David Wilson Homes – How Not to Build a House

This one goes back more than 10 years and has been read by tens of thousands of potential home owners.  David Wilson Homes did precisely nothing about all the faults with the property until a patch of brickwork fell off the building and damaged my car (falling exactly where my children would have been standing an hour or two later).  The possibility of killing my children made them sit up and take some notice.  Nevertheless, they continued to stick two fingers up concerning all the other problems.

David Wilson Homes
Wilson Bowden House
Leicester Road
LE67 6WB

Dear Customer Relations,

How NOT to Build a House

I am an architect.  We architects are renowned for wanting to build our own houses and I am no exception.  However, I don’t have the time.  Indeed, I have so little time that it has taken me nine months to complete this letter.

Such is the pressure on time that when we decided to move house last year, we chose to buy a new house so we could just move in and get on with life free from plasterers, electricians and (especially) plumbers.  It just so happened that a house was available on a recently completed David Wilson development in the village we wanted to move to.  The house was nearly new (which was even better because it had grass outside and carpets inside).  It occupied a particularly nice plot on what is a particularly nice development.  It was a nice house.

Or so we thought.

Suffice to say that we bought it, moved in and got on with life as planned (and not a plasterer, electrician or plumber in sight).

As the months passed, we became aware that there were things about the house that were not entirely as they should be.  Little by little, these initially minor niggles started to really get on our nerves.  Now, twelve months later, they make our blood boil.  Some of them, I expect you to do something about (and soon).  Others I will describe only because I hope you will want to learn by your mistakes and avoid a repetition in future developments.  Either way, I am going to list the problems because that will make me feel a whole lot better and you, I hope, will come to realise that your houses are not nearly as nice as we both thought!

First of all, I will deal with the outside of the property.  Star prize goes to Mr. Brush the decorator who stopped painting half way up the gable of the house because his ladder was not long enough.  Yes really, the barge board soffit is only half painted.  Runners up prize also goes to Mr Brush for forgetting to actually apply the gloss coat to all the fascias, soffits and barge boards! (I’ve had a decorator look at it, he assures me that the paint job is undercoat only!).

Mr. Brush would also have come in third for the woodstain that is literally falling off the front of the house after only two years, but he is beaten to the bronze by Mr. Guttering.  His unique guttering design on the rear elevation is a lesson to us all in how to piss-off a homeowner.  Not only has he managed to leave a huge gap through which all the rainwater flows (making the downpipes entirely superfluous) but he has also managed to put it directly over the fibreglass mock-lead roof of the dining room below!  Whenever it rains, it sounds like we have the entire Nagasaki Drum Ensemble rehearsing in the Dining Room.  Of course, we could pull the two gutter sections together to close the gap but I can’t help feeling that the resulting curves in the downpipes would look a bit silly.

Next, there is the matter of the nesting boxes that have been cleverly provided to each of the projecting gables on the front of the house.  I’m all for doing my bit for the local wildlife but this is going too far.  What’s more, the nesting boxes are particularly popular with starlings.  I don’t like starlings.  I positively detest starlings when six of the little sods are screaming for food at four in the morning just four feet above my pillow.  When they are not screaming for food, they are playing relay races back and forth along the eaves (four feet above my pillow).  At the other end of the house, where a second starling family now resides, my daughter has to endure a similar torture.

Possibly aware of the protection afforded to these flying rats, Mr. Roof arranged things such that it is impossible to get at the nesting boxes from within the roof void.  So, without scaffolding, I can do absolutely nothing.  I do not remember the last time we were able to sleep through an entire night.

Staying outside a while longer, there are the less irksome but nonetheless significant matters of the subsiding block paving on the drive so not only do we have the starlings, but are soon likely to have a family or two of ducks at the pond which forms in the middle of the drive every time it rains.  Oh well, in wet weather, we can always go the back of the house and sink up to our knees in the waterlogged back lawn.

Turning now to the inside, a relatively minor point (but nonetheless one of my favourites) is the airing cupboard.  Here, Mr. Chip the joiner really excelled himself.  Our house has a double doorset to the airing cupboard.  On one side, there is the hot water cylinder.  On the other, there are two shelves (four would have been a bit more generous but what the hell).  As with most double doors, one side is bolted, the other opens on a latch.  Guess which side opens?  Yes, you’ve got it!  Mr Chip evidently thought we would prefer to admire the hot water cylinder rather than air our linen.  I know its no big deal, but my young daughter can’t reach a bolt which is nearly seven feet above the ground and you should try unbolting a door when you are carrying a pile of sheets and towels.

Far more annoying are Mr. Spark’s bathroom extract fans.  Instead of being installed remotely in the roof space, these are fixed directly into the ceilings where they can resonate to their full potential.  The fan units themselves are the Ladas of the ventilation world – cheap and nasty.  They are also, without doubt, the noisiest fans I have ever encountered.  They sound like a squadron of chinook helicopters hovering in the bathroom.  Once again, it may seem trivial, but we just can’t use them. Because of the low temperatures in our en suite (more of that later) we now have mould starting to grow in the shower cubicle.  For the sake of an extra five quid, you could have used a decent quality product and made living in the house a great deal more comfortable.  Instead we curse you whenever we need to use the shower.  It’s so stupid.

Now to more serious issues.  Mr. Pipe’s plumbing installation leaves a great deal to be desired.  Probably of most concern is that gallons of hot water pour into the garden at regular intervals through the pressure release overflow when the system is set to hot water only.  Last summer, I found a borehole made by the escaping water at least three feet deep which I dug out and refilled to avoid undermining the foundations!  Although the problem temporarily abated during the heating season, it clearly needs urgent attention as the hot water is once again pouring into the garden instead of the bath.

Still with the plumbing, we are unable to use the washing machine at night because of the ‘knocking’ that occurs when the washer stops filling.  The noise has to be heard to be believed.  Judging by the degree of rattling of the pipes, it appears that few, if any, pipe clips have been used in the floor voids.

Insulation has certainly been used sparingly.  In the large rear bedroom, the radiator is required only in the very coldest weather.  There is more than enough heat rising through the floor. The hot water pipework between the boiler and the hot water cylinder passes beneath the floor of the room.  In summer, our son is unable to sleep without his windows wide open – it gets like a sauna in there.  Its not like he needs to lose weight – he’s skinny enough already – but he doesn’t have a lot of choice as things stand.

Finally, there is the whining of the pump that wakes us at five most mornings (if the starlings haven’t woken us already).  Had the pipework been properly fixed and insulated, this too would probably have been avoided.  Plumbers have never been my favourite tradesmen but the plumber you used should be taken out at dawn and shot (preferably along with the starlings).

Now it gets really serious.

The most serious problem of all is the insulation of the house and of the master bedroom in particular.  In short, during the spring, autumn and especially the winter months, the master bedroom is absolutely bloody freezing.  This problem is not exclusive to our property.  Some of our neighbours recently confided that they were planning to move out of the master bedroom for the winter!  We seriously considered doing the same.  I trust you agree that this is a matter for grave concern.

As an architect, I have some knowledge of the requirements of the Building Acts concerning thermal insulation.  Seeking further information, I consulted the local Building Control Department and subsequently, the NHBC Inspection Department in York.   I was staggered to learn that David Wilson Homes circumvent the usual requirement for a U-value of 0.45W/sq.m/deg C through the walls by using the ‘trade-off’ method of calculation rather than the usual elemental approach.  In other words, you avoid the need to insulate the wall cavities by (theoretically) improving the insulation elsewhere.  As a result, the U-value through your walls is only 0.7W/sq.m/deg C – the standard requirement of the 1976 Regulations – hardly a modern standard of insulation.  The word ‘cheapskate’ springs to mind.

In any event, my own rough calculations suggest that there is insufficient insulation elsewhere to justify the inferior insulation in the walls.  In my opinion, the insulation of the property is illegal.   There is little point in pursuing the NHBC under the guarantee, because you used NHBC as your Building Inspector so they are complicit and are hardly likely to agree that it needs to be rectified.

Even if you did find a way to scrape within the minimum requirements of the law, the master bedroom is still bloody freezing in winter.  We still can’t use the en-suite shower in the depth of winter because it is simply too cold in there.  We still have mould growing in the bathroom because any steam immediately condenses on the cold surfaces (and we can’t use the fan).  We still have to light the living room fire in winter and leave both the living room and master bedroom doors open so some of the heat will convect upstairs.  We still put two continental quilts on the bed during the coldest months.  It is not pleasant.

The fact that the bedroom has three external walls (with no insulation) and is situated over an unheated space (with floor voids not properly filled with insulation – I have looked) means that the bedroom is never going to be as warm as we are entitled to expect. I happen to think that you should do something about it.  I also think you should do something about a lot of the other things that make living in the house so infuriating.

Your company gets a lot right.  In general, your developments are well designed and cleverly laid out.  There is much to be applauded.  However, as a famous architect once said –“God is in the details”.  Well at least He should be.  Right now, the Devil has got a monopoly.

I hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to put that right.

Yours etc,


They didn’t.  Because I wasn’t the original purchaser, they effectively told me to get stuffed.  I’m still in the house though (i’m just too lazy to move) and to this day, the problems arising from lousy workmanship continue to plague us and have, by now, cost us many thousands of pounds.  If you’re thinking of buying a David Wilson home, think twice.


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10 thoughts on “David Wilson Homes – How Not to Build a House”

  1. I’m only surprised someone in the industry went and bought a new build from one of these mass-market shysters. I started out in remedial structural work, and nearly all our business was dealing with stuff that had been chucked up less than five years earlier on big, branded estates. The NHBC guarantee was of no value as the firms would create subsidiaries for various projects, and if it turned out they’d screwed up enough they’d just declare that subsidiary bankrupt and walk away.

  2. Wow, I was looking at a David Wilson home, but it looks like yours is not an isolated case, so I am now very wary.

  3. “Barratts David Wilson Homes” is just a racket. BDWH consists of a number of “suits” and assistants in offices. BDWH is NOT “a five-star builder”. BDWH is not even a company of builders.

    Once BDWH gets approval to build a development BDWH then advertises locally for tradespeople! It will take almost anyone on who applies! So the building-site is soon peopled by a team of tradespeople none of whom have any loyalty to BDWH, none of whom are BDWH employees. This might be all right if BDWH operated a rigorous quality-control system. But it does not.

    In my experience the hired tradespeople detest BDWH. So you have a free-lancing plumber working alongside a free-lancing electrician working alongside a chap from a local plastering company, etc., and all these people feel no loyalty to each other or to BDWH. Worse still, because they feel hostility to the BDWH suits who pay them, the tradespeople do the minimum in terms of quality, they do only enough to ensure they get paid. And often one of these tradespeople will fall out with another tradesperson, or with one of the BDWH suits, and simply walk off the site and find work elsewhere.

    One of the excuses that BDWH frequently gives to people who have sold their homes and are waiting to get into their new homes but can’t because the homes have not been finished on schedule, is that “We can’t get the trades right now!” The BDWH suits are always desperate for the army of tradespeople they need to build the new houses or flats.

    One reason for the hostility that the tradespeople feel towards the BDWH suits is that the suits want the new homes or flats built as quickly as possible, to maximise profits. This causes the suits to demand that the tradespeople work too quickly. When tradespeople work too quickly mistakes are made in the building. Or processes that require time are not allotted the time they need.

    For example, when the inside of a new property is plastered it needs to dry out thoroughly before skirting boards are added, otherwise if the skirting boards are attached to walls that have not yet dried out fully, then the walls will continue to dry out and to shrink causing the skirting boards to bow! What do the tradespeople have to do then? The suits don’t let them replace the skirting boards, they just tell them to fill in the bowed gaps between wall and skirting board with filler! Then when you come to decorate your walls you find that in the corners of the rooms you paint right down to edge of the skirting board, but that in the middle of the walls you’re left wondering whether to stop painting where the filler starts, or whether to paint over the filler until you reach the skirting board! Dealing with this kind of situation so that your skirting boards don’t look peculiar is quite challenging.

    So it’s not so much that BDWH properties are a problem. It is that the BDWH suits are the problem! They are ruthless, cunning, shysters at best, and utter liars at worst.

    Know this when you first walk into the BDWH Sales Office and when the BDWH Sales women bare their teeth at you. Keep your wits about you. Question everything. Remember they lie at the drop of a hat. Leave nothing to chance. If possible literally monitor your new home while it’s being built, to make sure that it is built as well as you can manage!

  4. Literally nothing has changed. We’ve been in a Barratt house for 5 years and have finally in the last few weeks begun to feel as if we are at the end of a hellish journey. We’ve had leaks, tiles ripped up and replaced, the entire house repainted, ceilings ripped out, and a host of other problems from minor to major. Along the way, we’ve had to deal with a shambolic customer care service that regularly sends in tradespeople with no idea of what they are meant to be doing. I’m documenting our experience at https://barratthellhome.wordpress.com/

  5. Likewise…Horrendous problems through buying a David Wilson Home with no end in sight. However much you think you may like the look or idea of a new build with them, please do not do it. As for their customer service department – Words fail me !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. I’m so glad to have found this. Would’ve invested over 350k in a house, our first house, to be disappointed. Imagine the marriage issues!? No, really, this could wreck a relationship and I value mine much more than a house. I will not be buying from this developer – ever.

  7. I wish we had never brought a DWH, we had x2 leaks through to the downstairs ceiling, blocked drains – backing up even to the bathroom upstairs. The en suite floor had to be taken up three times due to tiles not matching, the bathroom tiles don’t match (currently offered some money back for this). Windows scratched & lots more!! The most annoying part is that when you have competed you customer satisfaction survey…well its like you have grown horns and no one wants to talk to you anymore, let alone deal with your faults!! I should have stuck with my 100 year old property after all it will be around much longer than the one we have now!! One BIG rip off!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. Hmm, I have had a few problems with a David Wilson house, the neighbours have have problems too, all with their plumbing after the cheapest of cheap Chinese unbranded fittings were used. A plumber has had to rip out all of the internal guts (siphon and valve), as all three toilets were either leaking into the pan, therefore the valve would keep making the flushing noise as the leaking water replaces or were making that foghorn noise after flushing. What I found amazing is that my partner who also lives in a David Wilson house had the exact same problem and had to have all the internal guts replaced in his three toilets too!

    I had a problem with the shower, but the plumber couldn’t tell who the manufacturer was – cheap unbranded, so I had to have the who unit replaced. I wanted a replacement tap cover, after the loose one fell off – have no idea who the manufacturer is – cheap unbranded Chinese rubbish.

    It’s a shame that a good reputation like David Wilson’s is in danger of falling apart – I would certainly scrutinise any new build from David Wilson and if I was fortunate enough to buy new would insist on decent fittings. Heaven help you if you buy used. I think the poor woman who lived here simply moved out as the place was falling apart! I’ve replaced the cooker as the hinge was broken and the extractor fan doesn’t work!


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