Never ending renovation, any recourse?

3 Oct 2022
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United Kingdom
I did a full home renovation before moving into my new family home. Cost me around £85k out of pocket at the moment (ie life savings) It would have been the best decision of my life, had I picked the correct builder. Instead, I'm spiralling into depression due to the project never ending and other really stressful life events at the same time, whilst trying to work and look after 2 very young kids and patchwork the builders mistakes. Things he has done:

  • projected time for completion was 8 weeks. We are now 7 months and not completed without building control approval
  • tried to fit non compliant lights in the whole house, but did correct this after I noticed it
  • installed a steel beam in the incorrect place, so had to take up excessive flooring which affected the foam underfloor insulation
  • cat5e ethernet cables not giving full speeds (100mbps instead of 1gbps) are wired into the house
  • loft ladder not assembled correctly. Visible damage to one of the springs but he says it's fine. Initially was installed dangerously, but loft boarding specialist called him out on it.
  • ONGOING central heating leak which has developed over the last 2 weeks so no hot water or heating. supposedly a new central heating system, but his plumber has told me that the old pipes remain in place. No idea where the leak is. He has tried putting CH leak sealant which has not worked. How do I check if he has replaced the pipes now that flooring is in??
  • laminate flooring for the entire upstairs is installed on uneven floorboards, with visible gaps and creaking in the new boards due to the unevenness.
  • downstairs heaters do not meet the btu requirements of the space and so cannot heat effectively
  • replaced a toilet without moving the waste pipe, so a gap in the back of the toilet because he couldn't be bothered to move the waste pipe
  • did not install screw covers in sockets and switches
  • did not install screw covers in the entire kitchen cabinets (drawer, integrated fridge etc) handed me them in a bag
  • tried to put cardboard under the laminate flooring to even it out, and said he would not do that after I called him out on it. A week later caught him doing the same thing again
  • installed the shower control panel upside down, then when I got him to fix it he threw out the shower control screw covers. Told me they were never there when I called him out on it. No idea how to get those parts now.
  • installed the bidet lever upside down on 3 toilets
  • poured waste material in the gutter (grout and such) which blocked it. When I brought a specialist drain unblocker he showed me the waste. Our builder denies it was him. Permanent fix would be £850 but he temporarily fixed it for £100
  • one day came to find the extractor fan in the bathroom swapped out to a louder one for no apparent reason
It has been such a battle the last 7 months with this man. The hot water/ central heating is a huge issue for us given we have a 7 month old baby.. I've kept with him despite all the madness because I keep telling myself it's the quickest and easiest way to get it over with in my life. What would you do??
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I'd just sack the clown.

Where did you find this guy?

A few things on your list are sortable easily, so try not to add more worry on yourselves.
Personally, I think house renovation can be quite stressful, a lot of the forum members will have been through similar times/issues myself included, you will come out of this, just keep chipping away.

You might be better asking family/friends/colleagues for recommendations regarding tradesmen to finish the job.
This timewaster you have is just stringing you along, bin him, get the plumbing leak sorted and start to move on.

If you've time, tackle some small items yourself, there's lots on helpful folk on here.

Good luck (y)

PS, have you paid up front already?
Yes, the main point is: how much have you already paid him?
At this point, as you're still living in a building site, I would employ a competent central heating plumber, lift the laminate floor without breaking it (number the planks so they can go back in the correct place) and let them redo the pipework.
They'll find the leak somewhere.
Replace radiators at the same time with correct btu output.
Then get a chippy to secure all floor boards upstairs before laying the laminate again.
The plumber can also sort the toilet and taps issues.
Regarding the blocked drains, unfortunately you have no choice , you must get them unblocked or you'll always have trouble.
All other issues are easily solved.
You can sue him for the extra expenses you will incur.
However, these cowboys usually hide behind a limited company and as soon as you sue them, they shut it down.
If he's acting as a sole trader, you got to check if he's got any assets otherwise you'll be throwing money away.
Another avenue to explore is his insurance, if he's got one.
You're 7 months in the project, don't rush to close everything up without fixing the problems.
A couple of competent traders can do all of this in a couple of weeks or less.
Good suggestions.. He has £4k left to be paid at this point. I've got no idea what sort of funding and needed payment via BACS but I am thinking of taking him to court. I found him on Trustatrader with 20 five star reviews and he was the only person available when we started despite red flags which I stupidly ignored at the time. I have essentially been working as free labour for the last 2 months trying to get everything finished on top of it all.
Would I need an independent assessment to take anything further?
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Out of my knowledge base I'm afraid, but I think you can get some time with a solicitor for free.
Citizens advice may be useful, sounds like a small claims court story.
Is he a sole trader or Ltd company? Ltd company may be harder to get some of your money back, but you can check some of his details at companies house website, with a name or company number.

Have you always paid bank transfers or any cash?

Others will be along to offer better advice. (y)
First of all, did you sign a contract?
Or at least, did he give you a comprehensive quote including timeframe?
We did not sign a contract, he gave me a quote but it was not comprehensive with all the details included. I gave him a counter-job list which he agreed to but we did not sign..
Small development.. that I am really concerned about. The builder came along and told me he will find the central leak.
Our house is built on suspended timber with a brick wall foundation that is built within a large concrete sub foundation.

To find the central heating leak, I came back to find he has entered under the flooring by lifting the floorboards and making small holes in the brickwork to pass through. I have attached the photos. When I asked him if he will repair the brickwork he told me that it is not necessary as the foundations are strong enough and the holes were as small as possible.

Side note - he did not find the leak. So these holes were completely fruitless. And when he came to put the laminate back in place, he repeatedly tried to put cardboard to even it out again..

Have I reason to be concerned that the ground beneath me will collapse?


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Evening, no it won't fall down, but it's shoddy to say the least, he's a bodger.

Give this guy his P45 and a lighten your load.

As a side note, it's quite a curious way of insulating joists o_O are the air vents on the outside of your house, unobstructed?
Is that foam in between the joists???
Sack this cowboy immediately or you will regret it.
Tell him to sue you for the rest of the money.
Then make sure you take hundreds of time stamped photos showing his work from every angle.
And get that brickwork fixed please.
It's icynene spray foam and fully breathable. It was not done by this same builder but a well rated insulation company who gave a guarantee and assured me its fully breathable even over the ventilation bricks. So I was not particularly worried. It was dry as a bone under there but admittedly we're just coming out of summer..
Sack this cowboy immediately or you will regret it.
Tell him to sue you for the rest of the money.
Then make sure you take hundreds of time stamped photos showing his work from every angle.
And get that brickwork fixed please.

Completely agree with this. ^
How important is it to fix that brickwork? The floor is only 80cm high and he's refusing to do it..
I think he's forgotten who's paying his wages.

The brickwork was there for a reason and wants re-instating, sleeper walls are rarely neat/perfect, so won't take him long.

Or get rid of the clown and brick it up yourself, yes, you can do it.

Good luck (y)

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