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When all else fails...
Member Name: grahamt
Advantages: Often have the out-of-the-ordinary item
Disadvantages: Not the range of the likes of Homebase and B&Q
Once upon a time the choices available for places to buy DIY goods was almost more than anyone could want. Nowadays the market has shrunk significantly and it's hard to know why. Why can the likes of B&Q go from strength to strength whilst Texas vanishes from sight? I've already written a review of Focus DIY and my analysis of their business model suggested to me that they really don't have a clue. Only B&Q and Homebase seem to understand their market, as is confirmed by their seeming continued prosperity.
And then there's Wickes. Now, I have to admit that I rarely visit Wickes, which is a surprise because when I have my experiences there have always been good. Admittedly they don't have the vast range of B&Q and in most cases their prices are nothing out of the ordinary. However, I have never had a problem with anything I have bought from them and often I've found items there that I have not been able to find anywhere else.
Where B&Q seems to try to cover every base and competitive prices and Homebase seems to concentrate much more on home fittings, Wickes seems to concentrate very much more on the construction end of the market. They range of building materials they have on offer seems almost unlimited.
I have two of their stores within a reasonable distance of me, at Farnborough and Bracknell. They have over 180 stores nationwide so there's probably one near you. Three purchases I have made at Wickes will give you an indication why, when all else fails, it may be worth giving them a visit.
Even before we converted a stretch of lawn beside our garage into a vegetable patch, I was keen to capture as much rainwater from our roofs as possible, not just so as to reduce the cost of our metered water supply but also to ensure that we have the best quality water for our garden and for our fish pond. This requires water butts and downpipe water diverters.
The first butt I bought was from B&Q but it really hasn't ever been satisfactory. The plastic walls are too thin and the whole butt leans alarmingly when full. It holds 190ltr of rainwater and cost me just under £25. But one butt is never enough! Not wanting to make the same mistake again I decided to look around for a better deal and finally I ended up at Wickes. There they had a 200ltr water butt in much more substantial construction, on offer for just under £15. I bought two. They continue to give completely reliable service.
Over the years I have done a lot of DIY and that requires tools. One of the main tools that I use is an electric drill. I generally settle on a variable speed, reversing hammer drill to meet most of the needs. I have bought several but none have been entirely satisfactory. The first I bought was a Black & Decker but that only lasted about eight years before it broke beyond repair. My experience with Black & Decker tools in general is such that I have never bought anything of that brand for many years, nor will I.
As a replacement I bought from B&Q one of their "own brand" Performance drills. That proved to be even more unreliable than the B&D one. After only 18 months the trigger started playing up and, although I soldiered on with it for another couple of years, eventually it failed on me all together and so it was time to buy yet another.
This time I found what I was looking for, once again in Wickes. Their 810W own-brand Hammer Drill ticked all the right boxes and as it was on offer at just under £20 at the time, felt good to my wallet as well. It has continued to give good service after two years now and looks like going on to do so for the foreseeable future.
Lastly, I have been wiring up the house with various services such as a wired computer network in many rooms, Freeview aerial feeds and phone sockets. I am a great believer in wired connections, especially where computers are concerned, but that means getting wiring to where it is needed. Our house is relatively modern and as such has timber frame internal walls. This does provide a good route for wiring, always assuming that you can get to the top of the wall.
Drilling a hole in the capping that covers the gap between the plasterboard skins is not a problem from the loft. What is a problem is that the vertical timbers that form the wall usually have a cross-brace between them about half-way down. What I wanted was something to extend the drill to drill a hole through the cross-brace without having to cut lumps out of the plasterboard.
I found exactly what I needed in Wickes. They have drill extensions that enable a standard wood bit to be extended about 40cms. Putting three of these together, with the drill on the end enables me to reach and drill through the cross-brace, so enabling the wiring to reach the socket at the bottom of the wall.
So, Wickes has been a great place to get items where nowhere else has been able to provide either a suitable product, a reliable product or a cost-effective product. True, I have also come away empty-handed on many occasions, simply because Wickes just doesn't have the range of a B&Q.
Still, it's nice to know that if all else fails, Wickes may just come up trumps. It's why I keep going back.
Summary: A great place to try when all else fails