Once upon a time… The saga begins

As you may or may not know, was founded by Andrew Skipwith in 2005, after a builder walked out on him and his family during a home improvement project. Although at the time it was dreadful, at least one positive story came out from it – was born. We have grown a lot since that initial start in 2005, but our core values are still the same; we want to connect homeowners with quality, local tradesman. This is Andrew’s story: how came about.

Us Brits love our homes. In Europe we spend more per household than anyone else on home improvement. Our home is our castle. We are turning our houses into our homes. Shouldn’t that be something to look forward to? An opportunity to relish? I thought I’d share my own story.

It’s 2002, and we’d just moved into our own home. We’d completely blown our budget, and the house wasn’t quite to our own taste, but we’d live there for a while and then we thought we’d bring in the builders.

Luckily for us we knew an architect called Paddy. Paddy is an old friend and knew how to draw up plans. We invited him round, and I told him: “To be honest we’ve been here 12 months, and I basically know what I’d like to do.” I pulled out my drawing, carefully sketched out on three bits of A4 paper stuck together with sellotape. I’d drawn it to scale, and added every power point, every spot light, the kitchen units, the flooring… you get the picture.

Now, Paddy’s quite charming. He took a careful look, asked a few questions and said, “Yes, that looks really good, but how about I put a few other ideas together – just to kick the tyres and all that?” You can guess what happened. He came back a few weeks later, with some completely different plans which were much, much better. A bit of to-ing and fro-ing and we were ready to go!

Paddy knew that our budget was limited. However, he knew several builders and invited them to tender. In the end we chose to work with Martin. Really lovely chap. He’d completed one job for Paddy which had gone well. He’d given us a good price and could start right away. Paddy was to be the project manager, the work would take three months and we would move upstairs.

 Here’s our temporary kitchen. That’s Anna behind me, and if you look closely… you can see our bath under the table

The builders got off to a great start. We we’re pretty amazed how quickly they managed to pull down the 1960’s ceilings, knock holes in the walls and generally gut the place. Then things started going wrong.

Above one of the ceilings we found a chimney stack that reached up two storeys hanging off the wall by its fingernails. In the 1970’s someone had taken the ground floor part of chimney stack away and put a window through the wall where it had been. So apparently that was all ready to collapse – more steelwork needed. Then in another room Mister Woodworm and family had been happily munching away on the floor joists. They all had to come out.

Here’s Ollie helping me to put down the flooring

One day I found Martin in the front garden with a metal hacksaw. He was about to chop out the old lead water pipe. I went to get him a cup of tea and heard a load bang from where Martin had been. It turned out that he’d been sawing through the mains electricity cable. Off to hospital with a burned hand and quite badly shocked.

The work carried on and to be honest with every week that passed we were getting more and more fed up. There were days when Martin just wouldn’t appear or answer his phone. When he did turn up we felt relieved and pleased to see him. We didn’t give him a hard time as he was “having problems with his missus”.

It was now March – we’d got through winter with a great big hole in the house were the patio doors were to go. And we came back from a long weekend to find the downstairs completely cleared. No tools. No Martin. No builders.

He’d over-run by something like six months. By now he was so late for his next job he’d decided to cut his losses rather than lose that work. We’d paid him every week and he’d made a quite rational decision – what was left for us to pay wasn’t worth it.

We never saw or heard from Martin again.

And so later that year, Anna and I decided to start I was convinced there had to be a happier way to get stuff done, and we now have over 30,000 tradesmen on our books, who get rated by their customers whenever they complete a piece of work.

So you see, Andrew knows a thing or two about home improvement projects, and he also knows how important it is to find a reliable tradesman.


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