Avoiding The Cowboys
|Few people relish the thought of spending money on their roof, but if it lets you down one stormy night then everything you cherish is at risk. In the worst cases, tiles have been stripped from roofs like playing cards by the wind and the unfortunate owners have had to stand by and watch helplessly as the rain poured in. It isn’t only old roofs that suffer as many new roofs are also destroyed in high winds. Given that materials are put to the test in wind tunnels of 100mph plus, this is surprising, but in many cases the problem lies not with faulty materials, but with poor workmanship.
The roofing industry, even compared with other building trades, has more than it’s fair share of ‘cowboys’. Many set up business with little more than a couple of ladders and a second-hand van. Some don’t even bother with public liability insurance, so when their hammers drop right through the roof of your conservatory, they simply drive off into the sunset. One of the reasons why cowboys survive in the roofing trade is that it is difficult for you to inspect their work. One way to keep a check on what they are doing is to look through binoculars. Reputable roofers won’t mind you taking an interest, and even if you don’t have a clue what you are looking for, the very sight of you examining may be enough to stop contractors cutting corners. However, if you choose a reputable roofer in the first place, there should be no need to worry. You should have nothing to do with doorstep callers who tell you they are ‘in the area and have noticed your roof needs attention’. Instead, ask friends for recommendations or contact the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC).
We recommend that you get written quotations from at least three companies and, when you have decided which contractor you prefer, ask to see some examples of their work in your area. Before they start, get a written guarantee, preferably underwritten by a scheme to cover you if the contractor ceases trading. Finally if you feel you would like an independent survey of your roof, contact the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).
Cutting the Cost
Sometimes your roof will require less work than you think. If it is old and needs constant upkeep, it is unwise to keep patching it up, so you will need to replace it completely. However, the odd slipped slate or tile may only need re-fixing securely. Slates usually slip when their fixing nails have corroded , a condition known in the trade as ‘nail sickness’.
Even though the slates may be perfectly sound, many contractors automatically recommend replacing them with new cement fibre substitutes simply because they are keen to make money on materials. But if your slates can be reused, you have the option of stripping the roof, laying underfelt and battens, then refixing the old slates back on with copper nails. You can then replace breakages with matching reclaimed slates. A reliable roofer will probably have access to some, but if you select them yourself avoid slates that show signs of surface flaking (this usually occurs on the back). Another option might be to reuse your old slates on one side of the roof and put new slates on the other side (you can usually only see one side of a roof at a time, so getting an exact match may not be necessary).
If the old slates can not be saved and the new ones are too expensive, you need to look at the alternatives. The main points to consider with any roofing material are: its cost, its appearance (as it will change the look of the house) and the weight of the covering. Another option may be to consider using man-made materials instead of natural slate.