The UK is currently building around half of the 250,000 homes per year needed to satisfy demand, and we are seeing a greater number of people renovating their properties. As the demand for contractors is increasing across both new builds and renovations, skills shortages and the rising cost of labour are becoming significant issues.
Most trades – including roofers, bricklayers and render installers – have seen shortages and, as a result, labour rates have increased. This, combined with the desire to speed up build times for both the contractor and customer, means there is a focus on alternative materials and solutions across the building envelope which can help overcome these challenges.
This is where contractors have a real opportunity to expand their offering. Diversifying by being able to install a variety of external wall materials and solutions could be a significant advantage. There are cladding products available that are so easy to fix that with a small amount of training, they can be fitted by any tradesperson.
The growing private renovation market is one of the biggest opportunities when it comes to diversification opportunities for contractors. As the housing shortage in the UK continues to take hold and prices are said to be rising four times faster than wages, many people are choosing to stay and improve their homes because they can’t afford to move. Figures from Barbour ABI reveal that home improvement planning applications increased by 12% on average across the UK in 2014, with London showing a growth of 27%. A study from the Federation of Master Builders also showed that nearly a third of UK homeowners are looking to carry out work on their home in the next three years, with up to œ6 billion in projected works planned annually over the next three years.
A more contemporary aesthetic
Research amongst consumers has supported these findings, with many homeowners considering fibre cement planks as a replacement for render or overclad brick to upgrade their properties and give them a more contemporary aesthetic. There is clearly a big private refurbishment market for contractors and diversification will help them to offer different options to homeowners.
We have seen a significant growth in demand for Cedral, our external fibre cement cladding planks, which offers the aesthetics of timber cladding but will not warp, shrink or flake paint, doesn’t crack like poorly installed render or rot like wood. As it is low maintenance and easy-to-install, we are seeing growing interest in the product across the private and social renovation and house-building sectors.
The contemporary styling of timber plank aesthetic is becoming very popular, either to complement brick and render, or to act as a complete external cladding solution. The advantage with fibre cement planks is that they give this appearance but overcome many of the problems associated with timber, such as ongoing maintenance.
Cedral Lap is specially designed so that the planks are overlapped when installed creating a traditional, clapper-board aesthetic. Or to create a more unusual aesthetic, Cedral Click planks are fitted together flush, creating a striking modern and contemporary fa‡ade. Both the systems are quick and easy to install and stand up to the harshest weather conditions with no routine maintenance required. They are available in a wide selection of factory-applied colours.
As it becomes harder for contractors to recruit highly skilled sub-contractors, Cedral gives an alternative that doesn’t require years of training. We can carry out a short training session on site or we also hold free courses at our training centre in Burton upon Trent and at some of our Cedral stock