Lady builder? Not a real builder then eh? #righthook

This last few weeks have seen some out of the ordinary experiences for me, appearing on This Morning for a Builder’s Bum competition, filming a ‘taster tape’, doing some press interviews – and all have centred around the phrase “lady builder” which I use both in my social media and in ‘real life’.

I do and have done so many different things in the world of property that when someone asks me what I ‘do’ for a living, it’s a tough question to answer in one word. I’ve dabbled in property sales & marketing, self-manage a portfolio of lettings, do design work for clients….. but the thing that I always come back to is that I love getting mucky and being on site – renovations, new builds, it doesn’t matter as long as we’re in building mode. My sites, clients sites, I’m happiest getting stuck in and making sure things are being done properly.

A few people (men!) have questioned my skills and right to call myself a lady builder, which in equal measures amuses and irritates. Last week when we pitched up at This Morning, the security guard looked up at Mr M’s broad shoulders and though I was the one to say we’re here for the builders bum comp, he addressed Mr M with a smile and a good luck mate. His face when Mr M pointed down at me and said ‘She’s the builder’ was a treat. As was the lad who came down to get us, the guy who came to do the release forms and even Gino D’Acampo exclaimed ‘You’re a builder?!’

That sort of stuff is funny, water off a duck’s back, but having run a specialist building company, renovated & worked on hundreds of houses and personally done just about every different manual job on site at one time or another, it irritates me when people say ‘Yeah, but you’re not a ‘real’ builder are you?’ Grrrrrrrr

What is a ‘Real Builder’ anyway? Someone who trains as a brickie, a plasterer or a plumber and then sticks to that trade all their life? Someone who builds a number of extensions then comes off the tools to run a company with employees? Someone like Steve Morgan of Redrow Homes who trained as a site engineer then built up a nationally recognised company but possibly stopped getting his hands dirty sometime in the 70’s (sorry Steve 😉 )

There are a number of dictionary definitions:

Build·er/ˈbildər/Noun says this:
1. a person who constructs something by putting parts or material together over a period of time.
2. a person whose job is to construct or repair houses, or to contract for their construction and repair.
My Oxford English says this:
1. a contractor for building houses etc.: a master builder
2. a person engaged as a bricklayer etc on a buiding site
I think the one most applicable to me is the second one from, because that’s my job, whether for myself or clients I mainly repair/construct for my own properties and rentals but also contract to repair/construct for clients.
So where does the ‘Lady’ bit come in?
Clearly I consider myself a lady (though when the air turns blue around me sometimes Mr M and the lads may dispute that!) but it’s more than that. I understand what’s going on on my sites and get the process, cause I’ve done it and seen it hundreds of times. I’m not a trained electrician or a plumber but I plan the layouts properly so my specialist trades know what goes where to make the rooms most liveable, workable or saleable. I know the difference between dry rot & wet rot, a stud & a supporting and whether a client should be kissing or kicking off with their contractor.
My view is that a builder may well be able to build you a wall, but a lady builder will be envisaging what you’re going to be hanging on it before the foundations have gone in. A builder will fit you a kitchen, but a good lady builder will have also planned it, helped you with the specifications, know what tiles are going where and can give you country cottage, wowser walnut or glossy glamour. A builder can install a heating system but a clever lady builder will know where your wardrobes will be going & which wall will have the make-up enhancing mirror on it, so will spec exactly which walls all radiators should go on and why the boiler needs to be on one wall rather than the other. A builder will sand your floors for you but a lady builder will know whether they need to be stained, painted or left as rustic pine ’cause she’ll be the one following your design scheme right through to it’s finish, ’til the moment you step back through the door and out the kettle on.
It’s being able to envisage the finished house and the client’s dream before it’s even started to be renovated or built, whilst mucking in, specifying and understanding the renovation and build process – that’s what makes a great lady builder.
That, along with a splash of female intuition, the ability to multi-task and the sense not to spend all day, every day on site but to hone complementary skills to hopefully enhance your business and service for clients…… plus knowing when to employ your feminine charms to get good prices out of suppliers of course 😉

4 thoughts on “Lady builder? Not a real builder then eh? #righthook

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  1. I wish there were more lady builders. I’m sure they would look better, smell better, and in most cases organise the job better than some of the blokes I’ve worked for who pass themselves off as builders!

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