Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Cavity wall insulation - a cautionary tale

I see the government is giving more priority to home insulation, and in fact diverting money from other forms of saving to boost insulation. We had cavity wall insulation done a few months ago in the depth of winter. The insulation is fine, I would recommend it. It makes a noticeable difference in some parts of the house. But the experience of the installation was not, and my experience of that leads me to say, if you have cavity wall insulation done, don't use Mark Group. There are plenty of alternatives around: here's a place where you can find loads, if you don't want to take up offers from your energy suppliers.

The reason why is as follows. When the salesman from Mark Group came to visit us, he told us that it would be necessary to install a vent in the living room as we have a fireplace which is still in use. We were concerned about this and asked for more information. He gave us two specific reassurances. The first was that the vent operated mechanically in such a way that it was shut to the outside cold unless it was needed when the fireplace was in use. The second was that the vent was covered with a mesh fine enough to prevent slugs from getting in.

We only discovered once the vent was installed that neither of these things is true. The installers told us in fact that the vent is legally required to be left open, and to be without a fine mesh so as not to interrupt airflow. The result is a constant flow of cold air into the room. But they confirmed that the vent was a legal requirement if insulation was added to a room with a fireplace in use.

The effect on our living room was dramatic. It did not help that this happened during one of the cold snaps last February. The living was the warmest room in the house and it became the coldest. Ours is a small semi-detached house. Downstairs we have a kitchen and a living room. We live in the living room. If the salesman had been truthful about the nature of the vent, we would in all probability not have gone ahead with the purchase. As it is, our living room has been made completely unsuitable to its purpose at some times of the year due to the misinformation clearly and deliberately given to us by the salesman.

I wrote to Mark Group to complain, and got a visit from a technical expert who confirmed that the vent had been properly installed. I mad it clear that that was not the problem. The problem was the mis-selling. So he went away and said he'd talk to somebody else.

It took a couple of phone calls to remind them that somebody else was supposed to be doing something. eventually I spoke to the next person, and we had a decent conversation. I was already clear in my mind that there was nothing practical they could do. The only way the vent could be legally removed would be to block up the fireplace, and thus lose one of the major amenities of the house, or to suck all the insulation out of the walls again, neither of which was appealing. So the only obvious route was for them to offer us a reasonable amount of compensation. The main thing was for me to be convinced that they had taken my complaint seriously. They did admit in writing to what they called a training issue with the salesman, which was OK. But I gradually came to think that they were not taking me seriously, as each stage in the process had to be kicked off by me reminding them with a phone call that I hadn't heard from them for a while. I began to think that in fact they might be deliberately taking things lowly in the hope that I would get fed up and forget about the complaint.

In the end they offered me £50 compensation. This is for making my living room not fit to live in for a portion of the year. In a second letter they made it clear that £50 was their final offer. I rejected it.

I don't mind about the money. I do mind that a company can employ a salesman who quite deliberately and wilfully misrepresents the product they're offering, they can understand that that action has foisted on me and my family an insoluble problem, and then they still think that the best way to deal with the resulting mess is to take a long time and then offer the least they think they can get away with.

So, do get insulation if you want. Just don't use Mark Group.

Mind you, my experience with them is nothing compared to this couple's. Note the same technique, a final offer of a derisory sum by way of compensation.

9 comments:

Keith said...

I am an independent cavity wall and loft insulation surveyor associated with another national insulation company. The irony of your situation is that the advice has been changed; assuming that your normal sized fireplace is used to burn solid fuel installing wall insulation is no longer dependent on having the additional ventilation provided by a wall vent. The requirements, that apply to all installers, are set out by CIGA which provide the guarantees for all insulation companies. They changed their requirements in Feb 2011; see "CIGA Best Practise Guide to flues, chimineys and combustion air ventilators, version 3", page 7. The changes may have taken some time to filter down through organisations but your best bet now is to ask the installers to come a remove the ventilator and make good your walls, inside and out. Good luck!

Rob said...

Thank you very much for this, Keith. That almost sounds to me like "regulatory body does something sensible shock". It makes a great deal of sense to me.

I won't be letting the original vendors anywhere near my house again, but I've already got a proper workman to restore the wall, and our living room, and so we're enjoying the benefits of the insulation without freezing.

Thanks again for the info.

Phil Grahm Salt said...

Cavity wall insulation is a very effective insulation in homes and buildings. It helps in reducing heat leakages and thus, improve the energy efficiency in homes.
building regulations part L

julian young said...

I fully sympathize with Rob and horrible Mark Group as they are the only ones who do insulation in the south of england.I think I was one of the first people to try and get cavity wall insulation. They sent a cherry picker and the cherry picket broke down and they announced to me that they could not get the cherry picker off their truck and secondly, for data protection purposes, they couldn't get the cherry picker down our archway as it was dangerous, Why did their surveyor not feed this information back to to he the right department? I refuse to ever use them and sent a copy to their Managing Director with a copy toCIGA.I am looking to use another v. good company which I have heard about but never never MARK Group as they mucked me about for weeks. I wish the Energy Minister reads all these comments about Mark Group and they should be reprimanded! I would like to ask why do I have to block our fireplace to have cavity wall insulation as we do not use it and have a cowl fixed on the chimney? Help

julian young said...

I, too had a ad experience with the Mark group and never had the cavity wall insulation done by them as they were v. inefficient many years ago with they first launched out. I do want to have cavity wall insulation but need to know why does one has to block a fire place even though we have a cowl fitted on the chimney and we don't use the fireplace?? If someone knows the answer to this and what should one do to block it?I can't believe one needs to block a fireplace as lots of people use their open fires so can't see the point here.

Rob Parsons said...

Hi Julian (sorry it's taken a while to respond. I switched on comment moderation a while ago after getting too much Russian spam, so blogger hid comments in a place I couldn't see them. I've corrected that now.) The first comment above suggests that you don't have to block up your fireplace any more. Keith seems to know what he's talking about, so, unless anybody says different, I'm happy to believe him.

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Patricia said...

NEVER, EVER, EVER HAVE CAVITY WALL INSULATION BUT IF YOU DO, THEN NEVER, EVER USE THE MARK GROUP.

flo bot said...

My name is dan i am a cavity wal and loft insulator for a professionally run firm, we operate throughout the southwest and have had many a run in with customers who open flame appliance, every cavity wall insulator must by law attend a ACOPS course which teaches each idividual about open flame appliances and correct venting, now the rules seem to change each year but by law any appliance which has what is known aa a kilowatt rating of 7 or above must be ventilated the reason being is that the appliance draws in air and replaces that with carbon monxide, now with insualtion the cavity cannot let the room breath therefore a vent is required and they absolutely cannot be closeable, any fitter or surveyor should have mentioned this, a open fire is a definite vent, personally i inform every customer of this before any work is carried out, and unfortunately companies such as mark.group give cavity wall insulation fitters a bad name,