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Reduce snagging costs with cosmetic repairs

Building involves too many trades for contracts or refurbs to go smoothly, and the closer you get to completion, the more hectic it becomes, and the more likely that one trade will damage another’s work.

And that tradesmen’s eyes will be increasingly dim when it comes to the chips, scuffs, scratches and knocks caused. But come handover, the clients’ eyes will be sharp, and the snagging procedure can be drawn out and very costly, especially if baths, kitchen tops or even UPVC windows have to be re-installed.

But using the right contractor in many cases can minimise cost and speed up the hand-over process – and this is not necessarily the trade installer.

Plastic Surgeon is one of the few specialist snagging subcontractors – and the only national one.  All its operatives are employed – this is not a franchise operation – and there is a very broad skill set.

The Finishers, as the operatives are termed, are divided into two groups: those who carry out repairs to all types of masonry, concrete and render etc; and the other teams who take care of mainly interior finishes, including worksurfaces, kitchen units, bathroom suites, furniture, floor tiles and different types of metals as well as mirrors and glass. Doors and window frames are another category of building products which suffer very heavy wear and tear, especially when building contractors are still on site.

The Finishers use specialist materials and tools to carry out the repairs in addition to using a wide variety of products such as sand, cement, fillers, different grades of abrasive, and pigments. The most important aspect to the service Plastic Surgeon provides is the level of training its operatives are given. All of the Finishers attain incremental grades as they complete various courses. A key aspect to the early training is the ability to match colours accurately so in fact colour blindness rules some people out from doing the work.

The company operates a consolidated call centre for all repair types which both existing account holders and new clients use; callers are divided alphabetically to speed response.

Customers’ requirements are logged into the database and work is directed to the regionally-based Finishers by means of the hand held computers which run the company’s bespoke ‘Mobile Finisher’ software. Any individual task can be dealt with, but many of Plastic Surgeon’s clients prefer to purchase the Finisher’s time in half or full day blocks. This often enables them to deal with up to a dozen different repairs during a single visit. The average time for a repair is just 90 minutes.

When a repair is completed the facility manager or building manager is asked to check the description and other details on the hand held and then sign it off. This initiates the invoice process back in the main office.

One of the elements to the billing procedure which many clients find of great value is the fact the invoice gives descriptions of the items repaired and an estimate of the weight of materials the repair has saved from going to landfill. This enables clients to identify problems in terms of where or how damage is occurring, and also quantifies the environmental value of the work Plastic Surgeon is carrying out.

There are a number of major economic benefits when companies use Plastic Surgeon. In the first instance the Finishers are frequently able to carry out a virtually invisible repair on items such as sinks, worksurfaces, baths, door skins, and windows which would otherwise require full replacement. Not only is there often a high capital cost involved in such avoidable purchases, but the installation of the new product can often involve two or three different trades skills: a plumber, possibly an electrician or a plasterer and painter. Plastic Surgeon can normally avoid this with a rapid repair carried out in a single visit.

Another area where vital savings can be made is avoiding landfill charges. With these rising all the time, stripping out and replacing is becoming expensive beyond the labour and product used. And most large companies these days have a corporate policy on sustainability that sets out targets for reducing waste or cutting carbon emissions. Replacing rather than repairing elements to the building fabric and fittings not only has a significant financial cost, but every new item purchased has an energy cost or carbon footprint; stemming both from its manufacture and the transportation involved for those people who deliver and install it. Getting a Finisher in to repair something slashes this energy wastage with a reportable, quantifiable saving which can be included in the client’s calculations of carbon reduction.

If you are in any way sceptical about whether a repair can visually match replacement, don’t be. We’ve seen the Finishers work and it’s excellent, and the result is indistinguishable from new. And if you use Plastic Surgeon efficiently, the costs are more than reasonable.

Article first appeared in Refurbishment Projects, February 2010.

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