Bamboozled: Fireplace frustration

Let’s hope it’s not fireplace weather for a very long time.BB branding

Sure, it’s spring now, but the Grieves family went through a fall and winter with a newly converted, but absolutely unusable, gas fireplace.

While the weather was still cold, the Oak Ridge couple contacted Bamboozled to ask for help with what they said was an unsatisfactory conversion of their wood-burning fireplace, including parts that didn’t fit and damage to previously pristine parts, courtesy of A&J Fireplace of Pompton Plains.

“I’m now left with a fireplace I can no longer use with a grill cover tied around the chimney so water doesn’t leak in my house,” Tom Grieves said in a March e-mail.

Back in September, the Grieveses started shopping so the fireplace would be ready in time for the 2010 holidays. After getting estimates from three contractors, Michele Grieves said they chose A&J because of owner John Huerta’s 30 years of experience. A coupon cutting the price by 20 percent helped sway the couple’s decision.

Michele Grieves said she authorized Huerta to order gas logs and a new chimney damper, and she gave a $675 deposit.

The job

When the doorbell rang Oct. 27, 2010, Michele Grieves said she got a surprise.

“To my dissatisfaction I did not get John with his 30-plus years of experience, but instead I had two young inexperienced employees knocking at my door,” she said. “They arrived very much unprepared, took one look at the fireplace and started immediately to drill a hole for the gas line in the floor of the fireplace.”

42511Grieves said the workers’ hammer drill did not work, so they borrowed one from the homeowners. Soon thereafter, Grieves said, she asked them to stop because they were aiming at the Heatilator — the hot air circulator — below the floor of the fireplace.

Next, Grieves said the workers stopped to remove the Heatilator and the bottom frame of the fireplace along with the glass doors. She said they proceeded to drill the hole in the bottom of the fireplace for the gas line, but the bottom of the fireplace floor cracked.

“The employee told me not to worry because they would cement it,” Grieves said. “I refused to allow them to repair it in this manner since the floor was cracked in multiple areas.”

She said the workers needed to remove the cement slab. They proceeded to drill through the bottom of the fireplace again. While they were at it, she said the drill bit fell between the sub-floors. The Grieveses loaned them a new bit.

Grieves continued her watch, now from the basement. She said the workers cut a hole big enough to retrieve their drill bit, but they never covered the hole.

That’s when she saw the gas was hooked up to the boiler with no shut-off valve, but the workers said it was too late to finish, so they would come back.

Then Grieves said she asked about the new damper, but the workers said they didn’t know anything about it. They called the office, which said the damper was not part of the original price.

Grieves sent them away with a check for $243 — half the price of the damper.

A week passed and Grieves said no one called to schedule the completion of the job.

The fix that didn’t fix

Michele Grieves said she visited the store on Nov. 6, asking the owner, John Huerta, to finish the job himself.

“He stated he would come to the house,” Grieves said. “Finally on Nov. 24, one of the same original employees arrived to continue the work.”

Grieves said the worker cut the new cement slab to replace the one that was broken on the first installation day, but as he worked, the side wall cracked in two places.

The worker said not to worry because he would cement it, Grieves said.

The worker next hooked up the gas unit, but something didn’t fit right. He jury-rigged it to fit, but then realized the logs were back at the store.

Before leaving, Grieves said, the worker went on the roof to put the new damper on the chimney, but when he was done, the damper wasn’t closing properly.

The worker left and returned two hours later with the logs, and after an hour, the unit appeared to work.

“I finished paying for the job,” Grieves said. “I paid the other half of the damper which was $243 and the money left over for the fireplace which was $600.”

In all, a cost of $1,761 in all, before taxes.

Not so good

The next day was Thanksgiving.

The Grieves felt like stuffed turkeys, but not because they had overeaten.

When the house started to get cold, they realized the worker never turned the boiler back on.

They turned on the fireplace, but after 45 minutes, the pilot light extinguished.

The next day, Grieves called for service, and the same young employee was sent to the house. She said he determined the problem was the igniter and said he would order a new one.

“Again I asked (owner) John (Huerta) to please come to my house and finish the job and again he promised me he would,” she said. “Again he sends the same worker on Dec. 6.”

The igniter was replaced, but some logs were broken during the repair and still the fireplace didn’t work. Now it’s a cracked gas line, the worker said.

Grieves had run out of patience.

“At this point I was extremely angry and called John (Huerta),” she said. “I was furious and I demanded he come and finish the job himself as he promised.”

He promised to come the next week, but he never showed, Grieves said.

It got worse. On Dec. 8, a friend noticed from the driveway that the damper was crooked. Tom Grieves and the friend went up to the roof and saw the damper was never secured.

“Rainwater can run down inside the collar into our attic,” Michele Grieves said. “The seams were not caulked and rain water is now running down the chimney when it rains.”

The couple got another estimate to see what it would take to fix the mess. Grieves said it would cost $2,839. When she shared that number in writing with A&J Fireplace, she said they didn’t respond.

After the holidays, with chimney trouble and a fireplace fiasco that even Santa Claus might not be able to penetrate, the couple called Bamboozled.

Fulfilling a promise

We called A&J Fireplace in March to see what the trouble was.

Co-owner Ann Hughes said replacement parts for the Grieveses’ fireplace had been in their store for two months, and they’ve been waiting for the Grieveses to call.

“(John Huerta) was going to replace it,’ Hughes said. “I’m not sure whatever happened, maybe a lack of communication.”

“(Michele Grieves) stood over my workers the whole time and she found something wrong with everything they did from the beginning,” Hughes said.

With the two parties at odds, Bamboozled suggested John Huerta visit the home, evaluate the job and see what could or should be done.

And he did.

Huerta took a look, promised to order additional parts and said he’d return to make it right.

Three weeks later, he did.

On a mid-April Friday, Grieves said, Huerta called and asked if he could come to do the work. Grieves agreed, and she said she was impressed with Huerta and the worker — a new guy who Huerta brought as support staff.

Grieves gave Bamboozled a play-by-play of all the work, and Huerta and his associate fixed everything on the couple’s to-do list.

“Our fireplace is beautiful and yes, we are happy,” Grieves said.

From the gas line to the broken logs to the damper and more, Grieves said the fix was in.

The couple said that even during mid-April showers, the new damper held and was leak-free.

Many thanks to A&J Fireplace for making things right for this customer.