Sonny Swerkes’ deck began peeling after application of a deck-coating product. Photo by Marshall Smith
Sonny Swerkes’ deck began peeling after application of a deck-coating product.
Photo by Marshall Smith

In a product warranty scenario that may resonate with many residents, local Sonny Swerkes purchased from a Lowe’s store in Hemet a deck-coating product, Restore, manufactured by Rust-Oleum.

Rust-Oleum describes its Restore in this way: “Deck & Concrete Restore 10X is a durable coating product formulated to resurface most wooden and composite decks while providing lasting protection against moisture and the damaging effects of the sun. Designed for a variety of applications, it is the most cost-effective and environmentally conscious way to revitalize wood surfaces. The coating is easily applied with a roller and dries to form a tough, resilient surface that will look beautiful and last for years with little maintenance.”

But it wasn’t durable on Swerkes’ Idyllwild wooden deck. He felt that repairing the damage would cost two to three times the initial application cost. Five months after application, Swerkes said the product failed and began to flake badly and peel.

Guaranteed for a year after date of application, Restore is meant to protect a deck and keep it in good condition much longer than paint or deck stains. Restore’s product warranty provides for product replacement during the warranty period but for nothing further.

Swerkes said he carefully applied the product in April 2013, according to then-published Restore application instructions. “I applied it correctly and according to directions under the described correct temperature conditions after power-washing my deck,” said Swerkes.

Having followed application instructions and not willing to settle for replacing a product that had already failed, Swerkes then began in November 2013 calling and writing to both Lowe’s in Hemet where he bought the product and Restore manufacturer Rust-Oleum headquarters in Vernon Hills,

He wanted satisfaction of having Rust-Oleum inspect his deck and reimburse the cost of removing the product from his deck. To both Lowe’s and Rust-Oleum, he submitted before and after pictures showing his cleaned and power-washed deck prior to application and the peeling deck five months after application.

He also contacted the Better Business Bureau, California Department of Consumer Affairs, and the Riverside County attorney general and notified both Lowe’s and Rust-Oleum that he had done so.

Swerkes kept copies of all correspondence and memos of his phone conversations. In his written communications with Lowe’s and Rust-Oleum, he remained polite and clear about what he sought as satisfaction. He provided the Town Crier copies of his correspondence.

In February, Randy Scott, Lowe’s Hemet store manager, wrote to Swerkes in an email, “It is our position that the store will not accept any responsibility for the alleged product failure.” Scott said, however, that he would continue to contact Rust-Oleum to try to get the manufacturer to pay for removal expenses.

J.R. Holmes (left) and Sonny Swerkes enjoy sitting on their deck, despite the problems with its surface.       Photo by Marshall Smith
J.R. Holmes (left) and Sonny Swerkes enjoy sitting on their deck, despite the problems with its surface. Photo by Marshall Smith

Also in February, Scott received a written response from Jason Kral, Rust-Oleum Product Support, who agreed to refund the purchase price of the product ($306.23), and provide additional product to recoat the deck. Kral also said he would consider paying some labor costs for removal if Swerkes would get estimates.

Kral confirmed this in writing directly to Swerkes on March14. “Rust-Oleum would be willing to consider estimates for removal of the Restore product from the deck,” said Krall. “You may submit estimates … Once the estimates are reviewed, we can then hopefully come to a resolution that is reasonable.”

Swerkes submitted estimates from local painting contractors ranging from $2,000 to $3,500 to remove and dispose of the product. After receipt of the estimates, Kral contacted Swerkes by email to advise, “ … we are considering the estimates for removal of the product as a good faith gesture to you in an effort to get this resolved, but I also must reinforce the fact that the original coating [whatever was on Swerke’s deck prior to application of Restore] is what is peeling from the deck. The Restore is bonded to what was there, and we cannot be responsible for the adhesion of the original coating to the surface. We do not have installers or inspectors employed by Rust-Oleum, therefore we do not have anyone employed to come out to remove this from your deck.”

Kral did not respond to calls from the Town Crier. [In early May, Stephanie Radek, Rust-Oleum Public Relations manager, left a phone message that resulted in the Town Crier’s direct contact on Monday, May 12.]

In a phone conversation, Radek noted that Kral had made an initial settlement offer to Swerkes on April 25 to partially pay for product removal even though Restore product warranty does not require that. She also reported that Swerkes turned the initial offer down.

On the morning of May 12, several hours after the conversation with Radek, Swerkes received a “final” offer from Rust-Oleum, which Swerkes indicated he would accept. According to the stipulations of the settlement and release, details regarding the terms are confidential. “Yes, I’ll take it and get the deck done,” said Swerkes. “Summer is coming.”

Swerkes and his partner, J.R. Holmes, have received the check from Rust-Oleum and said they felt satisfied in their effort and in the resolution.

“I just wanted people in our community to know the problems I have had with this product,” he said. “That is why I contacted the newspaper.”

And because of Swerkes’ meticulous record keeping and polite tenacity, the problem has been settled to his satisfaction.

Holmes said, “I’m proud of him. I loved that he was tenacious.” She noted, “He did not get upset, he was polite and just kept plugging away. He worked so hard cleaning the deck and putting the product down.” Both stated they were satisfied with Rust-Oleum’s offer.

The Internet contains both positive and negative postings regarding Restore, including YouTube videos of decks and patios of dissatisfied users who had complaints of peeling or faulty adherence and durability similar to Swerkes’ complaints. Rust-Oleum maintains product failure can usually be traced to application to a surface not properly prepared.

Radek acknowledged that Rust-Oleum has since modified its Restore application instructions in response to consumer complaints and questions to include a splash test of the surface prior to application: “If the water absorbs rapidly into the surface, the surface is ready to be coated. If the water beads, puddles or is not absorbed, the surface is sealed and not ready to coat.”

These additional instructions were added in April 2014, according to Radek, and not part of the instructions Swerkes used when he applied the product.