He works 16 hours a day, six days a week – but for Scotland’s best tradesman, it has all been worth it.
Edinburgh’s Michael Cairns has triumphed over 3000 competitors to be crowned Scotland’s number one and will now take his tools to Wembley for the UK grand final.
The first Scot in the history of the Britain’s Top Tradesman competition to make it through to the last stage, the 28-year-old plumber and gas engineer from Mountcastle said he was “proud as anything” after scooping the accolade.
But he said his success had come after a rollercoaster nine-year journey which saw him let go from his first employer as the credit crunch began to bite. Despite the setback, Michael set up his own business, Celsius Plumbing and Heating, which has thrived thanks to his work ethic and determination to provide a service to customers whenever it is needed.
He said: “I’ve had people phoning me up on Christmas Day saying they have no hot water and literally begging me to come round and fix it for them.
“You have to just do it or the business will go to someone else. It’s tough out there. But getting a recommendation from a customer I’ve done a good job for makes it all worthwhile.”
The former Portobello High pupil said success had not come without pain and struggle.
After leaving school at the age of 16, Michael went to Telford college to sit higher exams in history, modern studies and English.
He said he was drawn to life as a plumber because of the “banter”.
“A lot of my friends were tradesmen and I used to sit in the pub and talk to them about it,” he said. “I realised it’s what I wanted to be.
“I think it was the lifestyle that drew me to it – the banter and stories you get on building sites, and the characters you meet.
“It’s also the satisfaction of having a skill. Being able to take something and make something out of it.”
Michael said finding an employer so he could begin formal training as a plumber meant making “hundreds” of phone calls over a period of months, only to be knocked back each time.
But his perseverance eventually paid off and he was taken on by Moran Construction, the employer which guided him through his four-year apprenticeship.
Now his own boss, Michael said he was determined to help other youngsters trying to find work in a tough economic environment, with one new tradesman at his own firm having just completed an apprenticeship.
Despite the graft he has put in, Michael said he was stunned to be named one of Britain’s ten best tradesmen.
He said: “If someone had told me when I started out nine years ago that I would be in this position, I wouldn’t have believed it. But I am very proud – obviously. What an achievement.”
Bosses at trade retailer Screwfix, which organises Britain’s Top Tradesman, hailed the dedication shown by Michael and the finalists he will line up against next week.
John Mewett, Screwfix marketing director, said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the response and have enjoyed hearing some impressive stories of exceptional workmanship and great customer service along the way.
“Michael and all our finalists have demonstrated their willingness to go the extra mile to get the job done and it’s certainly no easy task to pick the winner.”
A stress-free zone
HERE are some of Michael’s top tips for stress-free DIY:
• Know where to shut your mains water off. Lots of leaks can be solved without the aid of a plumber if you know this
• Make sure the silicon seals around your bath are monitored regularly – leaks and floods can be avoided by making sure they are sound.
• Make sure your gas appliances are checked every 12 months.
• Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home - they are easy to put up and will give you advance warning of problems with gas appliances and boilers.
• Make sure your pipes are insulated – energy-efficient lagging can be bought in any DIY shop and is easily installed on pipe surfaces .