What is different about working on people’s homes rather than the commercial contracts you were doing before?
It’s good. It’s nice, especially over the last two projects as they were for clients who actually needed to adapt properties for disabilities. It’s a bit different to someone who just wants a fresh kitchen or a massive extension and a bigger lounge. In one case it was adapting worktops to rise and fall for wheelchair use and installing a lift to get upstairs again. I get a lot of pleasure from that. It’s a real improvement to their life.
What else gives you pleasure in the, in the work?
It’s just giving people what they want really… You know, people have a dream of what they want. They get the architects involved, and they’ve got a vision of what they’re getting and you’re creating that for them.
Getting the best out of every trade to deliver that dream, whatever the project, is the real reward.
How do you get the best out of people on site?
I think it’s always hard to find good tradespeople. Some have pride in their work which we have as a group, but a lot of people would just want to come in, lay some bricks down and go—that’s not what we’re about. We want it to look the best and quality is a massive thing for all of us.
When you find the right people you just work with them and build a friendship. To a certain degree they’ve just got to do the job, but there’s different ways of getting the best.
Which is best, is it good to have clients involved or better to have them at arm's length?
It’s both really. It’s obviously easy when the drawings are all accepted and everything is specified—measurements and kitchen designs and colours and so on. But when the client is on site it’s a bit less formal, and you can get their opinions and their choices if they’re different from what’s on the drawings, then you can discuss it and then OK it with everyone.
The aim is always the same— to give people exactly what they want, whichever way you get there.
I think if you’ve got a really good relationship with the client and with the architect and they trust you to finish things the way they intended, then they often leave you to get on with it, which can keep things moving.
Matt Middleditch worked as a site supervisor and foreman on commercial projects in east anglia for many years before joining Sandlings. He is especially motivated by projects that are born out of a real need to improve the lives of the building’s owners or users.