Now that the building was weathertight thanks to the waterproof membrane draped over the skeleton roof structure, the next job involved nailing a couple of hundred battens to the rafters ready for hanging the roof tiles.

I’d met Anthony, our roofer, some years ago on a loft conversion project. It’s not always appreciated how mathematical the roof tiling process can be, requiring intricate calculations to achieve the correct gauging and laps to suit the required pitch and type of covering. I’d chosen Rosemary smooth plain clay tiles to match the existing roof and Anthony set to work cutting and fixing all the lengthy blue battens in place.

The roof is prepared for the clay tiles

Getting the Tiles Right

We’d ordered the tiles a few weeks earlier from local supplier Advance Roofing, after experimenting with samples of varying shades and textures. These ‘classic reds’ are actually manufactured in three slightly varied hues so it’s important that roofers pick from different packs to achieve a pleasingly even effect and avoid the risk of banding.

Added to the mix were a few hundred salvaged tiles from the now redundant lean-to utility room roof. Despite the new Rosemarys being nominally identical to their older namesakes, in practice they were a couple of millimetres narrower, which can add up to a sizeable gap over long courses. This is where an experienced roofer’s tricks of the trade come in useful.

Our roof design incorporates three skylights (measuring 550 x 780mm). I’d selected Keylite roof windows from Buildbase, which by all accounts were as good as some of the better known brands, at a more competitive price. 

Anthony, Ian’s roofer gets to work

Forming the Valleys

Trying to perfectly replicate the roof on the main house has meant that the new valleys on the extension need to be similarly cut and mitred, ruling out simpler alternatives like purpose-made valley tiles or traditional open valleys. This is an area where things have moved on a bit since our house was built some 15 years ago. Mitred valleys are now routinely formed using special ‘dry fix’ valley GRP troughs underneath, rather than being bedded ‘wet’ with mortar onto standard flat troughs.

The trouble is that the new ‘dry’ ones have a prominent central lip poking up through the valley, visibly running all the way down the mitred joint. While this might be a worthwhile technical improvement (reducing debris blocking ‘hidden valleys’ underneath), it clashes visually. This was a classic ‘practicality versus aesthetics’ dilemma, and to reproduce the existing roof we reverted to ‘old school’ flat troughs and mortar.

Valleys are formed to match the old house

The Window Order

Accounting for a sizeable chunk of the overall budget, there’s normally a fair amount of scope for negotiation when ordering windows. Builders’ merchants typically quote 30 to 40% off the (inflated) list prices stated in manufacturers’ brochures, although some firms won’t talk prices at all until you’ve opened an account.

I’d specified traditional timber casements and the window manufacturer offers a suitable ‘cottage bar’ range with thermal performance comfortably exceeding Building Regs. Ideally I wanted the units pre-painted white inside and dark stained outside. So I called the manufacturers to discuss our particular requirements.

It turned out the extra cost for ordering ‘dual finish’ windows was borderline astronomical and would have delayed things by another couple of weeks. To keep within budget we ended up settling for factory white primer; this way at least the inside would be the right colour and I could apply the required external dark finish by hand prior to fitting. 

After battening the roof, Anthony fitted the three Keylite roof windows from Buildbase

Our order needed to clearly set out our chosen ‘extras’ like trickle vents and the design and finish of our chosen handles, and whether we wanted the opening casements positioned to the left or right side of double window units. Plus, we needed longer sills to project sufficiently out from the rendered walls. We also ordered a pair of French doors for the rear bedroom Juliet balcony (inward opening at extra cost) and after a spell of vigorous negotiating, the supplier reluctantly agreed to match prices I’d come across online. The order was duly signed and submitted.

Roofing completed, Ian chases up his glazing order

Disaster Averted

Five weeks later, and with the arranged delivery date looming, I’d heard nothing. I’d been firing off increasingly urgent emails, chasing up the order but with no reply. Eventually an email arrived advising that delivery would be in another five weeks’ time — despite having signed and paid for everything five weeks previously and currently being in my assigned delivery window.

I picked up the phone. The voice at the end of the phone sounded rather sheepish when admitting that the original order hadn’t been processed. I immediately saw red — I made it clear that a delay of this magnitude was totally unacceptable because by then our main contractor would be long gone and the scaffolding taken down.

Both merchant and manufacturer denied culpability, blaming each other for not processing the ‘signed acceptance form’. I got straight onto the manufacturer who advised me that they would pull out all the stops to make amends and get them delivered in two to three weeks.

In the meantime, I made sure the manufacturer played its part keeping up the pressure. 20 days later the delivery truck trundled up our drive. Disaster averted.

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