Who is responsible?(13 Posts)
We have just finished a second storey extension, building above our existing dining room. The builders had to take the dining room roof off to build the new room above and they covered up our dining room wooden floor during the process.
We have now taken the covering off and our dining room floor is completely ruined. It is water damaged beyond repair. The builder says that this is the risk we took. He is a reasonable man and we have yet to discuss options as I am in a state of shock. However, who is responsible here?
I don't think you've provided enough information for anyone to give you an answer - but initial view is you. Usually, building work will come with inherent risks of existing decoration being damaged. What did you discuss with builder beforehand? Where has water come from? Did the builder suggest you take it up and relay it after the works?
We've just had works done and builder walked through house and asked us what we wanted to protect flooring wise. We weren't bothered about carpet on stairs / landing but wanted wooden flooring in hall protected. They initially put a plastic film over it but it didn't seem adequate so I asked for something more substantial and they covered it with hardboard.
If you have a signed contract with your builders, check for any disclaimers. If there isn't any, you would have to take it to the small claims court, which can be costly, especially if you don't win.
Talk to your builder to see if you can come to some agreement, 50/50 blame.
Where did the water come from? Were you not living in the house while the renovations were I progress?
If it rained while the roof was off, would you not be asking on that very day who would be cleaning up? Sorry I need more info
Thank you for your responses. I'll try to give all the info -
We lived in the house throughout. Due to the layout of our house (open plan L shape with the dining room in the corner) we had the kitchen blocked off and the living room blocked off so that the dining room was separate and entered through a separate door to the back garden. They put chipboard down on the floor and plastic sheet covering.
When they took the roof off they put tarpaulin above it but this was not well fastened. DH climbed the scaffolding to retie it down during bad weather. We could hear dripping water into the dining room. We told the builders this and they reassured us that the floor was well covered. They said it was a risk we had to take (as otherwise the extension couldn't be done). They didn't give us the option of taking the floor up and relaying it.
We have a signed contract with the builders. The contract states:
We will only be responsible for any loss of and damage to any existing structures and contents if the loss and damage is caused by our negligence or by the negligence of any person we are responsible for.
Is it my obligation to prove this negligence? We have under floor heating in the dining room (which the builder says he didn't know about - my argument would be that ignorance isn't a defence and it was his obligation to ask any relevant questions to find out a suitable covering for the floor) and he says the water damage is because the heating causing the floor to sweat under the plastic. However, the damage is soaked through, water damaged floor boards (on top rather than below) which is more than sweating.
Under floor heating would not make dry wooden floor boards sweat. That is a load of bs from your builder.
If your builder is being arsey like that then, sorry but, it's down to you to prove it in the small claims court.
Do you have photographic evidence of the lack of protection for your floor and, when you asked your builder regarding the protection and he reassured you, was this verbally?
You can get half an hour free with most solicitors to discuss this case, just make sure you have as much evidence as you possibly can.
Surely you mentioned the under floor heating to the builder? Relying on him to know it was there is, quite frankly, ridiculous. If you've gone to the expense of putting under floor heating in, and presumably an expensive floor on top of that, and you know it is going to be open to the elements because you have no roof, why on earth would you not discuss this in detail with your builder before the work started?
I don't think the builder is liable.
Was the underfloor heating on during that period? Why would you heat a room open to the elements?
Your builder is responsible. He is the specialist, and he was responsible for the protection of existing elements. This is a breach of contract and the remedy for such breach is usually a claim for damages. If your builder disputes this, you need to formally write to him to setting out the breach. It might be worth employing a RICS qualified quantity surveyor, they can manage this and the contract administration, claims, valuations and payments for you. Good luck.
The underfloor heating was on because it is connected to the kitchen heating and can't be turned off separately. The system was put in by the previous owners and is very badly installed.
It honestly didn't occur to me about the underfloor heating in there. However, the floor has buckled which I accept is due to the underfloor heating. The surface rain damage which smells of rotten wood isn't due to underfloor heating.
Thanks for your help.
It could be that the underfloor heating caused the damage.
Wooden floors with underfloor heating need to be treated with care. The surface temperature should not exceed 27 degrees because it could warp the wood. This is why the advice is not to cover such a floor with a rug. Laying boards and plastic over the top and turning on the heating risked creating a large level of heat build up and this is very bad for wooden floors.
In addition, I could imagine a scenario where condensation formed underneath the plastic sheeting because the heating was on and it was cold above the plastic. That could easily cause water damage.
Equally, water simply could have got to the floor from the elements during building work. It's even possible the wood could have absorbed dampness from the air while there was no roof. Not that I'm an expert on wood, it's just that I've looked into having wooden floors and you have to make sure humidity is at a certain level in the room before laying it.
I am only speaking from the perspective of having looked into the requirements for underfloor heating. I do not know who would be responsible for the damage inthis case. But it sems to me that covering your flooring and turning the heating on is a recipe for a damaged floor.
I don't know what others think, but you might be advised to get in an independent expert to assess what caused the damage. Then see if you have any comeback to the builder.
I doubt you would be awarded full costs if it went to a small claims court. If your builder is reasonable could you come to an agreement that he will replace the floor and only charge for parts not labour or something? If he refuses my next step would be to get a surveyor to professionally say what caused the damage and take it from there.
The only potential breach (on the basis that there was no specific reference to the flooring in the contract) is a breach of an implied term that the builder would carry out the work with skill and care.
From a lawyers perspective you are going to have a massive uphill struggle trying to lay responsibility at the builders door if you failed to mention something as fundamental as the UFH.
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