The building trade has changed a lot in the last 100 years. Therefore, builders’ merchants have also needed to change in order to stay in business.

In this blog, I am going to outline what has changed, how merchants have changed with them, and why rope is still an important item for builders’ merchants to stock.

Construction used to be very different. Nowadays, it’s the likes of Donald Trump and other business leaders that are behind the buildings changing our skylines. In ancient times though, it was kings and emperors commissioning monuments to themselves or looking to defend their realms, with projects like the Pyramids of Giza and the Great Wall of China.

These projects took a long time and a tremendous amount of man-power to complete though. For example, it took around 800,000 men and soldiers about 200 years to build the Great Wall, while somewhere between 7,000 and 30,000 men spent around 20 years completing the Pyramids according to Egyptologists.

To complete these projects, the men would have used ropes to assist them, whether it was to help them heave the stone to site, or to lift the stone into place using an old-fashioned pulley or rope-roll system.

Very difficult and labour-intensive work then. Thus, it shouldn’t be a surprise that builders embraced machinery, which made the work quicker and easier for them, which meant demand for old technologies starting to disappear.

Therefore, builders’ merchants needed to adapt to the new circumstances in order to stay in business. It’s why I and other vendors now compete to give the best price on steel wire rope, for example, as that’s what contractors are looking for.

Rope is still needed on building sites though. For example, building maintenance is very important and the flexibility of climbing rope is needed in order to access certain parts of a building. Therefore, this makes good-quality rope a vital part of any maintenance crew’s kit, and builders do well to also have some on-hand so they can check their work and help with repairs.

Using machinery is also unfeasible or prohibited on certain jobs too. For example, self-build projects are usually very small, making the use of heavy machinery un-necessary. Meanwhile, the owners of some protected buildings have been known to insist restoration work be done wholly manually to help maintain the character of the property, thereby making simple rope-operated pulley systems the only viable option.

Yes, construction has changed a lot, and that’s good. However, rope is ever-adaptable and practical, and so, should always have a place in a builders’ merchant’s stockroom.

Russell Hurst is the owner and director of Ropes Direct.