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..!