This is a question posed by many a householder, however of the reality is that it might not need to be changed. If the fuse board is damaged and there's a chance that people could touch "live" parts (risking an electric shock), then it does need to be changed.

The old fuse board will not meet the requirements of the BS7671 Wiring Regulations 17th Edition Ammendment 1 (2011). The fact that the installation does not meet the requirements doesn't mean it is illegal or indeed unsafe, however the new requirements are intended to make the installation "more" safe by reducing the chances of getting an electric shock.

In order for your domestic installation to meet the requirements of the "Regs" it must also meet the new RCD (Residual Current Device) requirements. RCDs cannot be fitted in older style fuse boards so if your installation needs to be brought up to date and made safer a new consumer unit will be needed.

There are numerous areas where RCDs are required, which should be rated at 30mA. These include;

  • Any cable buried in a wall or partition at a depth of less than 50mm from the surface requires protecting by an RCD unless it is protected by earthed metalwork such as conduit or trunking.
  • Any cable passing through a wall or partition that contains metal parts other than screws or nails.
  • Any cable that is installed outside the 'cable safe zones' needs protecting with both earthed metalwork and an RCD.
  • Every socket outlet rated 20A or less that is used by "ordinary persons" (i.e. home owners) intended for general use, require RCD protection.
  • Mobile equipment used outdoors rated up to 32A.
  • All circuits supplying power to a room that contains a bath or shower are required to be RCD protected.
If you ask an electrician to install a new socket and you do not have RCD protection, then this new work will need to meet the requirements. This could mean that your fuse board will need to be replaced so that the RCDs can be installed! This simple and relatively cheap job has now become much more expensive, but the end result is that your electrical installation is much safer.

Should you be planning to do this (or any other electrical task) yourself, have you considered taking one of Access Training's bespoke electrician courses? Whether you're looking to gain new DIY skills to help you around the home or professional qualifications in order to become an electrician, we can help you.

For more information contact us at 0800 345 7492.

- Mark Jenkins

Combining trades, such as taking both a plumbing and gas engineering course, has always been an ideal way of making sure you are never short work as a qualified professional. It's something we've always encouraged at Access Training, but it's also something that seems to be becoming more and more essential in today's working environment.

The AA training their patrol officers in plumbing emergencies, for example, is a sign of the recession and the need for employers to diversify their workers. With British Gas also now venturing into other areas such as blocked drains, electrics and white goods repairs, it is obvious that in today's climate you cannot rely on a single trade only for a living. I feel grateful that the time I had spent on the tools, only doing plumbing and heating installations for 25 years (single trade only) is now a thing of the past.

It is said there is a major shortage of qualified tradespeople to cover the demand of work that is out there. I suppose I was one of the few tradesman that was never out of work, mainly doing new build but also refurbishments, commercial and industrial installations. I thought I was diversifying at the time, but it would seem even that wouldn't be enough these days. In doing these lines of work I had gained the required qualifications and felt I had gained a vast knowledge of these areas. But I admit that I feel I could not know all there is to known in these fields, with products and techniques regularly changing along with different regulations you need to comply with.

So to think of these mechanics who have to do plumbing course, I don't think it's detrimental to those qualified tradespersons who are of high quality, conscientious and only charge a fair fee for their work. They should not be worried about losing work to companies like British Gas and the AA, but what would be a point of concern is to what level they will be taught to.

Are you a plumber or gas engineer looking to expand your resume in order to take on more work? At Access Training we train both people with no prior experience to become fully qualified in their chosen field and experienced tradesmen looking to train in a new area of work. Each course will give you a professionally recognised qualification, providing you with the skills and knowledge you'll need for any task. For more information, contact us at 0800 345 7492.

- Mark Lewis

Tiles

While the best way to gain enviable plastering and/or tiling skills would be to take one of our bespoke courses and become a qualified plasterer and tiler, Access Training also have a few handy tips to share to DIY enthusiasts looking to improve their work.

More...

You don't have to take a plumbing course to know that there are a number of different things people can do to save water. Here are some of my suggestions for inside the home;

 

  • Getting smaller toilet cisterns which deliver 4 and 6 litre flushes
  • Water saving taps that aerate the water
  • Taking short showers rather than having a bath
  • Using a dishwasher that is full instead of washing a few items in a sink bowl
  • Using an A-rated washing machine, which not only saves water but also electricity
  • Brushing your teeth with a cup of water and not letting the tap run constantly
  • Having a fitting in your cold water pipe that enters the building to cut off the supply if there is a burst pipe or excessive loss of water (which would be considered abnormal usage)
  • Upgrading your open vented heating system to a sealed system
  • Changing the hot water open vented system (copper cylinder with stored water in the loft) to an unvented hot water system

Meanwhile here are some more tips for saving water outside;
  • Install a device that fits in the rainwater down pipe to divert the water to a barrel, where can collect the rainwater for garden use
  • Wash your vehicle with a bucket, not a hosepipe
  • Having a special water unit fitted underground to collect the rainwater. Here it can feed the toilets and washing machine as well as giving you the ability to water the garden from a dedicated hose (even in a hosepipe ban!). Also the water from the bath, showers and hand wash basins can be recycled with the rainwater.
Using some or all of these items will help conserve water. There is even a water purification unit that turns rainwater and "grey" water into drinking/bathing water again! Personally I think we should do whatever we can to not only save energy but also save on water usage. In the short terms this will help dramatically but in the long term will save you money, especially since suppliers have raised costs.

- Mark Lewis

If you are interested in learning more about plumbing and the range of water-saving alternatives out there, have you considered a career as a professionally qualified plumber? Access Training have a variety of plumbing courses available to those looking for industry qualifications and those looking to sharpen their DIY skills. For more information call 0800 345 7492 today.

 

At Access Training our bricklayer courses will train you up to the highest possible standard. However there have probably been instances where you've seen newly built houses or walls with high quality brickwork, only to see white patches unevenly spread over the structure. This is most probably "efflorescence" and this post aims to teach how you can help prevent it in your future work.

So what is efflorescence? It is the formation of (usually white) salt deposits on the surface of brickwork, which causes a change in appearance. Apart from the unsightly appearance and discolouration, efflorescence can sometimes indicate serious structural weakness.

While there is an agreement that it is caused by a multiple of factors being combined with materials, views differ as to which factor is the main cause of efflorescence. It is usually impossible to deduce the exact causes with absolute certainty.

To help prevent efflorescence, some factors to consider are;

Cement: The type/make of cement chosen can influence efflorescence in exceptional cases. Pigments in coloured cement and other admixtures added to the mortar may contribute to efflorescence through their salt content.

Aggregates: These can contribute to efflorescence if they contain soluble salts. Sand contaminated with salt is a major factor, therefore sands in close proximity to the sea are an obvious risk.

Salts: Soluble salt is present in the materials used to make bricks, therefore it is capable of being transported and deposited on the surface as efflorescence.

Water/Cement ratio: Generally a high water-cement ratio encourages the movement of water and salt through the brick, giving rise to efflorescence.

Mortar Constituents: The composition of mortar is of significance. Lime used should be hydrated and free from calcium sulphate. The use of unwashed sand or sand contaminated with salt, or pigments containing soluble salts can also contribute to efflorescence in brickwork.

The following practices may also cause efflorescence;

  • No protection from the rain, especially during construction.
  • Materials left uncovered on site.
  • Lack of drips on cills.
  • Poorly filled joints/bad workmanship.
Look forward to future articles which will cover other types of staining to brickwork - including lime staining, vanadium and peacocking.

If you are interested in learning more about bricklaying and would like to train professionally, Access Training have a variety of professional bricklaying courses available. Learn more by calling 0800 345 7492.

- Richard James

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