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Lee v. Beaudoin

Superior Court of Rhode Island

November 21, 2017


         Washington County Superior Court

          For Plaintiff: Daniel Lee, pro se

          For Defendant: Michael P. Lynch, Esq.


          LANPHEAR, J.

         This matter was tried before the Court, jury-waived, on November 7 and 8, 2017. Each of the parties testified, as well as James Beane, a contractor from South Windsor, Connecticut. Mr. Beane had installed vinyl siding for thirty-eight years, and was qualified as an expert to testify.


         Lisa and Tom Beaudoin own a single family home on Benson Avenue in Westerly, Rhode Island. They hired Mr. Lee to complete several home improvement projects on the property. In January 2015, they contracted with Daniel Lee to replace the existing vinyl siding on the home with Novik vinyl cedar shingles. The project would also include some insulation, gutters, and other work. The parties stipulated that Joint Exhibit 1 represents the existing contract between the parties.[1] Novik is a brand name of Cedar Shake vinyl siding. Novik provides a lifetime limited warranty on its projects "provided that they are installed in accordance with the rules of art and instructions provided by Novik." Ex. D at 1. The warranty specifically excludes "damage arising from improper, defective or non-adherence to the rules of art or to the prevailing and building and construction codes or Novik instructions . . ." Ex. D at 3. Specific instructions on installation are included on each package of Novik shingles.

         Work was commenced and delayed because of the installation of windows and other work on the house. Most of the work was completed by June 26, 2015, but each of the parties wanted an opportunity to have independent inspectors review the work. On September 11, 2015, final payment was requested by Mr. Lee to the Beaudoins. The parties had agreed that Mr. Beaudoin would pay a lumber yard directly. In any event, Mr. Lee claimed the balance due under the contract to be $7191. The parties further stipulated that the final payment was not made.

         Although Mr. Lee had negotiated the contract, all of the work was done by a subcontractor for him and the subcontractor's son. Mr. Lee went to the property and reviewed the work being done almost every day, but the subcontractor spent the majority of the time at the property.

         Mr. Lee acknowledged that it is a goal, in installing vinyl siding, to make the installation sufficiently tight so water does not penetrate it. Mr. Lee also acknowledged that he did not install all of the soffits at the roofline, as the contract indicated, but believed that some portions of it would be replaced in a separate project. He claimed he provided a $400 credit for the soffits which were never replaced.

         In installing the siding, ladders were used. Mr. Beane established that ladders are not to be used as they may damage the finish of the siding, though no such damage was demonstrated on the Beaudoin house. Mr. Beane established that although some starter strips were used at the bottom or base of the shingles, they were not Novik starter strips and the shingles were not clicked into the bottom of the shingles. Accordingly, the bottom shingles (the first layer installed) wobble when they are pulled, causing the shingles above them to wobble. This is inconsistent with the installation instructions from Novik. To repair the bottom shingles all of the interlocking shingles above them need to be removed.

         Mr. Beane testified that it appears the shingling project was not thought out. As houses are not perfectly square, the deviations can be hidden by planning the entire layout of the shingles in advance. As that was not done here, the defects are more evident.[2] Mr. Beane established that there is one sheet of shingles falling off the house (Ex. U), even though the work was completed just two years ago.

         Mr. Beane noted that the shingle strips or sheets should be applied uniformly, nailing the shingle in the center first, and then leveling it and nailing the sides in the provided holes. He demonstrated that not all shingles on the project were applied parallel to one another or with the lines of the house, and he reasoned that the subcontractor did not follow the instructions. (Exs. E, G, J, L, GG).

         Mr. Beane noted large, inconsistent gaps between the strips of the siding. While most shingle squares appear uniform because they come from a large sheet of vinyl, there are larger, noticeable gaps throughout siding (Exs. F, G, N, O, V, Z, CC, GG). He concluded that this resulted from the application of the shingles in different temperatures, and not providing for the expansion of the shingles in different temperatures. He noted that Novik includes a temperature gage in each box of shingle sheets, so the distance between the sheets can be set according to the temperature with the gage. Not using this gage was a deviation from the instructions and constituted improper workmanship.

         Mr. Beane, through the use of photographic evidence, established that the corner pieces were not tucked into the "J strips" provided by the manufacturer, so the shingles are not watertight. (Exs. E, J, S, Y, AA). There are similar noticeable gaps beneath the windows, around the gutters, around doors, and at other corners of the house. (Exs. K, N, Y, Z, CC, DD) Some of the J strips are uneven.

         Mr. Beane explained that when shingling a house, holes are cut by the installer into the shingling to provide for lights, spigots, showerheads, hoses and other conduits from the house. Through the photographs he showed a number of cuts which were not sealed and left exposed to the weather. (Exs. P, R, T, Y, Z, AA, BB, EE, FF). While Mr. Lee later referred to this as a "small fix, " and in his Post-Trial Brief as "secondary issues" ...

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