A Granger, Indiana family said their lives were turned upside down last September, days after Empire Today installed vinyl flooring in their home and left thousands of dollars of damage covered up underneath. Problems started, they say, with clicking sounds coming from under the flooring, on the very first day they were allowed to walk on it. Homeowner Gwen Luzzi and her sister, Paula Dunn, said it was just the beginning of what turned into months of frustration.
"We knew in three days there was a problem with the vinyl," Dunn recalled.
That problem, according to the sisters, was caused by uneven floors and staples underneath that had come loose. Dunn said she called Northlake-based Empire Today and asked them to come back and take a look. It’s what the customers saw when the installer pulled up the new flooring that they say left them stunned.
"That is when we found the damage. The first installer had cut into Gwen's woodwork, trim and her door jambs," Dunn told NBC 5 Responds.
Jagged cuts in the woodwork, ruined trim and baseboards, and uneven plywood floors – extensive damage covered up during the first installation that left half of the first floor living space unlivable, according to Dunn and Luzzi.
"We thought ohhhhh this is not good. This is not good," Dunn said.
The uneven floors left behind were also a problem for Luzzi’s husband, Sam, a disabled Vietnam veteran, who could not use his walker. Confined to his room , Luzzi said he was unable to do physical therapy.
"I see this and I'm like why?" Luzzi said. "This flooring. Sam can't use a walker."
When an Empire inspector came out and agreed there was a problem, the sisters said they were optimistic.
"So I thought we have it made, sister! They're going to fix it," Dunn said.
Empire asked the family to get two repair estimates, which they got and submitted. The lowest bid for fixing the woodwork was just over $7,400, an amount they say Empire deemed “excessive.”
"That's when the nightmare began," Dunn told NBC 5 Responds.
Starting with Empire’s counter proposal to have its own carpenter do the work instead, which did not still well with the family.
"You have damaged my sister's home enough. Why do you think we would trust you to come in her home and do it again?” Dunn explained.
Empire did agree to cover other costs, including temporary lodging and cleaning. But the carpenter was the sticking point: Empire wanted its own guy, and the sisters wanted theirs. And that’s when the family said negotiations broke down.
“That's when he said to me we will only pay $4,200 towards your contractor if you don't allow us to use our contractor," Dunn said.
It was an offer Dunn said would have left Luzzi in the hole for thousands of dollars.
"Let my house go back to the way it was,” Luzzi said. “That’s all I asked."
At that standstill for almost two months, the sisters reached out to NBC 5 Responds.
"I had to do something. And I knew about NBC 5 Responds, and I thought I have to try," Dunn recalled.
When we asked Empire Today about the Luzzi’s complaint, the company agreed to pay for the cost of the family’s carpenter, as well as reimbursing them a number of other job-related costs.
In a statement, the company said: “Empire Today’s mission is to 'make beautiful flooring easy' for all of our customers, and we have worked with the Luzzis to make them happy. We appreciate NBC 5’s efforts to help us reopen the lines of communication. We’re confident that the Luzzis will be delighted with their new floors.”
Earlier this week, crews arrived at the Luzzi’s house and started the job. The family said getting the flooring back in and the woodwork repaired is expected to take about three weeks.