Tag: advice

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Lots of us love using bank holidays to try out some DIY, but it’s not always possible to reach for the toolbox. If your time is precious, or you simply lack the confidence, hiring a professional is the best way to ensure a job well done. With the May bank holiday looming, here are some ideas for DIY jobs you might want to leave to the experts.

 

Inspect your Roof Tiles
It goes without saying that care needs to be taken whenever ladders and heights are involved, but care also needs to be taken with fragile roof tiles – what can be a simple job for an experienced roofer can turn into a costly mess if mistakes are made.
Find a Roofer

 

Cut Back your Trees
Climbing trees with tools – whether a powerful chainsaw or an old-fashioned hand-saw – is always a risky proposition. Tree surgeons have specialised equipment and training to deal with unruly branches smartly and safely.
Find a Tree Surgeon

 

Grout the Bathroom
What can seem like a superficially easy job is often riddled with complications, needing just the right materials and a perfect finish. A tiler will be able to do the job quickly and neatly.
Find a Tiler

 

Paint your Living Room
The time-honoured way to update your interior design, painting is a starting point for many DIYers. However, without the right system of coats, it can also be a surefire way to end up with a rough job that never looks quite right. A painter and decorator will know how to get the best results and can save you money in the long run.
Find a Painter and Decorator

 

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Fit a New Carpet
Cutting a carpet to fit a room doesn’t seem like the biggest task, but one wrong cut could see you with a pricey, but useless carpet that no longer meets the wall. A practiced carpet fitter can refresh a room in a day.
Find a Carpet Fitter

 

Put up Some Shelves
Another old standby for tool-happy homeowners, putting up shelves is perhaps the quintessential DIY job. But if you’re worried about hitting a wire, ruining your dry wall, or just leaving it wonky, a handyman can help.
Find a Handyman

 

Lay New Paving
It’s not as easy as just putting down some slabs – have you considered sub-grades, sub-bases, drainage, and everything else that needs taking care of? If you’re in any doubt, a driveway paver or landscape gardener can step in.
Find a Driveway Paver | Find a Landscape Gardener

 

Stay Away from Gas and Electrics
While there are many jobs that you can tackle yourself, two areas should definitely be left to the experts: anything involving gas in the home should be dealt with by a gas engineer on the Gas Safety Register, while electrics should be handled by a competent electrician who can self-certify their work.
Find a Gas Engineer | Find an Electrician

 

Rob Birch - Roofer, Fascias, Soffits and Guttering Specialist, Conservatory Installer

For many tradesman, dealing with suppliers is just another part of the job. But for Rob Burch, a fascias, soffits and guttering specialist from Rainham in Essex, it was an opportunity.

As well as doing his own fitting and installation work, Rob realised that there was a business to be made in becoming a supplier himself, and set up Direct Cladding, operating a trade yard where other tradesman can come in to buy materials for a variety of projects. Now, as well as taking on jobs from MyBuilder, he also supplies materials to other tradesman who use MyBuilder. “I don’t see it as competition though,” Rob tells us. “Other people aren’t competition – I see them as someone to learn from. You can always learn, can’t you?”

 

Going it Alone

 

Rob’s background set him up perfectly for a twin career as tradesman and supplier. He started out doing sales for a supply company and saw that there was money to be made in the line of work, especially with guttering and similar products. After also spending time managing a branch of a national chain of builders merchants, Rob realised he could make a go of it on his own, and set up Direct Cladding 19 years ago. Rob said: “I came from that supply side and was working for other people, managing a whole team, but I ended up thinking ‘I need to get out of here’, so that was it.”

Taking the leap worked out well for Rob. The business – both aspects of it – has boomed, with up to 10 separate teams of fitters working for Direct Cladding during peak season in the summer, going out and taking on around 30 jobs a week. Rob said: “I think we’re the biggest domestic installer in the UK. We just stick to domestic though, we don’t take on commercial projects. We’re good at what we do and we stick to that.”

Meanwhile, the supply side has grown as well, with the business becoming a common port of call for plenty of other tradesman in the area. They even sell directly to customers online. “We were doing supply and fit initially with the trade business, but we ended up supplying so much material we thought it would be silly not to sell a bit. That developed into another beast,” Rob said. Because we have the trade counter, we know all the local tradesman,” Rob said. “You get to know people and you start to understand who does it properly and who doesn’t. With this trade in particular, replacing fascias and so on, it’s one where people are likely only going to have it done to their homes once, so some tradesman might be unscrupulous and take advantage of that – they can use a bad product and know that the homeowner won’t realise. But we make sure we do it properly.”

 

No Cover Ups

 

Rob added: “The most common thing people might do to cut costs and do it on the cheap is overcladding – just put new PVCu capping boards over the timber structure that’s already there. But if that structure is rotten, all you’re doing to covering up the problem and leaving it there to crop up again down the line. We will only do proper replacements.”

 

Rob Birch - Roofer, Fascias, Soffits and Guttering Specialist, Conservatory Installer

 

Despite presiding over a business empire, Rob still likes to make time to go out on jobs himself, visiting homeowners and giving quotes. He joined MyBuilder in November 2015, and quickly started using it to win even more work for the business. In a little over a year, Direct Cladding has picked up 114 pieces of positive feedback, and no negatives. Considering Rob’s initial scepticism, he’s very happy with the results. “I’ve always been looking for new ways to bring in different leads, but a lot of things we tried were just frustrating. So we dipped into MyBuilder – we’d see a lot of tradesman on MyBuilder coming through the yard. I didn’t expect it to be any good if I’m being honest. But as soon as I was on there I saw how many jobs were up for grabs, and I just thought ‘yes please’.”

 

Playing the Game

 

It’s been an addiction ever since: “I got hooked! I couldn’t help myself, I had to force myself to put it down,” Rob said. “It’s a bit like doing a fruit machine, you see the jobs and you think, yep, I’ll go for that, go for that, and you give it a shot.” Rob’s top trip for winning work is to craft a good opening message when getting in touch with homeowners. “I was once in a meeting for the football club I help out with, and when I came out I saw a job that looked perfect, but I was an hour or two late in going for it. But no one else had been shortlisted yet, so I thought ‘why not?’ and gave it go, with a nice personalised message. Sure enough, I got it.”

Rob’s knowledge and experience was even recognised by City & Guilds, when he was asked to help write questions for the body’s examinations, helping to test the newcomers to the industry to make sure they were up to scratch.

It all shows that from being a sole trader to a business mogul, being a good tradesman takes on many different forms. But whether he’s behind the till or up a ladder, Rob knows that good work will always be appreciated.

 

Advice for tradesmen:

 

  • Your opening message is your chance to make a good first impression: “The first message is really important, you don’t have to spend a long time on it, but if you can just show that you’ve read their job post and talk about it properly, it can help you stand out against all the other people being shortlisted”.
  • You have to look at the bigger picture: “Sometimes you get difficult customers who’ll mess around when it comes to paying – there will always be a few chancers. But keeping your feedback as good as possible is more important than one difficult customer – in the long run, it will work out.”
  • Be smart about going for leads: “There’s definitely a balance when it comes to leads. You can’t go for everything, but at the same time, if you’re really picky you might not end up with anything with zero return. You have to be smart about it, but you can’t be afraid to go for it.”

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Going out into our gardens is a simple pleasure that many of us enjoy, but it’s also one that lots us take for granted. For those with disabilities or issues with their mobility, making the most of their garden can be difficult – especially if the space hasn’t been adapted for them. If you’re interested in making a garden more accessible, here are some tips to get you started.

 

Tame the Jungle

 

One of the best ways to take back your garden space is to physically clear out the things that have taken it over. Long grass, weeds, climbing ivy and other plants can all choke a garden if left and unchecked, while old broken down sheds and garages can end up as nothing but eyesores that have long outlived their usefulness. A demolitions and clearance expert might be best placed to help remove the detritus that making your garden such an unwelcome space.

 

Don’t Step on the Cracks

 

Old paving, loose blockwork and broken concrete can all prove to be huge impediments to enjoying a garden – while any stairs can be more like barriers for wheelchair users. If a path is meant to lead you through the garden, then it needs to be fit for purpose, while a ramp can replace stairs. A tradesman who does paving and hardstanding can help get them up to scratch.

 

Bed Time

 

Gardening is a British obsession, and even those of us without a green thumb can enjoy planting everything from beautiful flowers to tasty vegetable. However, bending over to get your hands dirty can be difficult for many people – so raised beds, where the planters are brought up to be more accessible – can be a great solution. A good carpenter or joiner can help create an attractive wooden design.

 

Turn on the Bright Lights

 

We all want to make as much of our outdoor space as possible, but it can be difficult when the light is fading and the evenings grow colder. Adding lighting to the seating area of your garden can help transform an underused space, and while it’s simple to add cheap, solar powered lights, an electrician will be able to install a more permanent and comprehensive solution.

 

Ready to take back control?

 

If you or someone you know is in dire need of a garden makeover, you could be in luck. MyBuilder is currently running a competition with a garden makeover worth £1,000 up for grabs. All you have to do to enter is submit a picture of the garden with the people who use it, and tell us what the makeover would mean to you.

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Lee Picknell - Fascias, Soffits and Guttering

Last month’s Storm Doris didn’t have the most dramatic name in the world, but when it was classed as a “weather bomb”, it felt a bit more serious. When it was disrupting travel and damaging property around the country, it definitely made its presence felt, and with April and it’s traditional showers on the way, there’s no better time to think about how your home will cope in a storm.

Fix your fencing

 

Fencing, especially when it’s old and neglected, is one of the most common casualties of bad weather and strong winds. You can prepare for the worst by checking for loose boards or panels, and making sure posts are still deeply rooted. If it does suffer damage, an experienced fencer can help repair or replace the affected areas.

 

Ready your roof

 

Another common victim of high winds and lashing rain, it only takes a small amount of damage to a roof to lead to big problems down the line. A few tiles out of place can lead to major leaks, which can mean significant redecoration. If you’re worried, consult a roofer. Danny Morgan of Morgan Roofing advises asking for pictures from tradesmen so you can see what they’re doing: “When it comes to roofing, a lot of the problems with bad tradesmen stem from the fact they can see things you can’t. I make sure I take pictures of everything, before and after, so I can show the homeowner what needs doing and how I’ll tackle it.”

 

Carl Lamon - Chimney & Fireplace Specialist

 

Gird your guttering

 

As with roof damage, a broken gutter can seem insignificant at first, but can lead to much bigger problems – if a leak is pouring water onto a particular spot on the wall, it can lead to internal damp and mould, and ruin external plaster work or painting. A specialist in fascias, soffits and guttering like Lee Picknell of LP Fascias (top picture) will be able to repair damage and replace any broken parts.

 

Check out your chimney

 

As with loose roof tiles, if chimney pots or bricks come off in a storm, they pose a threat not just to property but people too. If your chimney is old or hasn’t been inspected in a while, it can be worthwhile to have a chimney and fireplace specialist like Carl Lamon of Oxon Stoves (middle picture), or an experienced bricklayer, to assess it and deal with any issues before it becomes dangerous.

valentine blog

February means Valentine’s Day, and all of the cliches that come with it – crowded restaurants, overpriced bunches of wilted roses, and cheesy cards found in supermarket racks.

This year, for a change, why not show some love where it really matters? After a long winter of keeping out the cold and wet, your home might just be in need of a nice treat, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to show how much you care. Here are a few home improvements you can do to love your home this Valentine’s Day.

 

Food for the Soul

 

The kitchen is the heart of the home, where families come together to cook, eat and socialise. If you’re considering a revamp, a kitchen fitter can make the process go more smoothly, helping you source and install a new kitchen. Nigel England of N England Joinery in Sutton-in-Ashfield, a specialist kitchen fitter who has more than 120 pieces of positive feedback on MyBuilder, says: “You see problems with people buying cheap kitchens online, finding out they don’t fit properly or have faults. I’d always advise people to plan ahead – it can take a long time for a kitchen to be delivered, so work with a fitter to plan things in advance.”

 

Heart-shaped Box

 

One of the biggest issues people have with their homes is running out of storage space, as clothes, books and paperwork start piling up on chairs and in forgotten corners. One solution is to fill under-utilised space with bespoke cupboards, turning awkward corners into useful hideaways. An experienced carpenter or joiner will be able to create storage perfectly fitted to your needs.

 

The Look of Love

 

Sometimes the quickest way to show your home you care is to give it a quick makeover. A new lick of paint or roll of wallpaper can revitalise a tired room and make any space more inviting. While many people may be tempted to go down the DIY route, hiring an experienced decorator can help ensure a perfect finish. Nathan Broxholme of NS Decorators in Barnsley has more than 200 pieces of positive feedback on MyBuilder. He says: “There is often a big difference in quality. It’s about the definition – the cutting in – the opacity… like any specialists, we know what layer needs to go on what, we know what kind of stability we’ll get from each layer we apply, and so on.”

 

Say it with Flowers

 

The tail-end of winter may not be the best time to head outside and start on the floral arrangements, but there are plenty of things that you can do in the garden to help improve the look and feel of your outdoor space. Repairing damaged brickwork, replacing weather-beaten fencing, or adding a new shed or decking area can all help boost your garden ready for spring. Landscape gardeners tend to get busier as the weather improves, so now is the perfect time to find the right tradesman for your job.

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Space might be the final frontier, but if you’re in a home where space is at a premium, it can also feel like the most precious thing in the world. Being surrounded by your things – and other people – can feel cramped at the best of times, and positively claustrophobic at worst. Almost everyone would like to have more space, and with the right plan and a good tradesman, you can get it, without having to move.

 

Knock Down Walls

 

One of the oldest tricks in the book to help maximise living space is to turn smaller rooms into larger ones, by knocking down dividing walls and opening them up. It allows more light in, and diversifies what you can do with the space. It is always worth speaking to an experienced tradesman about knocking down walls, especially if they are load-bearing and may require a structural engineer’s report. Though interior work will not require planning permission, it will need to meet building regulations and be inspected by Building Control. Paul Coulson of KDBS in Newcastle, which has more than 350 pieces of positive feedback on MyBuilder, advises that people look out for experience in the tradesman they choose: “If I was a homeowner looking for a tradesmen, it’s the experience I’d look for over any particular memberships.”

 

Add Extra Storage

 

If you have pots and pans, books, clothes, paperwork and all manner of other things building up in towering piles around your home, just the sight of them can be enough to stress you out. But the old adage is true – out of sight, out of mind – and if you have some way of putting the clutter away, it stops being clutter. Creating extra storage space means thinking creatively – adding in new sets of shelves to the corner of a room, or creating built-in wardrobes for a bedroom with an awkward wall. An experienced carpenter or joiner can give you some ideas or turn your own designs into reality.

 

Convert your Loft

 

City planners have known for generations that the best way to find space is to embrace the vertical, and build up. If you have a loft that is sitting empty, or is just used for storing a dusty box of Christmas decorations, it could be ripe for a conversion that could see it transformed into a usable space. A loft conversion specialist can lay out the different kinds of projects available – from a simple dormer, to a whole mansard roof development. Lewis Sage of Romford’s UPS Home Improvements, a business with more than 160 pieces of positive feedback on MyBuilder, recommends seeing a tradesman’s previous jobs to help decide who to choose: “Any good builder who takes pride in their work should be happy to put you in touch with old clients. I’d suggest that clients get out there and have a look at something the tradesman has done in your local area – there’s nothing better than actually seeing it.”

 

Create an Outbuilding

 

While your home may feel full to bursting, if you have any outdoor space, it might be the perfect place to focus your attention. It only takes a small amount of space to erect a shed that is perfect for storage, while with a bit more room and a larger budget, you could create anything from an office room to a granny annexe that can provide extra accommodation. Depending on the scale and usage, these may need planning permission, so speak to an experienced builder who can talk you through the process.

 

Build an Extension

 

Sometimes, if your home feels too small, the simplest thing to do is just make it bigger. An extension will add space – and potentially value – to your property, whether it’s just expanding your kitchen, or adding a double-height extension giving you a bigger living room and an extra bedroom. These can be subject to planning permission as well as building regulations, and with such a big project, you need to be on good terms with your tradesman. Vasile Ghinda of V Ghinda Builders specialises in extension building and has dozens of pieces of good feedback on MyBuilder. He says: “The first thing I’d expect someone to ask about is experience, how long you have worked, what jobs you have done that are the same. But you also want to know what a tradesman is like. You need to be able to talk to them, get on with on them.”

 


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