Brick by brick

23 Oct , 2019  

Over the past 15 years, Keymore Construction Ltd. have earned a stellar reputation as a premier bricklaying contractor, delivering high-quality projects for a who’s who of contractors and developers across Ireland and the UK. Building Ireland touched base with founder Stephen Morgan to find out more about his industry-leading business, which has been shortlisted for a 2019 Irish Construction Industry Award.

Established in Newry in 2004, Keymore Construction Ltd. have completed many major construction projects throughout Ireland and the UK, to date constructing more than 100 million items in the craft of bricklaying and block-laying.

Renowned as leaders in their field when it comes to quality, reliability, innovation and safety, Keymore Construction provide their services to many leading companies in construction, across a board range of sectors including industrial, residential, educational, commercial and health.

Crucially, to meet an ever-increasing demand for such services in the marketplace, Keymore Construction have diversified from labour-only to supply & fit – including materials, scaffolding, plant & machinery – and this has resulted in decreased costs, tighter timeframes and simplified projects.

Gainful employment is currently generated for 200 highly-skilled personnel in order to satisfy client and programme requirements, with turnover of €20m recorded in 2018 … quite an accomplishment considering that proprietor / Managing Director Stephen Morgan started out in the early ‘noughties with a single van and four lads.

Now that brick and block are very much back in vogue with architects and engineers, demand for Keymore Construction’s services is keener than ever and the business is going from strength to strength as a consequence. Totally committed to the ethos of partnerships and collaborative working, Keymore always work closely with clients and their professional teams to ensure that quality projects are invariably delivered – on budget and to programme.

Bearing in mind the professionalism, diversification, growth and enduring success of Keymore Construction Ltd., it was no major surprise to hear that the company had been shortlisted in the ‘Subcontractor of the Year – Small’ category at the 2019 Irish Construction Industry Awards. “We’re very happy to have been nominated and, in fairness, Caroline McEvoy in the office did an excellent job in putting together our submission,” notes Stephen.

“We’re constantly trying to raise our standards and to do things right in terms of best practice. Over the past six or seven years we have worked very hard to bring things to the next level and we have succeeded in terms of the growth of the company. We’ve structured it differently and found our niche in the market.

“Since we became a scaffolding contractor as well as a bricklaying contractor, and added the supply of plant and materials, productivity is up on site and we are the driver of that. We’re no longer held back by site constraints in that we supply the material, and scaffolding. We have developed good relationships with all the main suppliers of the products used for building.”

To give an indication of the scale of the business, Keymore are by far the biggest buyer in Ireland of blocks and mortar from Kilsaran and also purchase large volumes of insulation from Kingspan.

Keymore have their own fleet of HGV transporters – which can accommodate any size of plant – to quickly move equipment between sites at short notice. They also own and operate their own fleet of machinery which includes a full range of teleporters with extensive reach and attachments to cover all needs and requirements of an industrial building site. Meanwhile, their internal scaffolding service can cover any size of job. All scaffolding is less than two years old and is constantly updated.

Furthermore, at this year’s Irish Construction Industry Awards, not only have Keymore been shortlisted as Subcontractor of the Year but they also acted as masonry subcontractor for the Funicular Folly, which has been nominated in the Innovation in Construction category.

One of the most interesting and innovative projects Keymore have worked on, Funicular Folly is an innovative brick structure built as a permanent installation at Body & Soul Music Festival – the first built example of a free-standing timbrel vault structure in Ireland.

Keymore worked on this project in collaboration with Bennett Construction and award-winning architect Rae Moore.  The word ‘funicular’ refers to the natural shape any material will take under the force of gravity – like a chain hanging between two posts, in a graceful curve. Work on the folly began with a curved timber frame. Thin layers of brick and cement were added to make a cohesive shell; finally, the frame was removed to reveal the slender freestanding canopy. The funicular folly is an attempt to inject some spirit into contemporary architecture.

Keymore donated their services for free as part of their overall Corporate Social Responsibility ethos. As a result of the methods used on this project, they have been able to deploy similar methods elsewhere and are now using brick-slips with adhesive on an apartment complex project with more clients in the Dublin area. Seeing how well this worked in Funicular Folly, they suggested the same methodology to design teams on varying projects.

Using the brick-slip removed the need for structural steel masonry supports, as Keymore are able to place the brick-slip cladding directly to the concrete face and upstands on the external balconies building – a quality job, saving over €500,000 on one project alone.

According to Rae Moore: “Keymore Construction applied their skilled hands and vast experience to this new task – to lay a three-dimensional curved brick surface, with pinpoint accuracy. Their incredible diligence and work ethic allowed the team to evolve and master a brand-new construction method. They clearly demonstrated their value as master craftsmen and achieved results far beyond the architect and client’s expectations.”

Keymore have been heavily involved in the remedial work in New Priory Hall, in conjunction with Bracegrade and DCC. Going back some five years, they have worked for all five main contractors at New Priory and have been involved on the external envelope since Day One.

In association with Bennett Construction Ltd., Keymore have been instrumental in the completion of many accommodation types for student housing. Given the nature of this work, there are generally tight deadlines and turn-around times, which Keymore continue to deliver on. To date, they have delivered accommodation for more than 4,000 students in the wider Dublin area.

Covering the whole island of Ireland and the mainland UK from Scotland to London, Keymore is the only bricklaying contractor in Ireland to currently hold accreditations with the Construction Industry Federation & Safe-T-Cert (Grade A rating). They were the first bricklaying contractor in the construction industry in Ireland to be accredited with CIRI – Construction Industry Register of Ireland. Keymore are also fully qualified members of CWPS, CITB, Valid C2, gross payment cert and insurances and a member of Construction Line.

Regarding the key to Keymore’s success, Stephen says fostering and maintaining relationships is vital: “It all comes down to strong relationships with good people,” he attests. “I firmly believe good people will attract good people. For example, Collen Construction is a family business with good people at the top and we do all their masonry in brick, block & stone.

“We’ve worked for Gem Construction since 2007 and we’ve completed up to 1,000 units for Shannon Homes in Drogheda and Dublin. We’ve been with Cairn Homes since their inception & will have completed around 1,000 by year end. We did all Townlink’s work for twelve years and still have a very good relationship with the directors. We also do about 90% of Bennett’s work and everything for Newlyn Developments. These are practically all family businesses, all with good, honest people at the top and it’s all about good relationships.”

Since the genesis of the business a decade-and-a-half ago, a massive emphasis has been placed on quality workmanship and this has elevated Keymore to the forefront of their trade. “We set out every single day to be the best that we can be,” Stephen confirms. “We never leave a bad job behind us. We know we’re not perfect every time but if we make a mistake we will fix it.

“Programme is the No.1 driver in this country because everybody has borrowed money for these projects and you have to make sure you meet the programme when you are allowed to.

“I’m fortunate to have a very good team around me and they also play an important role. The first gang of bricklayers I ever employed are still here, alongside some people I worked for prior to starting out on my own. Everybody took a hammering during the downturn and it’s good to see it coming back again.” “We’re delighted to be able to provide a quality service, with certainty that the project will be delivered on time. This in turn allows us to offer steady employment to our loyal workers on an ongoing basis – that’s what it’s all about!”

Keymore Construction Ltd.,

95 High Street,


County Down,

BT35 7DZ.

Tel: 048 3083 8867

Fax: 048 3083 7523

Email: [email protected]

Web: www.keymoreconstruction.com

Taken from Building Ireland Magazine, August, Vol 5 No 8