Insulation scandal: ‘I have to scrape mold from the walls’

Image caption, Single mum Zoe Godrich says ‘the life just got sucked out of me’, in attempt to deal with isolation issues

  • Author, Zoe Conway
  • Role, BBC News correspondent

Every two weeks, Zoe Godrich scrapes the black mold from the walls of her children’s bedrooms.

She says her house now looks like a squat. “It’s absolutely heartbreaking because I can’t provide for my children’s basic needs: a safe, warm home.”

The mold took over after she had her Swansea home fitted with cavity wall insulation three years ago. She says that within weeks the water was continuously flowing down the walls ”like a small waterfall”.

The BBC can reveal that cavity wall insulation, installed under government-backed green energy plans, could have failed in hundreds of thousands of homes because it was not installed correctly.

‘Failed’ installation

Single mother Zoe and her three children now sleep in one room, on mattresses on the floor. The other two bedrooms are uninhabitable, she says.

She says she threw out all their beds and wardrobes because they were consumed by damp and mold. She shows me a photo of her six-year-old daughter’s baby doll, covered in black mold, which she had to throw away.

Image source, Zoe Godrich

Image caption, Zoe had to throw away some of her children’s toys because of the mold

One of her daughters takes various medications for asthma. Her son has eczema so bad that his cracked skin bleeds. She says they were not taking these medications before the insulation was installed. The NHS says damp and mold can lead to respiratory and skin conditions.

David Walter is a building surveyor who has been inspecting insulated homes across the UK for over 25 years. He visited Zoe’s home in April and said the installation had “failed”, and the extraction had also not been done properly.

He says there’s nothing unusual about what happened to Zoe’s house. ”The industry is motivated by money; they receive government subsidies for doing this work. So there is an incentive for the contractors to sign people up, get the job done and get the subsidy money.” He blames the problems on a lack of supervision and regulations.

Since 2008, more than three million homes have had cavity wall insulation installed as part of government green energy schemes. Energy suppliers were responsible for inspecting 5% of them for the quality of the installation.

Figures collected by energy watchdog Ofgem, seen by the BBC, suggest that the insulation in hundreds of thousands of these homes could have failed because it was not properly installed.

In total, the holes in 15 million houses have been filled.


Image source, Zoe Godrich

Image caption, The mold in her house is “terrible,” Zoe says

A year after the problems started, Zoë went on a merry-go-round visiting companies and organizations to get help. At the beginning of 2022, she started at Installers UK, which carried out the installation work. The company insisted that the insulation was not to blame and subsequently went bankrupt.

The company told the BBC that the problems were caused by a hole in the roof, although it could not provide a copy of the pre-installation report to confirm this. If there had been any problems with the property, standards body the British Assessment Bureau said these should have been resolved before the work was carried out.

She then contacted City Energy Network Limited, who secured financing for Zoe’s home. The name appears on the warranty for the work, although City Energy says this was an error and had nothing to do with the warranty, which should have been issued by the company that carried out the work.

Zoe says she was advised to have the insulation removed. To pay for this, she took out a £7,000 loan. What she didn’t know was that the extraction would void the warranty on the work. Without the insulation the house is now very cold. She can’t afford to turn the temperature up, which leads to even more moisture and mold.

Image caption, Zoe has to scrape the mold off her walls every two weeks

City Energy told the BBC that its only involvement was to fund a grant through the government program. It says it has no connection with Installers UK, nor was it involved in the installation or removal process.

The government recognized several years ago that standards needed to be improved. She commissioned the independent organization Trustmark to set up an assurance quality plan in 2019.

But the problems Zoe has faced raise questions about how well the plan is working. Both Installers UK, which carried out the work in 2021, and City Energy, which secured the grant money, were Trustmark registered.

Zoe says she sees no solution in sight. ”The life has just been sucked out of me. All I’ve done over the years is fight company after company after company.”

City Energy says that while it is under no obligation to provide any assistance, it has “recognised and sympathized with the position Ms. Godrich finds herself in” and has attempted to resolve matters directly with her in an effort to assist .

In a statement, Trustmark told the BBC: “The issues at Ms Godrich’s home are complex. The work was carried out under a previous standard and did not use the ‘whole house’ approach as current standards do, thus avoiding some of the issues observed here.

“However, the situation in which Ms Godrich remains is completely unacceptable and must be rectified. We will work with the British Assessment Bureau and City Energy to find an appropriate solution that makes Mrs Godrich’s property a warm, comfortable and healthy home for her. and her family.”

The Department for Energy Security and Net Zero declined to comment, but referred us to a ministerial statement in February which said: “The government is committed to protecting all consumers carrying out home renovation work and improving the overall consumer journey.”

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