CALL US  +1.919.341.2873

Surface Buff

"Education before any Sale!" - Maurizio Bertoli of MB Stone Restoration Maurizio Bertoli (aka MB) is the reason the founders of SURFACE BUFF came into this industry. His passion for quality, his amazing raw talent, his attention to detail, his ability to educate both contractors and consumers impacted so many and continues to do so after his premature passing, through those who had the great pleasure of studying and apprenticing under him. MB will be greatly missed, but his passion and mission will go on forever.

NOTE: In many cases, a sudden and accidental situation in a home or building that requires restoration may be covered by insurance. Don't allow the hype and lies that are made to make people afraid of filing a claim through their property insurance. It is not the same as car insurance. If you think you need to file an insurance claim, look into hiring a licensed and bonded Public Insurance Adjuster. If you need help finding one, give us a call and we can give you information. A Public Insurance Adjuster works for you, whereas the insurance adjuster works for the insurance company. And you should never have to come up with any money of your own for a good Public Insurance Adjuster. A good quality Public Insurance Adjuster should work for you on a contingency agreement.

SURFACE BUFF is dedicated to help educate the consumer and to help get you the project you paid for...that you deserve.

Consumers are finding themselves more and more into a situation where they pay a lot of money and try to pick out the best contractor only to now have a mess on their hands. This is a frustrating experience and can really be exhausting. If you don't know where to go to get help, you may even feel helpless.

So how can we help you?

Legally - No, we are not lawyers. We cannot offer any legal advice, nor would you want it as we only specialize in surfaces, not law. The contents of this website are based on our professional opinion and experience and is not to be taken as legal advice of any type. You would want to find a lawyer who specializes in the case law that your issue calls for. However, depending on your situation, it wouldn't be a bad idea to check out your area's bar association to find a lawyer. Other avenues to file a complaint would be with your State's Attorney Office and sometimes a News on Your Side can help get your contractor on the ball.

Consultations - We offer consultations with a written report of our findings of the surface in question. Our fee is $150.00 per hour, plus travel costs if applicable. Estimates only provide options to correct an issue and how much it will approximately cost to complete such repairs. Our consultations will arm you with the industry regulations and explanations of how a surface should be or not be installed or maintained. We are not certified home inspectors, nor are we engineers. We are the masters in solid surfaces and have found the great need for the consumers to have our experts consult on a project gone wrong.

Expert witness testimony services - We have been retained by several law offices with regards to hard surfaces in both installation and maintenance areas. This service is available with our Consultation services listed above and is included in the Consultation hourly rate.

Designs / Pre-Purchase Consultations - Our designers help you custom design and select the ideal products for your project that will give you the aesthetics and longevity you desire and unlike other designers, we can tell you what to expect for maintenance and how to maintain each surface we design for you. So before you buy that beautiful black granite counter, it would be best to have our designers on your side you warn you of poorly doctored stone. Our design fee varies either by the hour or by the project (whichever may be less expensive for you.) But the time for an estimate to discuss it all and make an agreement is always free.

How to protect yourself before a situation turns bad

Based on the hundreds of calls we get from clients who are on the brink of screaming with frustration from the result of a bad contractor situation, we have put together a little guide with hopes that you may be able to help avoid common things many consumers tend to overlook.

Step 1) Search for a Qualified Contractor, not the cheapest.

(A Jack of all Trades is a Master of Nothing!)
Search around, ask around for who would be the best contractor for your project. Call your friends and family to see if they know any reputable contractors they have worked with before. The internet holds a mass of resources when trying to find a contractor. But how will you know which one is the right match for you?

The internet is flooded with contractors of all sorts. You want to select a contractor who specializes in your particular need. For instance, if you are going to build an addition to your home, a licensed General Contractor is a must, however, they don't specialize in much - hence the word General and these are typically people who are paid to manage projects that are $30,000 or higher. They typically use the cheapest subs to perform different tasks. You want to be able to either select the subs yourself or at least, meet these subs in person and qualify them yourself. This will help eliminate major issues that will arise if a paint guy ends up installing your new tiled floor who has maybe some experience, but really doesn't focus on tile floors day in and day out.

Search through industry specific memberships and associations to look for a quality contractor who may be listed in their members list. (Just because they are listed in one of these, does not necessarily mean that they are or are not of high quality. Most companies pay to be listed as members and there is no true value to the consumer if the contractor pays just to use their certified logo, but it is an avenue to know at least they go the extra step instead of just placing free ads on Social Media Websites.)

TIP - Look into the qualifications of the Associations or Memberships to see what it takes to be listed as a contractor. Many membership or certification companies only exist in order to get monthly dues from members. This is NOT important to consumers.

Keep a record of each contractor and how you found them specifically. (Example: Google Search took you to their web site, or to an ad in Oodle, etc.) Print out the ads or keep copies if at all possible. Remember, when calling into a location, you may or may not get a contractor directly. They may have receptionists answering their phones for them while they focus on business. It is best to write a list of questions and concerns about your project so that they may be addressed in person at the time of your estimate or consultation.

Step 2) Get an Estimate

(Any promises made verbally are as valuable as the paper they are written on)
Get an estimate in writing. Understand that in many cases, a contractor cannot account for what they cannot see, and an estimate is just that. An approximate cost to complete a project based on what they can see during the time of the initial estimate. However, if the contractor does this day in and day out, their estimate should not be very different from the total cost of the final project price, unless unknown damages are uncovered at the time of the project being worked on. 
Make sure you understand what types of payment are accepted at this time.
Make sure it is written when the contractor will expect deposits and if they are refundable at this time.
Take notes while the contractor is there to examine your project. Pay attention to how they are examining the area. Are they paying attention to details, or do they just seem more interested in making a sale?
Make sure to ask the contractor all the questions you may have at this time.

TIP: Have a list of questions written down prior to the contractor's arrival.

Suggested Questions to ask a potential contractor/sub-contractor

  1. What is the daily main function of that person in the company? (Are they just a sales agent, a technician, a general contractor, a project manager, etc.)
  2. Will that person be present during the entire project? If not, who will oversee the project? What are their qualifications?
  3. Are background checks performed on all employees and subs?
  4. How long has the contractor/sub-contractor done (ex.: stone, tile, painting, carpentry, electrical, etc.)?
  5. Has the contractor/sub-contractor been formally trained in that industry? If so, where? Do they have any certificates of completion they can show you?
  6. Is the contractor certified or a member of any professional organization in that industry? If so, ask to see a copy of that certification or are they listed in their members online? If so, contact that organization to see if there are any consumer complaints about them.
  7. Which standards does the contractor base their workmanship by? (i.e., Stone and Tile Pros, MIA, ANSI, TCNA, AIA, IICRC, ASCE, The Guild of Master Craftsmen, ASPE, NECA, and other associations or just Basic Local Building Code, etc.) TIP: Make sure they list this in their Contract...better if it is on the Estimate and Contract.
  8. Does the contractor have photos of previous work?
  9. Does the contractor have references? (Please do not ask for residential reference addresses. As a contractor we do ask for permission from our client to use them as a reference. BUT we also favor their privacy and do not hand out personal home addresses of our clients, nor should any contractor.)
  10. Does the contractor/sub-contractor do any commercial work, as well? (If the contractor does do commercial work, in some cases, you can personally go to that location and see their work. Keep in mind, these surfaces usually have much more use and abuse than a residential location and many commercial locations use the wrong cleaning products and instead of cleaning, they are stripping their surfaces daily.)
  11. Ask for a list of what materials will be used. (There are quality products, and cheap products. There are products that are specific to one aspect of the project that many contractors do not pay attention to the manufacturer's instructions and may use the wrong product for the wrong surface type.) This will also help you look up the products, get manufacturer installation instructions to be sure it is done correctly as the project is being completed.
  12. Does the contractor have MSDS (Material Data Safety Sheets) available for all products, materials and chemicals they will be using in your property? (The law requires them to carry these sheets at all times.) This will give you a breakdown of what all products, both materials and chemicals, are made of. (Ask to have a copy of all MSDS sheets for all materials and/or products they will have on your property.)
  13. What safety program does the contractor/subcontractor have in case of an accident? (Contractors are all obligated as per OSHA to have a safety program and a safety manual on hand at each project site.)
  14. Ask for samples or a sample to be done on your surface (If applicable)
  15. Is the contractor, all employees and any sub-contractors fully insured? (You want to ensure that each contractor, employee and /or sub-contractor carries enough General Liability Insurance to replace your entire property and its contents in case something should happen. Even if it seems like a little project, something such as taking a cigarette break and accidentally not putting that cigarette out all the way can cause a big problem.)
  16. Are all contractors, employees, sub-contractors covered by Workmen's Compensation? If the contractor is only themselves and has no employees, they should have what is called a "Ghost Policy". This protects the property owner in case the contractor, employee or sub-contractor is injured on that property. Regardless of who is careless or absentminded, if that contractor/employee/sub-contractor gets injured, and it is on your property, you may find yourself being held as the liable party and ending up having to fight a battle. It is best to make sure that each employee, contractor and sub-contractor that touches your property is covered one way or another with workmen's compensation. TIP: You can check you your State's Insurance Commissioner to be aware of the State's bar's minimum requirements are.
  17. Ask for a Copy of Insurance (COI) with your name and address listed as the Certificate Holder. If a contractor or sub-contractor is hesitant to give this to you or gives any excuse why they may not have the ability to get this to you within 14 days (usually), you just should not take anybody's word because it could end up as your liability. TIP: Do not allow a project to start without this in hand!
  18. Call the insurance company to confirm that the COI is current, accurate and is as it says it is.
  19. Ask if electrical tooling will be required to complete your project. This is important because some equipment may need to be plugged into a converter to connect to two different circuits to avoid accidental power loss. TIP: Make sure if you have a computer on that you save all work while the project is being completed and you shut off your computer to avoid losing information or damaging your system.
  20. Is there more than one option to complete this project?
  21. Is the suggested project option a "band-aid" solution or is this going to resolve or perform the way it should?
  22. What is the maintenance going to be for this project? (Include each surface, if applicable. i.e., a tile project will be different maintenance than a toilet and using the wrong products may not only damage a surface, may also void any warranties or guaranties.)
  23. Is the contractor/sub-contractor qualified to suggest the proper maintenance products or can they give you a care guide or at the least, refer you to someone who can educate you on what products to use?
  24. How long can the contractor expect this service to last? (There is no crystal ball solution to answer this question, but there should be a level of experience that the contractor should know a ballpark idea.)
  25. Does the contractor and/or sub-contractor offer any Warranties or Guaranties? (The difference between a Warranty and a Guarantee is that a Warranty is either a "Name Apparel" - which will cover only items specifically listed and nothing else, or an "Exclusionary" - which covers everything except listed items. You get more coverage with an Exclusionary Warranty. For example, you buy a car. You are offered a Powertrain warranty or a Full Coverage Warranty. A name apparel warranty is like a Power-train Warranty and the Exclusionary Warranty is like that "bumper-to-bumper" Warranty. A Guarantee is a promise usually to state that they believe their product will perform the way the Manufacturer states it will perform. Find out if any of these include parts/materials and labor. It is important that you know exactly what the contractor/sub-contractor offers...and again, get it in writing!)

Step 3) Documents and Contracts

(Go ahead and imagine what items you will need to present a situation to a judge. Not that you will have to, but at least you will have everything ready...just in case.)
If you are a will carry the burden of proof! Don't put yourself in a position where you end up saying you wish you had done such and such before this all happened.) Prior to any agreement, did you get the SDS aka MDSD sheets? See a safety manual? Get a copy of the insurance and workmen's compensation? Did you validate all the items to ensure everything is valid and accurate? If your contractor doesn't have a contract, make sure to get a good contract. You want this contract to include the contractor's responsibilities, the customer's (you) responsibilities, identify the project area, identify the project steps as best as possible, record who is responsible for supplying materials and tools, how much the project will cost and the payment terms, (make sure to have it clear that any changes or additions must be included on an addendum signed by both parties), and make sure they list their insurance coverage on the contract.

TIP: Have a lawyer look over all documents before signing and agreeing. Sometimes things aren't always what they seem to be, and a lawyer generally can catch something if it exists.

  • Check for specific terms in the contract about arbitrations, settlements, etc. Make sure it is fair.
  • Check for legal fees, collection fees, late fees, etc. in the contract. Make sure it is all fair.
  • Documenting also includes photographing, recording or video. (Be sure you are aware of your local laws with regards to audio recording before recording to make sure you do not accidentally violate any laws.) Always check with a local lawyer before.
  • Be sure to keep a decent quality camera. Take before, during the project and final photos of the project. (If you cannot be present during the project completion, have a reliable person there to complete this for you.) Surface Buff always takes before, during and after photos. We are always happy to share these with you at no additional cost.
  • Keep everything in an organized file - including a folder in your computer for any emails.
  • Get all Warranties and/or Guaranties in writing.
  • Keep receipts for everything.
  • Keep a journal with you to document daily activities, progress and conversations.
  • If there are any changes to the project, or other issues are discovered during the project, make sure all parties agree to a solution, a price and make a written addendum to include all details and pricing that all parties sign. Remember, will these changes also be included in any Warranty or Guarantee?

If you have concerns about how a project or an employee, contractor or subcontractor is performing, write a letter to the person in charge of the project, detailing your concerns, keep a copy for yourself and make sure to keep a good document trail. If the other party responds verbally (hopefully quickly), write another letter or email thanking them for their response, reiterate the details of that conversation and ask them if you are understanding that conversation correctly.

Step 4) Inspect a finished project

  • Do not make a final payment until you inspect the finished project. Write down any issues you feel you have found. It is critical that you do this within 24 hours of the completion of a project.
  • Write down a list of possible issues.
  • Take photos of possible issues.
  • Write a letter or email to include these possible issues.
  • If you do not find any issues, pay according to the terms of the agreement/contract. Contractors, employees and sub-contractors work hard and depend on getting paid on time.

Step 5) Maintenance

Proper maintenance is the key to keeping any surface, project, machine, etc. beautiful and lasting you longer. Be sure you know what products to use to maintain your project. How often? Who to call if you have any future questions or concerns about maintenance? Get a document (if it isn't already on the Warranty/Guarantee document) that will lead you to the path of a long lasting beautiful, finished project.

Step 6) Leave Feedback

In today's World, word of mouth is everything. Positive or Negative, Feedback is crucial and there are several places where and how you can leave Feedback. This will help other consumers in the future. By doing so, you can do your share to help increase the level of quality and expectations of contractor workmanship and materials just by leaving feedback in as many places you can find.

(TIP: Be careful with leaving negative feedback that you do not cause harm to any potential legal case you may have or that you might be held liable for any defamation. You may want to consult with your attorney about negative feedback text before submitting negative comments to public access.)

Sadly, there are a lot of details, steps and sometimes extra costs to ensure a contractor, materials used, and the overall project is going to be up to par. It is a lot less effort, time, energy and money to take care of all these details before a problem is created. Think about it. If you decide not to take all the precautions and a problem exists, not only will the project possibly need to be redone which will take more time and aggravation, but there could also be costs for taking it out, disposal fees and then the cost to buy more products and supplies and labor to put it in correctly. You could end up paying multiple times more than you did when you originally had the project first completed...or even more if legal action has to be taken.

What should I look for in a contractor?