Can I ask my builder to repair my faulty shower without paying for any remedial works?

April 2014

Question

About seven years ago I had an extension built which included a new en suite with shower. During the building work, I had an existing shower tray removed and a new one installed. Over the last two years or so, I have noticed mould growing on the ceiling (in our sitting room) below the replaced shower tray. In the newer shower, water drips down through the ceiling whenever the shower is in use. It appears the problem is due to a leak in the water outlet. These now need to be fixed and I wonder if I have a case in going back to the builder (assuming he is still in business) to have the leaks rectified without paying for remedial works, as they are now not fit for purpose, or will I have to pay another plumber and possibly a plasterer to carry out remedial works?

Answer

Leaks emanating from showers and baths are one of the most common problems with modern housing today. This is most commonly due to poorly sealed junctions at shower tray and bath/wall junctions but can also be due to poorly formed connections on the waste outlets. Competent builders will normally give considerable care and attention to the actual detailing of the junctions and the workmanship in putting these together, in order to minimise the risk of leaks arising at a later stage.

Clearly when you pay for a job, you expect that the job will be done properly. Accordingly, and in normal circumstances in the event of a problem arising, the builder has a liability and is obliged to come back and not only rectify the problem but to make good any consequential damage to include repairing the ceiling below and redecorating any affected areas.

The job was done seven years ago and the problem has been going on for about two years; this throws up two potential problems. Firstly, the fact that it took five years for a problem to develop might suggest that the leak is actually a maintenance issue rather than a shortcoming in the original workmanship; a problem with poor workmanship should show itself most likely within the first two years. Secondly, the problem and extent of damage will have deteriorated over the last two years, and assuming that the builder is liable for the defect in the first instance, you could have difficulty holding him responsible for the consequential damage as a result of not taking this up with him earlier. It’s now more than six years since the job was done and you could have missed the opportunity to take a legal action against the builder.

You need to establish whether the problem is due to faulty workmanship or lack of maintenance on your behalf and a Chartered Building Surveyor will be able to assist you in this regard. If the problem is due to faulty workmanship, then you have nothing to lose by contacting the builder and inviting him to view the situation. Whereas you may not have a legal remedy, there are reputable builders out there who have pride in their work and if it is due to a fault of theirs, they may be prepared to assist you in resolving the problem.

Val O’Brien sits on the Building Surveying Professional Group of the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland.