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You may have read recently that the cost of renovating the Houses of Parliament could reach a staggering £7.1 billion over a 32 year build! We think this figure is astronomical, so we’ve come up with a few alternatives you could spend this amount of money on.

Houses of Parliament MyBuilder

Jonathan Steed is an electrician based in the Midlands who joined MyBuilder in March 2014. Since then he’s gained a whopping 152 positive feedback!

On the way to Liverpool for our first roadshow, we popped in for a cup of tea and a chat at Jonathan’s home in Hinckley.

TOTM June Jon

Originally in the Army as a fitness instructor, he sustained an injury which meant he couldn’t walk properly for 2 years. After the injury and 10 years of service, he decided it was his time to leave. With financial help from Army rehabilitation he trained to be an electrician.

Jonathan is not originally from Hinckley, so was trying to find new ways of making work contacts when he discovered MyBuilder. The site is what “made his business” – he proclaims.

Once qualifying, Jonathan soon went from working for a company, to working for himself using the site. He now has 4 lads working with him, “It’s changed everything hasn’t it?” he says to his partner Jenny.

He won a job for a recent X Factor contestant which he is pretty pleased about. “That was massive for us!” He told us excitedly. She even tweeted a picture of his employee which he was a little bit jealous of. “Why didn’t she tweet a picture of me?! It’s my business, I could have had like 500 retweets!”

electric

We asked Jonathan what other jobs he’s particularly proud of…

“Recently I also won a huge job for electronically charged cars, the power points. I’ve been working around the whole of the UK fitting them in different cities. That’s one of the biggest jobs I’ve won off MyBuilder.”

He also spoke about a large warehouse job he won. The customer had posted a small light fitting job that Jonathan went out and completed for just £20. “A few months later I had a call, the guy had kept my details and wanted me to do the electrics on a huge warehouse job in London. He liked me and wanted me to do it. Accommodation & travel has been paid for and it’s kept us busy for months!”

As well as the customers Jonathan has gained through MyBuilder, he also lets us know that he gets plenty more from the amount of reviews on his profile.

“I always get customers who ring me up and say ‘I’ve read your reviews on MyBuilder, can you come and do some work?’”

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Jonathan Steed & Ben from MyBuilder

So how did he do it?

Like most successful tradesmen on the site, Jonathan said it was quite difficult at first while he built up those early 15 feedbacks. He stuck it out and made sure he was friendly and approachable in his initial messages. Jenny, his partner, also helps with the initial messaging and getting back to customers quickly when Jonathan is on a job. “Customers are like ‘wow, that was quick!’” he exclaims.

Once on those early jobs, he bent over backwards to make sure the customers were happy. “As long as you make sure to give decent customer service, as well as do a great job, you’ll do well.” Jonathan tells us. “My aim is to be one of the top ten highest reviewed tradesmen on MyBuilder!”

Jonathan is the highest reviewed electrician on MyBuilder in Hinckley and he aims to keep it that way! Next stop for JS Electrical is 200 feedback!

Last week MyBuilder caught up with Kerry Chapman from Eurolay Asphalt and roofing, May’s tradesman of the month! Gaining 179 Positive feedback over 4 years, Kerry’s got a lot of happy customers and his business is going from strength to strength.

kery

Eurolay’s beginnings

Kerry’s father has been in the asphalting business his whole life. Initially Kerry aspired to become a professional footballer, even playing for Leyton Orient’s youth team. But it didn’t work out, “I messed it up” he told us, “the lure of being a teenage boy was too much to handle!”. He dropped out of the team and started working for his dad. “I always loved the smell of asphalt!” Kerry exclaimed.

Before starting Eurolay, Kerry went to college and completed a four year apprenticeship, three years at college and one on site. He began at a couple of established companies where he gained invaluable experience, then decided it was time to go it alone. That was 7 years ago and he’s never looked back!

Joining MyBuilder was a game changer for Kerry, 50% of Eurolay’s work still comes through the site. He also finds a lot of potential customers contact him directly after seeing his positive feedback on MyBuilder.

tools


The recipe for Kerry’s success?

“I make sure my profile is up to date, well written, with correct spelling and grammar.” Kerry explained. He also gets professional photos taken of past work so new customers can see the quality of his roofing jobs.

Good communication is also key for making clients happy. He makes sure to get back to customers quickly, and if running late or the job is running over, he makes sure he is completely honest at all times.

Going the extra mile to make sure you get that positive feedback is also important. “I never cut corners to make a job cheaper, I pride myself on Eurolay doing the best job possible. It might cost more, but it will cost less in the long run” he asserts.

bucket

Kerry doesn’t charge for quotes, and makes sure to meet customers face-to-face to build that initial trust.

“Customers want to see the person behind the profile, as well as check that you’re a decent person who knows what you’re talking about. Especially customers who have been burnt in the past, they want that peace of mind which I completely understand.”

The future

“Me and the boys are proud of what we’ve achieved on MyBuilder.” Kerry told us, “ my favourite job to date was when we came and fixed the MyBuilder office roof! Being asked to carry out that work was an exciting moment for the company.”

benandkerry

Given that asphalting ran in the family, it seems like Kerry was always destined to work in the trade. One of his earliest memories was playing with balls of asphalt his dad brought home. But little did he know that it would lead to a successful business and almost 200 incredible reviews on MyBuilder!

Check out Kerry’s MyBuilder profile.

Garden hacks

With summer rapidly approaching your garden can quickly get out of hand. We present some great tips to help you spend less time working on your garden and more time enjoying it.

 

1) Re-use water that you cook with

Much of the water that people throw down their drains every day is rich in nutrients and perfect for your garden.

Water that vegetables have been cooked in can add nutrients back into your soil. Rice water contains starch which helps to encourage healthy bacteria for strong roots. Finally, water that eggs have been boiled in contains calcium which helps plants grow and prevents pathogens from attacking them.

 corn-549328_640 2

Source: pixabay.com/p-549328/

 

2. Pee in your garden

What?! Yep… believe it or not urine is non-toxic and actually contains nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, all chemicals which can help improve soil nutrients and crop yield. Neat urine can help compost decompose quicker and be used as a weed killer. It’s best to dilute it with 8-10 parts water before adding to grass or plants. Urine also has the added benefit of warding off animals like cats, foxes and rabbits. Before you go wazzing on your garden just remember your neighbours!

Water down urine for your garden

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Watering_can

 

3. Buy a soil testing kit

Add a little science to your gardening by picking up a cheap soil testing kit for around £10. Knowing what nutrients you need to add will give you the best garden soil in no time.

Soil testing kit

Source: Amazon.co.uk/Haversack-Soil-Test-Kit

 

4. Use candle wax for garden tools

Rubbing a candle on garden tools blades, especially if you’re pruning trees will make life easier. It reduces friction by stopping sap getting on the blades and can also help to prevent rusting.

Candles can be used as tealights

Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soy_candle

 

5. Vinegar is a gardener’s best friend

Who’d have thought that stuff you put on your chips had so many uses in the garden? It’s the perfect weed killer for dandelions, especially on cracks in driveways or paths. It’s great for cleaning lawn mower blades, getting rid of bird poop, removing mildew from garden furniture and giving ants the heave ho from your garden.

 Vinegar has many uses in gardens

 

6. Newspaper stops weeds and grass

Put down sheets of old newspaper around plants before you put down mulch. The newspaper sheets will ensure that weeds and grass can’t come up through your mulch and the newspaper will eventually break down.

6277209256_934f20da10_z

 

7. Eggshells make a great home for seedlings

If you’re planting seedlings, placing them in eggshells is a good idea for a few reasons, they can be stored in the carton the eggs came in, a little hole in the bottom will allow drainage. Once ready to be planted the eggshell containing the seedling can be directly transferred to the soil, the eggshell will break down and enrich the soil with calcium.

 Egg shell for seedlings

 

8. Gardens love your leftovers

Vegetable peelings can be added to compost to add nutrients. Potatoes can be used to propagate roses providing just the right amount of liquid they need. Banana peels, eggshells and coffee grounds can all be used to add nutrients into soil, whilst coffee grounds will also prevent cats from digging and littering in your garden. Garlic and onion peel can be added to water and used as a natural pesticide to keep bugs away from plants.

 food scraps

 

9. Lure snails and slugs with Beer

Snails and slugs eat plants and generally cause a nuisance, but they love beer. Bury a plastic cup into your soil and add a small amount of beer, they will crawl in and drown.

Beer trap for snails

 

10. Get a pet toad

If drowning in beer sounds a little extreme, a more natural and humane way to handle those slimy pests is to get a toad. Build a little hut somewhere dark and cool, add some water nearby and wait (or buy one from a garden centre). Toad’s eat an inordinate amount of all bugs.. and who wouldn’t want a pet toad.

 Toads eat bugs!

 

11. Turn a shoe organiser into a herb rack

Great for the urban gardener. If you’re short of space or prefer to keep things simple, a hanging shoe rack can make a great herb garden

Shoe organiser for herb rack

Source: greenupgrader.com/files/2009/07/planters1.jpg

Hopefully these handy tips will help save time in your garden. If it’s not even in a state to do that, why not use MyBuilder to hire a landscape gardener this summer?

Thanks to Andy Robertsnet_efektSteveR- USFWS Mountain-Prairiedavid paceyJon S for the images off Flickr. Please note, all images were suitable for use at the time of publication according to the Creative Commons License. 

 

Garden Makeover

 

WIN A GRAND FOR YOUR GARDEN IS BACK!

Does your garden need a facelift?
Do you have a compelling garden story to tell?
To earn the chance to win £1,000 towards improving your outdoor space, read on!

This month MyBuilder.com is launching an exciting Garden Makeover Competition. All you have to do is make a compelling case for your renovation by taking a photo of yourself in your garden and uploading it, along with with your story. Remember, a picture speaks a thousand words and the most persuasive post wins!

In 2013 we ran the competition in which recent stroke victim Jon Mason struck a chord with voters, beating over 200 entries by getting 765 votes to win a dream makeover. He describes his garden transformation as life changing and hopes it has a similar impact for this years winner. So does he have any tips? Simply enter and “encourage friends to share and vote… I’ve never won anything before, so if I can win, anyone can!”

jon mason garden makeover

BUT what might £1,000 of work in the garden look like for you?
To help you envisage what’s possible we asked one of our experts, Paul Lockwood of Mulberry Cottage Gardens in Hertfordshire to give us an idea. Paul opted for a Mediterranean feel, basing his costs on a 30sqm garden, the size of the average urban backyard. Instead of using traditional hedging that takes a lot of maintenance, Paul creates formal beds more simply and cost effectively:

“The theme is a raised Italian scented garden. Most people these days want to keep things simple within the garden and keep watering down…so keep the garden under budget and effective by using new pine sleepers for around £20 each (there are deals to be had on bulk buys). You can then create raised beds to any size you require.”

Paul’s design is a work-in-progress but his pictures give you a good idea of how the finished space could look. It’s a perfect solution for smaller city gardens: low maintenance but rich in texture and smell. But as Paul points out, it can work equally well in larger gardens, where you might fancy creating a distinct area that has a character of its own.

“You can create tiers and change levels with this approach which sometimes is much needed in the garden… Be sure to mulch the whole of the beds with well rotted manure for nourishment and moisture retention though.”

Italian Renaissance style gardens are all about balance, order and harmony, so there are a few rules to observe when you are structuring a garden like this, something Paul has tried to reflect without breaking the budget:

“Planting needs to be kept formal but interesting, using lots of scented herbs such as Lavender Dentata, Thyme and Rosemary, which are usually the main backbone to any Italian or Provencal scented garden. Keep the hardy herbs in formal lines at the front of the beds, then backplant with multi-stemmed sweet bay and in-between plant Hydrangea Annabelle or Hydrangea Quercifolia for lovely summer long white blooms.”

Paul’s Italian garden will be subtle in colour, but will smell delicious. Because it doesn’t require hours of hard labour, it’ll give you plenty of chance to kick back and enjoy just sitting outdoors. The formal layout means the garden has a naturally confident, elegant feel, which is just what Paul is aiming for:

“Be sure to create at least two main feature square-shaped beds to show off a couple of specimen trees…. obviously an Olea ’Olive’ here and there. Try to underplant the specimen trees with topiary Buxus (Box) cones and balls and add a few Allium bulbs to show off their purple hue against the different shades of greens and silvers.”

So if you fancy spending the Summer sitting in a scented Italian Haven, post your garden story with a picture of you in your garden.

 

Mulberry Cottage Gardens’ ITALIAN GARDEN

  • Materials: 15/18 sleepers and Timberlock screws – £340
  • Soil and mulch for beds – £120
  • Planting – £540
  • TOTAL: £1000

One million people in the UK are tradesmen, with the upcoming General Election 2015 we polled our members to find out how they are intending to vote and what matters most to them in British politics. We produced an infographic with the results:

What are your thoughts? What is important to you an how do you intend to vote for this election?