Signature Blog – September 2020

Welcome to the first of our monthly blogs! We hope you enjoy and would love to hear your feedback!

Within the first months’ blog we will be looking at the following:

Overview to the Industry – Here you will find a quick run down of what is happening in the Construction & Property Industry; giving any updates of what has happened in the previous months’ sector.
Subcontractor Section – Within our Blog we have decided to input a section all about subcontractors and the trades which they carry out. This will give you an overview of the type of works undertaken by these trades to give you a greater understanding.
Property Player – Within this section we will interview people within the industry for their tips, hints and hindsight into the industry.
How to Tackle the Trade – Within this section we will be looking at how you can carry out the trades you see. Ever wondered how plasterers work out how many bags they need? Or how many roof tiles would be required in do a roof? This section will show you how!
Book Recommendation – For us, development is important in an ever changing industry. So each month we will be recommending one book which will help you on your journey!

Overview to the Industry

2020 has been some ride! In a year which has seemed to go from 0 to 100, with us looking down the barrel of Christmas with no idea where the time has gone! The world has moved from office working, to giving a more relaxed approach with working from home; with the key word, “unprecedented” being featured in nearly every conversation. I believe that we haven’t seen the full effect of Covid-19 on the UK economy. The government have thrown out billions of pounds to businesses to keep them going which is great, but sometimes it has just masked the issues. Working in the sector for the past 9 years you hear of the major contractors who are struggling and always rumours flying that they will go into liquidation. However, I think with the level of monies provided by the government this has allowed companies to keep going that bit longer. Only time will tell on the effects of what happens next!

Subcontractor Section

First subcontractor up is Tom Jenkins – Director of TJ Plumbing.

Name: Tom Jenkins of TJ Plumbing
Years active: 6 Years trading
Work type: Heating and Plumbing – Bathrooms, Boilers and Commercial works
FB: @tjplumbingheating
Insta: @tjplumbing

Tom Jenkins – TJ Plumbing Director

Your questions for the Trade:

  1. How do you become a plumber? I was very fortunate, my dad had his own plumbing company so I was lucky enough to have an apprenticeship straight from leaving school. This was a 4 year apprenticeship- the first 2 years were NVQ level 2 and the last 2 years were NVQ level 3 and core gas. My apprenticeship was one day per week in college learning the theory side of the job and 4 days per week working onsite (this is where you really learn the job.) I am not an advocate of these crash courses for plumbing and gas qualifications! There is no way that you will be competent to work of gas Safely within this time frame. As an employer, I would not look twice at somebody that claims to be a gas engineer after undertaking such course. However, I do see why so many people go down this line as I know how difficult it is to get an apprenticeship at the moment, which I believe has a lot to do with the colleges cutting all funding and taking away any incentive to take on an apprentice.
  2. How often should you get your boiler serviced? All gas appliances should be serviced annually. I believe that some gas fires may need to be serviced more frequently (especially if you have animals in your home). A key safety tip would be to pay close attention to the flame colour- a flame should be blue and sharp, if the flame on your fire is yellow/ orange and wavy, this is where your fire starts to become dangerous and can put you at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. I would always recommend a carbon monoxide alarm if you have a gas fire, you can pick these up for about £10 so there’s really no reason not to have one!
  3. What should I do if my boiler drops pressure? If your boiler drops water pressure, you should top your boiler up using the filling loop, I have attached a link for anybody who wants more detail on this:
    If you are having to top up the water pressure on a regular basis then there may be a fault with the boiler or a leak somewhere on your central heating system so I’d advise calling a heating engineer to take a look! You can reach us on 01443756021
  4. After how many years should you upgrade your radiators? I would say that this varies from customer to customer and could depend on multiple factors such as how clean the water in your system is, has it been chemically treated correctly? Are they heating your home efficiently? and do they show signs of corrosion? I’d say that a new central heating system that has been installed correctly, flushed thoroughly and chemically treated should easily last 30 years plus.
  5. What are your views on underfloor heating? I think that under floor heating is great, if installed correctly! Like any system there are pros and cons, some customers will love it some customers won’t.
    The key benefits  I’d say would be the amount of free wall space In your home which gives you more room for furniture etc. More hygienic as You don’t get radiators collecting dust and a more even heat throughout your home. However, a few negatives I’ve found when speaking to customers would be the installation cost which is considerably higher than a radiator type system. And a few of my customers have Also stated that it’s not warm enough compared to a radiator type system, as underfloor heating runs at a far lower temperature.

Property Player

The first person up is Sam Norris Director of Grand Union Finance, Host of the UK Top 150 Podcast “Game of Loans”. Sam has over 13 experience as a Mortgage Broker based in the heart of London.

Tips for anyone looking to gain a new mortgage / Re-mortgage: Be prepared. Give yourself as much time as possible and ask your broker to provide you with a full list of documents that the lender will need and ensure they are all ready and up to date, so they can be submitted with the application. Be proactive, not reactive.

What is your one tip for anyone looking to get into Property? Stop making excuses. There will always be a reason to not take action, so ignore it. Talk to people, analyse deals, build your power team and find a deal. Don’t be a knowledgeable idiot and just read books and listen to podcasts. That will not make you successful on its own.

Would you suggest Ltd company or Sole trader? This is very dependent on the borrowers individual circumstances, and there are too many variables to give a generalised answer. Many of my clients now are buying in limited company, and I would encourage anyone looking to get into property to seek tax advice on this. When discussing this with a tax adviser, always tell them your long term plans, as what might be good for you now, might not be in future, and so you need to begin with the end in mind.

Where do you see Grand Union in 5 years? We aim to create a brokerage that solves the age old problem that all brokers face… overwhelm. As a relatively new company we have already spent a lot of time looking at implementing systems and processes that mean that our clients receive the best service and highest level of communication possible We are not there yet, but we have also made our first hire, an operations manager, to drive this forward so we are confident that we can succeed. Over the next 5 years, we will be looking to grow the team in advance of what we need to ensure we never fall short of our service standards. We have something we call the 60% rule. If anyone in the company, ourselves included, feel as though they are working beyond 60% capacity, we look to see if there is a new system or process we can implement in order to bring us back down to 60%. This means no one should be overwhelmed, and we are confident in this creating a great company culture.

What book would you recommend to someone starting out in property? Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and then the follow up, The Cashflow Quadrant. These books changed my life and give me insight into how money should flow and be used. This is a foundation to any business, property included. I’d then follow this up with the E-Myth Revisited, another business book. Learn about property from people, not just from books. These books will set you up to build a sustainable property business.

How can people connect with you? I try and post as often as possible on social media, so I can be found on Facebook (Sam Norris Property), Instagram (Thesamnorris), Twitter (Thesamnorris), and LinkedIn (Sam-Norris). You can also reach me by email I also post videos weekly on my YouTube channel (Sam Norris The Property Investors Broker).

Make sure to check out Sam Norris Socials!

How to Tackle the Trade

First trade we are going to review is plastering. Given the lock-down of 2020, within the Construction and Property Industry there has been a shortage of bags of gypsum plaster. We’ve seen it all, from out of date bags being sold on Ebay to people travelling the length of the country for their bags to get their job over the line. Shortages of plaster occurred because a bag of plaster only holds around a 4 month lifespan, factories shutdown and plaster remained being required for jobs. This is not the first time, in the past few years we have seen well known trades being limited to the amount they can purchase. However, in September it seems like the availability of bags are starting to return to normality. So lets get into it. Here is the step by step guide to plastering.

Disclaimer! – The aim of the following guide isn’t to make you a plastering wizard, it is aimed at giving you the knowledge of how its done so that if you were requiring the works done, you’ll have a better understanding of it.

Step 1. Preparation – The first step to consider with any works being undertake is:

Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

Preparation would include: ensuring you have enough materials to undertake the works, the floor is protected, and that there is a safe place to undertake the mix. Ensure no future works are going on within the area in the next 24 hours, or, for example, if electrical works are to go ahead then make sure they are completed first so you aren’t chasing into newly plastered works. However good your finish, it is important to have the basic skills to be a good, competent contractor to ensure clients are happy with the level of works undertaken. The tools you would require are as follows:

  • Bucket ( for mixing plaster)
  • Hawk & Trowels.
  • Ladders / Platform access.
  • Mixer
  • Floor protection
  • Radio ( no one wants to work in silence!)
  • Float

There are more tools which plasterers would have picked up over the years however these cover the basics. Now you have everything set up, it’s time to start!

Step 2. Prepare Existing walls – When plastering you need to know what you are laying onto. If the wall is not in a good condition then it may require hacking off. Always consider this prior to adding any skim coats. Within this example we are assuming existing walls are o.k and only require a skim coat. To prepare the existing walls we would suggest using a “Blue Grit” Bonding agent. This will give the walls a good surface for the plaster skim coat to take to.

Step 3. The mixture – So now the walls are prepared, you are ready to start plastering and it’s time to put a mix together. First thing you will need is the bucket (make sure it’s clean!) and then place some plaster into the bucket. As a rule of thumb you would need 50/50 ratio of water to plaster. This is ready to mix. You need to mix until smooth making sure you mix all areas (not just the middle). Once smooth, add more plaster to the mixture and more water to ensure you have enough material to do the area.

TIP! Dont forget to mixing tools are using. As you can imagine after being used a few times tools can become ruined from not being cleaned correctly.

Step 4. Coverage – So how do you know how many bags you need? Again this is all down to how much of an expert you are at plastering? A competent plasterer is expected to have approx. 10m2 coverage from a 25kg bag of plaster( laid at 3mm thick). Depending on the person’s experience, the coverage and waste will be affected.

Step 5. Application – Now this is a step we won’t go into detail on… You can read on how to do this but the only way you will actually learn is by doing it! So get out there give it a go, there are numerous youtube videos showing how to do it. Start on a small area and build it from there! The only thing to remember in this section is that the meterage which you apply is going to be a lot less than someone who has been in the trade for a number of years.

Step 6. Drying time – Drying time on a well ventilated room is normally around 24 hours to be fully dry. We would recommend allowing the room to be well ventilated and dry and left to stand for a period prior to and decoration works.

Step 7. Admire your lovely new walls!

Pricing – A question I am often asked is so how much does it cost? This is a case of “how long is a piece of string?”. If you’ve got three different trades to price the job you would get three different answers. For example:

gang 1 – The man and his Van

Van Man High Resolution Stock Photography and Images - Alamy

Gang 2 – Cash in Hand “Jack” (of all trades – Master of none)

What's Wrong With Being A Jack Of All Trades? | by Niklas Göke | Personal  Growth | Medium

Gang 3 – Totally Plastered ltd (Company name is made up – if it’s not already taken that’s the name for my next plastering company!)


With the 3 companies above you would get three different levels of finish and probably three different prices to match. Always ask to see photos of their previous works and check for recommendations. Also affecting price is the location in which you work. A plasterer in the heart of London compared to the countryside can be two different labour rates. Also the size of work will affect the cost. If you have one wall in a property to do it is likely that you would be paying to cover the day rate of the trade to undertake the work so you won’t achieve the best rate.

So in summery, the pricing it is all down to:
1. Level of competency of trade
2. Location of works
3. Amount of work required

Plastering – D.I.Y or Professionals? For me, I would always say to leave this job to the professionals. A badly plastered room will always stand out when looking at a property, so we would always recommend a professional with this trade as it is seen as a finishing trade to make sure it is perfect!

If you’ve got any further questions feel free to drop us a comment below and we will answer these as soon as possible!

Book Recommendation

Our book recommendation for the month is one which we have recently finished and that’s Gary Vee’s “Crushing it”. Providing everything from best social media platforms for your business to what they believe would be the next platform to make you a social media star. Definitely worth a read!

Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Their Business and  Influence-and How You Can, Too: Vaynerchuk, Gary:  9780062674678: Books

Thank you for reading our first monthly blog, we would love your feedback on what you thought of it. This is our first blog of (hopefully) many! If you have any comments or suggestions, whether you liked or hated this please feel free to let us know!

Thanks for reading! – Matt

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