ZEELAND, Mich. (WOOD) — Ricardo and Marie Ramirez had big plans for their backyard in Zeeland, but it didn’t take long for their high hopes of a raised deck to be dashed.
“He miscalculated on the drawings of this deck,” Marie Ramirez said of the man who built the desk, pointing out one problem after another. “The lag bolts that are attaching the ledger board to the house are too small. The main ledger board, the nails are too short.”
The Zeeland city building inspector confirmed the deck wouldn’t pass a final inspection, saying the bottom of the ledger — which helps support the deck — wasn’t “flashed to prevent water from entering behind the siding” and that the top of the stairway wasn’t in compliance with building codes because it wasn’t secured to the deck. The department said some of the mistakes could lead to future problems.
There were also cosmetic concerns like frayed wood beams and even damage to the property. Ricardo Ramirez said he has had to fix several broken sprinklers during the construction process.
“They broke it (sprinkler) and didn’t tell us they broke it,” Ricardo Ramirez said.
The Ramirezes live off a running trail with wide open space and wanted to build the deck to entertain their family and grandchildren.
The product they got wasn’t what they had expected, especially since they went with big-name national chain Lowe’s Home Improvement and paid about $23,000.
When Target 8 reached out to Lowe’s about the Ramirezes’ complaints, the company initially replied via email that it was “looking into it.”
Lowe’s farmed out the actual construction to a contractor, Jan Sabin.
“I’m kind of confused on how Lowe’s uses a databank to find contractors but yet they don’t check on their contractors, so you don’t know who you’re getting,” Marie Ramirez said.
The Ramirezes’ question whether or not Lowe’s vets the contractors they provided. Lowe’s said it does. On Wednesday, Lowe’s sent a statement to Target 8 saying all its independent providers are insured and licensed, that it routinely checks their work and that it works to help customers when there is a problem.
The Better Business Bureau has Sabin once listed as the leader of BKH development out of Lansing. He now lists himself with ServeForce, a website where anyone can search for a contractor for all sorts of home help from big remodeling projects to house cleaning or even dog walking.
When Target 8 reached out to ServeForce to learn more about Sabin, the site sent back a statement saying it couldn’t comment:
“ServeForce would like to share all of our information with you as well as bring to the surface multiple inaccuracies with the claims that Mr. and Mrs. Ramirez’s have made about their project. Unfortunately we have been notified by Lowes Corporate that per contract, we are unable to speak with any media regarding the details of any Lowes projects. As such, we must decline your recent request for information, but we can pass the following Lowes email contact on to you.”
When reached by phone, Sabin would only tell Target 8 that he was “told he cannot speak with (us) about anything.”
The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs confirmed to Target 8 that Sabin is a licensed residential builder. But the Ramirezes say he wasn’t the one doing the work or even overseeing it most of the time.
The Ramirezes continued back and forth emails with Lowe’s, which at one point offered a refund of $1,000.
After not hearing back from Lowe’s for a few weeks, Target 8 checked in. Shortly after, the Ramirezes received an email in which Lowe’s apologized and offered a refund of $23,451.
“It’s a buyer beware,” Ricardo Ramirez warned. “We assumed we were going to get a quality workmanship deck. We assumed we were going to get the best Trek Transend (deck brand) construction and that’s not what we got.”
The Ramirezes went with Lowe’s because of its name and reputation with certain expectations. But their story proves you shouldn’t expect a company, either big-name stores or databases, to do your homework for you. If you find a contractor through ServeForce, you’ll still have to do your own checking to make sure they are licensed and ask for references. ServeForce is not a licensed builder: it’s a limited liability company.
The full statement from Lowe’s:
“Our goal is to ensure we are providing a great experience for every customer. Lowe’s contracts with qualified independent providers who perform installation services in the categories our customers need. All independent providers who install through Lowe’s are professional installers who are insured and licensed where applicable.
“We regularly review the work of our providers to ensure they are meeting Lowe’s standards. We perform job site visits, meet with providers and review customer feedback to validate the provider’s quality of work and customer service. In an instance where we identify a provider who has not met these standards, we work directly with the customer to resolve their concerns as quickly as possible.
“We apologize for the delays the family has experienced, and we are working to resolve this to their satisfaction. We have offered a resolution we feel is fair for the Ramirez family.”