Home > Case Studies > My Experience of Bad Workmanship: A Case Study

My Experience of Bad Workmanship: A Case Study

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 5 Oct 2018 |
Builder Kitchen Claim Counterclaim Judge

Stella bought a kitchen from Ikea and found a builder who advertised in her local newspaper to install it for her. They agreed a price beforehand and the builder said installation would take him three days. Stella was at work for those days, and left her builder in the property without supervision. She paid him half of the cost of the work up front and agreed to pay the rest on completion.

Poor Workmanship

At the end of the first day, he had taken out the old kitchen and started installing the new units. Stella was pleased with his work. However, by the time she got home on the third day, it seemed obvious to her that he had rushed the job. The new worktop was chipped, badly joined around the sink area and a number of the cabinet doors had been scratched. Two of the cabinets didn’t shut properly. She was very angry and immediately tried to contact the builder, who wasn’t answering his mobile phone. The following morning, she realised that the sink hadn’t been installed properly and water had leaked from a tap into the inside of the cupboard underneath it. This had bloated and stained the shelving.

Attempts to Resolve the Dispute

Stella finally managed to contact the builder who told her that he would come round to fix any problems and to take payment for the work he’d done. Stella agreed, certain that she wouldn’t give him any money. When the builder arrived, he said that Stella must have tampered with the tap herself and that it wasn’t his fault that she had bought such cheap kitchen units. He told her “you get what you pay for” and denied that there was anything wrong with the way he had installed the kitchen. He then demanded to be paid for the work he had done, as she had agreed that she would pay him on completion. Stella refused and said that the only way she would pay him is if he put right the poor workmanship. The builder left.

Issuing The Claim

Stella could not get the builder to agree to come back to the property. She bought replacement cabinet doors and work surfaces, and hired a new builder and a plumber to put right the damage in her kitchen. She then issued a small claim in her local county court against the builder, who was a sole trader, claiming:

  • The 50% she had already paid him
  • Thecost of buying new unit doors and surfaces
  • The amount she paid the new builder
  • The money she paid to the plumber
The builder issued a defence, saying that she had bought an ‘end of line’ kitchen that wasn’t in good condition when he installed it. He also issued a counterclaim for the second half of the money that Stella had refused to pay him.

The Trial

The builder did not attend the trial. Stella showed the judge the photographs of the poor workmanship and produced receipts for the extra expense that she had incurred as a result. The judge found that some of the installation had been carried out correctly, but that the superficial aspects (work surfaces, doors etc) had not been carried out to a satisfactory standard under the Supply of Goods and Services Act.


The judge found in Stella’s favour, and ordered the builder to pay Stella for the extra expense she had incurred as a result of his negligence. However the judge also found that Stella was not entitled to claim the 50% of the cost of installation because some of the work had been carried out to a satisfactory standard. When the builder failed to settle the county court judgment within 30 days, Stella obtained a warrant of execution from the court and a bailiff seized goods from his property that were then auctioned off. She recouped seventy percent of her losses.

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