And the reason for all this? I've just had a new roof put on my house.
I've mentioned before I live in a small cul-de-sac of town houses... six-storey houses with flat roofs. The reason for the six storeys is that from the side elevation the house looks like this.....
From the front or back of the house, there are only three storeys, but once inside the staircase winds centrally through the house and through the six storeys. The roof, as you can see, is in two parts - an upper roof and a lower roof. On the very top level (to the top left of the diagram) is a bedroom and bathroom and from the bathroom window you can look down onto the lower roof. This sets the scene for my story.
The roof is 24 years old and, as anyone with a flat roof will know, that is ancient. It hadn't failed me and would probably have been going strong for a while longer, but it had got to that stage where I began to think my luck might not hold out much longer and it would be better to replace it while it was still keeping out water, than wait for a deluge, a crack and be swept away in the current. What with the washed-out summer we have just had, the miserable wet autumn and thoughts of cold snowy wet winters ahead, I decided to bite the bullet and have the roof replaced now. I also decided that while the roof was off, I would also invest in roof insulation as well to do my bit for the planet.
I did a bit of research on roofing companies but decided to pick a small family business which had been going strong for the last three decades. They have a website and it looks friendly and cosy, like a comfy pair of slippers, and I felt we could get on famously. More than half the employees (both workmen and office staff) are related with a few non-family members thrown in. I should have maybe got a few other quotes in, but since it is all down to gut reaction anyway, I decided I was happy with that one. I arranged for them to come along to look at what needed doing and the owner turned up the next day. I thought it a bit strange that our entire meeting was done outside the house, including the bits about possible price and other details. Not that I have secrets fom my neighbours, but I kinda didn't want the whole street to be involved with the discussion. Mums were coming back to the cul-de-sac with their kids from school runs and it was a bit of circus rather than a quiet meeting.
When the estimate came in, I gulped a bit but it was within the price range I had expected it would be, so was not unduly alarmed. But they had missed a significant detail out and when I wrote back to clarify whether that detail was included in the price or they had left it off, the owner said he had forgotten to include it, but as a gesture of goodwill he would let me have it for free, as I was now a pensionner. So far, so good.
I wrote back agreeing to the work and signed their terms and conditions which basically covered such things like having no comeback if cracks appeared in my ceilings, or not being able to alter the slope of the roof (it's flat, so no problem), and not holding them to keeping my TV aerial in its place etc. After a week or so had passed, I had heard no more, so casually rang up to ask when they might be able to start the work. I was told it was scheduled for a few days from then, but nobody had bothered to telephone or write to tell me, so that was slightly alarming. Having told them I could not be there for that date, we agreed a date a week later.
The scaffolders turned up to erect a scaffolding tower and also drilled holes in my upper brickwork to put a fence around the perimeter of both roof levels. Nobody had told me there would be holes in the brickwork, but I was assured it would be filled in when the scaffolding was being removed. The roofers were due to start on a Monday, but by midday had not turned up and when I rang, the office serenely told me (in the kind of tone to suggest my psychic powers had definitely let me down and should have told me) that they were still on another job.
On Tuesday, the men turned up and to be fair worked like Trojans. They did not stop once from 8am though to 4pm. I plied them with endless cups of tea and coffee and would climb to the top of the house each time to pass the cups through the bathroom window. It meant too I could have a peep at what they were doing at each stage of the process. About 40 huge great insulation slabs each the size of dining tables were hoisted up and laid on the surface before several layers of felt was fixed over them.The men did not even have any lunch and one of them did not even get down from the roof all day, so goodness knows what he was using as a toilet, although I have a pretty good idea! The same happened on Wednesday and Thursday. I thanked my lucky stars that the weather was fantastic and the sun shone its head off for all three days.
The main roofer seemed to have plenty to say against his boss, giving pretty good vibes that all was not harmonious, and said his boss had little understanding of the problems that could suddenly crop up which meant that he always underallocated time on these jobs and meant this particular roofer had to work like crazy to get things done.
The job was finished on the Thursday and I heaved a sigh of relief as I'm not very good with sharing my home with workmen or making small talk, as I pass the tea and coffee over to them.
On the Friday and Saturday the sun continued to shine and I forgot all about the roof. On Sunday it rained and boy, did it rain! The heavens opened and the rain came down in stair-rods. I was suddenly reminded of the roof, so ran up two steps at a time to the top of the house, to admire my beautiful new roof through the bathroom window and see how it was coping. This is what I saw......
After four hours of rain it looked like this.........
The puddle was 16 feet long, about two feet wide and probably about an inch deep. I naturally panicked and texted the boss on his mobile. He seemed a bit taken aback that I could see it and at first must have wildly imagined I was dangling from the scaffold in the rain with my camera. I said I was not happy with the water collecting on the roof. He seemed completely laid back about it and said all flat roofs have pooling. He pointed out, that he had not altered the slope or fall of the roof, I must have had water on it before but that because my old roof had a layer of gravel on it, I had simply not seen it before. I pointed out that my neighbour's roof was exactly the same construction as mine and also had no gravel, but did not have a vestige of water on it. Long story short, the texts went back and forth between us but he did not seem too fussed and seemed to dismiss everything I said. He did say he would send the workmen back the next morning to have a look and they dutifully turned up at 7.30 am to "get me out of the way before they started their other job". They were up and down from the roof within minutes and said it was fine and the water would eventually evaporate, although if any more rain came, it would just wash over the edge and not get any worse. I was made to feel I was fussing about nothing.
As the week went on, the amount of water did get worse. I kept inviting the owner to come and see for himself, but he refused to come out, kept on talking down to me as if I were an idiot and said it was not a problem. I then got the invoice through the post and was on the verge of signing the cheque, when I got an email from Trading Standards whom I had contacted earlier in the week. They said I should get a second opinion from another roofer, as the problem did not sound right. The second opinion said I should not accept that size of puddle under any circumstances. By now I was getting more than a little worried and didn't know how much or whom to trust. So I decided to get a third opinion from the trade association. I thought it prudent to email the owner to say I was doing this and would not pay until I had spoken to the trade association about it. The logic in this was that the invoice had to be paid within 5 days of receipt or otherwise I had to lodge a written complaint by then instead. At this point the owner went completely ballistic and accused me of blatantly trying to avoid payment and, if I did not pay in full within 24 hours of receiving the invoice, he would put the matter in the hands of his solicitor and I would be charged all legal fees. I literally didn't sleep a wink all that night. Or the next night. The day after that, I finally got to speak with the appropriate contact at the trade association and they assured me that, although it was not an ideal situation and the roof company should have made sure that water could drain off properly, the roof would nevertheless cope and, if not, I would at least have the guarantee to fall back on. They suggested I only pay three quarters of the bill and then only the final quarter once I had the guarantee. When I told him this, the owner went ballistic again and said that he would only issue the guarantee if I paid in full. What a nice man. With my arms tied well and truly behind my back, I have paid the £4000 in full, as I am sick of the whole thing and just want an end to it. I'm still left worrying whether I have done the right thing to pay up when I am so unhappy about the outcome, but fingers crossed that the owner keeps to his word and that the guarantee comes through the post in the next few weeks as promised ....
Meanwhile, one thing is certain - I never want to replace a roof ever again.