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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    • Cheers Graham and Andy,

      my concern in cutting the membrane is not necessarily weeds but the type 1 (and gravel) migrating into the clay.......

      • Don't think that'll be a problem judging from my experience even though limited.............  I suspect that should a problem appear, it will be years down the line and well out of any perceived "warranty" on the work.   Sounds like a thoroughly unpleasant man that you certainly don't want to agravate any more than necessary!!  Some 30 years ago, I put down about 6" of peashingle straight onto a grassed area that had been treated with Roundup...........  still there with no problems.

      • PRO

        Hi Andy you are right if you cut that membrane the gravel would pump into the clay below. One method that I used myself some time ago was to add a second geotextile membrane between the mot1 and the granite chippings. This prevents the majority of the water from reaching the clay below thus reducing the heave. The only thing I would add is as there is a slight fall to the block paving end any water hitting this will stop and sink, so attach the membrane to the blocks  with pu adhesive below the surface and out of site. Having said that people with an attitude like his don't deserve your obvious care and attention.  Good luck and remember the good clients that make what you do really worthwhile. Chris.

  • dont do any more work for them is my advise i dont take kindly to threats like that, id of told him to do it and waste his money as if you did exactly what you quoted for did you reccomend that to him or did he ask for that to be done? does he seem the type that could afford to have you in court or is he running his mouth to get you to react, if he could afford court why did he not have the whold driveway done and instead agreed to gavel at the top of a messed up sinking slope im not an expert my any means just my opinion

    also in the photo it looks as if the gravel area is not acctuall level, is the membane level? or is it an even depth under the gravel from front to back? if the membrane is level could it be sliding out towards the sloped drive when vehicles move on it. as he drives up the slope the wheels leave the hard surface onto a loose surface and with  front wheel drive car could loose traction grab the stones which grab the membrane and drag it foward and to the surface?


    • Hi Norms,

      Thanks for your response.

      I definitely won’t be doing anymore work for him. Sad thing is, we got the job through word of mouth as one of their friends was so impressed with us. 

      I think he can afford the court option......and is definitively vindictive enough. Or it could be hot air. I’d love to know! I don’t take kindly to the threats either and have a very clear conscience. Just don’t want to go to court tbh. Nor does my other half. 

      They were planning to sell the place once the work was done so didn’t intend to spend a fortune hence putting gravel on the concrete behind the gates. But now, when I mention that they said budget was an issue at the quoting stage, they deny all knowledge!

      gravel area is sloped and yes membrane is an even depth under the gravel all the way.

      I thought the same about the traction. He drives a Disco. According to him, that couldn’t possibly be an issue with his 4*4 vehicle though.




      • i dont know what to do i take it youve tryed being nice about it a few times and he sounds like a dick so from my veiw you can either

        try to repair the work for free and keep him happy

        tell him to do one

        or give him hs money back and put the drive back how it was

        what do you feel he is trying to gain from it if he takes yout to court it probly cost more than the soak away so if hes got more money than sense he might do but highly unlikley maybe try pointing this out smart words usually stop hot headed types in there tracks ive used this with nationwide bank the said were gonna take you to court if you dont pay

        i said try it because your accountant wont let you spend thousands to recover a 100 is it just scare tactics like theese big companys try 

        has he said what he want you to do

        • Tried being nice. Already been round once to dig a bit deeper in the affected area and put more stone in, but problem has occurred again. That’s when I suggested a soakaway, which I’d have to charge for. Which I think is fair enough as I can’t always foretell the nature of the ground underneath.

          Thats when his tone changed and he threatened to destroy my company and told me that if I knew his career history I wouldn’t mess with him. He also said that as I’m not a qualified civil engineer, I shouldn’t have taken the job on. Even though my website and livery all advertise our services as Landscapers.

          He wants us to solve the problem but without paying a penny. I have considered offering a partial refund. Then get something in writing to say that’s the end of the matter. After that, tell him what I really think. But, the other part of me doesn’t want to back down and let him get away with it. Do, I’d like to know how watertight my case is I guess. 

          • did you have him sign a contract with terms and conditions was any paper work exchanged and signed ie. invoice / recipt i think if it comes to court there going to start by looking at the whole paper trail first as that is the only proof of comunication between you and the customer without knowing the ins and outs of all this it will be hard to get any real advise if you can afford id get some paid advice from a proffessional but they would also need to see the paper trail which proves what was agreed.

            what was the paper trail did y give him a contract or just an invoice maybe post up the paper work on here that was exchanged blanking out personal details and someone might be able to help more do you have t&cs that get agreed

  • PRO

    It makes more sense now.

    With concrete under the top area of gravel there is fast run off of water onto the top of the sloping area.

    But there must of been some sort of issue before the work was done.


    • Hi Andy, the area in question was a hard standing (tarmac an£ slabs) previously. So if there was a problem, it wasn’t apparent on inspection.

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