From one-off houses to domestic and commercial refurbs and extensions, meticulous restoration projects or providing specialist building services to racecourses or stud farms, Mervyn Gray Construction has an exceptional track record for invariably delivering high-quality construction solutions in a wide range of settings. We took the short trip to Navan and met the eponymous proprietor to find out more.
Building is very much in Mervyn Gray’s DNA. Following in the considerable footsteps of his father, Michael Gray, and granduncle, Christy Halford, the Meath man has earned an unrivalled reputation for consistently producing outstanding workmanship on a variety of projects across counties Meath, Kildare and Dublin since setting up his own construction firm 18 years ago.
“My father was a building contractor going back to the 1950s and I served my time with him in the 1980s and ‘90s before going travelling and working in construction in Australia and America,” he reflects. “I came home in 2003 and Dad retired around about that same time so I took over the reins at that stage.”
A career in construction always beckoned for Mervyn, who cites his father as his biggest influence during those crucial formative early years. “I learned everything from Dad from a very young age. He brought me on site and gave me a good grounding in all aspects of building. He employed a number of men in the 70s, ‘80s and 90s working on one-off houses as well as a number church restorations and convent and school renovations. I just took to the work and realistically there was only ever going to be one way for me…”
Like his father, Mervyn served his time as a carpenter but was always geared towards general contracting. Prior to going out on his own, Michael had served his time as a carpenter with his uncle, the aforementioned Christy Halford, who headed up a big operation in the Royal County in the early-mid 1990s.
A carpentry background is of course invaluable and provides a strong platform for delivering high-quality buildings precisely, tidily and with the keenest attention to detail. Travelling and witnessing construction methods and techniques in other countries can also be beneficial. To this end, Mervyn worked in general construction in Australia before moving to the United States, where he worked for a hardwood floor company installing high-end flooring in Manhattan and Long Island. During this time, he had the opportunity of working in the homes and apartments of the rich and famous, including Robert de Niro and Billy Joel.
To this day, he remains cognisant of the importance of working to the highest standards to provide customers with the exact solutions they require: “You have to treat every customer with total respect and the most important thing to me is that the client is happy at the end of the job,” he notes. “From my perspective, it’s vital to me that I always leave behind a product that I’m 100% happy with and that I can stand over. It’s not all about money. While money is obviously a big part of it, quality has to be at the forefront of your mind.
“Indeed, with the increase in the price of raw materials that we’ve seen in recent times, it’s tougher than ever to make money but hopefully that’ll come back a bit. Builders were left exposed by those increases. If you have already given a price to a customer, sometimes you just have to suck it up because young people often can’t get bigger mortgages than the one they’ve already been given.”
To help keep overheads down, mitigate against volatility and provide efficient services, Mervyn owns and operates all his own construction machinery and also has his own low loaders for transportation to site. “We do all the groundworks on our projects ourselves and we can also provide groundworks on its own if required,” the Meath contractor continues.
“We have our own teleporters, diggers, dump trailers and tractors and I’m lucky to have been able to build up a nice bit of machinery over the years. It’s great to have it and we make sure to look after them all and keep them in good condition.”
Mervyn Gray Construction has successfully completed a wide variety of residential and commercial projects down through the years, many of them on landmark buildings in high-profile settings. In 2012, for example, Mervyn and his team completely overhauled the multi-award-winning Central Bar & Restaurant complex at the heart of Navan town, while they have only recently finished a massive refurbishment of The Kilberry Pub & Kitchen (formerly Scanlons) at Kilberry Cross, on the outskirts of county town.
At the time of writing, Mervyn was in the final stages of finishing a one-off house at Lismullen, Navan and was up to ground level on a home in Lobinstown, County Meath, with two extensions set to commence in September as well as the gut and refit of a fire-damaged house. He has completed quite a lot of restoration work, including a fabulous courtyard building on a large estate near Athboy five years ago, where the stables were gutted and converted into five houses. He has also completed work on schools, churches, parochial centres and community buildings, including many projects in the parish of Trim.
Furthermore, Mervyn Gray Construction has earned a stellar reputation working on stud farms, while general maintenance services are also provided at Punchestown, Navan and Fairyhouse racecourses (alongside the completion of occasional capital spend projects). Mervyn’s working relationship with Punchestown Racecourse goes back 15 years: “They’ve been very good to us and we would be on site there for three or four months every year,” he notes. “For the festival in April, we’d do the set-up for six-eight weeks and we’d then be there on standby during the festival itself before spending a couple of weeks putting everything away and tidying up.
“We also did the Covid-19 Test Centre at Punchestown and the Covid Vaccination Centre, which is a massive facility with 60 bays in one building. We regularly do a good bit of groundworks and drainage there as well.”
Mervyn directly employs three full-time – all of whom are qualified carpenters by trade, thus ensuring that a perfect finish is guaranteed every time – as well as a tried-and-trusted core of subcontractors with whom he enjoys longstanding working relationships. “We have used the same electricians, plumbers, plasterers and tilers for a number of years – all great men who appreciate the standards we set and thankfully they have stuck with us.”
Using the same extended team regularly guarantees consistency in the finished product. “Absolutely, my own staff are exceptional and in addition to that we only use guys who we know will deliver good work and will give a good service,” he concludes. “If there are any issues at all, they will go back and rectify it. Everything comes down to making sure the customer is happy.
“This results in us picking up steady repeat work from very good clients, while word of mouth also serves us well as we get a lot of positive referrals from satisfied customers.”
As the third generation of his family to provide exceptional building contracting services, Mervyn understands the value of leaving a high-quality, aesthetically-pleasing product behind him every time. Each completed project represents a fitting calling card and this is why Mervyn Gray Construction is in such big demand in Meath and surrounding counties.
Mervyn Gray Construction,
Tel: 087 9691053
Email: [email protected]
This article was published in Building Ireland Magazine, November 2021, Vol 7 No 11