Paul and Wendy Booth have to sign in when they enter their home and sign out when they leave. Sometimes this annoys them.

But health and safety regulations dictate that all visitors – even this retired couple who own the property – have to write their name, time of arrival and time of departure on a form in the kitchen.

Almost 17 months after Storm Desmond, Paul and Wendy’s detached house at Crosby-on-Eden is still a building site. The ground floor is at the same stage of repair that hundreds of Cumbria’s flooded homes were a year ago.

Dusty plastic sheets cover the floors. Walls are coated in still-drying plaster. Internal doors and skirting boards are missing.

The house next door also flooded in December 2015. It was ready to live in again last autumn. “They started work in June 2016,” says Paul. “I was given June 2016 as a finish date.”

The Booths are among 300 Cumbrian households for whom the pain of Storm Desmond drags on. And on.

In their case, tradesmen’s incompetence is keeping them out of their home and in temporary accommodation. Their original builder sub-contracted work to people who the Booths believe were not up to the job.

“They started in March 2016,” says Paul. “From then to the beginning of this year there were 40 weeks. They said it would take 10 weeks. At the end of last year it wasn’t finished. It was worse than when they started.”

There is a long list of botched jobs. Wendy says: “As part of flood resilience we were recommended to have tanking [a waterproof cement] put onto the bricks. At the end of September we noticed cracks in the plaster that was put on top of it. The builder tapped it with a hammer and it came off. The manufacturer of the tanking investigated and said the correct procedure had not been followed.”

Paul adds: “We had wooden floors. We decided to put solid floors in. We agreed that the company that was going to do it would use a particular form of insulation. They didn’t follow the right procedure. They put the wrong insulation in – it was half the price of the stuff we specified. They took it out. That delayed us.”

Damp patches were found in the kitchen. A stopcock had not been fully turned off and water had leaked into the floor. It had to be dried out, again.

“This is the third set of door frames and the second set of doors,” says Paul. “They cut through telephone wires. They plastered the TV aerial lead to the wall without setting it in far enough. You could see the bulge. Everything they’ve done has been wrong.”

Wendy says the worst point came just before last Christmas. There had been numerous meetings. The builder had agreed to put things right. But a few days later they offered to give the Booths £7,000 in exchange for walking away from the job. This did not cover the cost of the remaining work.

“We declined,” says Wendy. “That was rather irritating and stressful, to say the least.”

The following month a higher offer was made and accepted. New builders have since been recruited and are trying to make up for lost time.

“It’s the lack of progress,” says Wendy. “There’s been so much to-ing and fro-ing. They’ve stopped giving us completion dates.

“We went on holiday in March. We didn’t want anybody in the house when we were away. You go a bit weird when all this happens. You can’t trust anybody. I think we’re getting to the hysterical stage now! You go over and over and over it in your head – what can I do about this?”

At least they have each other. Although even a rock-solid relationship – they have been married for 47 years – has been tested by this ordeal.

“We’ve had a few barneys,” says Wendy.

“It’s just the stress that gets to you,” says Paul. “It’s a nightmare. I’ve never experienced anything like it. I’ve never felt so helpless. You wake up at three in the morning thinking about it. It’s never off your mind.”

On the plus side, they are pleased to still have rented accommodation covered by their insurance. And one day they will be back home... one day. Wendy says: “People say ‘Are you back in the house?’ I say ‘Don’t ask’.”

Carlisle’s flood victims are painfully visible. Overflowing skips are a daily reminder seen by thousands.

Ann Hume, 55, is among north Cumbria’s hidden victims. Her home is in the middle of nowhere: otherwise known as the banks of the River Eden between Great Corby and Cumwhitton. Out of sight, out of mind. That’s how it sometimes seems to Ann.

“I thought I’d be back in six months,” she says. Clearly she was wrong. And there is still no end in sight.

Ann Hume

Ann’s home is a barn conversion whose beautiful riverside location has proved its downfall. The house was finished in November 2004. It flooded five weeks later.

“There was insurance then,” says Ann. “After that my insurance company said my new policy would be £1,000 a month.”

So she had no insurance when it flooded again during Storm Desmond. Because she owns a property which has lodgers – her parents’ old home in Carlisle – Ann is classed as running a business and is ineligible for many grants.

Money is tight. Her dream home remains frozen in December 2015, when volunteers helped her strip out the sodden interior.

Water reached three feet in 2005 and a few inches higher last time. The living room currently has a concrete floor after the carpet was swamped. The log burner is suffering a bad case of rust. Ann’s oil tank floated down the Eden. This helps explain her coat and woolly hat at the end of April. Her home offers little protection from the springtime chill.

“That time was so distressing,” she says of the flood’s aftermath. “It’s just mud everywhere. Throwing everything out. All the things I’d collected since I was young. Photographs, clothes, jewellery.

“I’ve still got the photographs. I couldn’t bear to throw them out. You can maybe still see little bits of them. Me when I was a little girl, or my father.”

Ann is single and has no children. At times it has felt like taking on the world alone. In the weeks after the flood she was helped by volunteers, including a Muslim group who travelled from outside Cumbria to help.

“They brought cleaning equipment, tools, food, everything. They came for a couple of weeks on and off. I was quite happy at that time. There was a lot of people here helping me. Workmen from Blackpool stripped the place. They drilled concrete off the walls. All the ripping out and stripping out was done. But I never found out if they will help you put the stuff back together again.”

Ann remains in limbo, trying to finance her home’s renovation. She has support from Carlisle Flood Recovery Centre.

Ann hopes to tile the walls so they can be hosed down if her house floods again. The tile floors in the kitchen were pressure-washed soon after the last flood and look pristine.

She does not expect to be able to sell her home, and doesn’t want to. Living here is her aim. She has been staying mainly at her parents’ former home.

“I’m trying to get on with my life as best I can,” she says. “I just don’t know what to do next. When you’re on your own you get a bit cocooned.”