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More trouble with the roof

I went up to the top of the garden on Saturday, thinking about all the work that would be needed there. I happened to look down on the house (the first terrace is pretty much as high as the house, the upper terraces are considerably higher). Hang on, I thought, I’m sure the roof ought to have more tiles on it than that…….. There was a considerable area of roof with missing and badly shaled (i.e. disintegrating) tiles, which clearly needed replacing.

I was rather annoyed with myself, because I’d had workmen up on the roof only a few weeks ago, and if only I’d noticed the missing tiles earlier, they could have fixed them at the same time. To be fair, it wasn’t the workmen’s fault – the house has a very complicated roof structure, with many ridges and valleys, due to the original cottage being extended multiple times over the past 125 years. The dodgy area is above the kitchen and would not have been visible from the roof above the bathroom where they were working.

I decided not to get the same people back to do this repair – it didn’t warrant the full backup of multiply-skilled people (carpenter, joiner, scaffolder, roofer) and I certainly didn’t want to pay for that. What I needed was a jobbing roofer with a long ladder and a supply of replacement tiles, and to have him spend a day up on the roof replacing the worst tiles.  It’s a job we have generally needed doing every five years or so, and it’s just part of living in an old house.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t remember whom it was we used last time. Chris arranged it, and I had nothing to do with it. But since it was a fairly small and hopefully self-contained job, I thought I’d try an on-line search for a builder. I came across which has an interesting business model, and decided to give it a go.

The site is free to use for the end user. You post a short description of the work that needs doing, plus contact details and a budget. Builders in your area can search through the job descriptions and pay a fee to the site to buy access to your contact details. The site will sell the lead to up to three tradesmen, and emails you to tell you when someone is interested in the lead. It’s then up to the tradesman to contact you, and arrange to visit and quote in the usual manner. You can then search online references for those builders, and pick the one who looks the best. You then indicate on-line when you have selected a tradesman, so that they don’t continue to sell your lead on to others. When the job is completed, you are asked to rate the tradesman and leave a comment – but you can only rate on the one company that you have already accepted on-line – which should cut down the amount of spoofing and fraudulent references.

It’s the sort of business model that Chris would have really liked – though he would have grumbled at the poor website design and bad user-interface decisions!  He was very interested in concepts of “trust” on-line, and how to build communities to put businesses directly in touch with consumers.

I’m pleased to report that it has worked out well for me. I raised a job request on Saturday night, and got an email on Sunday night saying that a builder from north Gloucestershire had bought the lead – I’d never have thought of looking for builders in that direction, though it’s really not very far away at all. The roofer phoned me on Monday morning, and came around to quote on Monday afternoon. I might be keen on web-centric business models, but this is my own money I’m spending, so as well as looking him up on ratedpeople, I also insisted on some old-fashioned references and phoned up to speak with someone who had used him. The quote was within budget, and the references – both on-line and real-world –  all stacked up, so I agreed to go ahead. He arrived on time today, spent all day up on the roof, and has replaced the dodgy tiles with some reclaimed ones from a Victorian cottage in Gloucestershire – so the replacement ones all blend in well with the originals. I have dutifully fulfilled my part of the bargain by giving feedback on the website.

So once again, I think I have a sound roof over my head. Let’s hope I’m right this time!