Why you should always use a reputable bathroom supplier.

When looking to install a bathroom or kitchen, it can be very tempting to buy the products from one of the leading home improvement centres and then find a local fitter to install it all. In most cases this can be a way to get a reasonable bathroom or kitchen and save some money.

However, it can go wrong and when it does it can be disastrous. What follows is a salutary story about what happened to a friend and his partner. I’ve disguised both their names but all the rest is true.

My name is M…. and my partner F…. owns a cottage part of which is 300 years old. The bathroom, which was in dire need of renovation, is situated in the 300 year-old part of the house. What’s more the bathroom is tiny – roughly 2m square – and, because of the age of the house, was pretty dilapidated.

Nevertheless, we decided that we wanted a bathroom that was modern but still in keeping with the age of the house. To this end, we did quite a lot of thinking about the design and even bought items – bath, toilet and sink – from major home improvement centres such as B&Q and Bathstore.

When it came to fitting, we got a number of quotes from various people including established local bathroom companies to one-man bands. Each had their own ideas on design – remember design was critical because of the small room size,

As it turned out, we were most impressed by a on-man-band by the name of Mike. Mike came highly recommended having done work for a number of family members. What’s more, we were impressed by Mike’s enthusiasm and ideas.

As a result of this, Mike got the job. He was, however, not prepared to do it for a fixed quote because he claimed that there could be extra work required when he had started and looked behind walls and under floorboards. So the work went ahead on a time and materials basis.

Work started and, by and large, Mike did a good job, albeit somewhat slowly. He corrected work that was deemed by F…. to be not up to scratch (women always have an eye for these things).

I mentioned that Mike was slow. That’s an understatement. To cut a long story short, it took him 6 weeks to complete the job – yes 6 weeks. Oh and a bill for £3,500 for parts and labour.

Nevertheless, the finished job looked good. All the walls had been straightened and tiled to waist height. The bath, toilet and sink were nicely installed and sitting on a tiled floor with electric under floor heating. We were pleased – but not for long.

Two weeks later, F…. used the bath for the first time. When she’s finished, standing beside the bath with the water draining, she heard a strange noise – a single crack. A few seconds later, glancing down at the floor, she saw to her horror, a crack in the tiles running the entire width of the bathroom. On further inspection I spotted a number of smaller cracks on two sides of the floor.

Can you imagine how we felt at this point, having spent all that money, let alone the time, only to find that it was highly likely that we would have it all done again? Gutted is an understatement.

As you would expect, the following day started with a call to Mike the one-man-band who was also gutted (he claimed) as well as being extremely apologetic. At this point he couldn’t have been more reassuring about that fact that he would put it right.

A few days later Mike came to inspect the situation but couldn’t understand what had happened. (By this time it had become pretty obvious to me what had happened and I’m sure most readers, by this point in the story, will have also guessed.) . To make matters worse Mike decided to inspect under the bathroom floor by removing the majority of the ceiling in the hall underneath the bathroom, promising the put it right when the time came.

Mike left us with a hand-wringing promise that he would come back with a plan to sort out the problem. He even left a signed letter to that effect.

A couple of weeks passed and we had no contact from Mike. I called him and so did F….. He was most apologetic and promised to some back after the weekend. Number weeks, numerous phone calls, numerous excuses – along the lines of “my PC was broken” – later and we still hadn’t moved forward.

I then started writing letters. No reply came. My letters became stronger and then legalistic up to the point that I submitted a small claims court claim against Mike for damages of around £4000. Even at this point Mike still failed to respond or acknowledge the claim.

On the day of the court hearing, we turned up at the court suited, booted and well prepared. Mike, however, was a no-show and the judge awarded us the entire claim by default.

Great you might think. But oh no. A couple of weeks later, Mike put in an appeal for a set-aside and re-hearing on the pathetic grounds that he had confused the hearing appointment with a dental appointment.

So we were back in court. This time, so was Mike, facing us across the judge’s table. A string of excuses later, including the inevitable “my PC was broken” excuse, the judge soundly threw out Mike’s set aside request and slapped extra costs against him to cover our travel and parking expenses.

So finally we had won.

But had we? Oh no. To cut a long story short – it is getting a bit long now – over 2 years later we still haven’t managed to get Mike to pay up. Friends tell us that this is typical of these kinds of guys.

And what about the bathroom floor? We called in a well reputed local bathroom and tiling company who took up Mike’s floor, strengthened the joists (yes we all guessed correctly – weak joists were the problem) and refitted everything. However, almost as a final parting legacy from Mike, in trying to remove the toilet pan from the tiled floor we found that he’d had glued the pan to the tiles and in the process of prising it up, the pan broke – more expense.

We now have a great bathroom with a floor that’s in one piece (and a toilet pan that’s screwed down rather than glued down) . Adrian, who’s company did the refit for us, couldn’t believe the bodge job that Mike had done to the floor in order to level it, whilst at the same time completely forgetting to strengthen the joists. And I almost forgot, Adrian’s company did the job in 3 days.

So here we are now about £4000 out of pocket but a lot wiser? What have we learned?

  • If you’ve got a big job such as a bathroom or a kitchen, never go for a one-man-band. These guys just don’t have the capability to put things right after a disaster. Mike was competent but he just couldn’t cope with the scale of the problem he caused.
  • Also, if you’ve got an old house like ours, a bigger, established company is going to be able to cope with the unexpected without too much delay to timeframes. In our case, Mike had to replace the entire wall that the sink was attached to because the original was too far out from the vertical.
  • Always get a fixed price quote. The fact that we didn’t do that allowed Mike to take his time and consequently bump up the cost.

I’ve told this story in detail to illustrate to anyone who is contemplating getting a small, one-man-band type of company to do a big job, just what can go wrong and how much heart ache, and expense, it can lead to.

MB – Worcestershire