Series following tradesmen and looking at cowboy contractors. Tommy Walsh sees the damage left behind after a window fitter failed to put in proper supports.
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-When a crisis strikes your home...
-ON PHONE: '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 them.
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.
They 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.
Coming up -
a pest controller is called out
when something sinister is discovered in one family's drain.
There's another dead rat in there. There's its eye. There's its feet...
..we meet a plumber who certainly knows how to treat his customers...
-Will you marry me?
-Oh, thank you so much!
..and a window fitter's lack of care
leaves a woman's house on the brink of collapse.
Have you no conscience?
You took my money and you walked away,
knowing that you'd left my house insecure.
Not every tradesman you invite into your home will be a safe
pair of hands. Some are so slippery, it's hard to catch them out...
until it's too late.
In London's Lewisham, Jill Harding has lived in her
four-bedroom Edwardian semi since 1990.
The front of my house had windows which were made of oak
and over 100 years old.
So much of the oak was rotten that they couldn't be saved.
I wanted to find someone who could make replacement windows that
would exactly mirror the style of the original ones.
Not wanting to take a chance with a stranger,
Jill chose a fitter who'd already done work for her family.
I'd seen this window fitter fit windows to my daughter's house,
with the builder,
and they were really lovely windows and I thought perhaps
he could make some nice ones for me.
Armed with a personal recommendation,
Jill felt safe to book in for her shiny new UPVC windows to be fitted.
But what happened was a total disaster.
There were huge cracks, initially, upstairs and down, and outside.
Clearly, everything had dropped.
Windowsills were out of alignment, curtains weren't hanging straight,
brickwork was cracked, pieces were missing.
Every month, there's more cracking, new cracking,
and now the corner of the bedroom floor is dropping
and I can't open some of the windows
because the structure of the windows themselves is distorted.
And so the catches don't work.
So it's actually become really a bit frightening.
And what's also terrifying is the cost involved.
Jill paid £6,500 to have her windows fitted,
but that's not the half of it.
A year on, she's going to have to pay out a lot more to replace
the windows AND to put right all the structural damage to her home.
Actually, it makes me really angry.
He's damaged my house and I'm going to have to pay a huge
amount of money to have the front of the house repaired.
Well, it all sounds like an absolute nightmare,
so I've come to south London to get the full picture
and judge for myself.
-Hello. How are you?
So, tell me, what exactly did you want in the first place?
-The original windows were oak, 100-year-old oak.
Rotten, I'd had bits replaced, bits filled with wood-hardener,
more bits replaced.
In the end, the rot was so deep, they weren't going to last any longer.
Right. Did you do your research, then,
on the availability of various types of window?
Because you obviously wanted to match the detail of the original.
Yes. I went through a builder who I've used before, who I trusted...
-..who has a window fitter who's worked with him a lot.
Right, so your first link to the contractor,
-the window contractor, was through your regular builder?
-Right, and you've used this builder for a long time?
-Yes, many years.
-And your very happy with it?
-Well, I had been. Yes.
And I'd seen the window fitter put windows in in conjunction with
-this builder in my daughter's house.
And they worked really well and they looked really nice,
he'd made them in Victorian style, so I thought he knows what he's doing.
Yeah, well, that's ticking the right boxes,
because the first thing you should do is always go on
recommendation rather than random selection.
So you must be extremely disappointed.
If you got a good contractor,
normally that responsibility then is,
you know, part of their work and their responsibility.
-Well, I would hope so.
I've got some photographs of the fitting going on
-if you'd like to see them?
I mean, photographic evidence is always useful.
I took some at the time, mainly because it was such a
strange thing to be happening, it helped calm my nerves.
That's the only reason I took them.
He fitted the top window, didn't finish off round it,
and then disappeared on holiday for a week.
I did sleep in that room, because it had the new windows,
and I could actually hear cracking noises.
When he came back and I told him about the cracking noises,
he just laughed. He said, "Oh, you're imagining it, it's just the wind."
With plastic, when you use plastic in windows,
because it's not as strong as any of the other materials,
it is subject to movement.
So, if the sun is shining and it gets hot and cold,
you will get that plastic moving and contracting and expanding.
You probably heard the actual plastic construction moving
-and making the cracking noises.
It's worth remembering that plastic or UPVC windows
are softer than timber ones.
They usually won't be strong enough to hold up decades-old brick,
lath and plaster on their own and need metal reinforcement,
especially on bay windows.
And that's what made Jill really worry.
When her fitter came to do the main front window,
he didn't seem to have enough Acrow props for support!
He only brought two props with him.
There were no Acrow props in the corners and this corner fell.
-There was a big crack in the bedroom, up here.
There was a big crack in the windowsill here,
the centre section of the bay actually dropped,
so that the windowsills aren't level.
And when he put the new window in, it continued to drop, so that the
new window frame itself has distorted such that I can't open that window.
If I do, I have two pay someone to come
and adjust all the locks to shut it again.
-So that's not satisfactory, obviously.
Well, normally, the joists go from front to back.
And what they do is support this in here.
So you can put Acrow to sort of support the main part,
but if they haven't used the strong boys on the sides,
then of course they're subject to dropping and that's what's happened.
So when you brought this up, did he say that he
would come and resolve it?
I said, "I'm really worried about this," and he said,
"It's all right now, it won't drop any more."
No, that's not true, because he'd never addressed the original problem.
I can show you where it is still dropping.
Let me show you what I've been living with for 12 months.
Now, where it's really apparent, if you pull that back...
Now, we look at the angle of this...
So this window is in square.
Now you've got the top from that window,
that's about two inches, 50mm.
And down this end, it's about 10, 12mm.
So over the width of that window,
you're talking about a difference of 30, 35mm, tipping this way.
-So it's not rocket science to be able
to work out what's happened here.
Yes. If you see...
These cracks here were much, much smaller a few weeks ago.
-So this is still on the move?
-It's still on the move.
With every week that goes by, those cracks get slightly bigger.
Later in the show, the experts take a look at Jill's windows,
and it's not good news.
It's become a major reconstruction effort.
It's nearly the end of the working day,
but in Enfield, pest controller and drain specialist Ken Cattanach has
been called out by a home owner
who's worried about a terrible smell.
I received a call this morning. People believe they've got
rats in the house, they can smell them. I'm to investigate
whether or not they're coming up through the drains into the house.
There's an estimated 60 million rats in the UK.
That's one for every single person.
And taking prompt action at the first sign of them is key.
Rats carry a huge list of diseases, including
E.coli, salmonella and tuberculosis.
But it's the potentially fatal Weil's disease
that most people worry about.
Mark Cody and his wife are only too aware of the dangers.
They flushed two dead rats out of their drainpipes
a couple of years ago and with two young children in the house,
the thought of a rogue rat running around has been giving them
nightmares, especially when its smell is strongest
in seven-year-old Mac's bedroom.
The smell is actually really strong where I'm standing now.
I noticed it a few days ago.
There's a gap under the door frame here,
and actually kind of put my nose to it and smelt it
and it's a pretty unpleasant.
And you can smell it actually under the step, as well,
and normally there's an air gap under there.
This whole area here
was where the smell was the strongest.
Mark's most worried about Weil's disease.
It's carried in rats' urine and in its weaker form,
symptoms include flu-like aches and fevers.
But serious cases can lead onto jaundice and organ failure.
Because Mark hasn't actually seen the rat,
he doesn't know where to start and needs expert help.
-Ken. Ken from Drain Catt.
Thanks for coming round.
-Can you show me the problem, walk and talk me through it?
-We've got a funny smell in the house...
..and we're not quite sure where it's coming from.
We think it could be the drains.
We were thinking maybe you could have a look
and find out where it might be?
-Certainly. Have you had any extensions built recently?
-That's the extension?
-We've had the garage converted, yeah.
Your smells you're getting upstairs though?
We can smell it really strong in one of the bedrooms.
It's seems to be coming through the cavity, maybe.
The smell's at its strongest at the front of the house
in Mac's bedroom.
It's above a toilet that the family built
when they converted their garage.
It's a new floor, but there's a hole at the back.
If you can see, behind the toilet.
-We have had a problem here before with rats.
And a couple of years ago, we had the same smell.
And I got my jet wash and I put it up the pipes there
and two rats, dead rats, came out.
-Which pipe? From the main manhole?
-Yeah, from the manhole.
Well, let's go and lift the manhole and take a look.
I did that a couple of days ago and it seemed fairly clean, but...
Um... Thinking cap on.
You've got the... The rats came out of the rainwater drain.
Could be, possibly, that that just continues and...goes empty.
We need to lift these.
It's all a bit of a mystery. But Ken's used to playing detective.
As a pest controller, he has to try
to get into the animal's mind-set to work out where the rats
would try to enter the drains and, ultimately, the house.
There's always a possibility that
this carries on underneath the garage,
if it's a floating raft floor,
and isn't capped.
Or the existing drain that it was connected to,
they've broken the connection and that just leaves an open path and
you might just as well have a welcome mat for the rats at the end of it.
But we won't know that till we look.
But it's no good just looking with a naked eye,
especially in this light.
Ken has a specialist camera on a wire to see down into the drain.
Let's get that in here...
And Ken's camera soon spots what's causing the terrible smell.
-There's another dead rat in there.
-Ooh! Is it a rat?
-Oh, Christ. Yeah.
At the bottom of the screen there, there's its eye, there's its feet.
Ken's found the evidence he needed
and thinks he knows why the rats are getting in.
Especially when people have extensions,
they change all the drainage to outside the new extension,
don't cap off the drains underneath which they've built over,
and then the rats just come along, smell fresh air, up they come
and then they've got the whole house to themselves.
So if you're planning any work on YOUR home, take note.
With new extensions or buildings where drains are newly configured,
you need to pay attention to old drains and pipes.
Ask your builder or plumber to cap them off, seal them,
so that rats and any other unwanted visitors aren't invited in.
This is nine times out of ten the answer.
The pipe just comes up and has never been capped off.
Even if you never come face to face with a rat,
like Mark, you'll know if you have them.
A dead rat smell is something you do not want to smell.
It is an awful smell.
Rats, I've found, tend to keep their toilets in a specific area,
not as haphazard as mice. And of course,
if you get a concentration of urine which isn't been washed away,
or anything, of course that's going to give you smells as well.
So this smell that's in the house now,
would that be from that dead rat or some live ones?
-More likely from the dead rat.
Ken's going to get a colleague in to remove the dead rat
and cap Mark's old drain.
Hopefully, the rats will be sent packing once and for all.
We know rats can climb, so what we want to clearly avoid
is them getting into the house any further.
So hopefully by capping this off, that'll stop them
getting into the house, we can get back to our life again.
Right, then, I'll say cheerio, and so my partner will
take a look at things and give you a price for sealing it off
and hopefully, that'll be the end of the story.
-I look forward to it. Thanks, Ken.
-Cheers, all the best to you.
Capping off your drains with sand and cement or a specialist lining
will cost you somewhere between £70 and £350 per drain
and should prevent any more unwelcome visitors to your home.
Back in Lewisham, structural engineer Howard Ruse has been
called in to check the extent of the damage at Jill Harding's house.
She had new UPVC bay windows put in to the tune of £6,500.
But without enough support in place, her brickwork's collapsing.
There's about a tonne of brickwork above this ground-floor window,
so plastic on its own is not sufficient to carry the load.
So what we're trying to do today is to open up
and see exactly what's inside the plastic mullion on the corners,
if it's anything of a structural nature, which is
holding the bay above.
I suspect there isn't because, otherwise, it wouldn't be moving.
We do need to open it up in order to determine what's there.
All replacement double-glazed windows since 2002
should meet building regulation requirements.
Not just energy efficiency ones, but structural ones as well.
In England and Wales, FENSA is the scheme the government
has backed, and it sets the standard for the industry.
You can find certified members on their website who will only fit
windows which won't structurally damage your property.
As painful as it is, Jill has to stand and watch as her costly
windows are ripped apart by Howard and new builder Peter Lochran.
And finally, they get to the truth.
There's a steel post inside, it looks to be a hollow section,
but there's no spreader plate,
there'd need to be a plate on top in order to spread the load over
a wide area into the timber plate, which is immediately above.
So what's happening is that the timber is just
cutting down into the post, the metal post under the load above,
which is why you're getting these continuing, ongoing movements.
So, although there's some steel inside the UPVC frames, at the
corners of the windows, there's no metal on the top to spread the load.
And to make matters worse, there's no steel at all
in the mullions or vertical struts, so the whole thing
is only held up by small pieces of metal on each of the four corners.
For the bottom section of the window, the story's even worse.
There's actually...air directly beneath this steel post.
But towards the inside face of it, there is a piece of soft wood,
there's about half a tonne coming down through this post here.
And it's totally inadequate to carry that load,
-which is why we're getting ongoing compression.
Well, it's fatal, as far as the window is concerned,
because we may indeed have to take the brickwork down
and rebuild it once the bay window's sort of...
That would then mean the whole bay coming out,
possibly supporting the roof...
-So just the flat roof supported, and everything else...
-..apart from the bottom brickwork taken away?
So a replacement of a bay window for, you know,
a relatively small sum of money, would develop into
many thousands of pounds in order to put it right.
It's an alarming thought.
And the cost could be in the region of £10,000 to £20,000
and that's on top of the £6,325 Jill's already paid.
She did write to the window fitter with a formal complaint,
but he said the company was dissolved in April 2014,
so he wasn't able to come back to inspect the work.
It makes me very angry that someone could do such a bad job
and it must have KNOWINGLY been a bad job,
he must have KNOWN he wasn't putting the right supports in place.
And now I'm going to have to spend all this money
and I've no recourse against him.
He's just taken my money and walked away laughing,
as he was laughing at the damage,
and left me to pay a huge amount of money.
If only Jill had known at the beginning what she does now,
the story may have had a very different ending.
For a start, she'd have chosen a FENSA-backed company
and one that strictly sticks to all the building regulations
about safeguarding the structure of a house
when you put new windows in.
I'd say to anyone else, do a lot of research, find someone
who's got the right certification and the right qualifications.
I feel so stupid. I feel like I've made a mistake.
Well, I'm afraid this is another classic case of
things happening beyond your control.
Even though Jill trusted these so-called professionals,
she still got caught out and she's having to pay a very heavy price.
I feel really sorry for Jill. She's been left in a terrible situation.
So we've put her claims to the man who fitted her windows.
Find out later what he has to say for himself.
In London, plumber Matt Goodrich has been called out
to a woman in distress.
An elderly lady, she rung up saying that she's got, like,
A bit panicky, so we don't exactly know what it is, I don't know
if there's a bit more to it, but she's a bit panicky down the phone.
The girl obviously couldn't understand what she was saying.
So we're going out, rushed out there, emergency call-out...
to resolve it, basically.
Matt's been a plumber for 11 years now and experience
has taught him to come prepared for most types of home emergency.
-Hello, from MJC Plumbing.
Come about a blocked drain, is that right?
No, I got myself in a bit of a state explaining to the young lady.
-Yeah, she said she didn't understand completely.
Do you want me to take my shoes off? Nah, OK.
Sorry, what's your name?
-Linda, I'm Matt. Nice to meet you.
-Right, where are we?
-In the bathroom.
-Up top, yeah?
And as homeowner Linda takes Matt through the problem,
a familiar scene is being set.
-What it is, I got out of the shower this morning...
-..and I always put my rings on the side...
-Had a go yourself?
-And I normally always pull the...
But for some reason, it wasn't there,
-and it's my engagement ring. I wouldn't be worried if it was...
-And I've been trying to get it out...
-And I got myself in such a state.
-Is it all right if I just take all this stuff out?
For the first time in nearly 50 years,
Linda's precious diamond engagement ring
has fallen down the plughole in the sink and she can see no sign of it.
Ooh, I get engaged in 19...67?
It's a crisis for Linda.
But Matt's seen it all before and he's doing a great job
calming her down.
-When did it happen, earlier?
About 8.30 this morning, maybe.
-I bet your husband weren't happy, was he?
-No, not really.
-He wondered why I was up here so long.
With 11 years plumbing experience under his belt,
Matt knows exactly what to do.
Under every sink there is a U-bend, designed that way
so that anything that does fall down the trap will stay there
and not go straight into your outlet pipe.
Matt carefully unscrews the pipe work
but will the U-bend have done its job?
So I'm hoping it's not gone any further...
With any luck...
-Will you marry me?
-Oh, thank you so much!
I've had that for 50 years. Thanks ever so much.
And Linda's relief is plain to see.
I'm pleased I've got it back.
Yeah, I've had a long while!
And I would have hated to have lost it, absolutely hated to.
I'd have been heartbroken, to be honest.
And I always leave them on the same spot,
and I went to put them back on and this one just...went.
I've normally got the plug in, but I didn't, for some reason, this morning.
To make sure it never happens again,
Matt explains how a new type of plug is a lot safer.
What I'm going to...
-What I'm offering to quickly offer you, Linda...
Obviously, you see you've got a bit a bit of a hole in here, yeah.
It's more than likely it's going to happen again.
Do you want me to change it, so you haven't got to worry about...
-Will it still work the same?
-Not with that, no.
-It'll be one where you push it.
-Oh, that's... Yeah, if you could do that.
Yeah, I'll just take this bar out... because...
If that comes out again, it's going
to happen again. With this, it can't happen. It's open, shut.
Simple as that. And you got your little grille to catch anything.
And with a final squeeze of sealant, it's job done.
And the memory of the promise Linda made to her husband
half a century ago is safely in place on her finger once more.
-You need to give it a couple of hours.
-That's shut, that's open.
-Simple as that.
-Oh, lovely. Thank you.
And you got that little grille, it happens again, got no worries,
it'll just be sitting there for you.
Oh, it won't happen again, I'll make sure it doesn't.
THEY LAUGH Oh, my God!
The type of plug Matt fitted costs about £15, and to unscrew
a U-bend will take less than an hour's callout fee.
So if you have a quick job like this,
it shouldn't cost you more than about £100 in total.
-All right, no problem!
-Thanks ever so much.
It was only the hour, so...
And to protect your jewellery, check if you can cover it
under your home contents insurance.
If your policy does cover it, take pictures of your jewellery
and get things valued.
If the worst does happen and you're not as lucky as Linda,
you can at least make a claim.
You see, you see that one, that was quite a satisfying job.
That's the type of job we like.
She lost her engagement ring, as far as she was concerned,
it's gone, she thinks that's down the old...
gone, down the waste pipe,
but I know it's only going to be sitting in that little trap,
but she don't know that.
She's panicking, she think she's lost it after all these years.
But it's a nice, easy job, it's satisfying,
things like that, it is a nice little job, so, yeah.
And we go from this on to the next one!
We've had a reply from Jill Harding's window fitter.
He says he had no idea there was a problem
until 13 months after he'd finished, and that there was a
substantial crack in the upstairs bedroom before he began the work.
Jill told us a small crack was rectified pre-work,
but this large crack has appeared since the windows were fitted.
Her window fitter also told us that
although his company has now dissolved,
he has offered his labour to rectify the issues,
but Jill, quite understandably, has decided to go to someone else...
when she can afford it.
And in Enfield, a dead rat was removed from Mark's pipe
which was then capped. They've had no more problems since.
Tommy Walsh sees the damage left behind after a window fitter failed to put in proper supports, leaving huge cracks in the walls and brickwork of Gill's Edwardian home.
Pest controller Ken is called out to deal with a foul smell at a family home and comes face to face with something sinister in their drain.