This is how our bathroom looked before. It worked. What was wrong with it?

  • the tiles were floor to ceiling
  • the sink was huge
  • the toilet took up a lot of space
  • the bath was uncomfortable to have a soak in
  • the shower holder needed replacing
  • the space wasn’t utilised well
  • the lights are mega bright

Why does it matter?

I have a bad back and one of the things that helps alleviate the discomfort is having a soak in the bath. The uncomfortable tub, the bright lights, the ambiance of the bathroom was not at all conducive to relaxation, which meant I didn’t use it as much as I should have.

The process of getting quotes

I contacted a few companies and this is what happened:


  • They gave me a virtual appointment to discuss the possible design on the phone
  • They asked me to take measurements of the room and share them with the designer
  • They didn’t have installers so I would have to look for them separately


  • A designer came to measure the space and get an idea of the potential design
  • This was followed by going into a store to look at their products
  • They could supply and install but they had a 3-month wait


  • They gave me a virtual appointment to discuss the possible design on the phone
  • They asked me to take measurements of the room and share them with the designer
  • They didn’t have installers so I would have to look for them separately

Foam and Bubbles

  • They gave me a virtual appointment to discuss the possible design on the phone
  • They asked me to take measurements of the room and share them with the designer
  • The designer created an amazing document which includes details about a range of tiles that would match my preferences
  • This would be a one-stop-shop as they could source and send samples of the tiles
  • They had installers that they recommend

What happened?

I liked some of B&Qs range but didn’t feel secure about them not being able to recommend an installer.

I really liked some of the items in Homebase but there was no way for me to see the bathtub and I couldn’t order that blindly. The issue of them not being able to recommend an installer was an issue as well.

I went to Wicks but they didn’t have a lot of the items that I wanted to see on display and the designer got pushy and salesy in an aggressive way, which put me right off. Someone suggested that I look at the reviews for Wicks and there were lots which were negative. The issue was they didn’t name the branch, so I couldn’t tell which branches had ‘poor’ installers and which ones didn’t.

The designer from Foam and Bubbles was going through a bad patch. I got so fed up with following up and chasing that I had to walk away and that was unfortunate because I really liked the design, the way they communicated their vision and the fact that they’d send samples.

Finding someone new

Someone that I had worked with before, whom I trusted, recommended another company.

I met the owner of the company. I’ll call him Doug. That’s not his real name.

Doug came over and this is what happened:

  • He measured up
  • He looked at the design that I had fallen in love with
  • He thought about whether it could be achieved and said it could be
  • He said he has suppliers that he has worked with before and trusts
  • I told him I wasn’t driving due to being unwell with Long COVID so he offered to take me to a store that sells tiles
  • Through discussion with the owner of the tile shop, Doug realised that the design that I loved wasn’t possible
  • The owner of the tile shop suggested a way to tweak the design to achieve everything I wanted and Doug thought it would work
  • He sent me a quote
  • I spent a few weeks trying to check out other showrooms so that I felt like I had a choice and hadn’t only looked in one place
  • I found a showroom that I really liked and asked him to meet me there, check out what I wanted to buy in case it wasn’t the right size etc
  • He approved the items and changed the design a bit after the owner of the showroom gave him some feedback, specifically about adding a panel
  • I asked Doug whether there was any reason that I shouldn’t pay for the entire order there and then. He couldn’t think of any reasons, so I placed the order and paid for the entire thing
  • I mentioned that I realised that we didn’t have a start date or a contract but he assured me that I didn’t need to worry and they could probably start the job in 3 weeks
  • The owner of the store asked about delivery and explained that they do a curbside delivery i.e. they don’t bring the goods up but Doug reassured me that we didn’t need to worry about it and it will all be sorted
  • Doug checked his calendar and said that he couldn’t start until 3 weeks time. He sent me the contract but I missed it. I emailed him saying that I’ve done everything and was waiting for him to send the contract so that I can pay the deposit but somehow he missed those emails! By the time he realised what had happened, it was too late and the job was delayed.
  • After that, I was away for a couple of weeks and I missed the date to pay the deposit by one day but this was the day that he allocated jobs so the bathroom was delayed for another few weeks!
  • I tried to talk to the store owner about the delivery and holding the goods due to the delay but we weren’t on the same page so I asked Doug to call and thankfully, he sorted it

I’ve gone into a nit of detail about the delays above to show how easy it is to miss emails, how big the consequences can be, the knock on effect that it had on the delivery of the order and the fact that the job wasn’t smooth even before it began!

This is the original design. The owner of the tile shop suggested moving the shower so that it was on the wall next to the window. He and Doug agreed that it would work and Doug changed the design.

The job begins

The job began and once they removed the existing bathroom, it became clear that the design I wanted wasn’t possible. Doug explained what we could do instead and I accepted it. I couldn’t really do anything else.

The new design removes the shower completely. Hopefully, the design above will help you visualise the changes.

  • The toilet would remain where it was i.e. where the shower was meant to be
  • The basin would move up a bit
  • There would be space for a storage cabinet between the wall and the basin


The job started on the 27th of February and was due to finish on the 17th of March.


Around the week beginning the 6th of March, Doug said that the bathroom would be completed fully and the cabinet would be ordered. However, he said it would take a week to arrive, by which time the bathroom would be completed. He said that they would return to install it.

On the 10th of March, I asked Doug if we could delay the job by a day as I had to take my mum for a medical appointment. Doug said that wasn’t possible as the job was in it’s finish stages. He said the job would be completed on Tuesday the 14th and explained that had it not been for me taking a day to attend a medical appointment for myself, the job would have been completed on Monday the 13th.

On Monday the 13th of March he said that they would be done by tomorrow or Wednesday. He continued by sharing that they’re still on schedule because he accounted for 2 – 3 weeks and this is week 3.

From the onset, I had accepted that it would take 3 weeks to complete the job. It would begin on Monday the 27th of February and be completed on Friday the 17th of March. However, he kept telling me it would finish early, yet in the end, he was still here on Tuesday the 22nd of Marc hand he had to return later that week!

I booked the cleaner for Thursday because he was so sure that the job would be done by then. However, it wasn’t looking likely that they would even finish on Friday, so we had to cancel the clean.

On Wednesday the 13th of March, the labourer told me that he’ll be off on Thursday but he hopes we’ll finish by Friday. My point of communication is meant to be Doug but he hadn’t told me anything and he didn’t say anything until I asked him about it.

On Thursday the 14th of March, Doug told me that they would be replacing the lights but not repositioning them. He said that adding an extra light would mean that they would need to open up the ceiling to drill through the rafter and that would create a large hole which would start showing unless the whole ceiling is reskimmed. This wasn’t part of the initial quote. However, I remember him telling me that he’d leave the ones near the window the same but change the one by the sink so it was more centred and not right above the sink. He replied by explaining that there are rafters in the way so the lights can’t be moved. I accepted that. However, when it came to actually doing the lights, he did what I remembered! I asked him about that and he said that he had previously said he would add another light if he could add it using existing wiring or something like that. He wanted to add it to make the spacing better. When I asked him about this above, his response about the rafters and skimming etc made me feel like I was asking for something unreasonable that had never been discussed but it was actually his suggestion, which he carried out in the end.

Remember the cabinet that they were going to come back to return? We were then told that they wouldn’t install the sink, bath etc until the unit was in place because they needed the space to get the cabinet in. Therefore, everything was on pause.

On Friday the 15th of March, we agreed that Doug was the point of communication but he kept dropping in, updating the labourer and then leaving without telling us anything. The labourer would then tell me, I’d ask Doug and he would tell me not to listen to ‘third parties.’ However, this kept happening so it actually meant we were forced to get updates from the labourer because we didn’t get them in any other way!

I doubted that everything would be done on Friday so I wasn’t surprised when Doug called me at about 6 pm to tell me that the light switch wouldn’t fit, that he hasn’t done the final cleaning because he can’t take the rubbish as he doesn’t have a van and that he’d need to return for a maximum of 2 hours on Saturday. I was told weeks before the job began that they only work from Monday to Friday. We had plans on the weekend but we postponed them to later on during the day to accommodate him.

On Saturday the 18th of March, Doug was here for nearly 3 hours and he still hadn’t finished!

There was an issue with the hot water in the tub, Doug wasn’t happy with the lack of sealant in certain places, he said the plumber and the labourer would have to return on Monday. When I tried to confirm the time that would be suitable, Doug said it would have to be at 7.30 am i.e. there was no room for negotiation about this. He said that they’d be here for an hour, max, and then move on to another job.

We realised that the towel rail didn’t have a thermostat like the previous one did so Doug said that this would be done on Monday when the plumber would also cover the copper pipes on the towel rail and the light switch would be sorted out too.

As Doug was leaving I asked if he can make sure that the labourer calls him before he leaves us so that he can instruct him to clean up if he hasn’t. Basically, I wanted him to run through some checks with him on the phone as I didn’t want to do that myself. Doug said he would be here so not to worry.

On Monday the 20th of March, Doug came and left without sharing any updates with us. The labourer told us that he would be back tomorrow. This contradicted what Doug said about being here. Also, why is he returning tomorrow if the job was to be completed today? Doug sent a message to say that the switch will be in tomorrow so he’ll return then.

The labourer didn’t bother sweeping up the mess created by the bucket of paint even though he saw it when he left. The balcony where he cut the tiles, didn’t look like it had been cleaned.

  • it all felt so messy
  • there were so many mixed messages
  • Doug communicated things firmly but then it didn’t happen and we weren’t even told that there had been a change in the plan
  • I was told that the job would take 21 days, then 14, then 15, then 16 and then it went over 21 days

The plumber

The plumber came to disconnect the existing towel rail and then left. I didn’t pay any attention to this and nothing was explained to me. I think I saw him again when he came to install the new towel rail. When he left he said he’d checked everything and it was all working. This wasn’t true. He started the process to get everything to heat up but didn’t wait to check it. We realised that it wasn’t working the way it should be but he’d gone by then!

I didn’t know that removing the old towel rail would stop the towel rail in the ensuite from working. I was also slow to realise that the heating was coming on in the master bedroom. Once we realised, we told Doug and he said he’d send the plumber to sort it out.

After the new towel rail was installed, the previous one should have worked but it didn’t. The plumber had to come back to fix it, which he did. However, the radiator still wasn’t heating up.

The plumber told Suraj that there was probably something stuck in the system. He said he’d check before leaving but he left without checking. I mentioned this to Doug and he said ‘You know what they’re like. They forget stuff.’

The plumber was meant to return on the last day of the job, to investigate the issue with the radiator but he didn’t turn up! When I called Doug about it, he said to carry on with my day and not expect him because they like to finish early on a Friday.

Keeping in mind that I’m not meant to be managing the staff, nor am I meant to be talking to them about timelines and tasks, Doug should have liaised with the plumber to ensure that everything was completed before he left but this wasn’t the case!

On the 22nd day i.e. after the job was meant to be completed, we were under the impression that both the labourer and the plumber would be here at 7.30 am but when we asked Doug he said that the plumber would be here by midday. We explained that we had a meeting which we needed privacy for at 1 pm. He called us to explain that he doesn’t employ the plumber full-time and he can’t keep changing his timings. We didn’t understand why he said he can’t keep changing his timings because we expected him at 7.30. Doug then explained that they can call the labourer on the weekend but not the plumber. Therefore, he was never going to be here at 7.30 am! We changed our meeting to 6 pm only to wait until 1 pm before messaging Doug to tell him that he hadn’t arrived yet, at which point, Doug replied that he was stuck on a job and would come tomorrow.

Finally, the day that the plumber was due to arrive at midday, Doug said that if the plumber came at midday and wasn’t finished before our meeting, if we asked him to leave, we’d have to pay for a callout charge for him to return. But why? He should have sorted the radiator in the bedroom on Friday but he didn’t turn up. The pipes that need covering should have been done already. The thermostat was an addition but we didn’t actually realise that the new towel rail didn’t have a thermostat. A plumber we know said that he should have told us that we weren’t ordering like for like.

My point is, why should we pay for a callout when he’s meant to have checked things and not bothered which meant he had to come back, when he’s not turned up twice and when he should have got these tasks done when he was here before?

Tiles, lights and hot water

I entered the living room to see the labourer looking at the boxes of tiles. He told me that he thought the store had sent too many by accident. Doug came over and asked how many I ordered. I showed him the invoice and he said he did tell me to order the amount that we had but he thought it was too much and couldn’t work out what happened. He then decided that he ordered them on purpose due to the boxing. He said that we need to keep 1 or 2 boxes spare but we have more than that at the end of the job. He said there was no need to worry as the store will take them back.

After a few days, the labourer told me that we’d run out of tiles and Doug had gone to get more. At the end of the job, we had no wall tiles left at all.

I asked Doug to check the dimmable lights and the switch before I ordered them because I wanted to make sure they were the right sort for the bathroom. One of the days that he was here, he asked me for the lights and took the box with the bulbs and the dimmer switch. Then Suraj suggested getting an app-controlled switch. Doug said he’d send me a link for one, so I ordered that. When it came to the light switch being fitted, Doug couldn’t find it. I told him that the labourer had told me to put it in the brown box. He said he couldn’t find it and began telling me that nobody would have touched it. I wasn’t accusing anyone of anything so that was a bit strange. He found the switch and then asked me about another switch that was in the box. It had no packaging so he assumed that it had come with the app-controlled switch! I tried to explain that it wouldn’t have fit in the box with that switch but we didn’t get anywhere. I then asked him about the original switch that I’d ordered and he said he didn’t have it, he hadn’t seen it and that it wasn’t in the box when he took it! I knew it was in the box with the bulbs when he took it but he was adamant that he hadn’t seen it. I contacted the company I ordered it from and asked them to send me a photo of the switch along with how it would look after it had been removed from the packaging. I asked for this so that I could determine if this was the unboxed switch. They sent a new one as a gesture of goodwill and it was exactly the same! So that meant that the switch was in the box with the bulbs, he’d unboxed it, thrown away the packaging, forgotten all about it and was then adamantly saying that none of this had happened.

He installed the app-controlled switch that he suggested but then kept saying things like “Good luck with it” and “You’ll have fun with it” and “You never know what you’ll get with things from x country” I didn’t understand that. If he was so unsure about its performance, why suggest it?

Anyway, he installed it but it had a life of its own, so he removed it and fitted the original one but it didn’t work. He then installed the replacement which was identical to the initial one and that didn’t work either. Someone we know asked us if he read the instructions because those lights need to be earthed and if he hadn’t done that, it wouldn’t have worked.

Our plumber friend told us that every time the plumber drains the system, he should be adding an inhibitor. It’s chemical liquid used to protect the central heating system and keep it working efficiently to prolong its lifespan. Suraj mentioned this to Doug and he said because of the system we have, we don’t need an inhibitor. In fact, we’d be bathing in the chemicals if they used it. Suraj followed up with the plumber friend and he said he was making a fool of us!

Apparently, the hot water tank is heated by passing hot water, from the boiler, through the coil/pipe in the hot water tank – that’s what would heat the water. So we wouldn’t have been bathing in the inhibitor and draining the system multiple times without using an inhibit is likely to have damaged the system!

In addition, we weren’t happy with the temperature of the water in the bathtub. After filling the bath to have a soak and test it out, I couldn’t stay in there for long because the water was only a little hotter than warm! We told him and he said that they hadn’t done anything to the pipes and it can’t be to do with them. He told us to turn the temperature up at the boiler, which meant the water was way too hot everywhere else and still not hot enough in the bath. Luckily, the plumber fixed that without any drama. He did this by adjusting the internal thermostatic control of the bath mixer.

Costs and doing things that aren’t usually done

Doug said he wouldn’t charge us for installing the cabinet because of the change of design and the impact that had on the job and the initial quote.

After a few emails between us Doug complained that:

  • he took me to the tile shop and didn’t charge for his time
  • he came to the store to check the order and didn’t charge for his time
  • he went and got tiles when we ran out and didn’t charge for his time
  • he and the labourer received the delivery, checked it and brought it up

The thing is, when he did these things, he didn’t say I wouldn’t usually do this or I’d usually charge for this or anything else. Also, we didn’t even know the tiles had run out until the labourer told us that Doug had gone to get them. He didn’t tell us he was going to get them. He didn’t ask us to get them. Nothing!

Also, previously, when we had our floor put in, new wardrobes installed and our kitchen done, we didn’t have to handle the delivery, unboxing etc. We didn’t ask for the contractors to take care of it, they just did. Therefore, we didn’t think it was anything abnormal.

The bathroom after the job was completed

Summary and lessons learned

The main issues were:

  • the builder/designer was a really nice guy but he blagged when we raised concerns
  • he didn’t talk about his go-to plumber in a way that left us feeling like we were in safe hands
  • he complained about going above and beyond when we didn’t know he’d done that
  • he either didn’t communicate at all or he gave mixed messages

Lesson learned:

  • After Doug and I had spoken about something, I should have posted my understanding on the WhatsApp group that we had with me, Suraj and Doug. I think that this would have shown him that what he was saying was confusing and contradictory
  • being nice doesn’t qualify someone for a job
  • before visiting the store, we should have seen the contract and discussed things like, how often will they clean up, who will the main point of contact be, and will the plumber and electrician be professionally trained

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