Every year, Professional Builder reveals its top products, based on the interest shown by readers of our magazine.
For 2019, the editorial, digital and commercial teams have collaborated to select the most popular products and brands that we have featured in the magazine, on this website, on our social media channels and on our email newsletter during the last 12 months. This includes the Charles Godfrey innovation award, which is given to one company every year in honour of Professional Builder‘s first every product reviewer.
Congratulations to everyone who has received an award – we look forward to seeing what is to come in 2020!
The full line-up of winners:
Damp Proofing Caps
We have seen hundreds of inventions that builders have willed into existence over the years, some have gone on to shape the industry as we know it and many, unfortunately, have been retired to the garage where they began. All this, we like to think, has given us a pretty good eye for an invention that could make waves in the trade. After meeting builder Kevin Nutkins, and seeing his K-Kaps system, we certainly thought the simple beam end cap had legs, and it seems we weren’t wrong.
Since we profiled the inventor, Kevin has expanded production, adding new sizes and increasing his order book, as well as receiving a litany of awards for his clever idea. The product covers the cut ends of beams in a block and beam flooring system. Kevin devised the idea as a solution to the laborious process of wrapping each beam in plastic.
As we outlined in our article at the time, block and beam flooring is a relatively recent method of building up a floor. Accordingly, building inspectors are only now catching up with the new conditions and the solutions that will be needed for problems which will soon raise their heads. By covering the exposed rebar at the end of a cut beam, the K-Kaps damp proofing caps anticipates any issues building inspectors might have with the build.
Fully recycled, the caps have led to an extraordinary upturn in onsite productivity, allowing builders to get through hours’ worth of work within literally minutes. Sometimes the best inventions are the ones that make you wonder how we ever managed without them, and we’re sure a lot more builders will be wondering that about K-Kaps soon.
Professional Builder racked up some mileage this year with Vauxhall, travelling the length and breadth of the country in order to present a selection of lucky builders with British Superbikes tickets. However it was getting behind the wheel of the new Vivaro that really got motors going. The latest incarnation of a name that’s been steadily winning fans with van users since it initial launch in 2001 is actually slightly more compact than its predecessor, a feature that will no doubt find favour with tradespeople operating in our increasingly congested towns and cities.
Many have long called for the workwear industry to take notice of the prevailing winds in the world of fashion and respond accordingly, and indeed, Snickers Workwear, owned by Hultafors Group UK, has done just that. The company’s new Comfort Stretch fabric trousers enable builders to wear trousers that protect them and keep them cool whilst also providing the closer, comfortable fit more associated with jeans or chinos.
Professional Builder’s Tibby Singh was smitten with the trousers, exclaiming: “They are without a doubt one of the, if not the, best workwear trousers I’ve ever had.” He likes the trousers so much, we’ve not seen him out of them since.
Cromar Building Products
Leadax, launched by Cromar Building Products in the UK 2017, is intrinsically similar to lead in appearance, thickness and malleability. It needs no backing adhesive, and typical uses including soakers, back gulleys, chimney, stepped and cover flashings together with all traditional forms of valley, dormer and abutment work. With theft unfortunately on the rise within the construction industry, builders are looking for preventative solutions. One such, is replacing the valuable lead with alternatives such as Leadax. Our own Roger Bisby used the product on a job earlier in the year and was impressed, writing in regards to the durability: “Having used the material, it seems as tough as old boots.”
2019 was a bumper year for fans of render, as Professional Builder’s Made Great in Britain series revisited an old acquaintance in the form of the Wetherby Group, whose EcoRend Monocouche Through-Coloured Render system reappeared later in the year in an in-depth step-by-step guide to application. It was a trip down memory lane as we recalled our original product tester Charles Godfrey’s original visit to the Wetherby Group, and readers certainly welcomed some more insight into a familiar name.
As a colour, it may not traditionally be associated with joy, but that’s certainly what Ibstock Brick’s blue brick range has brought to readers of Professional Builder this year. The striking bricks added some much welcome colour to our pages. Such is the demand for blue bricks, the brick maker recently invested £7.6 million in its Lodge Lane factory – home of its Stafford Slate Blue brick – to boost production by up to eight million bricks a year.
Our readers strive to make their clients’ homes the best they can, using the latest techniques and materials, achieving the best thermal efficiency they can to save their heating bills. Unfortunately for some, the presence of bats can really put a spanner in the works. Fortunately, we featured TLX’s Batsafe membrane this year. The issue with breathable membranes and bats is the fibres used become damaged and fluff up when put in contact with bat claws, which can then entangle and trap the bat. This new membrane is designed with a protective mesh either side of the product which allows contact for the bat, whilst enabling the breathable membrane to function.
If you haven’t noticed, protecting the environment has been a recurring theme of late, and HB42 has made a leap forward this year with the introduction of its new Eco-Foils. The new packaging removes the environmental problem of disposing of the single use plastic cartridge normally associated with sealants and other similar products. The 400ml foils produce 95 per cent less waste than the single use tubes and users get 38 per cent more sealant than in the 290ml plastic tube. Using the latest MS Polymer technology, the product seals, sticks and fills, is flexible and can be over-painted. It is low in Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) and bonds to almost anything.
Not that the Uni-Prop system needs any extra support, but the intelligent replacement to the acrow certainly earned plaudits among our readers. The key innovation and facilitator of this added safety, time and extra-work-reliever is the detachable hydraulic assembly. It is the addition of this feature that sets it apart from existing devices that are used on virtually every building site everywhere. In use the application of controlled power of up to two tonnes ensures safety and avoids damage to the integrity of the brick and plasterwork around it.
As the time comes for the restoration of more and more heritage homes, and with local authorities demanding techniques and materials be used in line with the original building envelope, one manufacturer is using the past to stay ahead of the game. Anglia Lime’s Thermalime uses a combination of chalk, St Astier lime binder, fibres and an insulating component to provide thermal performance, robustness and beauty in the finish. Zero shrinkage means no cracking, and it is far more durable than sand and cement, or other soft lime plasters that do not contain the fibrous element, a factor which also increases its flexibility.
JCB sent shockwaves through construction plant industry this year with the introduction of its 19C-1 E-TEC electric excavator. Featured at the tail end of last year in Professional Builder, the electrically powered 1.9 tonne tracked mini excavator gets its power from three ‘next generation’ 104Ah lithium-ion battery packs which provide a storage capacity of 312Ah (15kWh). The modular batteries utilise the most advanced NMC lithium-ion cells (as used in the latest road cars) in a rugged battery pack housing that has been designed to withstand the rigours of construction site use.
Laying out roofs was the name of the game this year as Marley focussed its energies on its JB Red roofing batten range. The battens are made using slow grown imported redwood or whitewood and are cut from kiln-dried sideboards that are less likely to distort.
Readers praised the campaign, which provided free information about battens and underlays and t-shirts. To promote its Sitework Guide app, containing lots of useful information about installing roofs, the manufacturer gave respondents the chance to win an iPhone – an offer that was, predictably, well received by readers.
Made for Trade
Former winner of the Charles Godfrey Award, a fact proudly displayed on its advertising this year, Made for Trade’s Korniche aluminium lantern roof was a bit hit with readers once again. With all the details necessary for potential customers included on the advert, readers certainly didn’t hesitate to register their interest in the product. It’s no wonder, as builder Darren Crain told Professional Builder: “My carpenter recommended Korniche and I decided to run with it. This turned out to be the best decision I had made in a long time.”
Alongside its regular Top Trumps column in the magazine, Safeguard has been busy getting its important message out to builders with their informative, well-illustrated adverts. A feast for the eyes, each advert shows the fabric of a typical house in the UK and the effects that the miserable UK weather and other conditions can have if left untreated. Part of the solution is the Dryrod Damp-Proofing Rod system, which comprises solid fibre rods, impregnated with reactive silicones of low molecular weight. Once inserted into the drill holes, the rods allow for more efficient diffusion of the silicone molecules – resulting in a more effective treatment.
Optimaxx design and manufacture a premium range of Extreme Performance Woodscrews that are highly regarded by joiners, kitchen fitters and tradesmen across the UK. As such, readers of Professional Builder have well and truly taken up the thread with Royd’s advertising this year. A specifically positioned long thin groove reduces the pressure build up on insertion by dispensing wood fibres, preventing splitting when screwing close to the edge. Of course, any readers not fully convinced could see for themselves by taking the company up on its offer of a free sample pack.
Rocket Door Frames
Sometimes simplicity if the key, and readers certainly appreciated the suave stylings of Rocket Door Frames in our pages this year. As space gets more expensive, builders are looking for an answer and this company with 30 years of involvement in the door frame market is offering one. Including all the information needed to get started on a pocket door installation project, the advert shows both the engineering behind the door and the uncluttered aesthetic value it provides.
It turns out, it’s not just the staff of Professional Builder who like to fill out the day with the odd brew, as the popularity of Makita’s cordless coffee maker on our website has shown. Weighing in at just 2.2kg, 18V battery powered machine is compatible with ground coffee as well as 60mm coffee pods. Dependent on battery type and voltage, a fresh 160ml cup of coffee can be brewed in just five minutes, how long you spend drinking it over the latest copy of Professional Builder is your choice.
We hopped over to Germany this year for the European launch of Festool’s hotly anticipated follow up to the Systainer T-Loc – the Systainer3. So much more than a simple tool box, the new generation of Systainer was developed by Festool and Tanos in cooperation with bott, and all components of the range can be integrated into bott’s vehicle racking. All things Festool tend to go down well with our readers and this was certainly no exception.
Coming just in time for winter, Snickers Workwear’s AllroundWork Jackets for professional tradesmen and women have been a big hit online, promising comfort and protection through the coldest months. If you need 100 per cent protection from the rain for long periods on site, the Gore-Tex jackets and trousers are highly technical waterproof garments designed to be extremely durable with a membrane that has over 1.4 billion pores per square cm.
Tibby took the CAMO edge deck fastening system to the edge and back this year, returning with a smile on his face. The fasteners are specially designed screws with a reverse tip. This removes wood as it’s driven in, which prevents excess build up and the risk of splitting the board, which would result in wastage. Another feature of the fastener is the thread finishing half way up the shaft, which pulls the board tight up against the joist.
One product which has left the Inventor’s Corner and become an online hit this year is the GirdaGrip. The small fixing provides an invaluable solution to fireproofing steel girders. As Mick Attwood, inventor of the system tells the story: “There have been many incarnations of the design, minor improvements as we’ve gone along, but the principle hasn’t really changed – a clip to directly connect beam and board. The two end holes on the side that attaches to the beam are bigger so if you need to fireproof a wall you can fasten it to the wall instead.”
Now at over 60 million views on the Professional Builder Facebook page, the Big Wipes demo that we filmed on the company’s exhibition stand at Pro Builder Live in January 2019 shows exactly why these cleaning wipes are so popular with the trades.
The Wera Tools stand is always popular at Toolfair so it was no surprise to see the demo video we filmed doing so well on our Facebook page. The company’s advent calendar demo racked up lots of views, but was overtaken by a video of the Joker combination ratchet wrench.
Our social media campaign showcasing the change from Hitachi to HiKOKI has been incredibly popular across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, with lots of you getting involved and submitting photos of your old Hiatchi power tools.
Available in the UK in 2020, we went along to film a demo of the SawStop technology from Festool and there was lots of interest from our social media community. The safety feature will reduce the risk of serious cutting injuries.
Transit Plug-in Hybrid
The first PHEV in this class of van was revealed at the CV Show and we were there to share the photos with you and details of its availability, with lots of conversation on Twitter about this new model from Ford.
Smartply Pattress Plus is a pre-cut, pre-rebated OSB3 board for use in ‘C’ shaped metal studs in the construction of partitions where secure anchorage for fixtures and fittings is required.
12 months’ membership for the price of 10 from Checkatrade, which has been connecting the trades with customers for over 20 years.
Bosch Carbide blades
The blades in this new Bosch range last up to 20 times longer than standard bi-metal blades, saving you money every time you cut.
Holiday vouchers and merch from OSMA.
Easy-to-install electric UFH for the bathroom