I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time recently getting nowhere.  While I should be getting on with some of my pending household tasks, or indeed with the resurrection of my poor old Triumph 5TA, I seem instead to have got into a time consuming conflict with a highly un-recommended tradesperson.  Let me explain.

Last October our oil boiler developed a leak.  It was made by a local company (Warmflow), and is the second of their boilers to fail since we moved into our current house (20 odd years ago).  This is not a good record, and these devices aren’t cheap, so because of the failures I was unwilling to put yet another Warmflow boiler in as a replacement.  I contacted a few local fitters and went with one who could do the job reasonable quickly.  The boiler engineer that we had been using for the annual service was unfortunately on holiday, so did not respond to my initial search.  Since the weather was growing colder by the day, I wanted this job done quickly.  The boiler is in our garage.

To his credit, he arrived and fitted the boiler on time, but having told us that we could not re-use the existing high level flue, he fitted a simple pipe out through the garage wall.  I can’t say that I was happy with this, especially since he then said that the open end of the pipe, which protruded about 2 inches out of the wall was ‘normal’, and that I could fit a little chicken wire over it if I was worried about anything getting in!  He must have seen the look of consternation on my face, because he then quickly backtracked and said he would be back with a proper outlet.  This is now fitted as in the picture below, although it was originally upright, allowing water to run directly down it into the boiler.

The flue, as it is now.

The new boiler.

As the weather deteriorated and a few storms blew in, we occasionally entered the garage to find it filled in really noxious exhaust fumes.  Initially we blamed the newness of the boiler but it quickly became apparent that this problem was not going to go away, so I contacted the fitter again on a  number of occasions from new year onwards.  We could not replicate the problem while he was on site, and he soon made it fairly clear that he did not believe that there was any problem at all.  As a result, I ordered an electronic air pollution monitor that measures Formaldehyde, TVOC (Total Volatile Organic Compounds), and two levels of particulate pollution.  A Carbon Monoxide monitor temporarily moved from inside our house to the garage did not go off during these incidents.  When the problem was occurring, the TVOC levels went off the scale of the meter!  This is at least twenty times what is considered a dangerous reading.

By now, the fitter appeared to react to any contact I made with some reluctance, so  I reported the problem to the boiler manufacturers to see if they would help.  They initially were going to send an engineer out to the house, but even before this happened called to say that the fitter should return to fit the flue correctly, and until that happened there was no point in them visiting.  Their recommendation was for a balanced flue to be fitted. They told him this too.  During this time, I also discovered that we should have applied for a Building Control (BC) inspection from our local Council to ensure that the installation met legal standards.  The fitter had specifically told me that this was not required!  I immediately applied for a retrospective inspection, but even from what the inspector told me over the phone, it was clear that the flue would not pass.  In due course, it didn’t!!  It fails because standards state that the outlet of the flue should be at least 1.8 metres distant from the oil tank.  That distance is currently about 70cm.

Now at this point, I would have expected that any fitter with any sense of customer care or any concern for the reputation of his business would have arranged to make things right as quickly as they could.  Not so our fitter.  I first waited a few days to see if he would contact me after the manufacturers engineers had talked to him, but nothing happened.  I texted him asking for a call, and he eventually called me two days later.  He was still in denial about the problem, still denied that BC should have been involved, and was still trying to tell me that the flue was fine.  It seems that the whole world was wrong and only he was right.  He did admit that the boiler manufacture had told him to fit a balanced flue, but even then tried to suggest that fitting a simple hose to feed external air to the boilers inlet would suffice.  When I pointed out that this is not what the manufacturers asked him to do, and that this bodge still would not meet BC regulations, he generously offered to do the repair if I paid for the necessary parts (these will cost between £300 to £400).  Needless to say I did not agree to this, and I have heard nothing from him since.

I know I am in the right here. I have even taken some legal advice to confirm this, but this guy is going to push the matter to the extreme.  If he thinks that I will give up, he is sorely mistaken.  The Consumer Rights Act (2015) is on my side.  When he agreed to fit the boiler he made a contract to do it to a standard that meets all legal requirements.  His misrepresentation of the legal necessity of a Building Control inspection, and the flue’s subsequent failure of that inspection are proof of his failure to meet that contract.  To me it seems that since the flue components are expensive, that he is simply penny pinching to maximise his own profits.  He will not get away with this.  Quite why he seems so insistent on making this transaction difficult is beyond me, but be sure, that I will make life even more difficult for him.  He will soon be receiving a recorded delivery letter at his home address, and if he does not respond satisfactorily and promptly to that, he will be sued for whatever it costs me to make this right.

Buyer Beware…..but so too should this fitter.


On the same evening that I posted this, we were out walking Tilly when the fitter phoned me.  Since it was 8 days since out last talk, this was unexpected.  I doubt that this is the power of the internet at work.  More realistically it is the power of Trading Standards or some of the other organisations that I have flagged up this incident to.  Let's be generous here though and say that the fitter has quietly been toiling away in the background to resolve this problem all along.  He has agreed to fit a new flue within the next week.  Interestingly when he had calmed down a bit after the first few minutes of conversation, he told me that during a protracted call with the boiler manufactures, they had admitted to knowing of other cases of fume problems when this boiler type was matched to this flue type.  Why then are they not recommending fitting a higher grade of flue as standard?


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