PLEASE read before you start pricing your flat roofing project
The Dangerous Quality Gap Between ‘Value for Money’ and ‘Cheap”
Sooner or later, all your flat roofing research will bring you to the dreaded price conversation – where different roofers give you different costs and expectations.
Welcome to the minefield!
…One roofer tells you “quality costs” , and quotes a fee that feels steep.
…Another tells you “they’re ripping you off” and comes in at half the price – or lower.
…A third says, “you don’t need all those extras” and shaves off 20%.
Leaving you dazed and confused…wondering which way to turn.
Of course, it depends on who you talk to. But chances are, you will get dragged into the confusion - especially if you shop around for a low price.
Then you could easily make a decision that costs you more in the long-term…and brings extra cost, stress and upheaval in just a few years.
So we’d best get this out in the open, right here at the start:
No matter what any sales rep claims, quality costs – and “cheap” is dangerous. But that doesn’t mean you should accept a sky high price as gospel! You need to make sure you’re getting a rock solid roof, and value for your money. It’s a balancing act.
So let’s get into some home truths: who’s quoting you what, and why?
3 types of flat roofer: do you know the difference?
Broadly speaking, flat roofers come in these three guises:
1. The Rogue
2. The Novice
3. The Pro
They all work differently, all quote differently. Here’s what you need to know…
The Rogue Roofer
You’ve probably seen them exposed on TV consumer shows. They’ll put a leaflet on your car windscreen, making a ludicrous offer to tempt you in. Or they’ll knock your door and show you pictures of flat roofs they’ve printed from the internet.
Let them in, and they’ll do the hard sell using every trick they know:
…Throwing in technical terms (they don’t understand) – hoping you won’t notice.
…Claiming roofers “conspire” to keep their prices high.
…Dismissing essentials like insulation as “luxuries”!
…Inventing horror stories and stats, to put you off any roof they don’t fit.
They’ll quote you a fraction of the going rate, and back it up with a staggering 50 year guarantee.
(Yes, 50 years!)
For customers on a tight budget, it’s often too good to resist.
But when the contract’s signed, the nightmare begins…
They’ll start work straight away – ignoring the 14-day cooling-off period they’re obliged to give you under Consumer Contract Regulations.
They’ll bring in untrained labourers – because they can’t afford a crew of experienced, qualified roofers.
They’ll fit flimsy materials – not the strong, certified system they promised you. (They can’t fit that, because top manufacturers won’t deal with untrained installers!)
So now, you’ve got a low-grade roof that’s not designed to stay the distance…fitted by amateurs who’ll make rookie mistakes.
And it gets worse…
They’ll skip steps, or lower specifications for critical items. Not just insulation – there’s boarding, fixings, bonding materials...everything gets downgraded.
They’ll be flouting Building Control Regulations, and often invalidating your home insurance too.
It all looks legitimate while the work is going on. You might be none the wiser until a few months…or perhaps a few years…later, when the roof starts to fail.
So what happens?
The first signs could come early – like a draught that blows through the living space, even with the heating on full.
Later, if could be condensation clinging to windows and mirrors – a sign that vapours are lingering up in the roof space, and eating away at the timbers.
Or a few years on, water comes leaking through the ceiling. But by that time, the damage is done. Open up the roof, and the deck is rotten. It all has to come off – and you have to start over again.
Sadly, that’s when you’d realise your “roofer” has skipped town, and started trading somewhere else under a new name.
And that 50-year guarantee?
It turns out to be worthless – because it wasn’t underwritten by an insurance company.
FOR THE RECORD: no insurer would ever guarantee a flat roof for 50 years. The industry standard is up to 20 years – even if the roof is built to last twice as long. That’s how insurers work.
The Novice Roofer
Rogue roofers are con artists – purposely selling a dud product, to trick their customers out of their life savings.
But they’re not the only people who could botch your roof. There are novices, who may have better intentions…but still leave you saddled with an unfit roof.
A novice roofer is typically a tradesperson who doesn’t have the full set of skills for flat roofing – but offers the service, to fill the empty space in their order books.
Builders are the most common offenders, but others get in on the act too. Glazing firms especially.
But they’re not always from other trades. They could be wannabe roofers who believe – mistakenly – that they can learn as they go.
Either way, a novice roofer like this can’t build you a solid flat roof. They might do their best – but just like the rogue:
…They can only supply low-grade imitations materials.
…They charge too little to invest in quality fixings.
…They lack the skill or knowledge of a fully-trained flat roofer.
They may have watched a YouTube video or read some half-baked instructions, but this is a complex subject. They simply don’t know what they don’t know.
So – even if they mean well, the roof is doomed from the start.
BUT...like the rogue, they still get hired by customers who simply don’t know any better.
The Pro Roofer
A professional flat roofer is easy to spot:
- They’ll belong to a trade body, like The Federation of Master Builders or The Confederation of Roofing Contractors.
- They’ll be vetted and approved by schemes like CompetentRoofer or Trustmark.
- They’ll show you testimonials, or even put you in touch with happy customers.
- They’ll be able to answer all your questions – without dodging the issue or getting defensive!
- They’ll give you a fixed quotation, itemised line by line – not a figure they’ve plucked from the air and scrawled on the back of an envelope.
- They’ll give you a genuine guarantee – and invite you to check it, to make sure it’s backed by a known insurer.
- And when you sign a contract, they’ll give you time to cool off…unless the work is urgent and has to start right away.
Of course, we’re simplifying here!
These are all the hallmarks of a quality flat roofer. But you can’t put two side by side and expect an identical service.
In practice, one will be more thorough…more diligent…than the other. Taking time to understand all your needs in detail.
And occasionally, even pro roofers will get out of their depth – offering to build a roof type that’s outside their expertise:
…Like the pitched roofing specialist who offers to build a flat roof.
…Or the flat roofer who specialises in one system, and offers to fit another.
So please keep this in mind:
Different roofing types call for different skills. A roofer can’t flit between systems without specialist training.
But if you insist on (let’s say) a PVC Single-Ply roof…will a felt roofer come clean and turn down the work?
But they might well take it on, and bite off more than they can chew.
Thankfully, that’s the exception. Most pro roofers abide by the standards of the industry. But it does happen.
So you should look beyond their basic credentials, to make sure they can fit the roof type you’ve agreed.
What about cost?
As you’d expect, a highly skilled and experienced flat roofer doesn’t come cheap. They’ll only use the very best crews and materials, so they can’t possibly compete on price with a rogue or novice.
But remember, going cheap is a false economy. A dud roof will need endless repairs, followed by early replacement. So chances are, you’ll write off every penny you spend on the first roof, then pay the going rate for the second roof.
And that’s just the basic cost.
You’ve got other expenses too. Like replacing furniture and other possessions that get damaged if the roof caves in. (If the work wasn’t up to code, your home insurance could dig their heels in).
Add to that the stress and upheaval of turning your life upside down, and you can see why going cheap is crazy.
But how do you make sure you don’t pay over the odds?
As we’ve said already, a pro roofer should itemise everything – so you can easily check.
Compare quotes if you need to – but be sure to compare like for like:
…DON’T COMPARE a pro roofer with a rogue or novice!
…DON’T COMPARE a long-life system like PVC Single-Ply with a short-life system like felt.
…DON’T COMPARE the roofer who understands your needs with the one who treats you like “just another job”. (Sometimes, that special service is worth a little extra.)
Ultimately, the question is: are you getting value for money?
Is it worth the investment to get a sturdy roof that meets all your requirements – whether that means low maintenance or an outdoor living space, or an end to draughts and condensation?
Does it stand up – as a “whole of life” cost, from now until the day you (or your family) come to replace it?
Now let’s talk specifics
We can only give you general information on a page like this. You won’t know the actual numbers until we take a look at your roof – or your plans.
So the next step is a free on-site survey and consultation with one of our flat roofing experts, who’ll give you all the details you need.
Then you can make an informed decision…