When I needed a roofer to replace the flat roof on my new house, I was unable to get any personal recommendations from friends, colleagues, family, etc., so I resorted to the Net.
There are two well known websites in the UK that purport to help you find reliable traders. Reading their blurb definitely left me with the impression that if something went wrong, they would help me, the contractee.
Well something did go wrong.
I hired a contractor who had very good reviews on both of those sites. On his first site visit, he impressed me with how keen and together he was, so I hired him.
Timing was critical, I needed the roofer to collaborate with the window fitters because part of each contractors’ work overlapped. The windows had a 6 week lead time, so everything was on hold until then.
As the big day got closer and I was finalising details with the roofer, I started to find that communications between us were getting more problematic. This worried me but with the tight timing, I felt I could not risk being able to find someone to replace him.
The work started. It was a very cold November and each day a window or two would be pulled out and replaced, a section of roof ripped off and replaced. The house open to the cold all day, then sealed up each night. This went on for two weeks.
I began to notice and raise issues with the roofer. Voids in the insulation, sloppy woodwork, huge over-ordering of materials that later disappeared with no explaination, fitting the wrong skylight etc., etc.
No, he said, it was all normal … “You worry too much” etc.
With a half finished roof, I felt I had no option but to let him finish.
The first day it rained after he finished, I went up onto the roof and found it covered in deep frozen pools of water.
I was shocked. This is not what I expected. The angle of the slope of the roof (the fall) had been defective in the original roof and this was an issue that he was supposded to have fixed. Looking back over my photos from the time I realised he had broght a full set of new firrings (long tapered peices of timber to create the correct slope) but never used them.
I raised the issues, witheld final payment and tried to get a reasonable response out of him. To no avail … it dragged on.
I contacted the recommendation company’s complaints department, the broker who offered the insurance, the manufacturers of the roofing materials, everyone initially said “that looks wrong”, so I persevered. Time passed, the roofer becoming more and more irrate, more entrenched in his position that nothing was wrong.
All of this time, my contact in the complaints department was acting very supportive but nothing was actually happening.
Having tried and failed to get an opinion from an independant surveyor etc., I paid the roofing material manufacturer to do a survey. The guy pointed out many more defects in workmanship, breaches of best practises, that I had not known about but when they wrote the final report, changed their mind, left out all of the detail and stated basically that yes, the work was poor quality but the materials were so good, it did not matter. The roof was “adequate”. Not a word I like.
The roofer took me to court for non payment. I no longer had any “proof” of his malpractice, so had to decide to settle out of court. It was heartbreaking.
Then I began to realise there had been an uncanny echo of conversations I had had with complaints department plus the manufacturer, when talking to the roofer.
Then it finally dawned on me … I was not the client of either of the recommendation companies, the roofer was. The roofer paid fees to be listed on their sites. Their complaints departments were not there to help limit my exposure to rogue traders, they were there to limit the damage to the trader when their work went wrong.
This is the basic lie that those organisations promote.
Don’t trust them, they are not in this for you.
As a final test, I wrote this review on both sites to see if they would actually publish it:
Predatory business practices and shoddy workmanship. I did not expect to have a roof replaced without rectifying existing defects. The new roof continues to suffer from pooling. In addition, some areas of the felt is not laid properly but has air pockets and the roofing material is installed incorrectly around the skylight creating new pooling. He responded poorly to my complaints, has not even visited the site. The felt manufacturer, who I paid to inspect the roof said their materials were so good, even this poor work will result in an adequate roof. Not the outcome I wanted when I hired him.
They both eventually published the review. Around 20 pages in, where no one would find it.
Oh and the roof leaks, from the side because, as he admits, he never sealed around the edges properly.