Series following tradesmen and looking at cowboy contractors. Tommy Walsh has news about Susan's builder after her plans for an accessible landscaped garden left her out of pocket.
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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 seemed to my mind that nothing had been done.
The roof itself was on the verge of collapsing.
..you need one of the good guys. But you don't always get them.
You need to get a plumber in straightaway to fix that.
He has destroyed our dreams.
We'll hear the stories of devastation and despair left behind
when building work doesn't go to plan.
-He's damaged my house.
-It's just basically shoddy workmanship.
And we'll tell you how to avoid becoming a victim yourself.
You still need building regs, whatever you do.
But most tradesmen are there to help.
And we'll follow the response teams who are there for you
24 hours a day...
..seven days a week.
We had a lot of carbon monoxide issues.
From plumbers to roofers, electricians to locksmiths,
we meet the men and women who help you out in your hour of need.
Coming up, a leak in a bathroom baffles plumber Peter,
who has been called in to find the source of the problem.
We've got to be careful where we tread as well.
The last thing we want to make is another loft hatch for them.
A woman calls an emergency locksmith
when she finds she can't lock up her house.
Both of the locks are damaged and both of them
had sheared keys inside of them.
But another is left high and dry by a builder
when he leaves her with this, rather than her dream patio.
There are many days when I don't even open the bedroom
curtains, because I don't want to look out here.
I end up in tears.
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 Swansea, Susan Martin wanted to create the perfect garden to
go with her lovely home. Being by a main road, she craved privacy.
And wanted tall walls to surround her two-tiered garden
and make her feel safe.
She also wanted to create a flat, paved patio on the top level
because she has arthritis and walking is becoming difficult.
But little did she know then her investment of over
£8,000 in the spring of 2014 would leave her with little more
than a builder's yard full of rubble.
Susan and her husband have lived in the house for 17 years.
And it's become their pride and joy.
We've done quite a lot of work to the property
because basically it needed it.
A new kitchen, new bathroom, a lot of decorating,
new windows and a new garage door and of course we needed a new patio.
When high winds struck the neighbourhood,
the couple's garden was badly hit.
Winds were really bad one might and it was a Saturday night
and we were looking out of the window and our fencing had blown away
and it had taken the wall with it and half of the patio.
So because we are on a main road, you know, it was quite dangerous.
And we needed to sort it out.
Susan asked for recommendations, not knowing
if she needed a landscaper or a construction specialist.
And a colleague came back with the name of a good builder.
He gave us a price for the work on the Friday
and said he could start on the Tuesday.
But maybe we should have realised then that it was far too quick
to start the work. Maybe bells should have started ringing them.
But they didn't.
That was perhaps Susan's first mistake.
I always think, if a builder's worth his salt,
he will be booked up for the foreseeable.
But Susan was pleased her builder could start straightaway
and she booked him in March 2014.
He was to clean up her storm-damaged garden,
build new walls all the way around and pave her patio.
And it was supposed to take three to four weeks and cost £8,300.
But, within a month, Susan knew she'd made a terrible mistake,
when the work was shoddy
and the contractors walked away before the job was done.
Since then, she has been left in the awful position of not being
able to afford to put the costly mistakes right.
It's unjust that we have to, you know,
pay money again to get this sorted
when we've already paid the builder, you know, £8,500.
Well, it doesn't sound right to me.
So, I've come to Swansea to have a look for myself.
So, Sue, why was it so important for you that you have the
garden sorted? And you did want to terrace it so it was nice and flat?
Yes, I needed to have a patio because I'm a disabled lady
and I suffer with rheumatoid arthritis.
So, it's quite painful, you know, to walk on certain surfaces.
As it is now, I can't walk down there at all because of the stones.
-You know, the pain in the feet.
-And was the contractor aware of this?
-Of your condition? Was he aware...
Was this guy, was he a landscape gardener?
-Because this is what the job is.
-He wasn't a landscaper?
-He was a plasterer.
-Right, so he was a plasterer/builder?
'Another common mistake.
'Even with a recommendation,
'they must have experience of the work you want done.'
And what this seems to me
-is that he might have sort of been out of his comfort zone.
-I think so.
And if he was a plasterer, he could get into trouble, you see.
He's probably an excellent plasterer
-but not such an excellent landscaper.
So, when you met this guy, and discussed it,
-did you agree a price and a contract?
-Yes, we did.
We agreed a price and he wrote up a so-called contract.
Did you get any other estimates from anybody else to have a comparison?
No. We should have done. But obviously we didn't.
So when did it all start to fall apart?
When did the work stop and what was the reason why it stopped?
Well, it started where every day, my husband would
plug the electricity in for them
and put the water on for them for the cement mix.
And on beautiful, sunny days they just wouldn't turn up.
So, you know, I would text him
because he wouldn't answer the phone and say, "Is anyone coming today?"
Susan discovered through the workmen hired in to do the job
that the boss was taking on other contracts at the same time.
What they were actually doing as well was they were mixing cement here
and taking big builder's buckets of it away from here.
So I was saying, "Well, where are you going with that?
"Oh, I'm going to use it for my shed. I'm taking it to do my shed."
Five buckets of it they mixed one day and then another day
I saw the bricklayer put a bag of cement into the car.
And I thought, well, we're paying for these materials.
You were a builder's yard.
-So it just sort of slowly came to a stop
and that was the end of it, was it?
Well, I kept texting him and ringing him
and saying, you know, is anyone coming today?
And then, they turn up again
and when we got to the top level and there was no slabs for them
to lay, they were actually sunbathing in the wheelbarrows.
So, although the lads were turning up for work,
the materials weren't there.
Susan had been waiting for paving slabs for her patio.
Every slab we seemed to choose, he kept saying it was out of his budget.
-Yeah, but you are the client.
You must have had a price range to work with?
Yeah, we wanted what we wanted.
So what my husband said to him was,
when he finally got him on the phone, he said
"If it's going to run over at the end,
"then we will be happy to pay that. But we want to have what we want."
Of course you do.
So, how much was the total price? You haven't told me that.
How much did you actually pay of it? Did you pay all of it?
-We paid all of it apart from, I think it was £500.
-How did he leave it?
Did he say, "I want more money", or didn't he say anything?
He didn't say anything.
He wouldn't answer the phone, he wouldn't answer texts,
he didn't come here at all.
So I got in touch with Trading Standards, who suggested that
we write him a letter and send in some photographs
and the next thing was we
got a letter back from him saying he was quite shocked to receive all this
in the post because he didn't really think that he did anything wrong.
But as I find out later, things were about to get worse.
And I give Susan some interesting information.
I'm really shocked.
Not everyone you pay to solve a problem in your home leaves
you high and dry.
Lots of tradespeople go to great lengths to help you out.
In London, emergency plumber Peter Froggatt is on the way to
a house with a leak in the bathroom.
Well, I've had a call.
Basically, we've got water coming through the ceiling,
so I'm guessing it's maybe in the loft area.
So it could be some plumbing,
maybe a tank or something like that in the loft.
Or it could be the roof tiles, so we're going to find out from him
and make him aware of what it is and what we can do about it.
Two and a half million pounds a year is paid out in insurance claims
because of water leaks.
And every good plumber knows that they need to act
fast to prevent a potential disaster.
Hello, Mr Wingate. How you doing? Peter. Nice to meet you.
I've come to come and see your problem.
Well, it's either a pipe or a leak.
Once I know what the problem is, we'll do a bit of investigation
and I'll let you know exactly what we can do about it.
Let's try and get this sorted out for you. OK. Brilliant.
-If you turn right at the top of the stairs.
And immediately first left.
Hello, how are you doing? Nice to meet you. Is there a loft hatch?
-OK, and the leak is coming through...
David Wingate and his wife, Pauline, have been
living at the house for 12 years and haven't had this problem before.
I noticed that there was a little bit of peeling of the wallpaper and
then when I sort of felt and I could feel the wall behind being damp.
The worst scenario is that there is a pipe that is leaking
there in the plumbing.
And that if there is, then it would get worse and then if we go away
and leave the house, we'll come back and find significant damage.
At first glance, the leak isn't as bad as Peter feared
But there is clearly a lot of water coming through
the wall from somewhere.
The peeling wallpaper and damp stains are signs something is amiss.
And a leak like this, if left, could go on to cause extensive
problems on both floors of the house.
If there are any pipes in the vicinity, could be
pipes further up and the water could be running down, you know,
that's why we need to check everything.
Just going to have a look upstairs.
Because it's not immediately obvious where the water is coming from,
Peter has turned detective and will start in the loft
and work things out by a process of elimination.
This light is just because it's quite dark
and I couldn't see any other light up there.
We've got to be careful where we tread, as well, I don't think
it's boarded out so you've always got to be careful
where you're walking.
The last thing we want to make is another loft hatch for them.
Right. Yeah, there is quite a lot of pipework up here.
You can see the telltale signs of an old leak where it's been soaked
and wet and has now dried up.
Straightaway, I can't really see any sort of signs of water anywhere.
But it is worth just checking everything up here
while I'm up here.
Having ruled out the pipes in the loft,
Peter is able to narrow down where the issue stems from.
OK, I checked in the loft space.
-All your plumbing and pipework is fine in that loft, OK?
But what I need to try and have a look is
from outside the area which could be compromised.
-So just going to have a look outside.
-As long as the pipework...
-That's a load off my mind.
Also, if it was a pipe, like a mains water or hot water pipe,
more than likely it would be leaking pretty much continuously.
With the pipes in the loft all intact,
the cause of the leak is still a mystery.
Peter now suspects it might be coming through the roof.
OK, it might need a roofer to come and really look into it in detail.
It could be a tile missing, which is obvious.
It could be lead, which is really leaking, which may be obvious.
So it's worth just checking out and I can at least give
the roofer some information about it before he arrives.
But when he sees how high it is, Peter realises that climbing
up on the roof is not going to be an option.
-I definitely think it's more roofing.
-Simply because of the rate of the leak.
Determined to solve the puzzle for David,
and find the source of the leak, Peter calls in a roofer.
We'll find out later if he will be able to sort it out
and prevent this leak from turning into a huge damp problem.
Any water that has come rushing down this slope obviously would
just get clogged up here.
Back in Wales, Susan's relationship with her builder had entirely
broken down after she paid him nearly £8,500.
But he failed to give her the landscape garden she planned.
The builder disputed that he'd done anything wrong,
but this isn't what Susan had paid for.
We needed to have a bottom wall built and levelled off.
Then the wall coming up the side to the top wall and then a patio laid.
The job was never finished,
and even the work that has been done isn't up to scratch.
-So, it didn't end very well?
-No, not at all.
-And has he offered to make any reparations?
-No contact at all.
I think, Sue, this is a good opportunity to go down
and have a look at the work in the garden so I can make appraisal.
-Are you OK with that, though?
-I'm OK, I'll take my stick
and if I can hold on to your arm that would be a great help.
Yes, I'll help you down.
Susan's arthritis has been getting worse.
And she's been told
she may be wheelchair-bound by the summer of 2015.
Take my arm and we'll go down this together. I'll go slightly in front.
She wanted to enjoy her garden while she could,
knowing the steps would be too much in the near future.
-It's quite a busy road, isn't it? Behind you here.
Which I suppose is why you wanted this wall built so high?
-So this was going to be your sun terrace, effectively.
This was going to be the patio, yes. But it never was.
-He said that this would be done by Easter for me.
Not only did Susan's builder not keep to his
three-to-four week timetable in March 2014,
he also produced some really questionable work.
He's done some strange things
because he has the face of the walling in this way on that
wall and then he has it turned out for that wall.
Really, the rules are, you show your neighbour the best side.
That's the first thing that's wrong, that should be turned round.
And this is what was supposed to be paved but he's never paved it.
So you can't really use it like this because it's not comfortable
and safe to walk on.
No, not at all.
And I spot something which really concerns me.
I've noticed that this end, where we're going to go,
that that should have been...
When you come to the end of the wall,
it should have a big pier to hold it steady.
Because that's just, you know, single course
and if you banged against that, over it would go.
It may be possible to salvage that if piers are built
-and they are tied into it.
But what we need to do is have a look down below to see what
they've done in order to see if that's a possibility.
-Are you OK to...
-Do you know, I think it's stopped raining.
-We don't need that any more.
That'll make things a bit easier.
Give us your hand and I'll walk you down this bit.
Actually, I have to say that what's here looks well done.
At the moment, to me, there's no cracking,
there's no stress cracking on it.
So this might be fine.
'Maybe there is light at the end of this tunnel.'
I think what probably happened here is that, as you told me,
-he's a plasterer.
-And I'd say he's probably a good plasterer.
I can't say, but this work is good.
And I think he's probably underpriced
the job at the beginning.
And because he never supervised it properly,
some of the work that should have been done wasn't done.
But that's down to his bad management.
So therefore, at the end, after paying them,
-there wasn't enough money left for him to complete the job.
But that's not your fault or your responsibility, that's his.
My team has looked at Susan's builder
and we now know a bit more about the man.
-He has three dissolved companies and one in liquidation.
And he also has three CCJs against him, one is for £14,000.
I'm really shocked.
A CCJ is a court order, registered against you
if you fail to pay back money you owe.
And it's exactly the sort of thing you should be
checking before employing a builder.
Do a credit check on them and you should be able to find out.
And if they have a company in liquidation it means it's
stopping trading and shouldn't be taking money from you.
Look on websites like Companies House
and ask the Citizens Advice Bureau for pointers.
Do your research before you hire someone
and you could save yourself an awful lot of bother later on.
Have you found the whole process very stressful?
Because you seem to me as though...
Very stressful. There are many days when I don't even open
the bedroom curtains because I don't want to look out here.
I end up in tears.
And, during all this going on, I suffered a heart attack.
And I was in hospital for a week, while these builders were here.
I mean, I'm not saying it had anything to do with the builders
but obviously the stress didn't help at all.
Susan's been quoted £12,500 to redo the brick walls
and finish off her patio.
A sum she just can't afford right now.
But there is a cheaper alternative.
The stuff that's unfinished could be repaired and cleaned up.
This ground needs to be rotovated and levelled up
and then maybe a membrane on here to stop the weeds growing up
and then put a mulch over the top of that,
some sort of crushed stone, and that will allow it to drain.
But I think this is definitely salvageable.
-That's good news, isn't it?
-I had better start saving then, yeah? Yeah.
Susan wanted to tell me her story
so no-one else would make the same mistakes.
And hers were fairly common.
So, if you're thinking of having any work done, make sure you
choose a workman in the right trade.
It's no good having a plasterer to sort your garden out.
Don't settle for the first person you talk to about the job.
And if you suspect your workmen are juggling too many jobs, speak up.
They should stick to your agreed timeframe.
Well, I think that goes to show that,
even with a recommendation, you can still come unstuck.
There is no substitute for doing your own research
and making sure that your contractor can do what you want.
Now I think in Sue's case the contractor just bit off more
than he could chew and
providing she gets a structural engineer in to check out all
the work that's already been done, I think,
and I hope for Sue's case, that this can be salvageable.
Back in London, plumber Peter has called in his roofer colleague
Jason Ross, having failed to find the source of a bathroom leak
at David's house.
I'm just going to show him briefly upstairs.
If the leak isn't stopped in its tracks,
the water damage could spread, seriously affecting
the plasterwork and timber on this floor and the one below.
I went into this loft space and you can see down to a certain point.
There are pipes running down this roof, which I can sort of see.
It doesn't point it out to be a pipe today.
It is roughly where that window is. Yeah, shall we get the ladder up?
-Let's do it. Yeah.
-Have a look.
Now they have the right equipment, roofer Jason can easily climb
up onto the roof and see what's going on.
-Don't break any slates.
Well, you've got a lot of moss that's sat here.
It's not long before he spots a problem.
I think the issue is from this window here.
You can see here obviously that, you know, any water that
runs down the roof, it's just going to get blocked up here.
And it's not able to travel away. This is the weakness on the roof.
This window itself, because all it protects...
All that stops the water from coming in is a lead soaker.
Which is this detail here.
It runs over this window and then under the slates.
So although the problem isn't the roof itself,
there's an obvious issue with the area around the window.
The gullies have got clogged up with moss, leaves and debris
and it means water is gathering there instead of draining away.
Small areas like this can cause this kind of leak to
develop into the property.
It's the most obvious thing at this moment in time
because the actual lead work appears to be in a sound condition.
With any roof, it's vital that it is looked after properly.
Unless it's a new roof, get it checked every couple of years.
This might cost you between £40 and £100.
Most insurance policies only pay out after storm damage,
not for leaks, which could be down to poor maintenance.
So it's worth checking your policy to see if you're covered.
Having removed all the debris from the roof,
Jason is confident that the water will now be able to drain away
and not collect and cause leaks.
The roof is now watertight
and any serious damp problems have been averted.
David can now repair and repaint his bathroom once it's dried out.
-OK, thank you so much.
And they are off to their next job.
15 miles from Manchester city centre, Alderley Edge
in Cheshire is home to fast cars, flash homes and footballers.
And with a burglary every 40 seconds in the UK,
if your home isn't totally secure, you could be unlucky.
Claire MacLeod became only too aware of this when she was out
one day, leaving her teenage son in charge of the house.
I got a telephone call to tell me
that a couple of the keys had broken in the back door locks.
Because both of the doors were now unlockable,
Claire was worried about the safety of her son and her house.
She rushed home to call an emergency locksmith and Danny Cosworth,
a tradesman with 21 years' experience, came to her rescue.
Bit of an unusual situation.
I've got two back doors
and I've got a key broken in each of the locks in each of the back doors.
So, this one is unlocked and the key is broken on this side.
And then the other door, which is just round the corner,
that's locked and the key is broken on the outside.
Quickly getting to work on one of the locks,
it's not long before Danny's trained eye notices the lock
is even less secure than Claire thought.
The way it's fitted to the door makes it an easy target for burglars.
Mrs McLeod, we've discovered now that the cylinder
on the outside is susceptible to a method of attack that
burglars are using, which involves breaking the cylinder in two
and gaining entry that way.
We could repair this cylinder but I wouldn't recommend that we did that.
We should really fit one that is snap resistant of the correct size.
Breakable cylinders that burglars can get leverage on are
something that seasoned locksmith Danny has come across before.
And they are gold dust for potential thieves.
Well, I mean, you know, obviously I want it to be secure so, if you
need to replace that bit to make it secure, then go ahead and do that.
-OK, no problem.
Moving on to check the other lock, Danny quickly removes the whole
lock mechanism from the door and the problem is staring him in the face.
It's got dirty and it's got grime and everything in it and it's
gone a bit rusty and it's partially seized up, so the mechanism is
not sliding as it should do and it's jamming, which has
given our friend some frustration and he's obviously
tried to force it.
So, with a bit of TLC and a clean and some oil, it's
hopefully going to be working again in a minute.
To keep your locks working smoothly, always keep them clean
and free from debris.
Lubricate them and flush them out with a specialist spray
every now again.
-I've stripped it down and cleaned it
and put it back in and it seems to be fine now.
-Oh, fantastic. So you don't need to replace it?
-I don't think so.
Danny has saved his customer unnecessary
expense by repairing the old lock.
But in the other door, he can see it does need a new
cylinder, which he quickly and expertly fits.
A standard cylinder would cost between £20 and £50.
But an anti-snap design can be between £50
and £100, plus the locksmith's time or call-out charge.
-Have you done it?
-That should be fine now. So if you can lock me out.
I'll have a go. Thank you.
And it's not long before Claire is won over by the lock's
So, thanks to Danny, Claire
and her son can sleep soundly in their beds tonight.
Any one of us could be in a situation such as we've seen today.
So follow my top tips
and your home emergency or home improvement should be plain sailing.
Tommy Walsh has revealing news about Susan's builder, after her plans for an accessible landscaped garden left her £8,000 out of pocket and with an uneven, rubble-strewn backyard. And it takes two when plumber Peter and roofer Jason search high and low to try to find the cause of a leak which is damaging a pensioner's bathroom wall.