02 October 2010

The never-ending story of the double-glazing men

When we first moved into this house two decades ago, the wooden windows were rotten and needed replacing, even though the house is not all that old. As we couldn't find anyone interested enough to replace them with wooden frames, we decided to replace them with UPVC ones. The small family firm we found had done many job in the locality and we were pleased with what they did for us.

Roll forward two decades to 2010. There are some windows on the side of the house (up the stairwell) and a few others that we did not have done at the time, but now need some attention, and, as the health and safety clowns these days insist on proper scaffolding towers in case their darling workmen have to climb the dizzy heights of more than 6 foot, painting has become ludicrously expensive. I therefore decided it would be an investment to get them double-glazed as well as a very large patio window. The family double-glazing firm still advertise in the local paper and are still very successful.

About two months ago I called them and they came round very promptly to see me. George (the son of the original owner and now the Chief Director) and Bob (who proudly told me he was Bob the Builder!) were both very nice and helpful and didn't try to push anything on me like you hear of in some gory double-glazing tales. In fact, quite the opposite. They let their reputation speak for itself. Within 24 hours,all the paperwork had been sent through to me, I had paid the deposit and a date for installation was set. The 29th September. Bear that date in mind, dear reader. I repeat the 29th September. I could have had the job done earlier, but I wanted to start the project well after Kay had gone back to uni. My mother also needed some windows replacing at the front of her house. The previous owners of her house had had the back and sides of the house double-glazed but had not done the front. Now after years of trying to nurture the wooden frames, they too were going rotten and so, yes, you've guessed it, I decided to get my trusty local double-glazing firm in to do her windows too. About a month ago, George and Bob paid a visit to her, while I was there, and again with no pressure my mum decided to press ahead with her order too. Her installation was agreed for mid-October to give me time to sort out my house after my window installation before turning my thoughts to mum's. Their surveyor turned up separately at my house and then weeks later at my mum's house to measure up precisely, noting to the exact millimetre every nook and cranny and angle.

As you are probably well aware, the 29th September was this week. Now they have had two months to prepare for this and I appreciate that they operate a "just in time" system, whereby they only make up the windows a day or so before they are needed. It means they don't have to store huge amounts of raw materials unnecessarily in their factory and it also helps cashflow just to make up something before it is needed. However a week before they were due to come I got the first sniff that something was not quite right. They rang me up and said my patio window would need to be installed on another day as they would not have the kit for it in time. Surely they could have planned two months earlier for the kit to arrive "just in time" before it was needed? Not wishing to be a party-pooper, I said of course I didn't mind the job not being done on the same day and agreed with them that the patio window could be installed separately two days later on Friday 1 October. A day or so beforehand, I scanned for weather reports and, as luck would have it, on both days, heavy rain was forecast with blustery gales on the Friday to boot.

On Wednesday 29 September, the installation team turned up - a man in his late thirties and a boy of about 17. They were there to install the five windows, remember, three of which are on the stairwell. The man was shaven-headed and had a whole poem tattooed on his upper arm. I didn't get the chance to read it, as it seemed rude to stare at his arm whenever I did get the chance to get up close. He seemed pleasant enough though and proceeded to knock out every window first, leaving gigantic big holes in the house, big enough for an elephant to step through. The rain rained and the wind blew and I put on an extra layer. The young lad tore protecive covering off the new windows, carted out old windows, even clambered onto the roof to guide out an old window over the top landing, swept up broken glass. I plied them with that good old British staple - numerous cups of tea and chocolate biscuits - and tried to keep myself (and the dog and cat) out of their way. However by lunchtime, there was a second hint that things were not boding too well. Mr Tattoo told me that two of the three stairwell windows were not the right measurements and he had just told head office that the surveyor obviously needed a new tape measure. The windows would have to be remade and he would fit them on Friday when he came back to do the patio window. Meanwhile he would temporarily fit the ones he had brought with him and "foam them up" so they would stay in place and be watertight. The surveyor would apparently bear the cost of his mistake. (It would have been so much cheaper to get a new tape measure!) Mr Tattoo said goodbye to me mid-afternoon on Wednesday, saying he had got as far as he could, although only one of the five windows were actually finished. Two were almost finished (quite why not completely, I don't know) and of course the other two would be replaced again on Friday along with the patio window.

Thursday was bright and sunny with blue skies. Unlike Friday. On Friday the autumn leaves were swirling in circular patterns, the trees were bending in half, the rain was pounding down and creating huge puddles on the patio. Oh joy. Up at the crack of dawn, I made sure the patio curtains were down, all furniture nearby removed, walls washed and scrubbed. Curtains were either put in my washing machine or taken to the launderette to put in the gigantic one there. By teatime, I would be the proud owner of new windows and clean curtains (with years of nictoine stains washed out and smelling sweetly). At 10 am I got a phone call from the firm's office. Mr Tattoo had called in sick, so there would be nobody coming that day. However, as a special one-off, they had twisted someone's arm in another team to finish off the other windows and install the patio window on Saturday intead. They apologised profusely. What could I say? It wasn't their fault someone had called in sick. It happens to the best of us. In fact, if anything, I was a teensy bit relieved that my fourth kitchen wall was not going to be bashed out and exposed to the heavens raging outside.

Before and After

And so here we are today. Saturday. Up at the crack of dawn. No weekend lie-in for me. Busy busy busy inspecting and making sure everything was ready. Cat and dog bowls removed, so no splintery glass would fall in amongst the chicken and rice kibble. And there I sat until midday, too afraid to start anything major in case they arrived. I rang the office at 11 and got an answermachine. Well, it is Saturday. I rang again at 12 and from somewhere a voice said I would take my custom elsewhere. It might have been me! I slammed the phone down. Half an hour later, a very apologetic installation manager rang back. He said he could not contact the relevant installation team as they were not answering their phone. He had no idea what had gone wrong. He said he was as disappointed as me, as he had been at the factory till after six last night checking the order through and loading the van ready for this morning.

He promises me they will come on Monday to sort everything out.
Remember, I have to repeat this experience down at my mum's. Lord help me.


Furtheron said...

oh dear

elsy said...

good old british service then!

Kay L. Davies said...

Scary. We have old wooden windows and were told 9 years ago we might have to replace them. Luckily, they're not high up, and almost (almost) all of them have since been repainted on the outside. By a woman, I might add.
My husband, who is a dear man in many ways, is not inclined toward any do-it-himselfing or even to giving a thought to home maintenance.
If we both get hit by a train, the house will be worthless and his daughters will have to have it torn down.
I understand your pain, Addy, I really do.

Kelloggsville said...

Do you ever look at other people's houses and think "they just ordered windows and heyho they are done and look lovely" but rest assured my friend you are not alone, generally our experiences are much like yours...these things do have a habit of working out eventually...good luck for Monday.

The Merry said...

Did you hire the Godot Glazing company?

Manchester Lass, Now and Then said...

It's no wonder the British have a poor building reputation:( Fingers crossed for Monday, hope everything goes according to plan:) Linda

Nora said...

I feel for you. I wonder if it is because you are a woman living by yourself that they think they can pull this stunt on you. Are a lot of builders in England this unreliable or are these the exception? I would get very angry, but what good would it do?

Kit Courteney said...

Oh, how bloody annoying.

This sort of thing is my ABSOLUTE irritation-to-end-all-irritations.

You pay for a service and you get sh*t.


I'm currently going through something similar (ok, well not THAT similar!) with my poxy estate agent.

I feel a blog post coming on!

VERY best wishes for tomorrow though, and of course, crossing everything that you and your mum won't have the same trouble!

DogLover said...

It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good! You may be utterly frustrated, but we, your readers, have enjoyed a rivetting post! How well you write for us!

But if you compare these problems with some of the ghastly experiences you had with Greg's illnesses, they aren't really so very bad, are they?

Spencer Park said...

Blooming builders!!!

Working Mum said...

Sounds like the nice, family firm has grown too big and can't cope. I'm sure it will all be sorted in the end, it's just frustrating whilst it's going on. I hope they give you a big discount for the inconvenience.

dulwich divorcee said...

What a shame! You were very loyal to this firm and it looks like they are really letting you down. It's Monday today so I am crossing my fingers that you are getting some lovely windows installed! Hope so as it is pretty cold and miserable ....xxx

Jacob Shaw said...

Our service will never be like this! Poor quality, I can refer you to our website just check our website

Jade Graham said...

leading to condensation forming on the outside - it's been likened to coming out to your car in the morning and the www.forgetthesalesman.co.uk