Category: MyBuilder

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A lot of tradesmen will tell you that it’s not looks that count – it’s about the things you don’t see, the stuff behind the scenes, all the little details that a homeowner doesn’t think about, but a tradesman needs to get right. But that’s not always the case.

“With a carpet”, Wayne Mockble tells us, “it’s all about how it looks.”

Wayne should know. He’s been fitting carpets around Birmingham for 30 years, taking on jobs big and small. In the three years his business, Fast Fit Flooring, has been on MyBuilder, he’s built up 278 pieces of positive feedback – and no negatives. In short, he’s a man who knows his way around an Axminster. But despite what he says about how much appearance matters, after a morning spent watching him at work, it’s easy to see how much effort goes into getting that perfect finish.

After a short stint in the army as a teenager, Wayne started out as a tradesman when he was only 18 years old.

“I needed to find some work,” Wayne explains. “When I was 18, I already had two kids to feed, so I had to come up with something. By chance I met a carpet fitter who wasn’t able to drive. He said, if I got a car, I could drive him around and learn the trade from him. It really was a matter of watching him do it. He wouldn’t tell you verbally, you just had to pay attention.”

 

Fast Fit Flooring, Wayne Mockble, Carpet Fitter, Flooring Fitter TOTM

 

Slowly, Wayne began to pick up the trade, learning as he went. “You come to realise, it’s a very technical job,” he said. “People might look at a room and think, a carpet for that, oh, it’s only a square, but it rarely is. Your preparation is very important. There’s a saying – measure twice, cut once – but you want to measure more than twice. Measure ten times if you can.”

When we catch up with Wayne, he’s halfway through a job fitting a new carpet and underlay for a staircase and landing. As we watch him work, it’s plain to see the attention to detail that goes into what is a relatively simple job.

“If it’s an old house, the stairs are all going to be a bit out,” he says as he measures up. “These two here are bigger than the one above. Then this one here is bigger again. It’s a nightmare sometimes. But some people without any experience will just measure once at the top of the stairs and just get on with it. You’re making problems for yourself then. You can carpet each stair individually if you have to, because the joints are all hidden, but it’s not ideal.”

Wayne works quickly, with simple tools, cutting with a razor-sharp carpet knife and knocking the edge of the carpet into place with a chisel. “My chisel is 20 years old and it’s still going strong,” Wayne says. “It cost me £5 back in the day. They probably cost a bit more than that now.” He cuts and pushes the carpet into place, casually swapping the tools between hands- as he says, “You have to be ambidextrous in this job, it can’t be done all with one hand. And you need to be accurate and confident. You can’t be cack-handed.”

 

Fast Fit Flooring, Wayne Mockble, Carpet Fitter, Flooring Fitter TOTM

 

The knife gets a new blade for every job – even between doing his cuts, Wayne swaps out the sharp blade before putting it away. “The first thing anyone asks me when they see what I do is ‘Have you ever cut your finger off?’ I haven’t but I’ve come close a few times. Half the time the biggest problem is nals and things sticking out of floorboards.”

When it comes to cutting neat, long lines in the carpet, Wayne doesn’t need any fancy tools: “A door bar is the best thing for getting a straight edge, and you need a straight edge with your carpet.”

Wayne is insistent on using good quality materials. “If your grippers are no good, it will make things very difficult. I also try and use glue where I can to make sure it all holds well – it costs a bit more money, bit it gets it done properly. Underlay is another thing, some old types had a black rubber back that will just perish into dust over time and leave flat patches under the carpet, you need to use a good one. It’s like any trade, there are plenty of cowboys in this game, I know which shops to avoid. There are also fitters out there who’ll tell you that underlay costs £150 a roll, when actually it was only £20. People don’t know.”

Wayne always encourages people to buy their own carpets, while he deals with the fitting. “I can give them advice, but it’s up to them to buy it. Supplying it can be a minefield – I could buy it all, bring it along, and then they change their mind; what do I do then? If I get my fitting fee, I’m happy. I’ve worked with carpet that was £85 a metre – you can’t go making mistakes with a £3,000 carpet.”

 

Fast Fit Flooring, Wayne Mockble, Carpet Fitter, Flooring Fitter TOTM

 

One thing he insists is on getting accurate measurements before starting any job. “If people give me measurements they’ve taken, that’s fine, but I want to go and measure up myself. They’ll have measured wall-to-wall but not take into account the leeway you need. If I fit it as they’ve told me, and there’s a gap or a join somewhere, they won’t thank you. I have to go and visualise the whole job first.”

After his initial run learning the ropes, Wayne has always worked by himself. “I like having the freedom, I pick and choose the jobs I want. Like any self-employed person, you have moments where it goes quiet. You’ve got to have some heart to soldier on when it gets like that. I’m not one of those people who has another job – this is my livelihood”. Thankfully, Wayne has been able to keep on going, even through the rough times, and his reviews on MyBuilder help him to keep winning work for some time yet. “I always ask people to leave feedback. I just ask, if they’re happy with the work that I’ve done, leave a bit of feedback, because it really helps me out.”

After finishing off the last stair, carefully following the curved line of the final riser, this looks like another job that will see positive feedback. We know how much work went into it, but the finished result if effortless. After all, as Wayne says, “it’s all about how it looks”.

 

Advice for Tradesmen:

 

  • Don’t cut corners: As Wayne showed us when he worked on the individual stairs, taking one quick measurement and assuming that’s good enough might leave you with a poor quality result. “At the end of the day, if there’s something wrong, you can’t go and blame your materials or the fact that the house is a bit wonky – it’s just poor workmanship.”
  • Explain everything up front: “People want to know what the finished job will end up like,” Wayne said. “Everything has to be explained, how it will work, what you’re going to do. You need to be open about what you’ll be doing and the materials you’ll use.”
  • Be careful when supplying materials: As Wayne says, supplying materials can be a minefield if you’re not careful – while it can be a profitable part of your business, it pays to be sensible about how you approach it. “You don’t want to be stuck with a piece of carpet you can’t use. You can’t drag money out of people.”

 

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The people of Britain have opened the door on the disgusting state of their bathrooms, revealing their biggest pet hates, embarrassing confessions – and even admitting to dumping their partners over their grimy en suites.

According to a new survey of British homeowners, the vast majority of people dislike their own bathrooms, with more than two thirds of people (67%) saying they were unhappy with it. Nearly half of all people surveyed (45%) said it was the room in their home they most wanted to renovate, while 41% admitted to being embarrassed by their bathroom when friends came to visit.

The dire state of our bathrooms is also dividing friendships and ending relationships. More than a third of people (38%) admitted to holding it in while visiting a friend’s house because their bathroom was too disgusting to use. A quarter of people (25%) said they had fallen out with housemates or partners over the state of their bathroom, while shockingly, 24 people (6%) confessed they had actually dumped their partner over the issue.

The biggest turnoffs people had about bathrooms was low water pressure in the shower and wonky toilet seats, with 56% of people listing them as major gripes. Toilets that don’t flush properly (48%), carpet in the bathroom (44%), and no lock on the bathroom door (35%) were also listed as big pet hates.

However, many people confessed that their own bathrooms are guilty of the same bugbears. Nearly a third of people (32%) admitted to having a wonky toilet seat, while no lock on the door (23%), separate hot and cold taps (21%), a badly placed or missing loo roll holder (20%) and low water pressure (18%) also featured heavily.

More than 400 homeowners responded to the survey, carried out by MyBuilder, the online marketplace for finding quality tradesmen.

As a result of these dismal revelations of the survey, MyBuilder has teamed up with VictoriaPlum.com and embarked on a mission to find, and fix, the grimmest bathroom in Britain. Homeowners simply need to tell MyBuilder why their bathroom is such a nightmare, and submit pictures, to be in with a chance of winning a full bathroom makeover.

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Our bathrooms go through a lot. Water and steam both take their toll over time, so it’s no surprise that it’s one of the rooms people are most keen to renovate. If you’re thinking of sprucing up your bathroom, here are a few things you could consider.

Upgrade your shower

Many of us dream about having a luxurious rain shower worthy of a five star hotel, so why not speak to a plumber about getting one installed? Modern showers can be decadent while still being eco-friendly and conserving water.

Hire a plumber

Sort your ventilation

Sometimes it can seem impossible to avoid damp and condensation in the bathroom, but a capable fan or ventilation system is designed to handle all the moisture you can throw at it, as long as it’s well maintained. If you need to repair or replace your extractor fan, talk to a competent electrician.

Hire an electrician

Update your tiling

Moldy grouting or sealant is one of the banes of bathrooms, while cracked tiles can lead to greater damage of the wall behind. Even if they’re all intact, replacing your tiling can be a relatively quick and inexpensive way to refresh your bathroom.

Hire a tiler

Add some new hardware

Even small details can give a big impact, so don’t neglect the minor aspects of your bathroom, like cabinet handles, door hooks and the toilet-roll holder. If you want an even bigger impact, you can go all out and update the toilet, basin, and bath itself.

Hire a bathroom fitter

Expand your storage

If you’re constantly running out of space for your toiletries, towels, and all the other things that build up in a bathroom, why not add some in-built storage? A talented carpenter can help build bespoke shelves or cupboards to fit the most awkward spaces

Hire a carpenter

 

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When you meet Rob Joy today, you’ll find a confident, outgoing family man, leading a team of 15 painters and decorators as the head of his company, Finishing Touch Services. But this wasn’t always the case, 10 years ago you would have met a very different person indeed.

We met Rob not on a building site, but in a charity shop and community centre in the heart of Luton. SOAR is the base of Rob’s church and charity, Kingdom Cause Community, and the ambitious project has all been made possible through the achievements of Finishing Touch Services. Like many successful tradesmen, Rob started out on the tools as a youngster, but his career didn’t always go smoothly.

“My dad had a roofing company which was quite successful, so weekends and school holidays I’d go along and help out labouring for him,” Rob told us. “ I’d be on building sites and scaffolding when I was so young that my dad would have to tell me to duck if the police came past! But I’d get my five pounds for the day sweeping up broken tiles and what not, so I was happy.”

Sadly for Rob, the happiness didn’t last. Rob’s world was shattered when his beloved dad died, and the teenager soon found himself headed off the rails. “I hit rock bottom,” he admits. It went from flirting with drugs at the weekend to going in at the deep end. My dad left me a lot of money and I threw it all away on drugs, down the pub, at the football. From the age of 16 to 26 I was in it. The drugs destroyed me – I was 8 stone, my mental health had gone, I’d been in and out of prison. I literally lost everything.”

Rob’s journey back to sobriety was fueled by faith. “My mum had always prayed for me and I didn’t want to know, but I couldn’t deny the change I’d seen in her – whether it was real or not, it had an impact for her. I remember, one night, I just said, ‘God, is there any way you can change a man like me,’ and for the first time in years I went to bed with no fear, no paranoia. I woke up the next day completely and utterly transformed. No one could tell me it was just willpower – my mind had changed, my heart had changed.”

 

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The pleasure of painting

 

Despite this transformation, it took time for Rob to build himself back up, reconnecting with his family, and getting back into work. “I knew that roofing might not be for me – all the angles and the maths were too much to get my head round! But I’d done other jobs with my dad, painting here and there, and thought I could make a go of that. One of the first jobs I did when I got straight was painting those temporary buildings that go on building sites, just one after the other, and I enjoyed it. Painting is therapeutic.”

From those small beginnings, Rob began to build his experience. “I had this philosophy, short term loss for long term gain,” he explained. “For example, I did a job repainting a door, and I thought it would be simple, half a day’s work. But it wasn’t at all, it was falling apart, I had to take it back to bare wood, do loads to it, it took me much longer. I lost out on that job. But a few months later, I took on another door job, and I realised it was exactly the same situation, but now I knew exactly what to do.”

Rob joined MyBuilder two years ago, and soon realised that the feedback system would force him to up his game. “When you’re working for family, friends, friends of friends, they can say nice things but it’s not always the most honest. When you’re winning work on MyBuilder, that feedback is real. I realised maybe I wasn’t as good as I thought I was – you have to improve.” The feedback for the business still has a negative review from his early efforts, but with more than 100 pieces of positive feedback, he hasn’t let it stand in his way.

Like many setting up their own business, it was a case of long hours and low pay. “I’d do 17 hour days, out on site until it was dark, back to kiss my kids before bed, then out to quote, writing it up before bed, then waking up realising I’d missed something.”

Rob began to build the company, eventually bringing in other people to help. “The best thing I did was take on a guy called Alan, who’s now my business manager. He’d been in the trade for 35 years, and his skills, his ability, they’re brilliant. I used to be annoyed that he was slower than other guys I worked with, but I realised, his jobs never had any snags. It might be a day slower, but it was perfect – never any stress. So I went to him and said, look, I might be the one paying you, but I want you to teach me how to be a good painter and decorator. I was humble. And so for six months, he showed me what he knew. It helped me get better, helped me understand the materials and the techniques, helped me quote on jobs.”

As he says: “You can’t be a great decorator in a few years – you have to do it for years and years, always learning. You end up breathing it.”

 

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A matter of standards

 

The business is now up to 15 men, and Rob hopes to add more in the coming year. “I wouldn’t want it to get too big, because what I’m concerned about is quality,” he said. “I tell the boys, I don’t expect them to have the same faith as me, but I expect them to work to the standards I do.”

Profits from the business go into supporting the charity, helping both in the local community, and in Malawi. “I’m all about going out into the streets,” Rob said, “I never wanted to be preached at and I still don’t. It’s about helping someone who’s starving with some food, or giving a coat to someone freezing.” In Malawi, the charity is looking to buy land in order to start work on an orphanage, with some of Rob’s team ready to go out and work on the project themselves.

“We went there in April, took some guys from work and it’s changed their life. We took loads of toys and clothes, it was incredible. It broke my heart. I came back and said to my wife, the business isn’t for wealth, for big houses and fast cars, it’s for this.”

The lads will be hands on when it comes to the orphanage: “The standards of construction over there aren’t always great,” Rob laughed. “But we’ll be able to to really do some good there. We do as much as we can. We send out money for the women in the community to buy materials and make bags, which we sell here in the shop, with the profits going back to them. And we sell second-hand clothes in here, with those that don’t sell going directly to the kids there.”

Rob doesn’t make a point of telling homeowners where the money from their jobs will be going, but when it comes up, he says they’re always happy to hear more. “The customers are amazing, so many of them are now friend, they donate, they come and help out.” He always tries to lend a hand where he can where customers are in need – through a contact at Dulux, he has access to discount paints that can be used for worthy causes or sold on to raise money. He’s also happy to hear from any other tradesmen who are keen to help out on charitable projects for worthy causes.

Through Rob’s efforts, both the business and the charity have continued to grow, but he insists it’s still the quality, not the quantity, that matters most. “One thing I always say to my guys is that it’s not the past hundred jobs that matter – it’s the one we’re working on right now.”

 

Advice for tradesmen:

  • Always be willing to learn: “I still meet young guys who come from doing professional qualifications who think they know everything, but they don’t”, Rob said. “When you’re working with people with lots of experience, there’s always something you can take from them.”
  • Prepare accurate quotes: “The biggest source of issues on any job is if there was something in the quote that wasn’t clear,” Rob told us. “A tradesman should lay out everything, materials, hours, who pays for what, so that there can’t be any quibbles.”
  • Think long term: “No one can be great at something overnight,” Rob said. “You have to think about the long term, building your skills and growing the business. It can’t be rushed.”

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For the past month, we’ve been looking for the worthiest winner of a garden makeover. We know how much people value their outdoor space and wanted to find the people who most deserved to have their garden transformed into a beautiful and practical place to spend time.

We were overwhelmed with entries, with hundreds of people from around the UK sharing their stories with us, and more than 30,000 people voting for the gardens they most wanted to see get a well-earned facelift. Picking a winner from the most popular entries was a difficult process that divided the judges, but eventually we found our winner.

Megan Rees from Oxford entered the competition hoping to the change the life of her three-year-old daughter, Ariella. When Ariella was born, she was given just a 10% chance of survival, with a number of rare conditions including CHD and Nager syndrome. Her devoted parents have had to give up work to care for her around the clock, yet despite her disabilities, she has a passion for life and loves being outside and exploring.

 

Megan and Ariella's garden is in need of some TLC

Megan and Ariella’s garden is in need of some TLC

 

Megan says: “Ariella is the strongest person I know, she is always happy and takes life as it comes. If there is anyone who deserves to have a special garden to play in it would be her – this incredible girl doesn’t let anything stop her.”

We agreed, and in the coming weeks we’ll be working with Megan and local tradespeople to transform Ariella’s garden, turning it into a safe and fun place for her to play. We’ll be sharing the whole transformation here on MyBuilder, so watch this space!

 

Ariella loves being outdoors and exploring

Ariella loves being outdoors and exploring

Each month, we aim to get out and see as many of the dedicated tradespeople we have on MyBuilder as possible. Whether they’re laying paving or putting the finishing touches to a room, we love to see them hard at work, and show off what they do best. We met fencers in Forest Hill and electricians in Islington, all of whom were giving it their all to get the job done. Here are some of people we met in the past few weeks:

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Paul Jordan gets to work landscaping a back garden in Bishop Stortford

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A team of fencers led by Nadia Ward does preparation before installing a new fence in Forest Hill, London

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Lewis Sage‘s team of builders working on a new loft and rear extension in Wanstead, London

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Painter and decorator Derek Walker-Hawley adds the finishing touches to a door jamb in Fleet

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Andrew Kowalski and a colleague begin laying concrete during a build in Wimbledon

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Islington electrician David Gilbert carries out a safety inspection

gardeners-108Stephen Clarke and his crew working on landscaping in Chingford

 

We’re always on the lookout for more tradespeople willing to show off their skills and allow us to take a look at their latest projects. If you’re a tradesman who uses MyBuilder, get in touch with andrew@mybuilder.com to arrange a session.


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