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We had a flood at our house, causing major damage from the kitchen to the family room - just because the refrigerator's icemaker valve stuck during the night.

The insurance company was unusually cooperative, even recommending a company that would put down new floors, paint the ceiling, repair the drywall and clean the carpets.We were into it a very short time when we had the uneasy feeling that it was not working out. One of the kitchen floor installers was very young - maybe 23 - we'll call hims Verle. The other was very old - maybe 175 - his name can be Verlynn.

Verlynn, a 45-year flooring veteran, was training Verle to take over his business. It wasn't easy for them to work together, because Verlynn mumbled and answered every question with a joke.

Verle would say, "What did you say? I don't even know what that means."

But they were nice guys, and we liked them. They pulled up the old floor and replaced part of the subfloor. Although the old subfloor was stapled, they put the new one down with screws.

First danger sign: When we asked them about it, they said screws were better. "Oh, by the way," said Verlynn, "has anyone told you that when the floor is finished, it will be wavy? For six months to a year?"

"Uh - no," I said nervously, but since he was about to lay the floor when he said that, I just let him proceed. Probably just one of Verlynn's eccentricities, I thought.

Verle said the floor would be completely finished that day - by 5 o'clock. But every time I checked their progress, Verle and Verlynn were walking around on the huge piece of vinyl they had spread in the garage, muttering and staring downward.

"Hard job?" I asked.

"Nah. Everything's going well," said Verle.

Finally, they put it down. That's when we went into cardiac arrest. "What's the problem with this seam?"

"Oh," said Verlynn, "the pattern doesn't match there, but it's the company's fault - they included a piece of paper saying they don't guarantee a match."'

"Hmmm. Right in the entryway?"

The seam went together badly, there was a black mist all around it and one piece spliced in under the desk included an unsightly cut.

"That was a mistake," said Verlynn. "We'll fix that so you won't even know it's there."

"What about all these bumps - are these screws?" we asked.

"No, those are little pieces of concrete - we'll just pulverize those babies."

"What about the scars and bites out of the island and the bar?"

"Oh, we'll get a piece of wood to cover those," said Verle.

And so it went. We asked a builder-friend to look at it, and he said, "I would not accept this floor in a million years."

The next day a manufacturer's representative dropped by and condemned the seams and criticized the installer for using a heat gun that caused permanent ripples. He blamed the installers for the mismatched pattern and the botched measurements - and predicted the unsightly bumps would get worse.

We were alternately elated and depressed that we would get another new floor - as well as several more weeks in the midst of ruins. The truth is we became so accustomed to fast food that we weren't sure we even needed a kitchen any more.

We got a tile floor anyway. What did we have to lose? It didn't have any seams.