I let low bid drive my decision to work with Cesar Home Remodeling for my drywall and master shower installation and it was a poor choice. The high point of working with Cesar Filipe was his adding Psalm 91:1 to my soap niche. The lows quickly followed and three days after watching him improperly install my master shower floor I rented a jack hammer and removed it. I would never have been able to enjoy that shower knowing, more than likely, water would be seeping through crevices due to the linear drain being installed wrong and the lack of waterproofing.
Cesar and his crew installed the cement board first. He asked that I order 8, 4’x8′ sheets. I got all the drywall and cement board delivered from M&M Drywall and they delivered Pro-tec cement board. Cesar was expecting Durock brand. There is a night and day difference in strength between Pro-tec and Durock. Durock can be cut with a box knife. I installed it on the floors in both bathrooms and planned to put three sheets I had left around the tub in the first floor. Pro-tec is much harder. He used a reciprocating saw and it created jagged and crumbled edges. While I knew he struggled with the board, his installation was impressive, in the beginning. My shower is built into the angled part of the attic, so it took skill to get the holes for the shower heads in the right place.
Before putting the bottom sides in he spread out the vinyl liner. He had me purchase a 5’x6′ liner, which was the largest carried at Home Depot. In the space it seemed too small to me, but he said it was ok. He used drywall screws to attach the liner to the studs. I noticed it wasn’t long/wide enough to cover the curb step, but I didn’t know if it needed to at that time. He used the bottom side pieces of the cement board to hold the linear in place and then immediately started pouring buckets of cement on the liner. I immediately asked about waterproofing the cement board and sealing the seams and he said it was not necessary, the cement wouldn’t go anywhere. That was when I knew I was in trouble. Everything I had been taught or watched showed you waterproofed first. I should have stopped the process right then, but I feared he would pull his drywall crew, so I stayed silent.
We had purchased 8 bags of cement and he said it was not enough. He sent me after another bag and his two crew members continued laying the cement board on the remaining areas of the bench and short wall. The 8′ length sheets he asked me to get created a lot of waste, as the width of my shower is just 64″. I thought his request of 8′ was great as it meant one vertical piece and I assumed he did it intentional knowing he could use the large cut pieces on the short wall, bench, and entrance wall. There was more than enough material for the entire shower. While I was gone Cesar sent his crew to the first floor bathroom and started using the Durock boards, 2 of 3 allocated for first floor. When I returned I asked why and he said it was easier to cut. He had laid the top of the bench and part of the entry wall with it. This annoyed me greatly, but the pieces had been cut.
He sent me after another bag of cement (10 total) and when I returned, again his crew member was carrying up the last sheet of Durock. I asked him to put it back, but the person spoke no English OR only listened to Cesar. When I confronted Cesar, in Spanish he told him to use the other pieces. I was asked if I they could use my shop vac and in the time I took to retrieve it, they had placed the Durock on the back side of the short wall. Needless to say I was furious. He finished smoothing out the cement and asked for his payment. Fortunately I had the wherewithal to say I would not pay until the cement had hardened and I could test the slope to ensure it ran towards the drain. He was fine with that and left.
I was not fine with how they laid the cement board on the short shower wall. The top piece, in my opinion should have overlapped the sides. Because he struggled with cutting the Pro-tec board he placed what looked like a scrap piece on the top ledge, leaving gaps that water could easily travel to the wood underneath. I decided to redo the bench area myself, replacing all the Durock with the scraps of Pro-tec. With the right tool, the Pro-tec material cut like butter. Once I removed the top piece, it was easy to see why he didn’t set a piece to overlap the sides. His side cuts were jagged and not even with the wood. I was able to take my grinder and even that out.
I removed all the Durock that he used on the bench. Even once I fixed the bench area I could not get past knowing that he had not done any waterproofing. The corner gaps seemed massive to me.
At this stage I was just hoping he didn’t have a slope to justify not paying for this work. There was a slope, so it was agreed I’d pay for the shower with the first payment for the drywall after all was hung. This would take place in about three days, so in that time I sought advice from anywhere and everyone in regards to how important it was to waterproof first. Turns out that wasn’t the MAJOR problem. When I described to people the full process of his install, which included that he did one layer of cement on top of the vinyl liner, EVERYONE consistently said that’s your bigger problem. The proper way to install a cement shower is to pour a layer of cement setting the right pitch towards the drain. Letting it dry and then place the liner followed by a second layer of cement. In time I would suffer leaks, rotting floor boards and joist, and major repairs given the living room ceiling was underneath.
Despite my sending Cesar the directions for the linear drain I purchased from Signature Hardware, which clearly shows the steps outlined above, he firmly stood by his install method. At that point, I decided he was not going to be paid and that I needed to remove the cement.
To find a silver lining, I had a ball working the jack hammer I rented. It is as therapeutic as swinging a sledge-hammer.
As far as the drywall crew it turns out the crew actually doing the work are not his crew. They are some guys from his church that hang drywall. He acted as a “general contractor” and placed subs on my project. The leader is Rogelio Soto (green shorts). None speaks fluent English. All payments for drywall I will make directly to Rogelio. We were all smiles on day one. Stay tuned to see if the smiles remain.
I’m done dealing with Cesar Home Remodeling and I feel sorry for the homeowners with showers he’s installed. He had beautiful pictures of his finished work, but I know what is lurking behind the tile he laid. It really is disheartening given all that has been accomplihsed by my father, cousin, and myself to have a so called “professional” take so little regard to the quality of his work.