Problems with roofer


We’ve got a bit of a problem with a roofer that I’m sure isn’t remotely unique / unusual but we are at a bit of a loss as to what to do now…

Here goes - hope you are sitting comfortably…

We bought a house around 18 months ago with a leaking roof despite the owner (private sale) assuring us many times it didn't leak. We had a local roofer try to patch it up to no avail and the consensus was that it needed replacing as was totally shot.

Instead of pursuing the viche cache etc. against the seller we just decided to get it replaced and move on. After some pretty eye watering quotes for our big roof (around 300m2) we were recommended a roofer by a friend who had just had his roof done.

The roofer quoted for us and said he could "squeeze" us in if we went for it ASAP - he is based around 2 hours away but works a lot in the area and he and his team stay in hotels etc. whilst doing the work. We are in department 74 which seems to be rather expensive for any sort of work so he seems to pick up work as can undercut the local firms.

His quote for changing the old tin roof for tiles and putting in 11 new velux windows (5 replacement and 6 new openings) was the same as a local firm to just change the tin roof like for like with no new / replacement velux.

He came highly recommended by our friend and had also done rooves for other friends of his who were also happy with his work, I also went to my friends house to take a look at his new roof and all looked good.

So we went for it hoping to put an end to our leaky roof – what could go wrong…!

So after a delayed start due to planning problems (our fault - we have a non-conforming septic tank...) he cracked on.

He talked a great game but as time passed it became clear that he was out of his depth with our roof - it's a 200-year-old farmhouse, the roof is very steep and there was a lot of rotten timbers due to the many years of a previous leaking roof and mostly old / undersized / bent chevrons etc. It also became clear that his estimated 2 weeks to do the work was way off and 6 weeks later he was still going strong. He was clearly used to working on much newer properties and just changing tiles like for like and this was obviously what he quoted (and bargained) for. He replaced a few of the chevrons that were totally rotten through but told me the rest were fine and also assured me literally dozens of times that the roof structure was strong enough to take the extra load of the tiles in place of the old tin roof.

During the work the site was a total mess and I had to speak to him several times about not just throwing the disposed stanley knife blades etc. on the floor as we have small children - our car got a puncture as there was permanently old rusty nails all over the place (as well as sandwich wrappers and general mess / waste). Needless to say after his “nettoyage maximal” upon leaving it wasn't much cleaner so we spent many hours cleaning up after him.

During the work he didn't bother to cover the roof in any way and twice it rained overnight when there was no roof covering so we had big leaks where it soaked through the insulation and ran down the lambris - each time I spent the whole night running round with a mop and bucket trying to clear up the worst of it off the wooden floors. When just the underfelt was on (before the tiles were placed) despite his assurances that it was "impossible" for it to leak it still leaked like mad, usually around the velux's as the felt was clearly badly fitted. He just brushed this off and said it wouldn't leak once the tiles were on...

Anyway hoping all would be ok in the end we bit our tongue a bit and as it was only a few weeks before the birth of our second child so we had more important / interesting things to worry about. We therefore largely turned a blind eye to all this and only confronting him when things really annoyed us hoping that the mess / leaks etc. would be quickly forgotten when we had a spanking new roof.

As it was the summer it didn’t rain for something like 6 weeks after he finished (and we'd paid him) but needless to say 3 of the velux's and the chimney flashing leaked (a lot) during the first rainfall - he's subsequently come back and attacked them with a silicon gun and it seems better but sure it's only a temporary bodge, he even told me it was a "mystery" why they leaked which I think sums up nicely his level of expertise.

Shortly after paying him he closed his company and the decennale he showed us originally he didn't renew for another year so it expired during the job – he told me he’d renewed it and was just waiting on the new attestation from the insurance company which he would send over as soon as he got it, it never materialised and after pushing him on it he eventually conceded he hadn’t renewed it.

I've subsequently found a (very friendly and sympathetic) local independent structural engineer / building expert who came and looked at the roof due to my ever failing confidence in the work and because I could also see some of the main timbers and the chevrons bending due to the weight of the tiles which replaced the existing (very light) tin roof.

Under his guidance / expertise we've had two of the main horizontal beams reinforced by a local firm he recommended as at considerable cost and he said when I redo the insulation / plasterboard on the inside (the roof is all habitable space) I should look to reinforce many of the chevrons as they are too far apart and underspecced for the tiles and (guaranteed) snow. With regards to reinforcing the beams we just got it done ASAP as winter / snow was fast approaching and in any case I wouldn't have trusted the original roofer to do the work. The new carpenter / roofer who did the work was like a breath of fresh air - he worked closely with the structural engineer and did an excellent job and unsurprisingly was very neat and tidy and respectful of our property / house.

Move on I thought - we've got the main beams reinforced and will reinforce the chevrons myself - however in looking at his (not so handy) work further it seems that the breathable “roof” underfelt he has used on most of the roof is actually for vertical use under bardage / wooden cladding on external walls which may well be ok but of more annoyance is that on parts of the roof he has used non-breathable membrane so when I removed the old insulation I was faced with a huge amount of condensation sitting on the felt and timbers – obviously he told me he would be using breathable membrane which is “obligatory” as we have an insulated / habitable roof space. I’m also pretty sure the standard sized liteaux he has used are too small for the wide spacing of many of our chevrons as can see them bending in places - neither of these things can be rectified without taking the roof off. There are plenty of other more minor gripes but won’t mention these as will congratulate you if you’ve managed to read this far already…!

I've contacted him since (via email) stating my concerns and telling him that we had to have the structure reinforced and he has basically replied saying that due to my negotiations on price he was doing the whole thing on a tight budget so he didn't change / reinforce many of the chevrons etc.

He didn't deny anything re the incorrect underfelt etc. but this was also clearly a consequence of him doing it all as cheaply as possible. He also basically alluded that we should have replaced the whole lot (obviously at a greater cost) but this was the first time he’s mentioned this – when we first met him and even during the work he assured us the chevrons were totally fine and replacing them would be a waste of money.

His final comment however was that he was starting a new company in the spring so he would give us a new devis / facture and decennale from the new company so we could look to claim against his newly formed firm with our complaints.

Complaining against his company may work but I can't say I'm all that keen on committing insurance fraud in looking to claim against his decennale. It wouldn't exactly take much detective work from an insurance company to find out that we had the roof done in 2015 and not 2016. Clues like the date of planning permission and the roof not looking quite so "new" would be a start and would require us either not submitting any photos to them or doctoring the date of when they were taken – we also live in a very small hamlet surrounded by (very friendly) neighbours.

What to do now I've no idea – him operating without a decennale I believe is pretty serious but assume will only impact him and he's now closed his company / gone bankrupt so sure not much will happen to him. Any further remedial work will also no doubt have to be paid for by us and will most sensibly mean pretty much starting again which we can't afford. Even if we had a decennale I’m not sure it would cover poor workmanship – sure he’s just argue we just asked him to stick tiles on the existing roof and that’s what he did.

Probably the most ironic thing is that I have done all the renovations to the house to date myself but the roof change was clearly a job too far so left it to the “professionals”. Having parted with tens of thousands of euros we now still have a leaking roof but one that also bends / sags under the weight of some nice new tiles.

I can speak to the expert again and get him to fully assess the job but with no decennale and a bankrupt company not sure this will achieve much other than make me more annoyed / frustrated that I let it all happen in front of my eyes and then paid him in full for it.

Lots of lessons learned the hard way – of further annoyance this is the second house in France we have “done up” so not exactly a rookie in France / houses which just makes it all the more frustrating that I slipped up in choosing such an all round terrible tradesperson.

Answers on a postcard please or if anyone has a time machine they wouldn’t mind lending me…

Thanks for taking the time if you got this far..!

There is a metal specialist in Seyssel. I will see if I can get you the name later this evening, but they're on the way out of Seyssel, on the straight line as you head towards Aix. We have been to them a couple of times with bits and bobs we needed doing.

I know - it's a bit all over the shop...!

Interesting Link

There are a couple of places near me in Dinan and Rennes - but that's some 900km from you so perhaps you could ask someone like a local farmer who they use as they're always using heavy steel.

The roof reinforcing job I was referring to was one I did in the UK.

only replying at the bottom here to try and make it a little easier to follow

:) Good luck with that Chris


Thanks all for your replies to date - only replying at the bottom here to try and make it a little easier to follow as opposed to replies all over the place.

In response to an above post regarding the delay due to the non-conforming septic tank was at our end as the mairie were delaying our application (we were adding velux's etc.) as our tank didn't conform and they wanted to make sure we well well under the way to replacing it before giving us permission for the roof - this was nothing to do with the roofer but he had to wait until the permission came through to start the work.

It seems the "fault" was that I used an unscrupulous roofer - however I can confirm per he has been in the roofing trade for 15 years and has a french registered business - he is / was not an ex-pat cash in hand job - if it were I would be little less disgruntled / surprised. Nevertheless it seems that the error is mine in that I didn't fully vet his credentials / claims of ability (and therefore decide not to use him) as opposed to the roofer telling a few tall tales and more annoyingly cutting corners to make the job more profitable for him.

I think I'll go and see an advocat / hussier and explain what has happened to see if there's any point in pursuing further but I suspect not so will be making good myself, either personally or via another firm.

Make 'em

Hi - where did you source the metal strips and don't assume they are a standard offering in the brico places.

Chris, today a roofer was at the house I rent! I’ve been chasing my landlady a very long time to get several things fixed. Today was the start thanks to my going to the local Huissier with my problems. He listened to my story and came along to have a look, took several photos and I gave him copies of all correspondence - he agreed all was not good! A Huissier is cheaper to go initially than a lawyer. But yes it will cost you - unfortunately my Huissier/s were in the middle of a changeover of bureaux so I’ve had to pay a little extra because my file was transferred to the new one taking over. Both have said I can take my case before a judge to recover costs I’ve had to pay, plus compensation + get permission to stop paying rent. It’s an option I’m very seriously considering doing. My landlady has refused to meet with the Huissier at his request, as she also refused to meet with my Assistante Sociale inOctober 2014. I have plenty of written correspondence between me, the landlady, the Asst Soc plus the Huissier Constat to back me up.

So to roof problems - the upstairsroof space was converted at some time in past to make 3 bedrooms and a bathroom - similiar to your space I assume. The remaining loft space here is quite small, and the walls and ceilings poorly and incorrectly insulated - I was told there is a lot of condensation by one of the roofers.
After they left this morning I googled loft condensation, to discover there should be a water proof membrane under the tiles but on top of the insulation, to stop that getting damp. It’s probably also got something to do with inadequate ventilation here as well.

So it’s a question of whether or not you think it worthwhile pursuing all your costs involved via a Huissier and or Judge to win your case. If you go to a judge yes you would need an Advocat but those costs would also be included in your case, I’ve been told by the Huissier.

It’s not only my money but my health has been affected by damp and mould also.

As to ex pat recommendations - I’ve a couple of experiences of those myself and one thing I’ve learnt is be wary of those who say they are experts when you want to employ them, especially repeatedly say you can trust them, especially if those doing the work are ex-pats themselves!

I’d put more trust and faith in a local French professional/tradesman any day. They don’t ask for cash, are properly registered, with a siret no., or are S.A.R.L registered, so can be checked out, they’ll also give you a Devis and a Facture on completion if doing building or repair works.
Probably doesn’t help you much, but in my case with age comes a little bit more wisdom.

My landlady works in the Conseil General bureau, she is not hard up and has already had enough in rent from me to pay for the works that need doing. She owns other rented property also I was told, but whether that can be sequestrated or not under French law I don’t know, in the same way a legal charge can be made on property in the UK.

Hello Chris,

Although you have given a comprehensive outline of the situation, in short you have been the victim of a basic rogue builder. I cannot see the link between a planing application for the roof/velux windows and a non conforming fosse septique and perhaps suspicions would hve arisen at that stage. I would urge you not to embark on any course of conduct in relation to submitting any claim against his "new company". Are you in a position to disclose the extent of your loss. What was the daily rate or was it a job and finish arrangement. Can anyone shed light on what the daily rate is for this type of project?

In any case Chris I wish you all the best and hope you reach satisfactory resolution.

Probably right but they don't have insulation either!

I think if you make holes and leave the insulation and fit plasterboard it is bound to get condensation or water leakage so it is almost certain to rot.

The safest thing to do might be to leave the membrane in place and leave the inside open without insulation. A bit more expensive to heat and hotter in the summer but would avoid having to replace most of the roof timber if it rotted under the plasterboard. Even if you have to end up stripping the roof and replacing the membrane it will only be a labour cost as you already have the tiles and will only need a bit more membrane. You will only need to strip the area over the wrong membrane. If yo get Velux to come and inspect the leaking rooflights they can advise what needs to bedone to fit the flashing correctly. As the roof was originally tin I wonder if it might be too shallow for tiles and thus more susceptible to rain blowing under as we had. It was quite easy to fix once we had worked out what was going on. I think you would be most unwise to fit insulation and plasterboard under the roof without an intact membrane as it is sure to leak sooner or later as the tiles move or crack.

Velux France can be contacted here

Pour trouver la plaque d'identité de votre fenêtre VELUX cliquer ici :

That's what I thought... it's more about him re-arranging his figures and has little or no impact on you.
If he is that scared, perhaps you could use it as pressure and tell him you want either a fix, or part of the money for a fix.

I'll second that. Add steel. (loads of it)

Me neither and aware that any water infiltration will the insulation underneath but it's either that possible risk or have a definite risk of condensation and rotting timbers.

Not sure about the foam solution but looking to move ahead with insulating etc. and don't have the budget for further third party work.

Guess many of the older French roofs still don't have any membrane at all with no major problems.

It will cost him nothing to reissue the invoice / decennale in the name of the new company except a few minutes of time - if I am happy with this (which I am not) he'll also think that I won't shop him for not having decennale insurance when he did the job first time round.

I'm sure the new invoice will never see light of day when it comes to his accounts / taxes.

He's just pretending he did the job in 2016 and not 2015...

The two main purlins have been reinforced by another firm so the plan is to attach new chevrons next to the old sitting on the purlins,

Not ideal I'm sure but should to some extent straighten the old ones a little as they are bent due to the span between purlins (4 metres) and the guy this morning and the structural engineer are both confident that the current chevrons will not fail even under snow load etc.

PS not actually "directed" at anyone. A thought intended to be helpful.

Understood. I guess the short length of the original rafter across the purlin would support the strengthened rafter well enough (as long as the purling wasn't undersize as well).

If that is directed at me? You simply go between the purlins. You aren't going lift them any time soon...

It gives you more space to bulk up on the insulation and stiffens the rafter at the same a goodun.....excepted by all building control given a few "calcs"....David can tell you all about them no doubt.