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Rogue Traders: Smartproof

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Elham Rizi | 18:30 UK time, Thursday, 3 May 2012


Based in Leeds, Smartproof is the trading name of Smartcoat Ltd and is not to be confused with companies of a similar name. Smartproof offers renovations and coatings for roofs - in fact "total roofing solutions".

Smartproof Roofing Solutions brochure

Gordon Aldred from Wakefield took them up on this. He was told it would cost himapproximately £11,000 for a new roof. Instead SmartProof offered to refurbish and coat his roof. He was told the coating would help preserve it and would also help the heating bills and prolong the life of the roof.

They said it would cost him £5000, but only if they could start 4 days later - thereby depriving Gordon of his 7 day cooling off period. As soon as they signed up him up, they took £2,500. They had already finished the first stage of work when Gordon's daughter Judy found out the cost of a complete re-roof would be considerably less than £5,000. Judy cancelled the job to prevent Smartproof taking any more of her dad's money.

Overcharging is one thing, but what about their workmanship? Following a cold call, Margaret Keir was offered the same roof treatment. Up until that point, Margaret had had no problems with her roof. She was told that it would take one day to clean the roof and one day to apply the coating. Unfortunately for Margaret, her roof now looks shoddy, and is in an even worse state than it appears. Just six days after Smartproof had worked on her roof, Margaret awoke in the morning to find her whole bathroom was like a shower. Smartproof sent five people out on the five occasions and it was still flooding two weeks later. Margaret explains: "They have reduced the life of my roof and I would need to have it totally replaced now within the next 10 years."

Chartered Surveyor, Barry Cross assessed Margaret's roof and concluded that it was a "pretty poor job." Some customers have informed Rogue Traders that they had been told that the whole Smartproof service had been approved by Watchdog. It's not - we don't do endorsements. The company have denied using the Watchdog name.

In fact, from what we've heard from Gordon and Margaret, Smartproof would have a tough time persuading anyone to give them the thumbs up. We set up a house with small cameras, and had our actress, Pauline, ready and waiting. However, before we called Smartproof out to work, we got Barry to assess the roof. He concluded that the roof was in pretty good condition and just needed some basic maintenance. As for cost, the absolute top charge should be £500 and for that the roof should last another 35 years.

Smartproof salesman Adrian Pickles arrived at the house. He claimed that the waterproof coating had eroded in the weather and had actually disappeared from Pauline's roof in 1980, meaning that her roof tiles were "totally saturated". Barry, however, deems this "absolute rubbish". Adrian went on to claim that "when properties get to around 45 years old with this type of tile, people then start re-roofing." Again, Barry rubbishes Adrian's claim as "absolute nonsense". Adrian warned that if Val were to ignore it, she will be re-roofing to the cost of £10,750. Barry states that it would be "nowhere near that amount".

Adrian explained that the process was actually brought over from Denmark and is "preventative maintenance", in that "the coating system physically soaks in to the tile, it's the equivalent to six inches of rockwool insulation so you are going to retain heat in your building, obviously depending on the all the insulation you've already got. But it's been proven to reduce heat loss by up to 25%." Although Adrian went on to say that this insulation claim is not something they push in this country, the company doesn't follow suit. They publish on their advertising that customers will save 25% on energy bills. Seeing as our house is already fully insulated, that's nonsense.

Adrian explained the process to Pauline: firstly the roof is cleaned, and if any of the ridge tiles were loose, they would be removed, re-cemented and re-bedded. If any of those tiles are damaged, they are replaced. They then check every single tile on the roof, and if anything is cracked, broken or missing, it is replaced. He also claimed that Smartproof that will re-point the roof, inspect all the lead-work, re-set, repair and seal it and then apply a fungicidal wash. Later, Smartpoof will return on a dry day to apply the coating system.
It all sounds impressive, but remember: our expert Barry reckons the roof just needs some basic maintenance which will add another 35 years to Pauline's roof. As for the coating - it might look nice, and may even give the roof a few more years, but as a whole new roof would cost around £4,000, you wouldn't want to spend more than about £750 on this. Adrian's quote? £4,672. Barry's conclusion? "Unbelievable, extortionate." However, Adrian is prepared to negotiate, offering Pauline the whole service for £2,575 - still about five times more than she needed to spend on the roof. Pauline told Adrian she needed to think about it, but Adrian was keen to get an answer and said he would call her in an hour for a decision about whether or not she could afford to pay for it.

We booked in the job and Adrian dropped the price again - to £2,380. He said it would take two full days and tells us we should expect a surveyor. We accepted this and paid a deposit of £500. The roofers, Danny and Mark, arrived before the surveyor.

Danny and Mark explained to Pauline that they were going to jet wash the roof and then treat it with an anti-fungal treatment. Barry observed that they were setting up for the jet washing equipment without having done any pre-survey work; when Pauline queried where the surveyor was, she was told that he would come after the work had started. Barry observed that they hadn't done a check in the roof space: "We know that the underfelt is torn so there is a distinct possibility that water will now come through the roof and cause damage inside the roof space - let's hope that doesn't happen."

In the meantime, there was a distinct possibility that Danny and Mark would cause damage to themselves, as they did not take adequate health and safety precautions when standing on the ridge of the roof.

When they finished jet washing, Mark told Pauline that they were going to repoint the roof. According to Barry Cross, in order to do the pointing properly, Mark would have to re-bed the tiles because they will have come loose: "All he is doing now is filling in where there are gaps; that's not good enough because the mortar will fall out again after a short while. He's actually smoothing out the mortar with his hand - that's not the way to point ridge tiles on the roof."

After doing this, Danny collected £940 from Pauline and both Danny and Mark headed off - just 2 hours and 50 minutes after they had arrived - supposedly to do a full day's work. It was time to inspect the loft and see if they had caused any damage; after all, there was no survey conducted and we had holes in our underfelt, which could have let water in.
However, just as we were about to carry out our own inspection, the surveyor arrived - after the work had been completed. It was a quick visit and didn't include a loft inspection when it should have. It was Barry's turn to check it out; he concluded that the water and some of the debris from the roof had actually come through the torn underfelt and had deposited all over the insulation. "Can you imagine if there had been no insulation in this roof? It could easily have damaged the ceiling. This company didn't know that because they didn't check, and that really is unacceptable."

Almost two weeks later, Phase Two was about to begin - however, Danny and Mark were off to a bad start as they threw tiles from the roof onto the lawn. They were also walking across the roof where they could break more tiles, were carrying tiles on their shoulders and they didn't even have a roof ladder in place. Where Adrian Pickles had said that they would go around all of the flashing and re-set it, in actuality they were painting the flashing but not actually doing anything to it - despite what had been promised.

At least Mark replaced some of the broken tiles, and Danny seemed to be making good progress with spraying the first coat. However, Barry observed that one of the duo was repairing a broken tile by pushing mortar into the crack with his fingers, thereby concealing the breakage of the tile, meaning that the repair wouldn't last.

Yet Mark ploughed on, and told Pauline that the first coat was pretty much completed, so it was on to the second coat. Barry observed that the second coat that was being applied was very light and there was no attention to the detail: "This coating is supposed to have thermal properties and I think it is self-evident that such a thin coating of paint is hardly going to create any significant difference."

After 2.5 hours of work, Mark informed Pauline that the work was completed and asked her to pay the balance. This means that the entire so-called two-day job has actually lasted just 5 hours and 20 minutes. The total price? £2,380. But what did we get for our money? Barry concluded that it was a "pretty poor job all round" and instead of the roof renovation that they had promised, they simply "put a coat of paint on and done some rudimentary works which don't fit the bill at all" and reveals that Pauline ended up with more broken tiles than she started with. They also caused damage on the inside of the roof because no one checked inside the roof before they started work.

We wanted to ask salesman Adrian Pickles why he told us all those lies... and why the company didn't deliver on all his big promises. Pauline took Adrian over to meet her neighbour - who was actually Matt dressed up as a woman. When Matt put the allegations to Adrian, he said that he would pass Matt's details over to head office.


COMPANY RESPONSE

We put all our allegations to the company and they've apologised. They say their workers have let their customers down and also damaged their reputation. They say in all the cases featured they've offered to put right the damage and to refund if customers still aren't happy, including us. They say they encourage sales staff to adopt a soft sell approach.

They say they carry out work for thousands of happy customers each year. They insist the lifespan of a roof like ours is 60 years. They stand by the benefits of Smartproof. They say it's far cheaper than paying for a new roof, and the price is competitive. They say the insulation benefits are backed up by independent and respected research but have withdrawn the claim the product will save 25% on energy bills.

The roofing contractors that worked on the cases featured no longer work for Smartproof.

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