It’s likely that every customer entering a merchant will have a different priority from the one before, which can make recommending the right product a challenge. Jonathan Cherry, head of product management at British Gypsum, looks at some of the issues affecting product choice and highlights how manufacturers can help.

Every project is different. Whether it’s a repair job, planned maintenance, or a refurbishment scheme, product choice will be affected by a number of factors; from the type of property, to the needs and preferences of the building occupants.

Fortunately, manufacturers are constantly developing products to ensure there are solutions available for every purpose, but merchants play a key role in ensuring the benefits of each are communicated so that the customer gets the right solution for the job and they are able to complete the sale.

If a merchant can add value, the customer experience will be strengthened. Manufacturers can support this by working closely with merchants to offer additional services such as product recycling schemes and other sustainability initiatives, and by working closely with the entire supply chain to make sure the latest products are readily available across the country.

As well as being able to offer added extras, merchants must have a good knowledge and understanding of the various challenges facing the customer in order to recommend a solution that ticks all the boxes.

So what are some of the issues affecting product choice at the moment?

For a residential project, sound insulation will be key. A certain level of acoustic performance is required to create a comfortable living environment for residents, free from potential disruption caused by external noise or loud neighbours. For walls and partitions, customers will need a solution that can minimise sound transferring through and around the home.

Varying levels of sound insulation will be required depending on the type of noise and where it is coming from.

There are solutions available to replace entire walls or to upgrade existing substrates. British Gypsum Thistle’s two coat plaster which combines an undercoat and skim finish, could be used to provide an excellent acoustic solution to a background of block work or bricks. Building Regulations approved Document E, although being intended for new build properties, is a good reference point for guidance on sound insulation in residential dwellings.

Safety measures

Unsurprisingly, fire resistance is often high on the priority list when it comes to product selection. Solutions for walls and partitions are essential in controlling the spread of flame and should be designed to keep fire at bay, therefore allowing more time for occupants to exit a building safely.

The level of fire resistance required varies and is dependent on the size and use of the property. Building Regulations approved Document B (section two in Scotland) provides guidance on this area and specifies the minimum period of fire resistance required by different building elements.

As such a vital requirement, there are multiple products and solutions available designed to offer fire resistance and so customers looking for a product that meets this need have a number of options.

If a customer is working on an area such as a hallway or staircase, they will require a product that is able to withstand a certain level of impact, such as knocks and scuffs. A combination of plasterboard and plaster is often the best way to achieve a suitable level of toughness.

Some areas of a property will need walls and partitions that perform on multiple levels and in these spaces, durable plaster finishes can be applied to specialist boards to create an extra level of robustness. Thistle Durafinish, a skim coat plaster on a sound resistant board, like Gyproc SoundBloc, will help to prolong and maintain walls in areas that need to be tough against damage but able to inhibit the passage of noise.

At a time when people are closely monitoring the purse strings, keeping costs down is a priority so products that will make savings long-term are a popular choice. A good level of thermal performance in a product will help to keep a property warm and, in turn, reduce energy bills.

Thermal laminates are an ideal product to improve the energy efficiency of a property, without impacting heavily on the interior. British Gypsum’s Gyproc ThermaLine, which is a combination of efficient PIR insulation and Gyproc plasterboard, is designed to provide a high level of thermal insulation at a lower thickness and is ideal for upgrading existing insulation.

Build on knowledge

With such a variety of customer priorities and a vast range of products available, recommending products is not always straightforward. However, there is a wealth of information and support available to merchants from manufacturers, including literature and bespoke training courses.

By making use of the resources available and investing some time in building knowledge on industry issues, merchants can put themselves in the perfect position to be able to advise customers and recommend a solution that truly meets their needs.

This article first appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of Builders' Merchants News.