Cavity wall insulation - our undercover research
Cavity wall insulation may seem like the ideal way to keep your home warm and dry. And thanks to funding from energy companies and the government, it’s cheap or even free. It works well in many homes, but if your house is in an exposed location or has cracks, existing damp, or rubble in the cavity, it’s completely unsuitable.
Over the past three years dozens of people have contacted X-Ray, complaining about damp, mould and rot in their homes since cavity insulation was installed.
Expert chartered surveyor Tim Davies says he has been shocked by the damage he has seen, which he thinks could have been prevented if cavity wall insulation companies did thorough surveys.
X-Ray decided to put these ‘surveys’ to the test.
We contacted the companies we’d had most complaints about and set up secret cameras to see whether they’d recommend cavity wall insulation for a highly ‘unsuitable’ property in Rhoose near Barry. The house is close to the sea, is exposed to wind and rain and has porous brickwork and debris in the cavity.
Tim Davies said, “If you introduce cavity insulation into this property it's going to get damp in a very short space of time”
First to give their verdict was SIG Energy Management. Their surveyor told our researchers the “breathable material” was “moisture resistant.” However, after discovering rubble in the cavity, the surveyor said the property was not suitable for insulation.
Next up was a surveyor from Domestic and General Insulation, who told us that although the property was exposed “to a degree,” the house was still suitable for cavity wall insulation. He recommended using polystyrene beads instead of fibre insulation, which he thought could become damp.
Finally, the Mark Group – the company X-Ray has received most complaints about - gave their verdict. Their surveyor told us mineral wool insulation is “completely water repellent, you could soak it in water and it would be bone dry. He also “guaranteed” that the property would not become damp and failed to spot the rubble in the cavity, stating that it was “clear” and suitable for insulation.
We contacted each of the companies after our secret filming.
All three insisted that their insulation products meet strict standards.
And the industry body Cavity Insulation Guarantee Agency, says that 17 houses in that postcode area have had cavity wall insulation and they are not aware of any complaints.
SIG said they are reviewing staff training to ensure all their information is 100 per cent accurate.
Domestic and General said they did not finish the survey and wouldn’t have gone ahead without doing so.
The Mark Group said problems with insulation are very rare and maintained that cavities often have rubble in them, which their surveyor may have felt wasn’t enough to be an issue.
Almost three thousand people complained to Consumer Direct last year about cavity wall problems. The Office of Fair Trading is now investigating and we’ve sent our findings to them.
When Nathalie Amphlett, a supply teacher from Pontypridd, wanted to buy a car in January she found a second hand Mini at Neath dealership Cars 2 Go which seemed ideal.
Having paid £4,750 for the seven year old car, Nathalie knew she’d have to replace the exhaust, but says she was told by an official Mini garage that the gear box needed to be replaced, which would cost around £1,500.
She hoped the car would be fixed under Cars 2 Go’s warranty, but after waiting months for her car to be returned to her, Nathalie demanded a refund.
She says Cars 2 Go supplied her with two unsuitable courtesy cars. She claims one was untaxed and the other had a bulging tyre which appeared unsafe.
X-Ray asked Cars 2 Go to explain the poor customer service Nathalie had received, but they didn’t reply. So Rachel Treadaway-Williams went to speak to Shaun James, who runs the car lot.
He insisted Nathalie’s first courtesy car was taxed but agreed that there wasn’t a disc displayed when she was given the car.
He also said that the tyres on the other replacement car were safe, “None of them were illegal, it's been for an MOT after as well and it's passed an MOT.”
After X-Ray wrote to Cars 2 Go they refunded Nathalie’s money. She’s now bought another car from a different garage.
Mr James said: “I don't see what the big problem is either, she had her money back, I’ve done everything she wanted me to do, so there's nothing I can do.”
Two colleagues from a boatyard in Holyhead paid £20 each for a flutter on the Six Nations. But when they thought they had won more than £1,000 each they couldn’t get their money.
Dave Jones and Dave Herbert went to William Hill in Llangefni and bet on Wales winning the Grand Slam and the Triple Crown.
But when they came to collect winnings of £1,170 each they were told the bet was void.
This was because the bets were what’s known in the trade as “related bets”. Wales could only win the Grand Slam if they had already won the Triple Crown – so the odds for each event should not have been multiplied up.
But the two Daves were furious – as they’d placed the bet in good faith and paid over their stakes.
Lucy investigated the law on betting and found that until five years ago bets were little more than a gentleman’s agreement. But now they are a binding legal contract.
However – the contract is subject to the bookmakers’ terms and conditions – which would have ruled out a related bet.
But, as a gesture of goodwill, William Hill agreed to honour the Daves’ bets, and paid out £1,170 to each of the Daves.
- Series Producer
- Nick Skinner
- Lucy Owen
- Rhodri Owen
- Rachel Treadaway-Williams