floor/steps, it seemed to be covering up an error where the form didn’t go right to the floor level, so there was a very uneven lump of poured concrete here where it should have been a nice 90 degree angle right along – making a bigger lump of unsightly concrete isn’t exactly a repair in my book. He should have ground it off and parged it. All of the mistakes that I pointed out, August just responded that my husband would be able to fix it, otherwise he was very proud of his substandard workmanship as he focused on the one area that he got right. It would have been very easy to wire brush any jagged edges of the steps and take a trowel to smooth areas that weren’t quite smooth, but this appeared to be too much trouble, or beyond his skill level.
• August Insisted that the contract stated that I was a ‘woman’ and he was a ‘man’ and as far as he was concerned those were the only two options – he did not like me using the word ‘client’ in the contract when I had to make amendments to it.
• Left residual concrete on my driveway – lots of it spread in a layer over about a 7ft x 15 ft area – with no communication about if it was to be removed or left there. I didn’t notice this until the following day. I just didn’t think I’d have to check the condition of my driveway when all the work was interior work. I asked him if he was going to remove it, he argued that it was not concrete but it was now gravel – macho minutia! He did eventually remove the ‘gravel’, but this part of the asphalt driveway is now a different colour to the rest of the driveway as it has a thin layer of dried cement on it.
• Continually left items on the lawn. In my back yard I have a deck, a patio and a parking pad, as well as a driveway at the side of the house; lots of hard, less sensitive areas for storing items. So It baffles me why they would leave sheets of plywood as well as their equipment on a lawn. Several times I had to clean up after them to protect my lawn. August even had a clause in his contract that stated that they weren’t responsible for any damage to lawns/plantings just so they could be so careless. I understand that sometimes access can be an issue and damage is inevitable, but this wasn’t the case.
• No one in the crew ever asked to use the bathroom – I can only assume that they were peeing somewhere on my property.
• Didn’t hire a bin for removal of demotion debris. He arrived on day one and asked me if I had booked one. Prior to the project starting I specifically asked him what I needed to do to prepare – a bin was never part of the dialogue – so I ended up having to spend hundreds of dollars more even though the contract stated removal/disposal of debris. (granted there was a little more existing concrete to remove than we had both anticipated, but only an area of around 10 square feet x 4”– he thought that me paying for the bin would save me money instead of paying for him to remove the extra concrete) I could have argued that he had full opportunity to inspect the area when he was here, prior to quoting the job, but I let it go and paid for the bin in order to prevent any animosity, since I already had a good idea what type of man I was dealing with.
• Conduct – on the actual day of the pour – there was constant yelling and chastising going on as he yelled loudly at his sons who were his ‘crew’.
• Underestimating time to do things; I asked him how long the forming would take – he told me 4 hours, but it took more than double that. The total time of the project was doubled in a similar fashion of not really knowing how long things take; this had an impact on my own schedule and meant that I had to frequently change my plans.
• Poor work strategy – every time I checked in there would be two people sitting or standing and only one person working. Yet I still had to pay for the extra personnel who seemed to only be partially working. I pondered if this was a ploy - by bringing his sons with him, he would be able to pay them minimally, if at all, yet be able to bill me a full hourly rate just for the fact that they were present. He was very cagey about admitting that they were his sons – he slipped up a couple of times going to say the word ‘sons’ and then diverting to ‘crew’.
• Oddly he didn’t put his company name on any receipts or contract documents; they were all personal receipts naming him personally no mention of Federal Concrete on the documents. Not sure why, but it just stood out to me as unusual and I wondered if this was some kind of CRA avoidance.
• Bad task management: The job schedule was presented as; day 1 preparation, day 1 pouring, day 3 pop back quickly to remove the forms. This 2 and a bit day schedule, stretched out to a 4 day job, though there were no delays or unforeseen circumstances that caused this, they just lost time by not showing up till half way through the day and by not using the crew efficiently.
• Nasty notes and chastising emails. Since the schedule was shot, at the end of day 3 August said he’d come back on the morning of day 4 to remove the forms. He claims that he arrived at 10 minutes to noon, but shortly before that I had to leave and was unable to wait for him any longer. I honestly didn’t mind giving him a taste of his own medicine, but unlike him I notified him that I wouldn’t be home. We had not anticipated him to be here for a 4th day, but assured me he’d be here on the morning. I had a previously scheduled appointment and I didn’t want to miss it. I returned home after my appointment to find a rude note in my mailbox, telling me (oddly written: to Janet, woman) that I was discourteous and that he’d waited 2 hours for me. He claimed he couldn’t check his messages – but every other day he’d received and acknowledged any messages I needed to send to him, even prior to him starting my project. Whether he observed the information in my messages or not was another story; see below.
• One of the days I was feeling ill, so I sent him a message to tell him that I may be napping when he arrived but I would leave the door open so he could let himself in. On this particular day, he pounded on the door, instead of the gentle tap he usually did. Not cool.
• Protective gear; didn’t see anyone using protective eyewear or dust masks at any time during the project., but he told me that he did use masks I am assuming that they were wearing safety footwear, but can’t be sure.
All in all, I don’t feel that this is as bona fide an operation as the craigslist ads imply. It seems to me to be more of a handyman with his sons in tow. They were pleasant enough for most of the project, but there was a huge lack of communication, never telling me if they were running late and not really knowing how long his work would take him. I expected that a man with 15 years of experience would have a better understanding of the work that he does and be able to relay with a bit more accuracy about how the project would proceed. I would have preferred more honesty. If you’re juggling other jobs I don’t mind, just tell me you won’t be here till noon – then I can schedule my day accordingly.
I was very happy to see the back of August. Now my husband and I have several clean up and repair jobs to do to rectify the work that was done – there is literally concrete splattered all over the walls, they swept debris into a drain in the basement, but they didn’t sweep up the dust from the concrete floors, showing no pride of workmanship and no consideration for in the finished product. However, it could just be possible that this is the best they can do.
The total job cost me $5000 for approx. 250 sq feet of flooring and 6 steps. ($4400 was paid to August in cash and the balance paid for the bin he didn’t arrange for).
Based on my experience and his general attitude toward me as a client, I would not use this company again.