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"Windows Pointing Job"

A review of A Menzies & Sons by Anonymous written on Monday 22nd of October 2018


A. Menzies & Sons, a Glasgow-based company, provided me with a quote in October, 2017 for a pointing job on the traditional sash timber windows of my living room, a 4-bay layout. The quote I received was ‘To re-point 4 No. windows in red sand mastic’. No breakdown of the materials and process was provided and, significantly, no indication of timber movement as being potentially problematic was given. The cost was 654 pounds, including VAT, not cheap.

A week or so later, a pair of workmen arrived at the back of 9. One did the pointing with a trowel, the other served as an assistant. They had a break around 10.30-11.00 and by the back of 12 announced they were finished. It seemed the job, completed in approx. 2½ hours, had been done remarkably quickly and I felt distinctly uneasy that the necessary prep work had not been undertaken. Within a week cracks had appeared in the pointing. I raised the issue.

The workmen came out again and patched up the cracks. On return in April 2018 from having been abroad for several months I discovered the pointing had cracked all over in every window and chunks had fallen out onto the sills. I contacted Menzies & Sons again and Mr. D. Menzies came out to inspect the pointing job. He commented, inconclusively, on there being movement of the window timbers. No remedy was suggested and the re-attendance of the workmen was not delayed by him until after the 'issue' of timber movement had been addressed.

The two workmen attended for the 3rd time the following day. The chap who did the pointing came armed with a small pick-like tool to chip out the old mastic only to discover he didn’t need to use it since the mastic had not cured (hardened) and fell out in chunks. Within a week even the new mastic used cracked. I wrote to Menzies and asked for a refund but received a reply saying that they had re-attended at no extra cost and the mastic cracking and falling out was due to timber movement. The mastic has even cracked under the window sills, an area that is near rock solid, which really questions Mr. A. Menzies’ argument as timber movement being the cause. The old pointing fillet is narrow, around the 15-20mm range. To cover these remnants the Menzies workmen made the mastic fillet broad. I measured it be around 50mm. Thus the pointing is heavy and liable to sag or creep. When I asked the workman why he didn't remove the old pointing he said it wasn't necessary, adding that it might damage the stone or timber.

I am disappointed with Menzies & Sons and feel they used the issue of timber movement as an excuse for making repeated unsuccessful attempts to do the job, without having done the necessary prep work. I’m now 654 pounds out of pocket and need to find a competent building professional who can do the job properly.

I contacted the Citizens Advice Bureau who forwarded details of the case to Trading Standards. They suggested I get a report on the work prepared by a disinterested party. Menzies & Sons are members of two trade organisations: Scottish Building [Employers] Federation and Scottish Master Slaters & Roof Tilers Assoc. The CAB and TS suggested I speak with the former. I phoned them near the end of July. A female member of staff took my call. I was informed that the person who dealt with such inquiries was on holiday. I was assured he would call me back on his return but I never received any call.

In September 2018 I recruited the services of a team of two qualified surveyors with accredited conservation experience who made an inspection of the pointing work. The surveyors immediately recognised that the necessary prep work had not been carried out. They then compiled a report of the work at my request, noting that an unfilled cavity existed behind the mastic leading to the potential for water ingress into the room, which I suspect may well be happening due to the smell of damp. They made no reference to loose timber as being the issue as Menzies & Sons claimed. They also reported on the fillet as having 'exceeded 30-33mm in width', thus being 'simply too wide to have sufficient integrity to be held in place successfully'. They also comment on the type of mastic used as not being appropriate for 'solid walled / sliding sash and case window junctions'. Without going into all the technical detail, the report concludes: “In short, we would condemn this work as inappropriate, poor workmanship and not ‘fit for purpose’”. The report confirms what I have suspected all along and I feel that Menzies & Sons have insulted my intelligence with their disingenuous excuse for not being able to do the work competently.

Armed with the report, I again phoned the Scottish Building Federation. My call was returned and I related the state of affairs to a member of staff who informed me he would speak with the contractor..

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