Once you’ve put a marquee up you leave the site and generally don’t return until you’re taking down the marquee. That’s often several days that customers or more likely friends of customers can look at the marquee and see how they think it could be improved.
There’s lots of talk on the marquee forum about what can happen in your absence with people (perfectly innocently) tampering with a marquee and creating a lot of problems.
In a similar vein to advice I received from an electrician friend a little knowledge can sometimes be a dangerous thing. Someone who is scared of doing anything to your marquee isn’t someone to worry about (though I once had a call asking if they could undo a zip. That would be the zipped entrance..). The likely (again perfectly innocent) culprit is going to be the hands-on bit of an amateur DIY-er who will happily volunteer to removed some sides to the marquee not appreciating that not doing the fixings back up afterwards might risk damaging the roof. Or some perfectly useless looking metal struts could be removed to allow access in one corner of a marquee.
So what can you do to prevent this occurring?
Not a lot, but you can minimise it by:
- Making one person accountable for the marquee in your absence – particularly vital if you are dealing with a company rather than private customer
- Have a form for a customer to sign stating that they have been shown what they can and cannot do with the marquee (make sure they have a copy to keep). Indeed having a ‘user-guide’ to leave with the marquee is a great idea (feel free to open windows but ensure they are closed again in high winds or overnight etc)
- If metalwork is within easy reach then have all bolts slightly more than finger tight. This will stop children playing with them but might not stop their Dad with that shiny set of Black & Decker spanners he got for Xmas!
- You can put stickers over the framework (and electrics) of the marquee stating ‘please do not tamper with this’, personally I’m not convinced by this.
99% of customers are very reasonable and wouldn’t dare do anything that might harm your marquee or endanger the people inside, as with a lot of things you have to take as many precautions as possible to prevent that remaining 1%. Informing customers of the painfully obvious do’s, don’t’s and liabilities is an unfortunate necessary, preferably with a paper trail proving such.
Thanks for reading. Bit of a negative post this week wasn’t it? I’ll try and post a cheerier one next time!
The most common cause of customers falling out with a supplier is getting stuck on site and ruining their grass. I’m hearing lots of stories along these lines with the recent poor weather so it’s not just restricted to Winter.
This really comes down to planning beforehand – driving on wet grass is always going to be risky with vehicles (vans & lorries) that are not renowned for their off-roading abilities.
- Don’t take any chances, if it looks like it might be muddy then walk it however far it needs walking. Paying everyone an extra hour or two will be cheaper than having a lawn professionally repaired.
- If you are going to drive on the grass then take the (driest) widest route possible, obviously avoid driving in front of the marquee.
- Customers will be far more prescious about their grass before an event than after so it might be you can drive to the marquee on the take down – just keep in mind getting on site with an empty van is a different ball game to getting one off-site with a marquee loaded
- Make sure any subcontractors (furniture, toilet or generator suppliers) are pre-warned before they get on site. Spending an extra day carrying all of a marquee across a lawn only to have the furniture suppliers tear up the lawn was a particular highlight of my marquee hiring career!
- Don’t assume the ground will be in the same condition when you price a job to when it comes to erecting the marquee months later.
Thanks for reading – first mention of The Showmans Show on 17th & 18th October, put it in your diary.
Some sad news: Joe Weston-Webb passed away last week. Most people know him through his portable flooring range including dance floors and furniture but also as being one of life’s true eccentrics, he’ll be sorely missed in the industry. RIP Grumpy Joe.
Marquee hire can (hopefully) be a busy business and during the summer you’re generally flat out. With that in mind you should try to reduce your stress whenever possible:
- Have two mobile phones, a personal number for close family and friends that you rarely hand out and a business one that anyone and everyone can have. Turn the work phone off when you’re not working. Nothing breaks up your relaxing day off more than a work phone call that could have waited until the next work day. Incidentally turn your work phone off at night – the worst call we ever had was one at 4am asking if we hired napkins..
- Buy a hands free kit – you will receive calls when you’re driving
- Buy a live traffic sat-nav – it will save you travelling time and therefore improve your companies efficiency.
- Have a pad of paper & pen with you everywhere
Customers like the idea of not being abandoned with their marquee, it gives great peace of mind if they have your mobile for any problems. On your side being able to turn the work phone off when you’re not working will help you relax away from the world of marquees.
Thanks for reading
Most of the time this blog is used to offer help and advice for anyone on the marquee hire industry. Sometimes we use it to promote our new products and things (hey, we’ve got to pay the rent). Very occasionally we’ll use it for our own vanity, such as today. Feel free to stop reading now and come back next week 🙂
DIY Marquees is part of C & D King Ltd who started manufacturing in 1979 when my mum (the D in C & D) fired up her sewing machine. We’ve scaled up quite a bit from then (not that we make absolutely everything we sell obviously) but at a time when people have quite loose interpretations of the word ‘manufacturer’ it was good to get back to our roots recently:
Water Chariots (the 2012 Games Canal Boat Service) approached us to help convert their functional new boats in to vessels suitable for VIP trips. The difficulty came not just in the awkward shapes and sizes required but how to attach it to a boat when you can’t make any permanent fixings (and no one’s invented sky-hooks yet).
Just to be clear – we don’t normally take on any custom-sized linings, indeed as a purely business decision it was up there with the chocolate tea urn I got from eBay last year. But everyone wants to be involved with the games in London this summer.
This is the interior of the boats before we made the linings:
And this is what it looked like with our custom linings fitted:
If you need linings made for marquees then please contact us.
Thanks for reading
This is something we learnt over the years.
It’s very difficult keeping marquee linings clean, especially when you’re flat out and they’re going up and down every weekend. To start with we used a commercial cleaning company who turned round the linings within 2 days, the only problem with that is the linings came back crinkled, we’d often get comments from customers that they needed an iron -we even hired a steamer for one particular wedding as the wrinkled linings were so bad.
Most linings fit into a domestic washing machine -all of our DIY Marquees are designed that way intentionally. Pleated linings up to 9mx3m can fit but you need a commercial washing machine for 12m and 15m.
So here’s my recommendation -wash the marquee linings at home in your domestic washing machine but only do it just before putting your marquee up the next time it’s out. Don’t put the linings in a dryer, put them up damp:
- The linings dry very quickly
- The linings dry in place, so no creases
- You avoid having to use dryers – our biggest cause of small tears and damage
- Make sure your hands are clean, damp linings will pick up any dirt (we used to keep a pack of baby wipes in the van for this)
If your linings are really bad (if they’ve been stored damp for a long time for example) and have mould on then simple washing won’t get it out, it needs something more drastic. Spraying a small amount of bleach will usually get rid of patches, if the area affected is large you actually have to soak the linings in bleach, just make sure you wash them thoroughly afterwards and don’t leave them soaking for too long as it damages the velcro etc.
I hope that’s helped some people out there, thanks for reading.
Looking after your marquees is a fundamentally sensible idea for running a marquee hire business. The longer a marquee lasts the longer you’ll have a return on your investment before phoning those lovely DIY Marquee people to order a new one.
The biggest factor is keeping your kit dry. Putting PVC away wet will age it a lot quicker than necessary whilst obviously any metalwork kept in a damp environment would become tarnished far quicker.
It’s PVC that needs the most looking after. If it’s consistently put in an abrasive environment then it can obviously wear through (parents who have been to an old soft play area will know that one) but the most common way is the coated layers of the fabric breaking down with dirty water getting inbetween and drying – this leads to black marks left inside the PVC which is impossible to remove.
If you see old marquees at country fairs etc then they will often have this ‘black spot’ in their walls and roofs.
How to avoid this aging:
- Start off with a good quality PVC. For example there are 101 different version of 500gsm, the one we use shouldn’t become brittle or break down as quickly as the cheaper end of the 500gsm PVC range. This is the same across the whole range of PVC materials, going for a good quality fabric will save you money in the long term
- Don’t put the PVC away wet if you can avoid it and certainly don’t keep it stored for a long time when damp
- Don’t fold the PVC in the same place every time. A waterproof coat will leak first on the inside of the elbows, this is because it is forever under stress creasing and re-creasing in the same place. If you keep folding walls and roofs using the same fold lines then that is where the layers will crack first and you’re aging your marquee prematurely – use different fold lines or roll them up.
Thanks for reading, and remember – look after your
As their companies expand a lot of our customers simply expand their stock of DIY Marquees and take on more jobs of similar size. A lot of expanding customers wish to offer larger marquees than ours and venture in to aluminium frame marquees to run along side their existing DIY Marquees. There are merits to either path and we’re very happy to see people we’ve helped along the way succeed. We also get asked (and are happy to supply) advice on aluminium framework despite not supplying them, it seems there are a lot of suppliers who give you a brief diagram, a pat on the back and send you on your way!
So assuming you can follow the brief diagram for assembly these are some tips to save learning along the way:
- Buy some hard hats. Do it now. I’ve never seen anyone hit on the head with one of our DIY Marquees. I have seen many people hit on the head using aluminium frame marquees (generally putting purlins in), the likeliest candidates are those new to it. It’s also useful to have whoever’s in charge in a different colour hat.
- Leave the footplates and eave knuckles bolted on to the legs
- Have two bolts in each leg so any leg can be used for scissors/cross-braces
- Have spare bolts for putting the framework together, you will lose some especially if transported in trailers where it bounces around a bit
- Don’t slide the legs or roof beams on metalwork (especially something like a roof-rack) it scratches the metalwork and ages it rapidly
- The supplier should have given you a purlin lifter (long pole with a ‘U’ or ‘G’ at the top), one person hooks the purlin in and the other uses the purlin lifter to slot in the other end. When the purlin is in the lifter twisting it slightly will grip the purlin tightly
- Start at one end of the marquee doing a bay at a time and have the hooks of the purlins facing the bays you haven’t done. This way the person hooking the purlins in can lean the frame back or forth if required (this makes sense when you’re doing it!)
- Make sure the marquee framework and roofs are completely square, if not your marquee will leak! Trust me I know this from experience (with a lot of head scratching), this is also the reason that all of our DIY Marquee roofs are in one piece (if you’re under it, you’re waterproof). This is probably the trickiest part of erecting aluminium frames to learn, it takes experience to get it right but you must must do it. A leaking marquee is no good to anyone
- The roofs are pulled on with ropes, your supplier should have given you some but if not just make them out of 8mm rope (spend some money and get nice soft rope rather than polyprop) and tie a clip on the end. You need at least 2 ropes each a bit wider than your marquee
- Take it easy lifting the frames, especially the larger 12m+ ones so you don’t end up with a back injury like mine. It’s a very very heavy bit of kit and can be tricky to lift without bending your back but persevere.
- On a similar note invest in a stake puller, our J shape ones can be knocked side to side a bit to take out but the straight ones in aluminium frames are a lot trickier so a stake puller is money well spent (you’re spending a fortune on the marquee just spend a little more!)
That’s all the main points I can remember about the shells of the marquees, no doubt there are a lot more tips to learn when doing it. There are more to do with the linings and once you’re familiar then there’s a few more advanced options – you can put up an aluminium frame (with all linings, flooring & lighting) without any steps for example.
Apologies if this doesn’t make any sense to most of our customers but it’s worth bookmarking for the future in case you’re considering expanding in the future.
Thanks for reading (sorry no blog last week due to family holiday)
Working outdoors as a marquee erector you become a little more conscious of the weather than most. As mentioned previously when helping to plan weddings I found it useful to take along a list of that years sunset times to help plan lighting etc.
In my experience (obviously this is purely my experience with no scientific facts to back it up) the year generally takes the following pattern:
- Jan & Feb – obviously cold. Allow for maximum heating at all times
- March – can be surprising and we often have 1 or 2 very good weeks (this year was a perfect example) so heating and wet weather planning is tricky
- April – showery albeit not usually as bad as this year
- May – events in early May are pushing their luck a bit, generally the weather is only reliably good by the end of the month (yes I’m aware this could come back to haunt me in 3 weeks time but I’m talking in general terms!)
- June & July – reliably (as far as British summers allow) good, heating unlikely
- August – can get surprisingly chilly later in the evening and we would often have heaters out just to take the chill off any non-dancing area
- September – we often get 1 or 2 weeks of really good weather mid-September but by the end the weather has usually dropped
- October & November – cold but not reliably so. The last 3 years at The Showmans Show (mid October) have been T-shirt wearing sunshine, then crowded round heaters and last year was rain. You can get anything.
- December – reliably cold
Why is this useful? Well if you’re doing a business plan and wondering about buying heaters you might consider getting enough heating for March/November weather but hiring in the extra heaters you need for winter. Why do it like this? Well this way your heaters could get used 6-8 months of the year but the extra ones needed to supplement these for winter would only be needed for 2-3 months (also the quietest marquee hire months). Hopefully I’ve explained what I mean but if not please let me know 🙂
Thanks for reading
Deciding how much anchoring a marquee needs is not an exact science, generally it comes from experience and obviously you should always be on the cautious side when deciding how many anchoring points to put on a marquee.
Our tie down kits allow for one tie down per leg but there are many other factors to consider:
- The quality of the ground, if the ground is very soft you will need more (or larger) anchoring points than usual
- The area immediately around the marquee, if it is surrounded by high wind-breaking obstacles then you can use less anchoring points than usual
- The surrounding area, being in the middle of a field on top of a hill will require more anchoring points than usual
- How the marquee is to be used, a marquee without sides (effectively a large umbrella) will require a lot more anchoring than usual
- The weather forecast will also influence your decision
This information is supposed to help not intimidate any one starting up, for nearly every marquee job you take on our standard tie down kit will be more than enough. But for those odd occasions these are things you need to be aware of, if you turn up to a job on a beach or sand-school or if the weather is very bad consider adding additional anchoring points. If the weather is good and the marquee is secluded then you can probably allow less.
Out tie down kits use larger stakes than the industry average, they have better quality and stronger ratchet straps and also include a figure of eight strap for secure fixing to the marquee.
Thanks for reading