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Tricky customer

Hi all,

I’m new on here. Read through some of the threads and have to say I’m very impressed by the advice and knowledge which is being shared.

So, perhaps some of you might be able help me put my mind at ease.

I have a small company based in Leamington Spa. A couple of years ago we installed a gravel drive on an area which was previously a slabbed shed base at the top of a very short, steep drive. The purpose of the gravel area was to create a level section of the drive.

We dug out to 200mm, laid a geotextile membrane, 150mm of MOT1 and then 50-60mm of Black basalt chippings. All of this spec is clearly stipulated within the quote.

approx 6 months later we were called back as the membrane had made its way to the surface. There is heavy clay underneath so water wasn’t soaking away. We dug out a little further and put back more stone and reinstated the membrane and gravel.

Now, the problem has occurred again. I Suggested putting in a soakaway cell - at clients cost. He didn’t like the sound of that all and is now threatening court.

i pride myself on how well I get on with clients and also the standard of our workmanship. So, this is a first for me. 

As I mentioned, I’m confident that we’ve delivered the quoted spec and have offered a solution - albeit an extra. But, this client has told me that he “intends to destroy my company”.

So, I’m wondering what step to take next. I’d like to see it out, but my wife (also part of the company) is worried that if it goes to court, we can’t guarantee the outcome. And we can’t afford the risk if I’m honest. 

Any advice or previous experience would be gladly received. Happy to provide more info if it helps.

Thanks in Advance


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  • PRO

    I’m trying to picture what has happened in my head.

    Is there are problem with clay heave? Is the clay pushing the membrane up through the stone?


    • Hi Andy,

      that would seem to be the problem.

      I’ve attached a photo of the area in question. We put the gravel drive, block paved threshold and gates in place. The (steeper) tarmac section was already in place. 

      The nearest part of the gravel section is now approx 200-250mm below the previous ground level.

      Client is claiming I should have been aware of this outcome beforehand and should now be ‘putting it right’.

      Have suggested fitting a soakaway cell but not sure if this would work due to clay and proximity to building. Had also thought about possibly excavating deeper and putting in some MOT3 before MOT1.





  • PRO

    How to reduce the effects of ground heave following tree removal
    Foundations can be difficult enough to get right without the added problem of nearby or pre-existing trees.
  • PRO

    Is that a recent picture or from when the work was first completed?

    I assumed there would be signs of movement.


    • This was taken just before completion, but all gravel etc is in place. I do have a pic taken since but it’s saved on another device. 

  • try and get the other photo up is it all over or just one area wiich way dos the surface run beond the gates also in the photo the house wall looks wet do they park and clean there car on it, things do not add up

    in the last resort dos your liabilaty cover have legal cover on it or you usally can get 30 miniutes chat with a solcitor free 

    • Will root out the other photo.

      In answer to your questions though....

      It’s just one area. Front left of gravel. Approx 1 metre on from blocks and a metre from house.

      Surface run off from gated area is towards area in question. Behind gates is a concrete slab with gravel on top (at clients request).

      House wall is wet as gravel had just been hosed down to wash quarry dust off. 

      And yes, I do have legal cover. 

  • Have you thought about just removing the membrane where you have the problem?............... a quick, cheap and simple solution.  One of my "regulars" has a large gravelled area with a hideous blue tarpauline a few inches below the surface. This would regularly poke up above the shingle so I just removed it in the problem areas...............  problem solved + there was no obvious difference in any weed growth that appeared on the gravel.

  • PRO

    I’m with Graham, cut the sheet out.

    Presumbly the water is building up below the sheet with about 450 mm head on it, half a tonne of water with that head will easily lift a sheet, despite the stone weighing it down.


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