Tag: MyBuilder

 

May is a popular month for people selling their homes, but you don’t have to be looking to sell to think about adding value to your property. There are big and small ways to boost how much your home is worth, and also make it a nicer place to be.

 

 

Fix structural problems

 

If you are looking to sell, then taking care of major structural issues such as a sagging roofline or persistent damp issues is a necessary step to making it sale-worthy – but they’re not issues that you’ll want to live with for any length of time either. There are a variety of tradespeople available depending on the issue, from specialist roofers to structural engineers, bricklayers, and damp proofers.

 

Create a loft conversion

 

Building up is generally regarded as the single biggest boost you can give to your home’s value. It’s a major investment, but one that pays off with new living space that can completely change the feel of your home. Whether it’s a dormer, hip to gable, or mansard roof conversion, you will need to have plans drawn up and may need planning permission, before hiring an experienced loft conversion specialist to take on the project.

 

 

Build an extension

 

Similarly to loft conversions, adding more space to your home will add value and give you new ways to enjoy your property. Whether it’s creating a kitchen-diner or a dedicated space for an office or studio, there are firms that specialise in extensions and conversions and can help you realise your vision.

 

Update your kitchen

 

Many families value having a modern, usable kitchen, that can be used not just for cooking, but for eating, relaxing and entertaining. If you have the space and budget, updating your kitchen with all mod-cons can be a real boost for your home.

 

Refresh your bathroom

 

It’s difficult for anyone to feel like they can get clean in a tired and broken-down bathroom, with cracked tiles, mouldy grouting, and damaged units. While a bathroom fitter can completely revamp the room, you could refresh it with smaller changes – a tiler can add new tiles for cleaner look, while a plumber can swap in new taps and hardware.

 

 

Add a parking space

 

If you live in a town or city where parking is at a premium and neighbours are battling over spaces on the street, then can it can be a worthwhile investment to replace your front garden with a driveway, giving you peace of mind that you’ll always have a safe place to keep your car. A driveway needs to be built to last, so only hire an expert with a good track record.

 

Boost your kerb appeal

 

No one wants to live in the most run-down home on the street, and for buyers as well, first impressions count. There is plenty you can do to smarten up your kerb appeal, from adding a porch, replacing your front door, upgrading your windows or repainting the exterior.

 

Take care of the little things

 

Sometimes the little things don’t feel that small when you have to deal with them everyday, so why not make them better? Give new life to a room with a lick of paint or roll of wallpaper; add new lighting to your hallway; finally sort out the toilet with the dodgy flush – if it adds value to you, sometimes that’s all the value you need to add.

 

 

Damp is one of the most common issues people find in their homes, and it can often cause people to panic. However, a little education can go a long way, so we spoke to Kevin Campbell of Anke Ltd in Welwyn Garden City, to find out more about how you can deal with the issue.

Kevin is a former military man who spent six years in the Army before becoming a tradesman. Even though he’s left his uniform behind, he’s still a man on a mission, aiming to improve the damp proofing industry and help people deal with the issue in their homes. Over his years on MyBuilder he’s built up dozens of pieces of feedback, all positive, while building a crack team.

We asked him for some tips on dealing with damp when it appears.

 

 

Buy a hygrometer

 

One of the best ways for understanding damp in the home is to discover what the moisture level, or humidity, in your home is. To find out, the easiest way is to buy a digital thermal hygrometer, a device that will tell you the temperature and the humidity level in your property. Kevin said: “The most common cause of damp is simply to do with ventilation – a build up of moisture in the home which isn’t getting out properly. With a hygrometer you can keep an eye on it easily.” Humidity can build up from a number of sources – condensation from baths and showers, cooking, or drying damp clothes on radiators. The answer is often as simple as keeping the place warm, being attentive to keep windows open where possible and ensuring vents and extractor fans are all in working order.

 

Kevin is expert when it comes to fixing damp issues

 

Don’t panic if you spot mould

 

Black spot mould is a relatively common occurrence in many homes, and can often be spotted in bathrooms and around doors and windows. It can be persistent unless the underlying cause, excess moisture, is dealt with, but importantly, it is not a warning of the much more problematic rising damp. Kevin said: “Only 20% or so of damp at low level is rising damp, but people focus on it because they hear horror stories. There’s only a couple of ways to show it is rising damp – things like peeling paint, a salt band on the wall and a damp skirting board. There won’t be black spot mould where there’s rising damp, because the salts in the rising damp would kill it off.”

 

Is there a simple solution?

 

“I love solving problems,” Kevin told us. “Sometimes you find what it is and just fix it, it’s a really good feeling.” Often, damp can take the form of penetrating damp, where water is coming through the walls thanks to an issue like a broken pipe, leaking gutter, or faulty window. These problems may take an experienced tradesman to identify, but once they’ve been discovered, they can be fixed for good.

 

 

Dealing with rising damp can be a big job, so be prepared

 

Rising damp occurs when moisture from the ground soaks up through the lower parts of the home. Modern homes are built with damp proof courses of slate or plastic to stop moisture rising, however, these can fail, while older houses may not have this protection. Repairing a damp proof course can be a large project, involving stripping back walls, but it is necessary to protect the home long term. Kevin said: “The hardest thing is managing people’s expectations when it comes to the job – they don’t realise how intense it can be. But I think we’re good at explaining to people and helping them through it. It’s hard work, very dusty and messy, but I enjoy it.”

If you have more questions about damp and damp proofing, you ask a tradesman for more specific advice. If you need to find a damp proofer, then you can get started straight away.

 

 

If you see Kevin Campbell working with military precision, that’s because he is.

Kevin, the damp proofer and plasterer behind Welwyn Garden City’s Anke Ltd, didn’t begin his career working as a tradesman – instead, at 16, Kevin joined the Army and spent six years being sent around the world, as he told us: “I was in the cadets as a kid so it just made sense to me to join up when I left school. I did three operational tours of Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Jordan, Cyprus. I loved it – I was the second youngest Lance Corporal in the Army. Looking back I think I probably joined when I was a bit too young though. You have to grow up very quickly. It’s easy to feel you’re missing out on other things, when your friends are all going off on lad’s holidays and stuff – but it gives you a good work ethic.”

It’s an ethic that Kevin still carries with him, even now. “I still get up at 5am – even on weekends!” Arriving on Civvy Street was a culture shock to begin with. “I spent six months wondering what to do, doing a bit of bar work, but I knew the owner of a groundworking company and that got my foot in the door.” There was just one issue: “I realised I didn’t want to be outside any more.”

 

 

That was Kevin’s inspiration to find an indoor trade that would allow him to stay out of the rain, and appeal to his problem-solving nature. At first, it was plastering that caught his eye, but after a while he realised that specialising in damp proofing, with its technical nature, would be the career for him. “It’s hard work,” he told us, “it’s very hard – always dusty and messy. But I enjoy it. I’m always working.”

Kevin did a variety of technician’s courses to expand his knowledge of the trade, but there’s no substitute for experience. “No matter what you learn on a course, you really learn on the job, seeing different situations. I’m always willing to ask questions and get second opinions from other people. I’d rather get it right than guess.”

As he points out, damp proofing is an industry that can have a bad reputation for unscrupulous tradesmen, misdiagnosing issues and overcharging customers. “I really want to improve the reputation of the industry,” he said, “and a lot of it is about education. A large percentage of damp problems are simply caused by poor ventilation and can be easily fixed. Only 20% or so of damp at low level is rising damp, but people focus on it because they hear horror stories. I’ve been to see homeowners who’ve been told they have rising damp and will need to pay thousands of pounds for treatment, when it’s actually a small issue.”

 

 

Anke Ltd (the name comes from combining letters in Kevin’s name with his son, Austin’s – as Kevin said, “you have to think outside the box!”) was set up three years ago and has already built up 87 pieces of feedback on MyBuilder, all of it positive. “I stumbled across it one day and went from there – it’s been great for us, and I’ve recommended a few more people to join it.” The company has grown to have five full-time employees, and Kevin is considering growing the team. “They guys I’ve got are all great – I’ve kissed a lot of frogs to find my princes. I could probably take on a few more guys, but it’s all about finding the right people – training them to think the way you do. It’s very hard. Everyone tradesman can snag another tradesman’s work, but you’ve got to have a line where what gets done is acceptable. We’re all human and all make mistakes, and people can get told the wrong thing by the wrong people. Ultimately, experience is what counts.”

As the business continues to grow, Kevin will carry on getting up at dawn, doing great work, and trying to improve the reputation of the industry. He may not wear a uniform anymore, but he’s still a man on a mission.

 

 

The weather may be annoyingly changeable, but spring is still in the air and the idea of summer is creeping ever closer.

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

Each month, the the team at MyBuilder head out on the road to meet some of the hardworking tradespeople across the country as they carry out their latest jobs and projects. We love to see how they work, from their careful planning and preparation, to their attention to detail as they make the final touches. Whether it’s a small, simple job like putting up shelves, or a complex project like a two-storey extension, it’s always fascinating to see tradespeople hard at work, and see the results of their efforts. If you’re a tradesperson using MyBuilder who wants to show off your skills, then get in touch with andrew@mybuilder.com. If you’re a homeowner who’s inspired by these images of transformational home improvements, then you get started on your very own before you know it – simply post a job on MyBuilder and your job will be seen by local tradesmen with the right skills.

A member of the team at Rhys Dobbs Tree Services takes a few minutes break while working on a diseased tree in a garden in Winchester.

A member of the team at Rhys Dobbs Tree Services takes a few minutes break while working on a diseased tree in a garden in Winchester.

Handyman Ian Nicholson puts the finishing touches to a dramatic moon gate in a Worthing garden.

Handyman Ian Nicholson puts the finishing touches to a dramatic moon gate in a Worthing garden.

Dave Rogers of Bristol’s Tool Box Electrical tests a newly-installed fire alarm system.

Dave Rogers of Bristol's Tool Box Electrical tests a newly-installed fire alarm system.

Nuno Monteirom of Nuno Kitchens fits a new kitchen cabinet at an apartment in Hove.

Nuno Monteirom of Nuno Kitchens fits a new kitchen cabinet at an apartment in Hove.

Carpenter Mark Mulholland builds a bespoke TV cabinet for a client in Leicester.

Carpenter Mark Mullholland builds a bespoke TV cabinet for a client in Leicester.


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