Mike Aitken, Plastic Surgeon’s National Sales Manager, offers his views on the market and its appetite for one of the company’s new repair techniques.
Having worked in the sector for many years before joining Plastic Surgeon I have first-hand knowledge of housebuilders’ practices as well as the challenges they face, and witnessed the onset of the worst down-turn ever to hit the industry. When the financial crisis – or “Great Panic” as bankers now refer to it – crippled lending, housebuilding all but came to a standstill with developers mothballing countless sites as purchasers disappeared and property prices tumbled.
Even the biggest names were forced to refinance and weather the storm, but now they are back and housebuilding is once again booming. They have been building up their landbanks with sites bought at more realistic prices than before; and we are seeing the release of thousands of plots with planning permission in prime locations. Crucially, mortgage availability and Government support in the form of ‘Help to Buy’ have restored confidence.
Not everything is going the housebuilders’ way, however, and the aftermath of the worst economic recession in living memory has left construction facing both a skills shortage and some very long lead times on materials such as bricks, blocks and roof tiles. From Plastic Surgeon’s perspective, where orders from our housebuilder clients had been depressed throughout the recession – and we were building our business in sectors such as facilities management –the phones are ringing steadily again with calls from site agents needing our services, strengthening Plastic Surgeon’s position as market leader as we have grown steadily through the recession.
In response Plastic Surgeon is undertaking a sustained recruitment campaign to find new Finishers, which we expect to continue well into next year; while there is also a programme of training to upskill our existing operatives.
A key objective of the training being delivered, both on the job and at the national headquarters, is to familiarise the Finishers with the render repair system that Plastic Surgeon has launched.
Despite the popularity of brickwork with British property owners, render has always been part of the landscape; though its modern form has changed considerably from the lime based mixes that were once spread between oak beams.
Traditional sand-and-cement renders are relatively easy to patch and repair, but housebuilders have mainly switched to proprietary systems such as Monocouche and K-Rend.
Far thinner than traditional coatings, these are mainly silica based and reinforced with plastic mesh. And while they keep their colour extremely well, they are susceptible to both accidental damage and movement cracking as the building dries or settles.
Up until now there was no viable answer to this problem, but thanks to Plastic Surgeon’s dedicated research and development work we are now uniquely able to offer a repair system for modern renders. We are continuing to roll it out across the regions, but already the response from housebuilders has been considerable. As a housebuilding render repair specialist, we have relieved them of another headache, as did our development of Smart Repairs and techniques like glass polishing.