The chimney they built wrong

One of things we like about this house was the fact it had a chimney, so a recessed fireplace could be fitted.
The fireplace was plaster boarded over by wainhomes, so you had to open it up yourself. Which is easy enough to do, so the plaster board was removed and had the fireplace company checked the opening to the chimney, it was wrong.
Here is my first email to wainhomes;
22 August 2016 at 18:08
To: Steve Toghill <>, Gareth Williams <>, Mike Dennis <>
We have just had the fireplace opening checked in order to have a fireplace fitted.
The height of the opening is 55cm from the bare floor, once a hearth is fitted we will only have 50cm of height available. Which we have been told is not enough, the fitter does not know of a single gas or electric fire that would fit this small an opening.
Can I ask why you have designed such a small opening when the external chimney height is more than 2metres in height? The concrete chimney lining has been installed very low down, giving us this 55cm height.
Can you tell me where the lintel should be that supports the inner gable wall of the house? As I assume you have not used the concrete chimney liner as the lintel?”
Here is the first reponse;
“Gareth will be in touch as soon as he is able regarding your fireplace opening. All I would say is that we sell a number of these house types each year, and have done so over the past 20 years. This is the only the second occasion I can recall that a purchaser has taken exception to the fireplace opening dimensions. ” So once again, the attitude is, we are right, you are wrong and seems to be you don’t know what you are talking about.
Here is the response from their technical director;
“Afternoon x, hope you are well.
Further to Peter’s email, I have been asked to contact you regarding the flue provided in your property. I’ve attached the details of the flue constructed within the Richmond house type we build.
I’m aware that fires come in all shapes and sizes but the size of the fireplace this detail provides is typical and suitable for most gas or solid fuel fires.
If I can provide any more information please let me know.
Thank you
Gareth Williams
Technical Director
Wainhomes (North West) Limited”
He attached the details of the dunbrick flue used in the chimneys, below is the bottom of the flue meant to be installed in my house.

dunbrick technical drawing

You can clearly see the drawing states a gap of 610mm above the hearth to the gather, giving you 610mm of clear height to put a fireplace in to.
So wainhomes had ignored my email with the measurements in and did nothing, so once again I had to try and make them understand they had done it wrong. The opening we had was only 550mm high and the technical drawing clearly states an opening of 610mm above the finished height of the hearth. Wewould only have a gap of 500mm once the hearth was fitted.
After having the site manager come out and inspect the fireplace again, and again, they then realised they had built it wrong.
“2 September 2016 at 16:56
To: Gareth Williams <>
thank for the email, I assume by now Mike Dennis the site manager has informed you that my plot, and two other builds have been built incorrectly, Mike is in the process of addressing our fireplace.
The technical drawings held on site and to what the plots were built to are wrong.
Once again we have multiple sets of plans, the head office having one set, the site having another. They agreed they would have to put the fireplace right.
Here is the email from Peter Barlow at wainhomes;
“With regard to your chimney I understand that work has already been carried out to enlarge the opening and in fact as required by yourself we have agreed to make the opening larger than the standard opening to assist you in having a larger fire fitted. You appreciate that this is a gesture of goodwill on our part due to the fact the opening was too small for your fire. I believe you have already arranged access later this week for works to be completed.
As part of this process I understand we have agreed to cover the installation cost of the new steel flue which will be installed by your fireplace contractor enabling you to have a higher specification of fire than we would normally allow for.”
This was utter rubbish, and another attempt by wainhomes to try and state they had done nothing wrong in the first place building the fireplace.
I refused the the site managers suggestion that wainhomes simple remove the gather piece from the chimney. Due to the bend in the flue there was no way the height of the opening could be increased to 610mm without knocking down part of the chimney to move the bend int he flue higher. So it could not be put right to the manufactures of the flues original design. So I agreed to have the gather and throat unit removed, wainhomes would put a lintel in to stop the wall above collapsing. A steel plate would be fitted to protect the cement infill in the chimney. This would mean we would have a bigger opening than 610mm. Simply removing the gather unit would narrow the exhaust gas collection area.
Here is my response to wainhomes;
“22 September 2016 at 13:27
To: Peter Barlow <>
Cc: Steve O’Donohoe <>, Steve Toghill <>
You have not agreed at all to pay for the cost of a steel flue, the original opening you left was unfit for the purpose of any fireplace sold in the UK that has nothing to do with the size of the fireplace I have chosen, you have also built plots 8 and 21 incorrectly as well, as the technical drawings your head office supplied to the site were wrong, and did not follow the manufactures specification. I believe you have already carried out remedial work to plots x and y.
You have also failed to acknowledge the damage your workers have done to my front lawn,”
The front lawn was an ongoing issue with the builders parking on my drive, and using my front garden as a path. That will be documented later on this site. You will also start to see the fact wainhomes simply ignore what you say, like you never said it at all.
“22 September 2016 at 12:50
To: Peter Barlow <>
Cc: Steve O’Donohoe <>, Steve Toghill <>
I need to point out you built the fireplace incorrect in the first place,
you also did not built the entire chimney stack from top to bottom with the correct infill material.
Mike has arranged for work men to attend my house on Friday 23/09, this is the fourth time I have been promised this will be fixed, should it not be sorted on the fourth visit I will be pushing this as a loss of confidence in your company. On two occasions none of your builders bothered to show up to fix it.
I have a very long list of issues with this house, a lot are still not sorted, this need to be addressed within 7 days, otherwise the whole list will be going to the NHBC to start with.”
The infill, the story of the chimney doesn’t stop there, as the chimney was built there was meant to be a weak mix of sand/grit and cement put around the flue in the chimney, this holds everything in place and acts as insulation to the concrete flue.
This is what happened when they removed the brickwork from above the gather and throat pieces from my chimney, you can see the small height gap from the floor to the bottom of the gather piece.

The gap you can see with the red arrow is where the cement mix is meant to be. It fell out when they removed the brickwork, all over the floor.
You can also see the fact there is only 2 breeze blocks and a concrete brick underneath the gather piece, standard breeze block height 215mm high, clearly showing it was built incorrectly
Next is a photo looking up through the gap in the chimney;
That’s how much of the infill had started to fall out, every time the builders hit the wall with a hammer more fell out. Then we discovered why it was falling out,

That’s when we found the plastic bags that started falling out of the chimney.

They were the bags of cement that should have been mixed in with the grit/sand when the chimney was built, instead of mixing it together they simply through the whole bag of cement, still sealed in the plastic bags in amongst the infill grit/sand.
This did not inspire confident or trust in anything else they have done building the house. What else did they not build correctly or just take a shortcut instead of doing it right?
I now have a hole in my living room wall, and I have wait for wainhomes once again, my email to wainhomes;
“we have had a large hole in living room for over 2 weeks now and the filling material that should have been a hard mortar mix is constantly falling out of the chimney. Along with the plastic bags of cement your original brick layers decided they could not be bothered to use.”

This was the mess we had, whilst we were still living in the house, that was my sofa on the left of the photo, given what happened with the chimney the sofa was wrecked and had to be disposed of.
I guess it was a good thing we had not fit the flooring the living room yet!

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