Tag: advice


The weather may be annoyingly changeable, but spring is still in the air. The daffodils are out, the clocks will soon be going forwards, and there’s no better time to think about doing some work on your home.

Spring is the most popular time for people to put their property up for sale, a process which often requires carrying out some work to show it off at its best. Even if you’re planning on staying put for the time being, a little work can go a long way in helping you fall back in love with your home, so here are some spring ideas for sprucing it up.



Get Rid of Your Rubbish


Sometimes it’s not what you add, it’s what you take away that counts. And while it may be painful to get rid of something that’s been there for a long time, if it’s only holding you back, now is the time to get rid. If you want to strip a living room or a bedroom back to a blank canvas so you can start again, or just get rid of something that’s been hanging around long past its sell-by date like an unsightly shed or outbuilding, a demolitions and clearance specialist can do the ultimate spring clean for you, and help you get back to a clean slate.


Revamp Your Rooms


Whether it’s a simple coat of paint or a total transformation, redecorating can make a room feel brand new. There are almost infinite options, style, trends and fashions you can take influence from, which you can adapt and recreate according to your own budget. Whether you need a painter or a plasterer, a carpet fitter or a tiler, experienced tradesmen can help overhaul a home.



Update Your Kitchen


They say the kitchen is the heart of the home, and like any heart, it needs to be kept in tip-top shape. While installing an entirely new kitchen can be a costly project to undertake, there are smaller ways to refresh the room, from changing the cupboard doors to adding a new coat of paint or tiling splashback. However, if you want to go the whole hog, a quality kitchen can be tailored for your family and last for years to come, making it a potentially valuable investment for the future.


Give Your Garden Some Attention


It’s not just the inside of your home that always needs attention – after months of bad weather, sometimes it’s our gardens that are crying out for some love. A new planting scheme can bring a garden to life, but landscaping can also help to create a new atmosphere and purpose. Dedicated seating areas, paths and terraces can all add interest and utility to a garden, and spring is the perfect time to tackle the project, so your outdoor space can be ready to enjoy in the summer.



Start Thinking Bigger


While it’s always satisfying to create a big impact with little effort, sometimes, a big effort is truly worthwhile. Adding an extension to your home, or converting your loft from underused attic space into fully usable living space, is a major project to undertake, but one that can completely change how you use and feel about your home. If you’re just thinking about how you could transform your home, an architectural designer could be a good place to start – they can look at your home and come up with plans, before a specialist building company can get to work.



When renovating your bathroom, it pays to know what’s hot and what’s not in contemporary bathroom design. That’s why we asked Nicky Kingston, Stylist for bathroom experts VictoriaPlum.com, to give us her top 5 bathroom trends for 2018.


Vibrant colours


Remember those terrible avocado bathroom suites from the 70s and 80s? Whether it was your grandparents or even your parents that owned one, homeowners have played it safe in recent times, employing a more neutral colour scheme for their bathrooms. These days, you’re more likely to find a monochrome palette rather than anything too adventurous.

However, this is all set to change in 2018, as designers start throwing caution to the wind! With Pantone announcing “ultra-violet” as their colour of the year, expect to start seeing purples and turquoises being used as a primary base colour in bathrooms up and down the country. Gold is also a colour that has caught the imagination (which I’ll discuss later).

A very simple way to introduce a primary colour into your bathroom design is by painting a wall and adding accessories in the same shade. Towels, bath mats and blinds can all be used to great effect.


A gold standard décor


Even before Great Britain’s record medal haul at the recent Winter Olympics, gold has been touted as the colour to look out for in interior design this year. And with bathrooms there is so much you can do with this precious metallic finish!

Of course, I’m not suggesting you go overboard and end up with a bathroom that looks like it belongs to some power-crazed military dictator. There are more subtle ways to give your bathroom the Midas touch.

Chrome taps and showers have been the mainstay of bathrooms for a long while, but we are now seeing more and more homeowners opting for gold-coloured finishes. Metallic tiles are also proving popular, with golds and silvers combining to create a glittering and quite glamorous back drop to that relaxing soak in the bath. You can even add matching gold accessories, to create a bathroom design that wins hands down.



Get smart


No longer just a niche interest of gadget-obsessed geeks, smart homes have really begun to take off in a big way. With millions of Amazon Alexa devices snapped up over the past 12 months, coupled with Apple’s new HomePod, it looks like many of us are finally embracing smart technology to run our homes. With this in mind, it is now the bathroom’s turn to take advantage of this new technology.

Digital showers are certainly getting smarter, with the ability to set a constant temperature and even switch easily between different outlets. However, homeowners are now demanding more from their bathroom experience.

New smart bathroom systems, like VictoriaPlum.com’s very own SmarTap, are now providing people with a personalised experience that can be controlled via their phone or even through voice activation. These smart bathroom systems not only help save water and energy, they also update automatically so features can be added and improved well into the future.


Funky floors


Boring flooring will become a thing of the past in 2018. Many people are now tearing up their tired old lino and jazzing things up with a feature floor.

The best way to approach this is to use feature tiles. There are so many different designs, patterns and colours to choose from, you’ll be spoilt for choice.

Victorian style tiles are popular, with ornate patterns that look elegant, whilst geometric patterns can be used to complement a multitude of styles, like Art Deco. Your tiles don’t even need to be rectangular or square in shape. There are many interesting shapes you could try like hexagons or even circles.

Choosing a coloured grout instead of the usual white is another way to funk up your flooring. Use a black grout to make white tiles stand out or choose a shade that works with your main bathroom colour.

Wood effect tiles will give the natural appearance of wood without any of the maintenance issues that real wood can bring.



Green for go


As well as getting smarter, our homes appear to be getting greener, with house plant sales at an all-time high.

Many modern homes have very little in the way of green space, and for those living in urban flats, the situation can be even worse. Therefore, it’s hardly surprising that many of us are using our green fingers to great effect when decorating our home interiors.

The benefits of houseplants have long been appreciated, but it is only in recent times that their use has seen a revival. In the bathroom, you can create a totally tropical look and feel by adding plants that thrive in warm and humid conditions. Aside from the usual suspects, like Spider Plants and Aloe Vera, why not add a Kentia Palm which thrives in low light or a Boston Fern which loves moisture. If you’re short on surfaces, add some hanging planters instead.


Get the look


Head to VictoriaPlum.com for more great bathroom ideas.

Chris and James of Southend Flooring


From pies to parquet, flooring fitter James Thurston (right) has had a diverse career. After years selling traditional cockney grub, the Essex boy has returned to his roots laying flooring and carpeting. We met up with him and business partner Chris Shorter to learn how Southend Flooring got off the ground.

Like many tradesmen, James, from Chelmsford, originally got into the business thanks to family – his dad ran a carpeting firm, and James would help out as a youngster. “I was only a kid,” James told us, “going out at weekends and holidays to lend a hand. Then when I finished school, I went straight into it – I finished school on a Tuesday, and was out working on the Wednesday. I went at it hard, doing five, six, even seven days a week, and did that for the next ten years.”




Eventually, the job took its toll on James, and the moment came where he fancied a change. “I did myself in physically,” he said. “The older guys would all tell me I’d regret not wearing knee pads or looking myself, and I never listened. I just wanted a change. I thought catering might be a good way to make some money, that maybe didn’t have all the hard graft.”


Life of Pie


James’ foray into the food world wasn’t as simple as retraining as a chef – instead, he got involved in the world of pie and mash, inheriting a traditional recipe and bringing it into the 21st century. “I’m no chef, but I was smart with the branding and managed to get it into a lot of places, I even did catering for a Madness gig once. We sold them online and had big plans to do things like open the first pie and mash shop in New York city, but in the end, it never quite came about. When that was coming to an end, my wife was running a restaurant that was also winding down, so we found ourselves coming back to Southend looking for something to do.”


James and Chris at work


With £1,000 left in the bank and bills to pay, James turned to what he knew best. “I went out and managed to get hold of an old van, and dug my old tools out of storage – and within a few days, was doing little jobs for friends. I signed up to MyBuilder to see if I could get a little bit of work that way, and was amazed at how many leads were coming my way. It got me back on track.”

It was another twist of fate that took the business to the next level, as James told us. “I was out one day and bumped into Chris. We’d known each other since school, but I didn’t know he also did carpeting and floors. He was working big commercial jobs, and when we met again he was doing betting shop refurbs and he asked me to help out. They wanted them done super quickly, overnight, so you’d go in at 5pm and have to be done by 5am. I told Chris, sleeping on a bookies’ floor is no way to live your life. I wasn’t sure about telling him about MyBuilder because it was going so well for me, but in the end I did – and we decided to start working together properly.”


Taking on the Big Jobs


They set up Southend Flooring and started winning work, taking on a variety of jobs, including residential and commercial fitting, with bigger and bigger gigs coming their way.

“We had a huge project come up,” James said, “for a new build apartment block with a big developer. We tendered for it, assuming we were just there to make up the numbers, but it went from 19 companies in the running, down to 14, down to 10, down to five. I didn’t think it would end up with us, and we heard for a while that another firm had got it, but one day the directors came down and told us they were impressed with us and the efforts we’d gone to to show off what we could do.”

The key, James said, is their passion. “I think we’ve probably upset some other businesses with how we’ve grown. We’ve built up big accounts with suppliers that other people haven’t been able to access. But the developer wanted someone who wouldn’t just see the job as another invoice, they wanted people with passion, and that’s what we had bags of.”


The team now fit carpets across Essex and London


Now, the business has grown to have ten full time fitters, working in five teams: “We don’t have time to get the vans sign-written, because they’re always out doing jobs!”, James said. “It’s great having a team like that though. They’re all people we’ve known in the business for years, or they’ve been recommended by those guys we trusted. We could never just sub a job out to someone to someone we didn’t really know – that’s your reputation on the line. If they get you a bad review, well, I have nightmares about that.”

Since Southend Flooring started on MyBuilder, the firm has maintained a 100% positive feedback rating, with more than 120 jobs completed.

“We get work from a lot of places now,” James said, “but we still take on leads from MyBuilder. It’s reassuring to know that if everything just stopped tomorrow, I could get back on MyBuilder and find new clients. It really worked for me. Even my dad has signed up now, and he’s been going for decades, with thousands of customers.” He added, “I know tradesmen who spend a £1,000 a month on directory listings, and I just think, if they were on MyBuilder, the return would be 10 times better.”

James credits the feedback system with building up success on MyBuilder. “Those reviews all keep you honest,” he said. “No mistakes, no cutting corners. It does you a world of good for your own work ethic, and when it comes to training up other guys.”

With plenty more work on the horizon, James and Chris will be looking to keep up the great feedback. With that under their belts, growing the business won’t just be pie in the sky.




Roofs take a battering in bad weather


“The Beast from the East”caused chaos across the country in recent weeks and homes around the UK took a battering. On MyBuilder there are thousands of expert tradesmen able to deal with the impact of stormy weather, so don’t delay if you have a problem that needs taken care of.



Roof Damage

The high winds and swirling snow put roofs to the test, and many won’t have passed with flying colours. If you discovered a leak or have any damaged tiles, now is the time to get them sorted by an experienced roofer, before getting to April and its showers.

Frozen Pipes

Households in some parts of the country lost their water supply after mains pipes struggled to cope with the freezing temperatures, and many homes will have seen their pipes suffer too. If you have any concerns, a good plumber will be able to address them.


Trees often need attention after storms


Boiler Check-up

When it’s cold outside, the last thing any home needs is to find its heating on the blink. A gas engineer can inspect your boiler and make sure it’s good to go for any more cold snaps.

Investigate Insulation

If you discovered that no amount of central heating and woolly jumpers were able to make your home feel warm and cosy throughout the wintry weather, it’s probably a good idea to consider improving its insulation. A specialist can help you decide what method will be most effective for your property.

Tree Time

The Beast from the East brought down trees around the nation, causing problems for traffic and putting property at risk. If you suffered any damage, or are concerned about any trees will cope with future storms, a tree surgeon can give you piece of mind.



Guttering Inspection

They may not be the most glamorous part of our homes, but guttering and drainpipes do sterling work in protecting our home from water damage. Bad weather can cause issues which will only get worse over time, so it’s vital to address any problems early with a specialist.

Fence Fixing

Wooden fences and gates are often major casualties of inclement weather, and can be an unsightly nuisance until they’re taken care of. A good fencer can help replace or repair damaged fences and gates quickly and efficiently.





Many tradesmen start out in the business because they grew up with it, but for Bradley Jones, life as a tradesman is a real family affair.

Together with his dad, Steve, and brother, Danny, Bradley is 33% partner in their business, Johnson & Jones, which takes on a range of projects, from boiler replacements and demolitions to renovations and large loft conversions.

Going into business with his nearest and dearest wasn’t always in the plan though – it took leaving home for Bradley to realise where his passion really lay.

“At school I was always really good at certain subjects – maths, chemistry, physicals, all of that, I always did really well and was in the top set,” Bradley told us. “When I finished school, I wanted to carry it on, so I went to university to study maths. I was there for a year, but I realised I didn’t like living away from home, so I came back. Then I had to figure out what I wanted to do next.”



Bradley’s dad, Steve, was a gas engineer of 35 year’s experience, who’d spent most of his career working alongside a close friend. Bradley said: “I didn’t really want to go into the same line of work, but when I was sat at home, I realised I could help him out a bit. I got him joined up to MyBuilder, set up a profile for him, and started using it to find him jobs. Anything he got through the site, he’d give me a cut at the end. After a while, as well as doing that, I ended up going out with him on site, helping out where I could, cleaning up and stuff. I started to think about what else I could do to help.”

With brother Danny already following in their dad’s footsteps as a gas engineer, Bradley decided to follow a slightly different path. “I decided to become an electrician,” he said. “I knew electrics could be something I’d enjoy, because there’s a maths side to it, there are calculations to do – the electrician is always the cleverest person on a building site – although I would say that!”

Bradley committed to becoming a fully qualified and accredited electrician, becoming certified through NAPIT. “The fact that we have gas engineers and an electrician means we’re able to take on more jobs – we can cover everything. I can even go out by myself on weekends and evenings to do littler emergency jobs. If someone posts something up at 8pm, I’ll just head out and get it done.”

With the three working together and able to turn their hand to a variety of jobs, the company has grown massively, now employing a team of ten. “Any job that is there, we can undertake it,” Bradley said, “from something big like a loft conversion to smaller jobs stripping out a room or fixing up a boiler. We use MyBuilder to pick up quick jobs and fill in the gaps between the bigger projects.



Though based in Chigwell, Essex, the family work a wide radius, picking up jobs across London – they even did some work this autumn taking apart the old MyBuilder HQ when the company moved into new offices (we left positive feedback).

Despite all the time spent working together, Bradley says arguments between the trio are rare. “My brother and I never argue – I can’t think of a single time we’ve ever really had a falling out. It’s usually more that me and him will be up against my dad, because he has a different way of looking at things. Dad’s always think they know best! They don’t like to listen to their sons because they think they’re right. But to be honest, it doesn’t happen very often, and it never lasts long if it does. If anything, my mum will get involved, get everyone together in the front room, and force people to make up.”

As for taking work home with them, that’s just an occupational hazard. “Every time we come home from work, mum will open the door and make us take our work boots off before we come in the house. She must be sick of it – we’re out all day on jobs, come back late, then spend another two hours talking about work. Even when we’re out for dinner somewhere, we’ll be talking about work. She deserves a nice holiday.”

The future looks promising for the business, with the team looking to take on work with local councils to renovate and expand their housing stock. “It’s something we see more and more of,” Bradley said. “Generally, people seem to be moving less, so they think more about expanding. For councils, they need to maximise the space they offer, so they’re doing the same thing.”

If things do get busier, there’s always more manpower on the way. “My younger brother, Sam, is training as a carpenter – so hopefully he’ll be joining in soon.”


Advice for Tradesmen:


  • Work on your messaging: “Your initial message must be strong. It has to be professional. You can’t just say you’re interested, you’d love to quote and so on – it has to be in depth, introducing yourself and the company and what you do, and outlining potential costs based on what they’ve posted. And no spelling mistakes helps as well!”
  • Build your profile: “You need a strong profile. It’s your showcase. Especially with pictures, show off what you do and make it relevant – show off the big jobs and the small jobs so people know you can do everything.”
  • Go the extra mile: “Go that extra step for every customer – if it’s just 10 minutes do something while you’re already there, why not? Clean up after yourself, and take away your rubbish. The customer will remember you, leave great feedback, and call you when they need something again.”


One cup of tea. That’s how emergency plumber Tyrone Tash measures his jobs. “I like to turn up, get to work while I have my tea, and be done before I need a second cup. Then I’m off to the next job.” It’s a quick pace, but that’s how he likes it.

Life hasn’t always been that fast-paced for Tyrone. When he was a teenager, he found himself working on the tills for Marks & Spencer. “I was in retail for a while, working at three different stores,” Tyrone told us. “I worked in Ealing, then in Kensington, then I thought I’d be the best I could be, and moved to the flagship store in Marble Arch. I was on the tills mainly, and helping customers out, but I didn’t really feel like I was learning anything. After three years I’d had enough.”

Tyrone was at a crossroads. “I’d tried college, doing a course in leisure and tourism, but I knew deep down studying wasn’t for me. I wanted to work full time.” Luckily, something came up. “My dad is a clerk of works. He started out as a painter and decorator but now he goes round inspecting big building projects. He’s got high standards – if you’re not going to do it properly, don’t do it! So he never liked me tinkering at home, because I wasn’t going to do it properly. But he knew a lot of people in trades, and one day, one of his friends gave me a call.”

It was a call that would change Tyrone’s future. “The guy gave me a week to decide if I wanted to come and work with him. I was still in the shop, and I wasn’t sure, but I thought about it for a couple of days, decided ‘yeah, I’m in’, and quit my job. Then the guy told me he thought I was going to turn it down and he’d offered the job to someone else! But thankfully, he kept his word and took me on.”



The job was joining a large team of plumbers and other tradespeople working on large projects, such as newbuild apartments. Tyrone started doing four days a week on the tools, and one day a week in college. “The other guys used to take the mickey out of me for being a good little student, reading my books – they’d all been doing it for years and learned it all on the job,” Tyrone said. “But I appreciate having the qualifications now. It’s something solid you can show people.”

Tyrone knew from the first day that plumbing was for him. “I couldn’t have done decorating like my dad,” he said. “I’m sorry, but it’s so boring – you’re literally watching paint dry! But I knew plumbing would be for me. I’m an enthusiastic person, I like to get stuck in, and as soon as I was doing it, I just knew.”

It was a steep learning curve, but Tyrone thinks working on the large sites helped him develop his skills. “I spent four years doing new installations, and I learned to solder my pipes properly, all nice and neat. You’re doing it from drawings so you have to be exact, because if you put the pipes in wrong, when they come in and lay the concrete, you might suddenly find what you had planned to come out in the bathroom is now coming out in the bedroom.”

After a few years learning the ropes, Tyrone knew he wanted to go it alone, setting up 24-7 TT Plumbing and Heating, which has now built up more than 200 positive pieces of feedback on MyBuilder. “I just like being out there,” he told us, “where every day is different. On the same site every day, I go mad, it’s like working in an office for me, my brain just turns to mush. I like meeting new people. Six or seven jobs a day, that’s what keeps it fresh”.



That passion for novelty means Tyrone has found his perfect job as a reactionary plumber, becoming an emergency service of sorts for homeowners who find themselves with leaks, floods, and other plumbing crises. “I like being out there on the road,” he explained. “I got a new van five months ago, and I’ve already covered 10,000 miles. I’m all over north and west London, from where I grew up in Cricklewood out to Uxbridge and beyond – but not central. I can’t bear being stuck in traffic!”

Tyrone can do six or seven jobs a day, and although he can pick and choose his jobs these days, in the past he’s worked late into the night. “When I was doing all-night calls, you used to get people crying down the phone at you. It’s tough. The money is good because there aren’t many people who want to do those jobs, but it’s hard to drag yourself out, and you could be so tired.” Now, he tends to start work mid-morning and go into the evening, but can still end up getting home at midnight.

In the years he’s been working, he’s seen it all. “I don’t mind all the dogs and stuff, but you do end up in some strange places. The worst is when places are really dirty – I’ve seen dust gathering on top of dust.” He added: “One job I really remember was when someone rang me about a pipe that had split. He’d been on holiday in the USA and it was during a snowy winter a few years ago. His ceiling has collapsed, falling into his bathroom, but he couldn’t get someone to come see it because no one wanted to head out in the snow, and the water was still flowing. I had 12 jobs that day – I must have been the only one working. I got there after about four hours, and turned off the water in five seconds. I was like ‘sorry mate, I wish I could have got here sooner’. People need to learn where there stopcocks are though!”



Despite the long hours and tough jobs, it’s all been worth it. “It was hard, starting out,” he admits. “MyBuilder was great for building up my reputation though. That’s what it was all about for me – getting those reviews. I was chasing feedback over money to begin with. The first job, when someone took a chance on me and I didn’t have a review on there, I was so grateful, I practically did it for nothing. But I wanted the reviews. I used to look at other guys on the site and see how they did it. I was going for jobs all day long, then asking the people to leave feedback. You can’t beg them, but it’s worth explaining to them how important it is.”

Tyrone has big ambitions, inspired by the Pimlico Plumbers vans he sees around the capital. “I think it’s amazing the business they’ve built up. I’d love to grow into something like that – I already have the personalised plate for the van! By the time I’m 40, I’d like to have a team of people and be the one directing the work. Running a business is difficult, dealing with admin, and I’ve made mistakes along the way, but it’s been a learning process. I still enjoy it.” He might have a few more years to go in his van, but Tyrone is always keen to take on the next job, and always happy to have another cup of tea – just the one though.


Advice for Tradesmen


  • Timing is everything: “You can’t be late in this game, keeping people waiting is just rude. I tell people a window when I’ll get there, and I make sure I’m there.”
  • Stick to your quote: “It’s annoying if you make a mistake and you’ve underpriced it, but the person has accepted you based on what you told them. If you have to just charge for materials and undercharge for your time, I think it’s worth it to build your reputation build trust with a client.”
  • Give receipts: “Make everything nice and official, be professional. It’s not that hard to do but it helps everyone out.”

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