Series following tradesmen and looking at cowboy contractors. Plumber Wes and his apprentice Brett help out pensioner Robert when water starts gushing through his ceiling.
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-When a crisis strikes your home...
-How can I help?
I've got a bit of an emergency.
..or you want major work done...
It was our dream.
It is a total mess.
..you need one of the good guys but you don't always get 'em.
I've never seen anything like this.
Potentially, I stand to lose the house.
We'll hear the stories of devastation and despair
left behind when building work doesn't go to plan.
He didn't put the foundations all the way around,
-so that the front bit didn't have any foundation.
And we'll tell you how to avoid becoming a victim yourself.
Did you have a comparison price?
But most tradesmen are there to help.
And we'll follow the response teams who are there for you 24 hours a day...
Eventually, the ceiling would have come down in the kitchen.
..seven days a week.
It ain't everyone's cup of tea, but most people are pleased to see you.
From plumbers to roofers, electricians to locksmiths,
we meet the men and women who help you out in your hour of need.
A homeowner tries to save his home from flooding
when water starts gushing through the ceiling.
So for about ten minutes, I had my finger in it.
Gas engineer Chris is answering a vicar's prayers to
save his congregation from a pew-side silent killer.
We had a lot of carbon monoxide issues.
Plus we talk to one homeowner whose builder took her money
but failed to deliver her dream home.
I've got no kitchen. I've got no bathroom. I've got no stairs.
Where has £40,000-odd gone?
Well, keep watching, because Elaine's builder agreed to meet me
and in an extraordinary interview, he gives his side of the story.
We didn't want to rip Elaine off. It could have been resolved.
Invite somebody into the sanctity of your home to do a job
and hope you'll both be happy with the result.
But sometimes, relationships can break down
and things can get out of hand.
In Doncaster, Elaine Ormston bought her bungalow in February 2013.
With some careful planning, dormer bedrooms and a rejig downstairs,
it was to become a dream home for her and her daughter Megan.
But over 40 grand later, her builder left it in such a state,
she had to get a second mortgage just to put it right.
It were quite exciting to think that we could actually have a project,
to get the bedrooms put upstairs, have the space,
and be in a better financial position, be able to do things,
go on holiday, and not be struggling and see Megan through uni.
Single mum Elaine divorced from Megan's father 15 years ago
and it had taken that long to get to the stage
where she could finally afford the home she wanted for her daughter.
Well, it might look like an interior designer's dream now,
but it's taken a second mortgage
and 18 months of hell just to put right the job one builder started.
It's just been a constant struggle, not being able to do...
go out anywhere, not being able to have a holiday.
If there was any spare money, it had to go on...on getting the house done.
Elaine was left in the terrible position of having to
complete the work started by her builder.
3.5 months after buying her dream home, she was £43,000 down, with a
broken shell of a house, no kitchen, no bathroom, and a leaking roof.
She had no choice but to confront her builder.
"You've had £40,000-odd off me."
I've got no kitchen, I've got no bathroom, I've got no stairs,
I've got no roof, I've got no electric.
Where has £40,000-odd gone?
That's what I've come to Doncaster to try and discover.
-Pleased to meet you.
First of all, tell me what you originally wanted,
what you planned for, what did you hope to get?
To convert the two-bedroomed bungalow into a dormer bungalow with
two bedrooms upstairs and possibly,
-originally from the original plans, a bathroom or a shower.
-Right. So basically, you were going to create another floor?
And the bedrooms down here were going to be something else, then?
Yes. One of the bedrooms is part of the kitchen
and the other bedroom was the bathroom.
OK, but you was quite specific about what you wanted to achieve from it?
Yeah, yeah. We knew exactly what we wanted.
Right, so these are the original drawings.
Let me just have a quick look.
Well, that's ticked the first box, so you've done that correctly.
Got the drawings done, yes. It's very detailed.
They give all the dormer heights and positions. OK.
Right, now, how did you get the contractor that you selected?
-Did you get half a dozen estimates and pick him out?
-He was known to the family for a number of years.
-What, as a builder?
As a friend.
So although Elaine didn't do many company checks,
she did know her builder and felt confident with him.
They agreed that he'd build a loft extension with two bedrooms
and a shower and also a small extension downstairs to make
the kitchen and bathroom bigger.
She'd stay with her sister and move back in after a month
when the major work was done.
You gave him, um, a sort of a fixed-price,
a maximum that you could go to? Was that how you agreed?
I said originally, "I need to know a set figure.
"If you over-budget on everything,
"take it to the worst-case scenario and give me a figure
"so that I know that when you walk away from here, everything is going to be done."
It's an unusual way to do things but if you told him what
your maximum outlay could have been, then at least he had a guideline.
He said "£40,000, - everything that you want doing and all you have to do
"when we walk away from here is a little bit of decorating."
Happy with the price quoted, Elaine went ahead.
And he said he would just ring me as and when he wanted the money.
If we did it in £4,000 slots, it would cover the kitchen,
-the bathroom, the wages.
-Was you OK with that?
Didn't you think that was a bit strange?
It's a bit like going into a restaurant, really,
to have a three-course meal and then you pay some money up front.
Would you go to a restaurant and do that,
if someone said to you, "This is how I want you to pay"?
-What would you say?
-It is silly.
-No, it's not silly.
-It is silly.
-It's something that people do every day in this country.
And what I'm trying to do is find out, in a way,
why people keep making the same mistakes and it's purely when
it comes to doing something major on their house.
Always the way to control any situation when it comes to building is the purse strings.
You know, whoever has the money calls the tune.
'Sadly, Elaine learned this lesson too late.'
-Did you pay by cheque, or...?
-No, cash. He wanted it in cash.
You paid by cash.
With no paper trail, customers can sometimes find it hard to prove what they've paid.
Cheques or credit cards are better but however you choose to pay,
what's important is to draw up a payment plan,
agree the stages of the build, and only pay in instalments
when every job's been completed successfully.
Good builders will be happy to work like this
and the Citizens Advice Bureau has some great tips if you need help.
By now, Elaine was beginning to realise that her dreams
of moving in by Easter were fading fast.
Having bought the house in February 2013
and with no sign of the loft roof by March, she confronted her builder.
He blamed the poor weather and late delivery of roof trusses.
Kitchen had not appeared, the bathroom had not appeared.
Just nothing was getting done.
The builder told Elaine that the Council had put a stop to the loft
work because of concerns over the dormers being higher than permitted.
Elaine rang the Council
and although they agreed the work could continue,
they would have to look into planning permission
but by then in May 2013, it seemed things had stalled indefinitely.
And as I'll hear later,
-they were about to get worse before they got better.
-I wasn't sleeping.
I started suffering with anxiety and panic attacks. Um, I was exhausted.
I was just drained.
And Elaine's builder has his say too.
It could have been resolved. We could have carried on and we could have got the job done
and it would have been put to bed.
Every day in the UK, the insurance industry pays out £2.5 million
to homeowners who suffered damage due to burst pipes and water leaks.
These are expensive and problematic.
There's the cost of locating and accessing the leak,
repairing the pipe and the damage caused.
The average clean-up cost can be up to £8,000.
And it's the job of experienced tradespeople to help out
homeowners when they are faced with this sort of crisis.
Today, veteran plumber Wesley and his apprentice Brett
are called to a suspected burst water pipe in Battersea.
We're going to see a Mr Barker now.
Apparently, he's got quite a big flood coming through his ceiling, coming through downstairs.
I understand he's panicking a little bit,
so we need to get in there quick and get it sorted out.
Come on, my Brettsie.
-Hello, Mr Barker. I notice your hair is wet. Is that from...
Is that from here, is it?
They head straight upstairs where water has been overflowing
from a tank in the loft, flooding the bathroom at an alarming rate.
Stopping a leak can cost just a plumber's callout fee
but if the leak gets worse,
repairs to a damaged ceiling can run into thousands.
It's pouring straight through. I can hear it still going now.
I'll just jump up there and have a look. Wow!
-How long is it been going for?
-Oh, about an hour.
Oh, well. We need to get that off, don't we?
Brett, can you go downstairs with Mr Barker and see
if there's a stopcock underneath the kitchen sink, please?
The water supply needs to be cut off as quickly as possible to
stop this leak becoming a full-blown disaster.
It's already flooded the kitchen and the floor below.
If water's dripped into your electric sockets as it has here,
or if it comes through your light fittings,
turn off the electrics at the mains immediately.
Just remove the whole table.
Robert Barker and his disabled wife have lived in the house for 32 years.
A problem like this is the very last thing that they needed.
At first, I thought it was just ordinary plumbing noises,
or maybe at the worst, somebody had left a tap on and the plug in.
But when I went upstairs,
I found it wasn't that and it was water coming down from the ceiling.
The tank in the loft supplies water to the whole house.
Robert's managed to slow the flow gushing through
but he hasn't stopped it.
OK, so what's happened, yeah, is a flow valve inside the tank has
stopped working, so it's not shutting the water off any more.
In effect, what that's doing is filling up the tank to a level
where it's overflowing.
Though the reason why this is come through here, and poured
straight through the house is because the overflow is not connected.
Now that is such a common thing, you know,
such an important part of the system that usually gets forgotten or
gets knocked off or something like that
and what happens is you get this result where it just pours through the house.
It comes straight through and makes a hell of a mess.
Wes has managed to reconnect the overflow
so the water's gushing outside the house instead of inside
but he still needs to fix the fault.
To try to prevent a small leak getting out of control,
look for warning signs.
Such as water bills suddenly rising,
or water marks on your brickwork or walls of your house.
How you getting on down there?
Later, as the boys head back downstairs into the kitchen,
the extent of the damage is clear.
Came through here, obviously, as well. Crikey!
It's a nightmare, innit?
And the clean-up operation begins.
Back in Doncaster, Elaine and her daughter Megan had no choice
but to move out of Elaine's sister's home into their unfinished bungalow.
I could no longer afford me furniture to be in storage,
but, like I say, we had no electric, no lights.
We'd got a few sockets that worked.
We were lucky that it was summer months.
Megan was 16 at that stage.
We were having to share one bedroom
because her bedroom was just literally a shell.
The roof was leaking in because the tiles weren't on there.
But we just had to make the best of it.
And by then, three and a half months into the build,
the stress was really taking its toll.
Towards the end, I wasn't sleeping, I started suffering with anxiety
and panic attacks, um...I was just exhausted. I was just drained.
Physically and mentally, I think it was just too much.
Having already had tens of thousands of pounds from her,
Elaine's builder was demanding another £2,000 to finish the work.
Enough was enough and Elaine decided to cut her losses
and get another contractor in.
I don't blame her, but if you're concerned about the work
your builder's doing, go to Trading Standards.
They'll give you advice on how to handle it
and might even take on your case for you.
Oh, this is nice. It's a bit compact, but it's lovely, isn't it?
So you got another contractor in to finish it off
and was it £20,000 you had to pay for that?
I had to take a second mortgage of £16,000, which obviously,
I was in debt for solicitors' fees,
I'd borrowed money to pay for the kitchen
and get somebody else to fit the kitchen.
And obviously, we did need to use some savings,
which was about £4,500, so it has cost about another £20,000.
-You spent £64,000 to get to this stage?
-And you should've only paid 40.
-I'd like to find out why.
-So would I.
'So as well as paying her builder £43,000
'in regular instalments for his unfinished work,
'Elaine then had to take out a second mortgage of £16,000
'and use £4,500 in savings to buy a kitchen
'and get another builder to finish off the whole job.
'So more than £63,000 in total
'for two small bedrooms and a loo in the loft
'and a downstairs extension for a kitchen and bathroom.'
He's probably an ex-family friend now, I would think,
but what would you say to him, if you had a chance to speak to him,
what would you say to him right now?
Why? Why do it?
He actually made out to me as if my house would be like a little palace.
He was given the chance a number of times to explain
why the work wasn't being done.
You know, why...why do it?
'Elaine has spoken out so others don't make the same mistake she did.
'Here's what I'd say everyone needs to know before a build begins.'
Always check out your builder's credentials,
even if they're a friend.
Never pay in cash.
Generally, you won't be able to prove
what you have and haven't paid for.
Keep back a good portion of the money to pay at the end,
when you're happy with the work.
And before you start any build,
check if you need planning permission.
For Elaine, it's been a harsh lesson learned.
Looking back now, I do think, "You were stupid. Why didn't you see it?"
And I was, I suppose, lucky that I was in a situation
where I could take a second mortgage out.
If I hadn't have been in that situation,
I don't know what I would've done.
I'd have been left with a shell of a house, not able to live in it,
with no means of being able to rectify the problem.
'Well, my team's been in touch with Elaine's builder
'and he wants to meet up. There's always two sides to a story,
'so find out later what he's got to say.'
I wanted to sit down and talk to her
and tell her what our situation was
and listen to her side of the story.
While some people are clearing up the mess their contractors
have left behind, there are plenty of tradesmen
who spend their time helping others clean up when things go wrong.
Plumbers Wesley and Brett are doing just that in London.
When they arrived at Robert Barker's home,
they found he'd taken matters into his own hands, literally,
when water started pouring through his bathroom ceiling,
onto the floor and through to the kitchen below.
The overflow pipe had got disconnected,
-so for about 10 minutes, I had my finger in it, like that.
Well, that's panic stations then, because you don't know what to do.
-You can't exactly take your finger off.
-At least it's not coming through the house now.
-That's a big relief.
With the overflow pipe temporarily reconnected, the water's now
safely flowing into the garden and not through the ceiling.
But the electrical appliances are soaked and not safe to use.
Now I've got to find the phone number for the insurance company,
see what they can do.
Yeah. Yeah, that'll be the best bet.
And I always say, if you want to take some photographs of the damage
so they know before we tidy it up.
We can help you tidy this stuff up here if you need us to.
-Look after you a bit.
In fact, Brett, can you go and get the wet vac in here
and just help this gentleman tidy up all these bits.
There's a couple of rags out there, as well.
Your home insurer may well cover you for leaks and burst pipes
and will want to send a loss adjustor to assess the situation.
Taking photographs of the damage is advisable
and it's worth calling your insurer early to see if you'll be covered.
And as Brett rolls up his sleeves to clean up Robert's house,
Wesley finds something he hopes will put an end to the flooding.
The new part.
-How you doing, mate?
-A new float valve isn't expensive.
But you need to factor in your plumber's labour, or callout charge,
the time they take to do the repair and the amount of damage caused.
You've got a mechanism in here which stops the water.
As soon as the float valve registers that the water level is sufficient,
it'll push the needle in and shut the water off completely.
So what's happened in there, obviously,
something's gone faulty inside, just keeps coming out,
keeps coming out and this is why we have this overflow pipe up here.
And, er...which has gone faulty,
which is why the guy had his finger stuck in the hole,
trying to stop the water from coming through.
Usually, that'd be poured outside and it wouldn't be a problem.
Cor, that's tight!
Offending article removed and a new valve fitted,
Wesley gets on with gluing the overflow pipe in place.
If the tank ever overfills again, water will flow down the pipe,
into the garden, and not flood the house.
This is really common, especially on old systems like this,
when people have been up in the loft space
and the overflow gets knocked,
or someone who's not really that competent has not connected it right
and it's just...it can just destroy places.
I've been to places where it's, like,
the house is floating down the street.
Right, all the taps are off, mate, I'll go down and turn the mains on.
Plumbing finished, they make sure the house is shipshape.
-Bring the Hoover down, my old son, yeah?
And also, if you can, put this trap hatch up for him.
And rookie Brett gets all the best jobs. Cleaning up and clearing out.
And if you want to stop a potential leak before it's too late,
make sure your float valve isn't caked up by limescale.
Your overflow pipe is connected
and if you do have a flood,
take plenty of photos of the damage before you tidy up.
Your insurance company will need them.
Thanks for coming and saving the day.
That's all right. It's my pleasure to help out.
And the dynamic duo are off to their next plumbing emergency.
-Take care. Any problems...
-Thank you very much.
In the UK, 40 people die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning.
It's a silent killer that comes from boilers, cookers,
or radiators running on gas or oil.
Appliances which many of us have in our homes.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen when gas doesn't burn properly
because appliances are either faulty, or poorly ventilated.
It's colourless and you can't smell or taste it,
but if you regularly suffer nausea and headaches
only when you're near these appliances, you may have a problem.
In London, gas engineer Chris Teal has been called out to deal with
a church heater which has been leaking deadly carbon monoxide,
putting the congregation at risk.
Thankfully, he spotted it during a routine safety check.
We had a lot of carbon monoxide issues.
We ended up actually repairing nine of the heaters.
It was only the one we're installing today, um...
that we couldn't do anything with.
Just pop that down there, I think, for now.
The dangerous heater has already been disconnected
and it's vital Chris gets a new one in as soon as possible.
It's not going to be a quick job, no.
There's going to be differences with installing the new unit,
conform to the relevant regulations
and quite often, in some cases,
it can be very, very challenging.
It's a very heavy appliance, so I've got help today.
So just pop it in just there and we'll just mark up the gas pipe.
The guys are working swiftly.
The old heater's been removed, we've found that the gas supply
just down here, the old one, is no good.
We'd have to cut the back of the new unit
and we don't want to do that, so it's better
to drill a new hole in a different location
and just rerun the gas supply.
It will look a lot nicer, a lot neater and give us
a little bit more room, as well.
And Vicar Christopher Hobbs appreciates how important it is
to have a qualified gas engineer who knows exactly what he's doing.
Get that unit as close to the wall as possible.
He'll know where the heaters are, what the problem is.
He'll be good at repairing them, rather than just saying,
"It's condemned, we need a new one."
He'll be sensible about what things we really need to do
and what things should be done soon.
Where gas is concerned, it's more important than ever
to make sure your tradesman is properly qualified.
Choose someone on the Gas Safe Register.
Check your appliances once a year
and buy a carbon monoxide detector.
They cost about £20 and you can get them from any DIY store.
-There we go. That is it. All done.
The congregation in this church has had a lucky escape.
And it's all in a day's work for Chris.
We like to help people, it's not all about chasing the biggest
clients, it's doing the best job you can.
One workman accused of not doing his best is Elaine Ormston's builder.
He was hired to fit a new loft and rejig her bungalow in Doncaster,
but he never finished the work.
Well, I've been doing a bit of research,
and I've found that he's dissolved four companies,
and has four county court judgements against him.
He's agreed to meet me,
but he's asked that we don't show his face or name him.
I kick off by asking him how he would justify demanding
a final £2,000 from Elaine, when the work wasn't halfway done.
If you couldn't finish the job for £43,500,
and she said there was 50% left,
if that was the case, how was you able to do it for £2,000?
We didn't want to rip Elaine off.
No way we wanted to do that.
We wanted £2,000 to buy the materials
so we could finish the job off.
That's how close to the end of the job that we thought we were at.
The builder said the work only stalled because of the issue
over the dormers being higher than expected.
Something he says was caused by the roof's trusses or pitch being
the wrong dimensions.
And if the trusses were wrong, slightly wrong...
-They were slightly wrong...
-That would maintain the justification...
Justify the complaint - technically, we're talking about here -
so then if we go to responsibility for that, it would be the truss,
-the guy who made the trusses, who actually was in your employ.
So that would come round and land back on your lap,
as a contractor, you know that.
Everybody ended up getting uptight about it.
Which ended up in the job stopping temporarily,
while it all got sorted out.
Well, how did this affect the overall job?
It delayed it, because it had to go back into planning for some reasons
regarding the roof and whatever, these dormers.
On top of the delay, the house was open to the elements
because the builder didn't feel able to fit a temporary roof.
But he says Elaine wanted work to carry on regardless,
so they had to things in the wrong order.
Working on the inside of the house before the outside was secure.
Elaine asked us to go back to the job, but we couldn't work on the
outside, on the roof, or whatever - we could only do some internal works.
And at that time, that's when things started to get...
-..a bit fractured between us.
It wasn't going as quick as what Elaine wanted it to do.
You feel that you're unjustly being accused of being
the perpetrator of the problem?
But it seems there's a little bit of a trail of damage behind you, you know?
And I'm wondering whether it's you, or whether it could have been
circumstances that cause these things?
All we asked Elaine for was £2,000.
I think if, at the end of the day, Elaine would have sat down with us
and just talk about the situation that we was in,
then whether we got the £2,000 off her or not,
it could have been resolved.
We could have carried on and we could have got the job done,
and it would've been put to bed.
We didn't get that chance.
Well, maybe Elaine could've given her builder more of a hearing,
but by then, more than £43,000 down, she'd had enough.
Clearly there's two sides to every story,
and I've got to give the builder credit for facing up to me.
I just hope that both he and Elaine actually learn
something from this very sad situation.
And at least now she has the beautiful home that she always wanted.
Tommy tracks down Elaine's builder - and ex-family friend - to hear his side of the story, after she says she gave him more than £40,000 to convert her bungalow into a family home, but left her with no kitchen, no bathroom and no money.
Plumber Wes and his apprentice Brett help out pensioner Robert when water starts gushing through his ceiling.