Series following tradesmen and looking at cowboy contractors. Tommy meets Zena, whose dreams of retirement with husband Jack in a newly converted bungalow were destroyed.
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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 even 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, and we'll follow
the response teams who are there for you 24 hours a day...
It's a nightmare, isn't it?
You just have to make sure you don't fall though the ceiling.
-..seven days a week.
-I think I'll have to pull this out.
It would have probably burnt 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.
Fitting a new ceiling becomes problematic,
when builders hit hidden pipe-work.
But plumber Farrell, rides to the rescue.
Bit of a strange position, the pipe.
It should never be run underneath the joist.
Lost car keys mean this builder's late for work.
Chances are, one of the kids has had it and moved it.
But Kris's secret gadget saves the day.
For security purposes, I can't show you the tool
that we're going to use.
And it should have been Jack and Zena's retirement dream home,
but incompetent management
and bodged building work
meant Jack didn't live long enough to enjoy it.
Just a week or two later, he was back in hospital again,
and he never came out after that.
It's quite common for people to underestimate
the cost of a renovation project,
and not just in cash terms as it can be very stressful too.
But before you start, you need to consider
if the property is work renovating.
There's a trend now to demolish and rebuild instead.
It may seem daunting, but it can be cheaper.
But before you make a decision either way,
get good knowledgeable advice.
I'm on my way to Bushey in Hertfordshire to meet someone
who wishes she had.
Zena Sterner and husband Jack got together in their later years
after they both lost their long-term partners.
Zena was planning to go on a cruise,
but when her travelling companion fell ill, Jack stepped in.
He rang me up one breakfast time and I said,
"Oh, Jack, I don't suppose you'd fancy going on a cruise?"
And he said yes,
so, that's really how we got together, we went on a cruise.
Two years ago, with Zena in her 70s and Jack in his 90s, they decided
to move from their top floor London flat to a bungalow in the suburbs.
He wanted something on one level that was going to be convenient.
They found what they were looking for in Bushey, Hertfordshire.
But the property needed complete renovation.
Eventually, we found this little bungalow, and it was little.
The couple decided to buy it for around £400,000 and do major work.
They employed a friend who had worked for them before.
He had fitted out the new kitchen in their previous property.
He had said, "Oh, no, no, we can do this, that and the other"
and as far as we were concerned he was the right man to do it for us.
He knew what I wanted, he'd seen the flat often enough,
so he knew how we liked it, and that's how we started with him.
I see this time and time again.
You really must only employ tradesmen with a track record
doing the actual job that you want done.
Unfortunately, Zena didn't, and as a result, she said she's been badly
let down and is nearly £150,000 out of pocket,
and she's lost Jack -
his death hastened, she feels, by the stress of what happened.
Jack was, by that time, fully on oxygen and he deteriorated,
he became more unwell and more unwell.
Just a week or two later, he was back in hospital again.
And he never came out after that.
The work on the bungalow involved three extensions,
new plumbing and heating, a new kitchen,
double glazing and complete redecoration.
Their friend said he would manage it
and quoted the couple £214,000.
He hired a subcontractor, who brought in a team of builders.
He took it on because he wanted to branch out a bit,
but he wasn't a businessman.
All he was, was... He was good at doing what he did.
Bathrooms and kitchens.
Over a three month period, Zena and Jack paid out £155,000
but they didn't get their money's worth.
The place wasn't even built, it was in such a mess.
It wasn't moving, he was having a lot of trouble with his builder,
and the builder was having trouble with his men working
and it just wasn't moving.
Eventually, Zena pulled the plug on the project
and ordered the workers off the property.
All that had been done was some groundwork
and the walls of a rear extension.
Three quarters of the house was underwater
and the site was an absolute mess.
He wanted more money.
Why did he want more money?
Because he had to pay the builder.
We gave him more money
and eventually we could see that nothing was being produced
as a result of more money,
and that was the end of that,
we weren't prepared to deal with him at all after that.
They hired a new building firm, which had done work for Zena's son,
but the couple had to come up with more money.
I've come to meet Zena and see her bungalow.
I'm relieved to see it's now an immaculate and cosy home.
-Tommy, I presume?
-How do you do?
I'm keen to understand what Zena and Jack wanted
when they began their ill-fated project.
Were you clear in your mind what you wanted?
You must understand that it was a small bungalow,
and we knew that we were going to extend it heavily.
The fella that we used, he had worked for us for six years
on and off in our previous flat,
and we came to rely on him.
We started off with quite a reasonable sum of money,
and the end product was an enormous amount of money.
OK, did you have a comparison price from anyone else?
No, because we trusted this man.
The price that we got for our flat was going to be sufficient to
provide for this particular property,
the making good of this property,
and to provide for our retirement income.
To get a fair price, you must get a range of quotes,
and even if you are employing friends or family,
still do the basic checks.
You need to know they're qualified and solvent.
For Zena, things started to go wrong almost from the beginning
after unforeseen pipework was found during the ground works.
The costs incurred by finding this problem were,
I should imagine, additional to the arranged £155,000.
It was never discussed. As he needed the money, we transferred the money.
Do you think that this job was too big for your contractor or...
Oh, definitely. He subcontracted to a builder.
When did the communication, the breakdown between you
and the contr...or the manager occur?
-Basically, they had never really got past all the...
It wasn't being organised properly,
he was having arguments with the subcontracted builder,
the subcontracted builder complained that he wasn't being paid
and his men weren't being paid...
Zena and Jack were trapped in the middle of
an out-of-control building nightmare,
haemorrhaging money, and with no idea of what to do.
But luckily, one of her sons stepped in.
He was having building work done at his own home
and sent his builder round to the bungalow.
He just took over, and he kept to, basically, for the job, £200,000.
Oh, this is becoming very expensive.
This is becoming a nightmare.
So, we've got £150,000 which you paid,
and then we've got the remedial builders
who came in and fixed everything, and you paid them £200,000.
At the end of the day.
-That's a £350,000 total?
I could build at least four brand-new bungalows
-the size of this for that money.
-It would have been better
-if we knocked it down and started again.
And that's exactly what they should have done.
If Zena and Jack had rebuilt from scratch,
they would have saved a lot of money.
Flattening the old bungalow would have only taken
up 3-4% of the total budget.
And new builds don't attract VAT, so for every £100,000,
they would have saved £20,000.
It's a big saving.
On top of that,
renovating is often more expensive than building from new
because there's so much to put right
before you even start on your dream interior,
but remember, even if you're building on the same footprint,
you'll still need planning permission.
Thanks to the new builders,
Zena and Jack eventually got their dream home.
And it is lovely.
Oh, this is beautiful. This is... I like this type of kitchen.
It's very practical.
It's contemporary and has underfloor heating I believe.
-Yes, that's lovely.
But Jack only lived here for four months before passing away aged 92.
I really feel for Zena.
She's had two years of worry and stress.
Her dreams of a happy retirement with Jack are shattered
and her nest egg is all gone.
I want to understand how this happened. But getting to grips
with this story isn't easy.
Later, I'm going to talk to the guy who came to put it right.
We both stood there in disbelief.
You couldn't go through the front door,
there was that much rubble and debris in the front garden.
Insurance claims for water damage in UK homes
are more than £730 million per year.
Much of it caused by the weight of leaking water
bringing down ceilings.
In Chislehurst, Kent,
plumber Farrell has been called to an emergency job at a home
where builders have been fitting a new kitchen ceiling.
Unfortunately, they've accidentally put a screw
through a mains water pipe located above it,
which means a brand-new kitchen is in danger of flooding.
They've screwed straight through it, so we're on our way now, quickly,
to go and fix the problem so they can
get the ceiling boarded and plastered.
The builders don't have a plumber on site,
so they need Farrell to get there pretty quickly.
There's been water going everywhere so we've got to go round there,
dry it up and fix the problem.
By the time he arrives, the workmen have found the stopcock
and turned off the water, averting a major flood.
It always pays to know exactly where your stopcock is.
The workmen also managed to contact home-owner Elaine.
She was on her way to the hairdressers,
but has rushed back to see what's happened.
Yeah, just come through, I think it's in the kitchen, they said.
Here seems to be the problem.
Basically, it looks like the pipe's been covered by the old ceiling.
Oh, God, it doesn't surprise me.
What they've done, when they've re-boarded it,
they've obviously put a screw through the pipe.
Everything we do in this house, there's always something underlying that causes a bit of a problem.
Well, luckily enough, they found the stopcock in time.
Yeah, we would have been totally flooded out, wouldn't we?
-OK, I'll get on.
-OK, thanks very much then.
Bye. See you later.
Ironically, Elaine and husband Ian were having a new ceiling fitted
because of an earlier flood.
I've had a new bathroom suite in, and before the new bathroom suite
got put in, we had a lot of water flooding through to the kitchen.
It happened on about three occasions,
and we got someone round and they advised us
to have the ceiling re-boarded, so that's what we're doing.
So, we're having a lot of plastering work and renovation work done.
Farrell examines the hole in the ceiling and can see
the damaged pipe immediately.
Bit of a strange position, the pipe.
It should never be run underneath the joist,
so it's quite unusual for this to happen.
But when pipes...and people put them in the wrong place,
these things do happen.
Don't they just?
He removes the old pipe and cuts away some of the plasterboard
to make room for the work.
Sometimes it can turn into a small leak
and they wouldn't have noticed it until maybe a few weeks' time,
so it's a good job that we're doing it now.
He needs to repair the section of pipe
where the screw's gone through.
If you accidentally put a screw or a nail through a water-pipe,
don't pull it out straight away, you could make a bigger hole.
Turn the water off and drain the system, then remove the nail.
Damp expert Joe, who was in charge of the team working on the ceiling,
is the man who called in Farrell.
We couldn't tell what was underneath, and you wouldn't presume
that a plumber in the past would have laid the pipes
on top of the ceiling, right along the ceiling edge.
Which, accidentally, we drilled into.
Straight away, we called the plumbers out.
Just to make sure the job is secure,
we isolated the water ourselves as quick as we could.
Joe's had experience of this sort of thing before.
You have to be on your wits' end, you know, looking around for
these problems, but you can just never tell
which is why I always keep a good plumber in the telephone,
so that I can deal with these when they do arise.
In older houses, sometimes it's not obvious where the water pipes are
and they're not always easy to trace, but as a rule,
water pipes are usually run just below the flooring,
so that's where you should start looking
before carrying out any major work.
Sometimes the only way to find pipes
and cabling, is to carefully lift the floorboards and look.
But if in any doubt, get the professionals in.
Farrell is just about to fit the new piece of pipe.
This is the flux we use, so when we run the solder to make
the joint, it helps the solder run into the joint and makes the seal.
Basically, this just heats the pipe up
to allow the solder to run into the joint.
The damaged pipe is below the joist.
It should have been above.
With the plastic pipe, we'd have been too far up
for the screws to reach,
and it would have been a better alternative to this.
Farrell would love to replace the whole run with plastic pipe
in the correct position,
but that would be a massive job, so for today, it's crisis averted.
Now that the pipe work has been fixed, all we've got to do is
turn the water back on, then come back and have a look
and it should be fine to be reused.
Accidents like this aren't uncommon
particularly in old houses.
If you're getting pipes and cabling fitted,
while they are uncovered during work, it's always a good idea
to make a note of where they are for future reference.
Now we know where that pipe is,
we can map it out and it can be put on a drawing.
With the new pipe in place,
Farrell now needs to turn the water back on and check for leaks.
It's the moment of truth.
There's no sign of leak upstairs
but we'll just check the taps, make sure the water's running OK...
..which it is, and the job's all done.
The quick-thinking work force who turned off the water,
and Joe's urgent call to Farrell
have averted a disaster,
and Elaine is very grateful.
Everything we try and do in this house, it has been a case of -
if you try and do something, something else needs doing,
so I would rather it was discovered now, and sorted out,
cos we might not have known it
until such times as we did something else, and it might
have been a major catastrophe.
Right, OK, then. Thank you very much.
I really appreciate you coming round at such short notice.
I've got your business card. What about the water?
-Water's all on now.
-So you won't have no more problems with it.
And they can get on with finishing your plastering today.
Right, if I get any problems, I'll give you a call.
-Thank you very much for your help.
-See you later. Bye.
Elderly couple Zena and Jack
were persuaded by a friend that he should
manage their massive building project,
renovating and extending a bungalow for their retirement.
As far as we were concerned, he was the right man to do it for us,
he knew what I wanted.
But it all went horribly wrong
and Jack didn't live to enjoy their new home.
-All right, mate? Lance, isn't it?
-That's it. Come on in.
I've come to see the man who stepped in and put it right,
builder Lance Stock.
-Is this the drawings for Zena's job?
-This is Zena's job, yeah.
And this was done by friends of the builder that was on-site.
This is an old garage here, and this is where the proposed
extension was, this new line here, here, down this side here.
Right at the beginning, she got the wrong advice.
You know, maybe it should have been quantity surveyed a bit better.
The garage in particular is a grey area for Zena because
that should have had a test hole dug to prove that it
needed foundations doing to it.
It would have been a lot more cost effective to
knock that down and start again.
I think he just took on more than he could chew.
Yeah, he definitely did.
I mean, groundwork, you know yourself when you're doing
groundwork, you've got to have the right guys in the ground.
You can't be a basic plumber
and be handling five-foot-deep manholes that have got to be moved.
No, you can't!
I couldn't have put it better myself.
And that's why it's so important to
make sure you have the right people for the job.
The work that was done there wasn't very good anyway.
That's what I want to talk to you about next.
You were called in because you were highly recommended,
you'd worked for her son previously.
He asked me to go over and have a look at it and give him some advice.
I went over, we both stood in disbelief.
You couldn't go through the front door,
there was that much rubble and debris in the front garden,
-all the spoil was all mixed up.
-Is this it?!
-This is a photo we took in the front garden.
There was probably eight or nine skip-loads of rubbish
in the front garden.
Let's have a look at another picture.
We opened the door went into the house
and I was confronted with work that was just shoddy.
When you look up into the ceilings, there was holes in the roof.
You needed a pair of wellington boots to walk through the house.
And there was a payment schedule that they'd worked out that
this was the payments they wanted and a lot of the payments
had been made but they hadn't even got to that stage.
Zena and Jack in good faith, paid them.
In your professional opinion,
when you came and saw the job for the first time,
would you be able to put a ball park figure on the value of the work
that had already been done before you got there?
I would have said there was no more than £20,000-30,000 worth of work
done in that property.
There was no electrics, no plumbing, there was no roofing done,
there was no...
Very little main structural work done by the looks of it.
The house had been stripped, there was no cables, no plumbing in there.
There was no lighting, there were loose power leads,
there's no electric mains moved.
The gas main had been disconnected and left unsafe.
The electric bulb was hanging off the wall,
there was no fuse board, there was just, basically, a wire with a
plug socket on the end of it for power and that was it.
There was absolutely nothing, There was a bare, rotten shell.
You know, she's probably spent far more than she should have ever...
She's 100% overspent.
They were befriended by someone who didn't know...he was
a handyman plumber, and he's taken on a major construction job.
He got their trust and he got their confidence,
and then of course that unfortunately ended up disastrous.
I think we're in agreement.
The whole project was a folly from the start.
An architect, a project manager, and a builder were all involved
and someone should have flagged it up on day one, but they didn't
and Zena has now had to borrow money against her home,
in order to stay in it.
And she's lost Jack, who shouldn't have spent the last two years
of his life stressed and worried about having a roof over his head.
But after all the heartache, Zena is staying put.
I made up my mind, no way am I selling this bungalow,
because it caused blood, sweat and tears.
-So, this is where I'll stay.
It's a really sad story, but it could have been avoided.
If you're planning a massive renovation,
take professional advice first.
It may be better to start from scratch with a new build.
Make sure the builder, contractor,
or project manager you hire is up to the job.
Go visit other work they've done
and speak to previous clients.
Always get a comparison price
and don't hand over money until each stage is officially signed off.
Hands up if you've ever lost your car keys. It's a nightmare.
Well, 16% of us lose them every year,
and what's more, around 3 million UK drivers
don't even have spare key.
Which is a pity because getting a replacement programmed
can knock you back £70+.
In Oldham, building worker Jonny May
is having the morning off work,
but not through choice.
He's lost the keys to his work's van.
He's turned the house upside down and he still can't find them.
It's just not Jonny's day.
Woke up this morning, got ready to go to work.
Couldn't find my key anywhere,
still haven't found it...
But for Jonny, losing his keys also means he's lost a morning's pay.
..so, I had to ring the boss
to get replacement keys.
His boss has sent an emergency specialist to solve the problem,
and luckily Jonny hasn't had to wait too long for him to turn up.
Loss of a day's wage.
The cost of whoever's going to come out and put it right,
that'll come out my wage, so it's...
And the inconvenience of the firm.
Big problem, really.
It's locksmith Kris who is riding to the rescue.
He's an expert at breaking into vehicles,
in the legal sense, of course.
Kris from the key fitters, I'm here to do your van.
Yeah, nice one, mate, yeah.
You can stay in and I'll give you a shout when I've
got to the bottom of it and sorted it. Yeah?
-Right, no worries, mate.
-All right, then.
Kris gets his tools.
I'm going to pick the door lock to open it and put a key to it,
but for security purposes, I can't show you
the tool that we're going to use.
He sets to work with a secret gadget,
which not only opens the vehicle, but helps him to replicate the lock
so he can make a brand-new key.
That took me less than a minute to get that reading,
to open the vehicle and now I'm going to cut the key.
It does take a little bit longer on other vehicles,
but on this particular vehicle, it is that quick to do.
Kris's van comes fully equipped to do the job on site.
One side. Next side.
This is just the kind of guy you need in a crisis.
That's the keys cut, I'm going to programme them in now.
This involved making sure the chip in the key fob
unlocks the immobiliser on that particular vehicle.
First, Kris does a quick check
to make sure the keys work in the truck's door lock.
Same with the other key.
Lock. Unlock. And the vehicle opens.
Then he plugs his special diagnostic screen into the van.
Right, key in the ignition.
As you can see, the red light is flashing in the dashboard,
that means that the key is not programmed to the vehicle
so we need to get that light to go out,
in order to start the vehicle.
I'm just going through the machine to find
the relevant Ford Transit vehicle.
There's a few different years so you've got to make sure
that you go into the right one.
He does the same with the second key.
We now should be all done and ready to fire.
Unplug the machine, check it's not in gear.
Turn the key on.
The red light on the dashboard now goes out,
which means the key's programmed.
It's taken less than half an hour for Kris to solve Jonny's problem.
He's lucky it wasn't a more complicated vehicle.
A lot of other vehicles are a bit more complicated
and might take a little bit longer,
but on a Ford, it's generally the sort of time scale.
While Kris has been working,
Jonny has continued to search for the keys
with no luck.
Chances are one of the kids has had it, moved it,
and hopefully it'll turn up eventually.
Grown legs and walked as they do.
It's a mystery, but at least Kris has solved Jonny's problem,
lock, stock and barrel.
-Hiya, pal, all done?
-Yep, all done.
-Right, nice one, mate.
-Thank you very much. Right, it's all right.
-So, there's two keys for you there.
-Both programmed in to start.
-Have you had to take the barrel out or that or...
-Don't have to do it.
Same key as worked before, they're programmed into the vehicle.
It's a cheaper way to do it rather than change all the locks.
We would only change the locks if you requested.
Right, thanks a lot, mate, lifesaver.
Thank you very much, all right. See you later.
Thanks to Kris and his special toolkit,
Jonny can head off to work.
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.
Just take note of my top tips,
and hopefully it'll be home, sweet home.
Elaine's new ceiling was finished and it's watertight,
and she's managed to rearrange her hair appointment.
Jonny never did find his truck keys
but he wasn't too late for work, and his boss forgave him.
And we contacted Zena's project manager
and asked him what had gone so wrong with the build,
and what happened to all her money.
Tommy Walsh meets Zena, whose dreams of retirement with husband Jack in a newly converted bungalow were destroyed after she handed over hundreds of thousands of pounds to a project manager who was unable to cope with the job. Tommy visits the builder who put the work right and hears how Jack sadly passed away before being able to enjoy his new home. Plus losing his truck keys means a disastrous start to the day for Jonny, but locksmith Kris has a secret gadget which soon makes him smile.