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About Skill Builder

Welcome to Skill Builder, the resource for everyone involved in a building or renovation project. We provide practical guidance for all aspects of building renovation. We aim to give you plenty of hard information, as well as a good deal of inspiration. We recognise that the learning curve in the building industry can be steep and relentless.

As regular viewers of programmes such as Grand Designs will know, when it comes to cutting edge technology there is a lot that can go wrong. In the building industry, Murphy’s Law (if it can go wrong, it will go wrong) sometimes seems endemic, but often it is self-inflicted and unnecessary. In many aspects, the novice is better equipped than the professional to succeed because they tend to seek help at every turn. To use a navigation analogy, it is usually when you think you know where you are going that you get lost. If you know that you don’t know, you are more likely to look at a map.

Do we have all the answers? Certainly not but we aim to provide some of them, and to draw on the experience of industry experts to help you. We also provide product evaluations, practical demonstrations and case histories that will help you source the right products and materials for your project, and more importantly avoid some of the common pitfalls encountered in applying them to your projects. We also aim to help you with the running of your business with our podcast which looks at marketing, pricing jobs, software, mental health and much more.

Skill Builder was co-founded by Roger Bisby who entered the building industry as an apprentice plumber. In those days they still wiped lead joints with a blowlamp and moleskin so you can tell he is no spring chicken. He went on to train as a college lecturer and has also run his own building company for nearly 30 years. He specialises in troubleshooting and has a dogged determination to get to the bottom of difficult problems. He put these talents to good use as the regular expert on London Broadcasting Company’s (LBC) Fix-It Phone In which remained one of their most popular shows throughout its 15-year run. His television work includes appearances as the resident expert on The Terrace (BBC) Watchdog Home Improvement Series (BBC) Rogue Traders (BBC) and House of Horrors (ITV). He currently works for trade publications including Professional Builder, Professional Electrician, Professional Heating and Plumbing Installer, and Professional Housebuilder and Property Developer.

17 comments

  1. Hi Roger,
    First of all I would like to thank you and Robin for all your videos and tutorials, they’re great and have helped me no end. Now a bit about me. Myself and family have started a project to renovate our bungalow in Cornwall, with the majority of work being planned as self build. Now I know alarm bells are probably ringing as soon as I mention self build but I am a serving Royal Engineer and have a appetite to learn with a good grasp of most practical skills I take on (like I said your videos have helped no end so far). Now the project itself is three extensions, two currently and a third to follow once this lots cracked. We have just today got our oversight poured (all checked off by building regs to this stage). Now for the question; living in Cornwall we have needed to fit a radon barrier but I could do with some advice of how to fit the cavity tray and weep holes (position and best materials) over this in relation to DPC?
    We are on instagram @renovatingnumber79

  2. i Rodger,
    I would like to discuss raising damp on my breeze blocks.
    Is it possible to talk to you over the phone or meet in person.
    Thanks

  3. Hi Roger,

    Firstly, Thank you for all your help and guidance! I have been a maintenance engineer in the city of London for some 37 years! Gosh long time when you put it in print. My colleague Brian and I are addicted to skill builder in the form of you tube and pod cast. We are the Morecambe and wise, it has been said to you Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. Any way, after following your advise on Abacus bathrooms I am a real convert, I am currently refurbishing our en-suite and require further advise. Long story short, the 4inch waste pipe has terminals under the floor that accommodate 2x 1 1/4” and 1 x 1 1/2” they consist of a moulded plate that looks like it is solvent welded to the body of the pipe. Above that is the standard 4inch inlet for the toilet (above the down stairs ceiling void). I would like to remove both sections. Ultimately I’d like to add a 2inch pipe so I can fit the abacus shower tray in your YouTube vid in our main bathroom at a later date.

    So if I remove said section and fit a terminal under the floor I was thinking a 4 inch opening with short section of pipe inserted with a form of stop end with 2x 2” pipe inserts? This would accommodate future shower and the current en suite. Then fit another 4 inch terminal on top to accommodate toilet. Is there such a thing where I can slide a collar up to insert the two new fittings. Solvent weld the pipe with the slidable collar? If I didn’t have the option of this collar, I can’t see a way of inserting the two new sections. Do you follow? Much obliged for you sage advise. Take care best wishes Paul

    • Hi Paul

      I am trying to follow you but a couple of photographs or a sketch would help a lot.

      There is always an answer. The Abacus tray does take 40mm wastes and that should deal with 25litres per minute.

  4. I’ve recently found Skill-Builder and Robin Clevett, (Robin via Skill-Builder) and it’s been a revelation to me. I’m a very mediocre, (possible even poor) DIY’er but the passion that Rodger and Robin demonstrate for their skills and trade has been an inspiration to me. You two are like hero’s to me and it very strange that I can find hero’s in the building trade, unless your hero’s are cowboys, lol! Your videos are very clear, conscience and enjoyable to follow. When I watch any of the topics you are demonstrating I’m riveted as though it’s a Hitchcock thriller. I’m 64 years old and was made redundant 2 years ago from the corporate financial world after 32 years. I was in a career that lacked creativity, imagination, craft skills and above all enjoyment and fulfillment. Please, please don’t stop these great videos I’m tuned in and about to put up a shelve in the airing cupboard. All the best to you both for 2021!

  5. Hi Roger and robin.

    Will you be doing any videos on soundproofing. I’m looking at doing my neighbouring walls which at the moment are 2 4″ blocks a a bit of plaster. Not very soundproof and the neighbours are getting louder and louder. I trust all the information you give and would love to see a video on this matter
    Many thanks

  6. are you anywhere near chatham kent im looking to get a 6mx4.5m kitchen extension built or can you recommend a friend?

  7. Good morning
    Do you still carry out bathroom installations?
    I look forward to hearing from you

  8. Hi….just some info and guidance really….
    I’ve in the last 6 months laid 70mtrs of Indian stone and would really like to seal it to enhance the natural colours….
    Could you please advise which product would be best to achieve this result….
    Cheers Dave

  9. Hi Roger,
    I recently discovered you and SkillBuilder on youtube and your videos are so incredibly informative and interesting! And you are such a lovely presenter to watch too, with a great sense of humour!
    I’m purchasing my first home and am already dreaming up a new bathroom, getting very excited about potentially doing it myself (with some help at key stages from the professionals of course!).
    Your videos have really sparked my interest in plumbing and brought me the knowledge that is so essential; for a DIY-er but also when working with professionals: it’s almost like learning a new language, making it much easier to plan and communicate! Thank you and keep up the fantastic work!

  10. Hi Roger
    Had a leaking quadrant shower enclosure, and after reading your advice think I now know why it is leaking. Will be removing old enclosure and if not practical to refit, will buy a new one.
    However just one question. When I fit the wall profiles to the wall do I need to insert silicone into the drill holes and do I silicone the wall profile to the tiles or just on the outside.
    Thanks for any help

  11. Hi Roger and team.. Like all other trades who wish to learn and come across scenarios to awkward jobs, we can always relay on you for expert guidance through all your hard work for which I am most grateful. So I hope you can assist in my scenario coming up in a few weeks which am trying to find a solution for.

    Customer currently has an upstairs wetroom shower and wishes to keep existing tiles and wants a low level shower tray 1.8 x 8 m placed over the wet area tiled with minimal disruption. Obviously with the slight slope to the drain gives uneven surface of about 15mm at centre. I was watching your piece with Bostick self levelling compounds to see if I could use one of their products to level out the small areas to form a base to place a cement base on top for new shower tray. Bostick advised that none of their products would be any good for this? Can you give any guidance on what product if any I can use or is this method not possible?

  12. Hello Mr Brisby
    I am frequently watching Skill Builder & pick up useful advice, tips, as well as trade terminology/ descriptions.
    Where I am at now, is in a bit of an emergency situation. For I have a Combi boiler & on the 28/6/2021 Monday last week the hot water on the system packed up I did some of my own diagnostics on the unit. I have a basic knowledge on it Britony28.7kW. Firstly I believe the switches both work ( central heating & hot water ) as the LED’s indicate so. Next I thoroughly checked through the wiring continuity , PCB to the second terminal on the diverter valve ( first terminal is black, second — hot water & third is central heating, of which I know works because the boiler fires up ).
    I guess the question you are asking is why have I not called a plumber,, well the truth is I have,, two plumbers. The normal plumber is far to busy at the moment & the second one ( my neighbour believes “ I have called in to many favours” ). I realise I am interfering with items I shouldn’t be, I am just not seeing whether it ( the diverter valve ) is broken or not. Then if it is, how can I pick up a replacement of which works on my boiler. With the boiler firing up on central heating, I don’t see the that the heat exchanger is broken. Next dismantled the diverter valve, blowing through the hot water side — it worked, then manually pushed the rod joining the diaphragm. ( The diaphragm appeared to have no holes in it ).
    About myself, I had a job until September last year, when my furlough came to an end, as did my job. I attempted to remove the top of the diverter valve. After first establishing whether or not I could, on a “ live” system of which wasn’t drained. Water went everywhere, the stop cock had seized up, eventually I stopped the flow. I own a upper maisonette ,with independent tenets renting downstairs . My girlfriend looks upon me with a total lack of confidence in my abilility I would at least like to achieve something of worthwhile in her eyes.
    Looking forward to your response.
    Jon

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