Whilst Technical Roofing Consultant John Mercer’s columns are all about best practice skills and the practical side of roofing, this month he’s also looking at the steps he feels roofers can take to lift the public’s perception of the sector and boost roofing’s reputation…
Unfortunately, our industry has more than its fair share of ‘dodgy roofers’ who taint the roofing sector’s image in the minds of the public. During my work, I come across far too many homeowners who have been left with sub-standard work, very often with little or no recourse because the ‘so-called’ roofer has either disappeared or refuses to deal with any problems once they have been paid.
Therefore, it is up to us in the roofing business to promote good practice as much as possible to ensure clients get value for money and raise the reputation of our industry.
Below, I’ve picked a few key considerations and steps that I feel will help those who want to do things right and ultimately raise the perception of roofing and roofers in the eyes of homeowners and other external stakeholders.
An online presence is a must for those wanting to promote their business and raise their profile, ideally an attractive, easy to navigate website, full of useful information to help clients make their choices. Add links to other sites, such as the Planning Portal at www.planningportal.co.uk to enable clients to do further research. Encourage feedback by using an online, independent platform such as Trustpilot to hopefully gain some good reviews.
Ensure the client has a realistic expectation of the end result. I get called into many disputes between the client and roofer about marks on the roof tiles. It is no good showing them a pristine sample tile in a presentation box if the actual tiles delivered to site don’t quite live up to it. Roof tiles and slates delivered to site inevitably have minor scuff marks, which, in most cases, quickly weather off. EN 490: the Standard for concrete tiles, and EN 1304: the Standard for clay tiles, contain descriptions of acceptable surface characteristics, such as minor superficial cracks, scratches, and abrasions. Mild efflorescence can develop temporarily on many building materials, including roof tiles. Surface colour will change through natural weathering, particularly on concrete tiles, and moss and lichen growth can occur in certain areas. Make sure the client is made aware of these.
For old roofs, where there is noticeable settlement in the rafters, make the client aware that whilst it is possible to mitigate some of the ‘waviness’ in the new roof covering, some may remain.
Ensure you are fully up to date with current Building Regulations. Remember that if the homeowner plans to completely re-roof their property, or replace more than 25% of the existing roof, or add an extension that is at least 25% of the size of the existing house, then extra work is required to upgrade the home’s insulation to comply with current Building Regulations’ thermal requirements. For a home with a cold roof space, or loft, it’s usually just a matter of adding extra insulation over the existing insulation. For a home with a living space in the loft, or if a loft conversion is planned, insulation will be required between or over, or under the rafters, or a combination of measures. Check with the insulation supplier and get their specification for compliance with Building Regulations’ thermal performance requirements.
When offering roofing materials, remember that for re-roofing works the replacement covering should be within 15% of the weight of the original. If the new covering is substantially heavier than the original, then the roof structure may need to be reinforced. If the new covering is lighter, extra bracings may be required to secure the roof structure to the walls to prevent wind uplift.
Trade body membership
Ideally, be a member of a nationally recognised trade association such as the National Federation of Roofing Contractors (NFRC). Not only does this add credibility to the roofer, but it means that clients can visit the trade body website and search for their member contractors in their area.
The power of recommendations by a client’s friend, family member or neighbour who have previously used a contractor should not be underestimated, particularly in streets where the houses are all close to the point of requiring replacement roofs, or where homeowners want a house extension after seeing their neighbours get one. So, whilst the standard of work is crucial, how you interact with clients is also very important.
Competent Person Scheme
For the client, choosing a roofer who is a member of a Competent Person Scheme, such as NFRC Roofing Competent Person Scheme, has major benefits. Member roofers are qualified to self-certify their work for Building Regulation compliance and can issue a Building Regulation Compliance Certificate.
In addition, the homeowner will receive an insurance backed 10-year guarantee. This ensures that if there was a fault with the roofing work and the contractor has ceased trading, remedial works will be carried out at no extra expense to the homeowner.
Even if roofing work is not done under the Competent Person Scheme, it can be a good idea to offer an insurance backed guarantee. This will be an extra cost to the client, but it can be attractive as it is independent of a contractor’s own guarantee, which would be worthless if that contractor went out of business.
Disputes can arise where the relevant permissions were not applied for. Legally, the homeowner is responsible for applying for any necessary Building Regulation or Planning approvals, however, I would always encourage the roofer to guide the homeowner through the process.
Finally, some advice on home extensions. Due to their nature, many domestic lean-to home extensions require the roof to be set at a very low pitch, often below the minimum pitch of the roof tiles. It may be possible to choose roof tiles that are suitable for the low pitch, but, very often, the new roof tiles must match the existing ones on the main roof, so this may not be possible. In these cases, careful detailing of the underlay is required, and approval may be required for the roof tiles and sub-roof construction from the local Building Control department.
In an ideal world, there would be national media campaigns to advise the public how to choose their roofing contractor and to publicise initiatives and organisations like the NFRC Roofing Competent Person Scheme. However, that is not likely to happen, so it is up to us in the roofing business to promote best practice as far as we can.