After over nine months of mess, noise and upheaval, the block of flats where I live is now double-glazed courtesy of the local council. It’s been a mammoth project involving a number of low-rise buildings in central London, just south of the Thames. The blocks have a mix of council rented and privately leased flats and, all told, with its modest amounts of green space and good neighbours it’s very pleasant.
After nearly a year of living with scaffolding wrapped around the building the steel structure is being taken down and everyone can see the new white windows in all their glory. At last, I thought, it’s all over. Alas not. I had forgotten the visits by the contractors to carry out what is rather amusing called ‘snagging checks’.
After failing to make a previous agreed appointment, the on site contractors finally arrived last week to unstick the stuck windows and oil the unlockable locks. Given that the council has passed on at least some of the cost of the works to the tenants (it was Hobson’s choice) one might expect that the windows would be decent quality and designed to last for many many years like the robust building itself which is still perfectly solid and has been since 1927 . Not so. The units are shoddily made and have suffered a little at the hands of the fitters who, nice chaps that they were, clearly had daily targets to meet. Nevermind, they are double glazed units and a whole heap better that the draughty sash jobbies that were in before.
So then having had one snagging call, this morning three hi-viz jacket wearing, safety-hatted jolly nice chaps arrive to ‘make sure all is OK’. Three of them: A clerk of works, a fitter and a contractors rep (I think) consult the windows, nod and politely challenge my claim that the units are ‘a bit shoddy’ offering a ‘value for money’ defence. Fair enough. Five minutes later, they are on their way having ticked the boxes and wished me a happy Christmas. Done
Actually no, not yet.
Twenty minutes later a knock at the door reveals yet another clerk of works, a very nice Scots chappie who is a freelance it turns out and who travels on on the train from Hertfordshire each day, just thought you’d like to know. “Come to check the windows”, he announces with some authority, cheerily waving his pad and sweeping past me en route to the glazing. Yes their fine, now I all we need is sign off…from another worker from the hi-viz hive. Two ‘phone calls later, all is revealed: The work at my flat had already been signed off.
“So”, I ask politely, “how many contractors does it take to check a window?” No conclusive response but I am assured it’s in everyone’s interests. ‘After all it’s public money’. Indeed. Public money paying for five people to check that the windows work ~ that it can be opened and closed easily and locked.
And this is where it all gets a bit tiresome. The job is obviously priced to ensure that everyone is happy, maybe apart from some of the tenants. And further more it seems to fit the contract tendering principle options of good, fast or cheap ~ choose one, two if you are lucky.
Oh yes and don’t get me started on the extractor fan they fitted (after drilling a serious hole through the kitchen wall) but were then not allowed to wire up. Because the flat is owned by a private leaseholder the council can fit the fan but not make it work. Brilliant.
So now when it gets too hot or smoky in the kitchen I have one simple solution. I must do my best to open the sticking window.