Series following tradesmen and looking at cowboy contractors. Plumber John is on a double call for help - when one householder takes a bath, the neighbour is left having a shower.
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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.
Who do you trust?
I feel so stupid.
You need one of the good guys.
But you don't always get them.
Oh, my goodness!
You don't ever think it's going to happen to you.
We'll hear the stories of devastation
and despair left behind when building work doesn't go to plan.
I don't want to look out here. I end up in tears.
And we'll tell you how to avoid becoming a victim yourself.
You have always got the safety net of the building inspector.
But most tradesmen are there to help.
We'll follow the response teams who are there for you 24 hours a day...
It's a nightmare.
Just have to make sure you don't fall through the ceiling.
..seven days a week.
I think we'll have to pull this out.
It probably would have burn the house down while they slept.
From plumbers to roofers, electricians to locksmiths,
we meet the men and women who help you out in your hour of need.
Coming up, we all need a roof over our heads. But not one like this.
In all my days in the business, I have never seen anything like this.
Plus, 20 families will be caught short at this block of flats
if Ken can't get to the bottom of their sewer problem.
I've just give it one more try because of the conditions.
And, when Graham's girlfriend has a bath,
their downstairs neighbour has a shower.
Just as she was getting out of the bath last night
we got a knock on the door from the people downstairs.
And they said there was water pouring through the roof.
If you're taking on a big building project, you need to know what
you're doing. And if you don't, you need to hire someone who does.
And even then, it's a good idea to make sure
you're around to keep an eye on things.
But it's not always that easy.
Especially if your own job takes you away from home a lot,
as sales executive Alex Kenyon found out.
Alex, from Huddersfield, and his girlfriend, Sue,
were hoping to move in together.
Doing up his home was meant to give them
a dream start to their joint new life.
The plan was for a two-storey extension,
nearly doubling the size of the house. Blimey!
She must have more clothes that my missus!
Alex chose a builder who had
done work for him previously on some rental properties he owns.
He put in a new kitchen, he created stud walls, he put
in a new bathroom, and his work was fairly good for that, I must say.
It was done on time and on the money.
The builder quoted him £50,000 for labour
and said he could finish the job in six months.
Alex was to buy the materials
and the whole job was due to come in at around £100,000.
Every two weeks he was paid a certain amount,
the majority of it was paid through cheque form.
There was no contract between us,
but in essence I had been using him for five years previous,
and we'd never had a contract between us.
In total over the time of the build, Alex handed over £36,000.
But only began to realise something was wrong
when the project ran over by two months.
He knew the foundations had been passed by the local building
inspector, and believed his builder was getting all subsequent
work signed off, too.
But Alex travels abroad with his work,
so he wasn't on hand for much of the time as the job got under way.
As a result, he got a real shock
when he returned from a business trip.
You see, to my mind, nothing had been done.
He would say, "Well, I've had problems with this,
"I've had problems with that".
After 11 months, the roof needed to be completely taken down,
at that point I had completely had enough of the builder.
I fired him.
Alex found a new builder, Dean James,
and asked him to look at the roof.
Dean said it was the worst job he'd seen in 40 years.
And told him to call in the building inspector.
Alex rang me to say that the building inspector had
said more or less what I said
and would I take over the job?
But when he started to tackle the roof,
he discovered a host of other problems.
When we took the roof covering off we could see down the cavities
and they were absolutely chock-a-block with masonry.
We got the building inspector out again, we needed to try
and clean the cavities out, which we did.
But we couldn't get in to do it properly, so that left us
with no alternative really but to start taking the outer
skin of the extension off, which was all the stone.
Which put at least another six or seven weeks on the job.
And we've took out well over half a tonne of mortar
and rubble out of the cavities.
The new builders then found a drainpipe hadn't been bridged.
It had been smashed up! The result was flooding in the cellar.
Alex and Sue's dream home together seemed to be moving further
and further away.
Every time we took a different step to put one thing right,
we opened up a different can of worms.
And it just started spiralling out of control, really.
Homeowner Alex was horrified.
The floodwater just kept going up and up and up and up. Dreadful work.
Alex made a home video of the poor workmanship.
A little late maybe,
but well worth doing if you need to take legal action later.
As you can see here, the roof has been stripped back.
It had to be stripped off because it was absolutely abysmal.
All that there, all that has got to come completely down.
It looks very nice. He's done it wrong.
He's considering taking action against the original builder,
but has yet to do so. He wanted to wait until everything is finished.
But he's made sure he has plenty of photographic evidence of the work.
I've come to Huddersfield to meet Alex and hear the rest of the story.
-Hello, Tommy, love. How the devil are you?
-I'm very good, thanks.
-Come on in.
-It's a bit rough, the weather today, isn't it?
-It most certainly is.
It's been nearly two years since the work first began and,
since that time, Alex has had to live with a building site
and the worry of how to put it right.
Plus, he's had to postpone his plans to set up home with his partner.
Dean and his team are putting it right,
but there's still a way to go.
-Oh, this is nice.
-This is it.
-Yeah, it looks the bee's knees, eh?
It has been a very stressful time.
The reason for this whole project was so Alex
and his girlfriend could be together.
Instead, they are living 17 miles apart.
Now, the fact that this has become quite extended,
this completion date, is she anxious to get in?
To be fair, she's been very good, actually.
She can see how he stressed that I originally was.
I would anticipate it will be ready in about two to three weeks
and then she will be moving in.
Alex was away working during some of the building period.
But not all of it.
-You weren't living here, were you?
-Living here, yes.
Obviously you've still got all your muck and dust,
you've still got, you know, the aggravation.
Well, let's hope that will be over soon.
But I want to understand exactly what went wrong.
Have you got any pictures of the work that he'd done?
Yeah, most certainly.
It's worse than I could ever have imagined.
And later, we'll get to grips with just how dangerous the
consequences could have been if Alex hadn't called a stop to the build.
-What happens if one of these slabs hits you?
Excuse the pun, but you are stone dead.
Blocked sewage pipes cost the water industry
tens of millions of pounds each year.
Mainly because we put things down our loos
and sinks that we shouldn't.
It's up to drainage specialists like Ken Cattanach to sort it out.
Today he's been called to a block of 20 flats in Hertfordshire,
all affected by a major obstruction which has caused
waste water to rise to street level.
So, it's probably a blockage,
but we won't find out until we lift the manhole.
The problem was spotted by Brian, who lives in the building.
I discovered it this morning, there was
an excess of water running down the drive here.
So I realised we had a problem.
Brian fills Ken in on the details.
Can you show me the problem?
Yeah, we had a blocked drain this morning,
I noticed the water was coming up through this manhole cover here.
There's a bit of a smell around.
So, I wondered if you could come along and unblock it for us.
Yep, it should be OK.
Just get the manhole lifted and then we can see where the problem is.
Ken's first task is to investigate the manhole serving
the entire block.
It's situated on the private access road belonging to the flats.
Phew! You can smell it!
Ken needs to remove the manhole cover fully,
but he already thinks he knows what's wrong.
Unfortunately a lot of the packet things of toiletries that you
buy say that you can flush them down the toilet, they do
go down the toilet, but they don't go down the pipes.
Builds up and you soon get yourself a blockage.
One last heave.
And what he reveals is enough to make you heave!
Oh, my goodness!
That looks a major problem.
But Ken is confident.
Does that look a big job?
It shouldn't be, if it's what I'm thinking it is.
We should clear it fairly quickly.
Ken gets to work with pipes and hoses.
Well, the blockage I believe is in what we call the trap.
And I'm trying to punch through the blockage with the jet.
But it seems he spoke too soon
when he told Brian it could be a simple job.
It's not going as quickly as I hoped it would, put it that way.
He's been working away for more than an hour,
and sewage is beginning to spill onto the access road.
If he can't fix this soon, 20 families are going to come
home from school and work to find mucky waste all over their driveway.
And no-one will be able to use their bathrooms.
Normally the drain should go straight out to the street with what
is known as an interceptor, which is a trap, and I can't find it.
And there is another problem...
He isn't sure the blockage is actually under the road
belonging to the flats.
It could be under the main road.
I'm hitting the blockage where the movement was outside the boundary.
So, technically, it now becomes a water board job, if I can't...
I'll just give it one more try because of the conditions,
but it's very marginal as to exactly where it is.
Generally, the water company is responsible for the water
mains in the ground
and the pipe work leading up to your property boundary from the mains.
In most cases,
it's your responsibility to maintain the supply pipe.
This is the section of the service pipe from the boundary
of your property, usually where the water meter
and stop valve are, into the property itself.
If you need your drains jetted, it can cost between £80 and £100.
Ken is dedicated to his job and he's not the type to give up.
What I've said to Brian is that I'm going to give it one more go,
because the blockage appears to be right on the perimeter
of the property.
If it doesn't go, I'm going to have to say to him
he's going to have to call the water board.
If he tells them it's overflowing spillage,
they should be out within a few hours.
It's nearly 4 o'clock and time is of the essence.
Ken makes it his mission to solve the problem.
You don't know what a lovely feeling that is.
It's a cold day, but I'm sweating. That was hard work.
It's all due to wipes.
Facial wipes, baby wipes and toilet cleaning wipes
are responsible for 75% of all sewer blockages.
They may flush down the loo, but often snag further along the drains.
I've put disinfectant in the tank and I'm going to clean this area.
It's a real mess, but Ken is used to it.
I haven't got a very good sense of smell, believe it or not.
It might be a bit of luck in my favour there.
It has been one of his more difficult call outs.
The trouble with a blockage being
so far from the last manhole meant I had to use a lot of water to
get the jet and hose down to it and that's why we had so much spillage.
That was a pretty well packed drain.
He gives the area a final wash down.
You know, my wife never gives me a cuddle
when I walk in through the door.
And I don't know why.
Ken is glad he stuck with it
and shifted the blockage for Brian
and the rest of the flats' residents.
I was fighting with it,
I was getting worried when she started to overspill.
I felt there was something there and it just needed a lot of hard work.
I kept at it and she went. And, yeah, that's when I was happy.
Your heart jumps up.
I'm going to recommend that we put a camera down
and take a look to see if there is an interceptor, if there is,
expose it and that will save a lot of trouble for them in the future.
Back in Huddersfield, I'm visiting Alex Kenyon, who wanted
a large two-storey extension so his girlfriend
and their two dogs could move in with him.
He used a tradesman who had done smaller jobs for him
in the past, but he wasn't able to keep an eye on the work
because he was often away on business trips abroad.
The relationship with the builder broke down when he went way over
time and the local council's building inspector
condemned the work.
The new roof and outer wall had to be taken down.
Alex sacked the builder, but had already handed over £36,000.
A new builder has taken over the job
and, 20 months on from the start, it's about a month off completion.
Alex is considering taking action against the original builder,
but has yet to do so, waiting until everything is finished.
But he has compiled photographic evidence of the work.
-This is the first picture.
-So this is new work, with old stone.
-And we've got a spirit level and it looks to me
like that's out about 25 mill.
By that being out of plumb means big problems elsewhere.
The repercussions further down the line are compounded.
Funny you should say that. So this is the next photograph.
So this cavity should be closed and that looks a bit undersized,
that insulation that's in there.
Between the cavity there should be a clear gap between the cavity.
This is cement which is actually inside the cavity.
That looks like, towards the end of the day,
they had some water left on the board and they've scooped it off,
dropped it down the cavity to get rid of it.
This was shockingly lazy work and way below standard.
But it gets worse!
Now, this is the roof.
So as they are going up the roof, that's got three battens there,
that's got four battens there, that's got five.
So, if you've got all these battens, like a big thickness of battens,
-what happens is with the weight going that way, it rolls.
So all that roof will slide that way.
-Yes, what happens if one of these slabs hits you?
Excuse the pun, but you are stone dead. That is so dangerous.
No wonder they condemned it.
-Is it nine lats?
-So you've got a nine-inch batten.
So really, he's changing the pitch of the roof, as well.
Because the pitch of the roof is becoming steeper,
creating more of the danger because they're going to go.
In all my days in the business, I've never seen anything like this.
I've seen some dodgy work in my time, but this is prize-winning.
This is not how you build a roof.
The pitch of the roof refers to the amount the roof slopes as it
Calculating the number of trusses or rafters you need
and where to put them is a serious and complicated business.
Many new homes now rather use pre-fabricated trusses,
but you must get the calculation right or,
when you come to put the tiles on, it won't work.
As Alex's builder found out.
If he had got it right,
he would been able to simply fit the tiles to single battens all the
way up the roof because the angle on the pitch would have been correct.
Like this one.
Instead, he came up with a downright dangerous alternative that
would have come crashing down if someone had sneezed!
I can barely stand to hear any more. But of course, there is more.
-Is it the RSJ?
-That's an RSJ.
This roofing felt is a new type of felt, it's a breathable felt.
So you don't have to put any vents in the roof.
When you've got a great big RSJ piercing it,
that really undermines the whole validity of the roof.
-He's cut these around the steel!
I've never seen anything like that. Never.
Gordon Bennett! This guy was a right plonker.
I would say that he probably didn't start off to illegally take
money as a confidence trickster.
I just think he bit off more than he could chew.
I just think that he took it for granted that he was going to get
more money out of you and this would go OK, but he set out wrong,
and once you set out wrong, you're in trouble.
He may not have started out to defraud,
but Alex paid him more than £35,000.
And paid again after the work all had to be redone.
This all comes back to who you hire to do the build.
Just because someone has done smaller jobs for you doesn't mean
they are capable of taking on a huge project.
They could be taking on too much.
So check their experience and credentials and remember,
it's horses for courses.
But I reckon Alex knows that now.
So let's have a look at where he is with the build.
So what was the price from the new company to do the work?
So far they've just hit 50k in labour costs.
And you had to pay the original contractor...
Yes, the original contractor, he was paid in excess of 35,000.
So, I would anticipate the total cost of when it's finished,
including labour, materials, around 135 to 140.
-Oh, that's big bananas.
-It's a decent tickle, love.
And your stress levels, how have they been?
-Initially, they were through the roof.
-You're going a bit grey!
I'll have you know, to be honest, those are highlights I put in.
-Like mine, yeah.
But they've made a nice job - it looks really good now.
I really am a bit of a fan of this sort of style of build anyway.
-I love natural stone.
-And I think it looks terrific.
Yeah, they have done a fantastic job.
Alex is still trying to decide what action
he should take against his original builder.
We've been in touch with the council and they tell us
they are very interested in meeting up with your original contractor
and the fact that he didn't comply with building regulations.
-So, there may be some action taken on that.
And we've also been in touch with the original contractor to
-give him the right to reply. And so far, we've heard nothing.
We're not surprised by that.
It's not a shocker, I've got to be honest with you.
If Alex takes on a build again,
he'll have more knowledge of how to handle major works.
I won't make the same mistakes I made here again.
But it is a steep learning curve,
the main thing is that it's been put right, and it's been done correctly.
-And you can get on with your life.
-I can basically get on with my life.
-All right, thank you very much for coming.
-It's been a real pleasure.
Alex certainly did learn the hard way.
If you can't be on site regularly,
you really must hire an experienced project manager.
It could save you money in the long run.
But make sure you see the building inspector
sign off personally at each stage of the work before you part with money.
In London, plumber John is on his way to deal with a mystery leak,
from the bathroom of one flat to the kitchen of another below.
It's already shorted out the electrics downstairs
and both householders are worried.
-How are you?
Graham rents the upstairs property.
My girlfriend took a bath last night and the night before.
Just as she was getting out the bath last night,
we got a knock at the door from the people downstairs.
And they said that there was water pouring through the roof.
Which isn't ideal for them.
-It seems to be when the water is draining out of the bath.
It doesn't seem to happen when the shower runs, which is strange.
OK, I'll take a quick look and see what's going on.
John needs to investigate. But there's already a problem.
So, normally what we do is take the bath panel off,
have a look underneath there, just check out the pipes.
Unfortunately this bath panel is completely tiled,
so it's not going to be that straightforward.
He decides to start with the flat below instead.
It was last night that we first noticed that it was dripping
water, which is a bit weird.
there doesn't seem to be any damp or anything like that as of yet.
Is all right if I have a quick peek just
so I can work out exactly where that is?
Downstairs tenant Jacob shows John the water's point of entry.
So, the water was dripping down here on that wall
-and just kind of coming out.
So not a vast volume straightaway
but just a couple of drips to begin with?
Yeah, two nights ago, it was dripping, and as we originally
got in contact with the landlord last night, it got worse.
So it shorted out your electrics.
It has obviously hit some wiring above the ceiling, then.
So I need to run a few things and see what
happens down here before we possibly have to take a hammer to the tiles.
-Is that OK?
-Perfect. Brilliant, thank you.
But will the tests reveal the cause of the leak?
First John tries running the bath and then filling it.
Just let that water out and then we'll go downstairs and see
if anything is coming out.
But the water has mysteriously stopped dripping through
Lower floor tenant Jacob is concerned about the dangerous
mix of water and electricity.
It can start fires.
See, the electric shorting is a bit freaky.
So, if it doesn't get sorted...
God knows where the water is going, so...
That's probably going to be even more expensive to sort out.
If you have water leaking onto light fittings or other
electrical appliances, turn that circuit off at the mains board.
If you're not sure which circuit it is, then
turn off everything via the main switch and call in an expert.
And to stop the leak, turn off the water at the stopcock.
Plumber John is really scratching his head over this one.
Despite his best efforts, there is
still no sign of leaking water in the kitchen.
There's only one thing for it.
I think I'd best phone the landlord and see what he wants us to do.
Because I don't want to cause any unnecessary damage.
Hi, Oliver, it's John here.
I'm at your property at the moment checking out this
leak that's coming from the bath.
The issue that we have is obviously
the tiles around the bath panel aren't accessible,
they don't come off.
So, for us to...
Yeah, is that OK, yeah? Fine.
OK, speak to you soon, take care.
The landlord is happy for us to take some tiles off
to see what's going on, so we'll do that now.
With the landlord's permission secured,
John can get cracking and remove some tiles to try and have a look.
This is one of the reasons why,
when you've got a new bath being installed, you should always have
access provided so that, if there are any leaks or you want to
change the taps, then you can get to it without having to cause damage.
Now he can get his head under the bath to have a good look,
it's clear to John why water is escaping.
The overflow pipe, which is up here, has become disconnected.
So as soon as the water fills up in the bath and is released,
it's coming straight out of the overflow pipe onto the floor.
And that's the reason why, when they were just using the shower,
there wasn't enough volume of water for it to be
forced up the small pipe.
So we're going to reconnect this overflow,
test it and that should hopefully be problem solved.
For householder Graham, it's a revelation.
Did you try and fix that?
That thing, since I moved in, has been falling out.
So it must have been screwed into that.
Yes, as that screws in, it comes a bit of rubber
in between the bath and this and that's what creates the seal.
And that hadn't happened, so.
And there doesn't seem to be a seal here for that.
A quick trip to a DIY shop, and he's got the part he needs.
John fits a new seal and then attempts to fit the overflow
back on, but it's tricky with such limited space to work.
Going to crawl back into my hole now.
Try that one again.
This is why I need an apprentice.
He doesn't have one.
So Graham steps in.
Yeah, that should be all right now. Thank you.
I'll have to give you a discount otherwise, if you help!
Another test and he's done.
So I've put a new rubber seal on it,
put it back, tested it, it's all running fine.
-Thanks a lot.
-All the best.
John gives Jacob the good news.
-It's all been fixed now.
-Perfect, all the best.
Graham is delighted with John's work.
I think it's really important to get a quick response,
without that, who knows what state the flat downstairs would be in.
I mean, they had water through the walls, wallpaper coming off.
So, yeah, the rapid response by both our landlords
and the plumber has been absolutely fantastic.
Any one of us could be in a situation such as we've seen today.
Whether it be an emergency in our own home,
or falling foul of rogue workmanship.
So take note of my top tips and hopefully it'll be home sweet home.
Alex has very nearly finished the work on his house extension.
And Sue is moving in any day now.
The couple are looking forward to life together
with lots and lots of room.
Tommy travels to Huddersfield to meet Alex, who paid a builder nearly £40,000 to extend his home ready for his girlfriend to move in. But when the building inspector condemned the work, Alex had to pull down the structure and start again.
Plumber John is on a double call for help - when one householder takes a bath, the downstairs neighbour is left having a shower.