The most common part of a building that usually requires new pointing after it’s been built is the chimney stack. Due to the adverse conditions put upon it, it’s not surprising that it requires re- pointing. Usually you will find that the old cement/mortar will come out fairly easy. A cavity wall tie is often used for this process when the bricks are hard, as no damage will occur to the arris (edge) of the brick. If the bricks are of a soft nature you could use a piece of wood cut down to the width of the joint. Failing this you could use a “plugging chisel” which is a tapered chisel and can be purchased from most building supplies.

PROCEDURE

Take out all the mortar/cement to a depth of no more than 15mm, ensuring you are wearing the appropriate P.P.E. (safety glasses. dust mask etc.) After all the mortar/cement has been taken out brush all the joints to make sure any loose material is removed. This also make sure the arrises are clean. Do not use a wire brush as this will damage the brick. Wash down the wall with clean water - stubborn patches or stains can be removed using a scrubbing brush. Allow the wall to dry out, if you don’t it will become difficult to point the wall and the bricks may get soiled with the mortar. Also the more water there is in the wall, the more shrinkage movement there may be when the wall dries out. If this happens (moisture trapped in the joints), the first sign of frost the moisture will freeze and will expand and the wall gets damaged.

MORTARS FOR POINTING

If the area to be pointed is built with hard bricks in exposed places, a mix of 2:1 is preferred. This is two parts sand to one part cement, not mixed to wet. For general brickwork a mix of 3:1 is preferred.

In Part 2 I will explain the procedure to carry out the pointing sequence.

- Richard James

 

If you would like to learn more about bricklaying or any of aspect of the construction trade, Access Training offer a wide variety of construction courses to both beginners and existing tradesmen in need of new/updated qualifications. If you would like to find out more upon what's on offer, give us a call on 0800 345 7492 and arrange a visit of our accredited training centre.

When wanting to completely refurbish a bathroom, it can take a number of skills or tradespeople to complete the work. Firstly safely the water supply and any electrics need to be isolated, so that the de-commissioning of the bathroom suite can begin. Then the walls and ceiling can be torn down if required, with the rubble and old suite also having to be disposed of in a responsible way.

Following that any required alterations to the water supply pipes can be performed, as well as sorting out electrical wires, flooring and tacking new plasterboard walls and ceiling.

Once the finish plaster coat has been applied and dried, the bath can be made up and fixed in place. Once carpentry bits such as architrave and skirting boards can be fixed, then the tilling can take place. After this the rest of the plumbing can be completed and the electrics finalised, woodwork painted then if floor covering is going to be used it can go down (however if the floor is to be tiled this should be done before the woodwork).

So if you can organise the different trades or do all of this work yourself if you have the relative qualifications or the relative expertise of experience then managing the project yourself can save you a considerable sum of money , but it can take a considerable amount of time to organise and manage the project .

With a bathroom fitting company that can cover all trades and manage the project it might seem quite costly to begin with, but in the long run if you personally have not managed such a project then it might be advisable to employ such a company. But only after researching them through areas as “county court judgements”, “trading standards” and previous clients that have had similar work done. 

- Mark Lewis 

If you would like to learn more about bathroom fitting yourself, we offer a specially designed DIY Bathroom Fitting course here at Access Training. You'll learn everything you need to know including bathroom design, the fitting of covers, tap connectors, wastes, ball valves, siphons, WC seats and more. For more information about this or any of our other professional trade courses, contact us at 0800 345 7492.

Within industry I feel there is a very bad trend at the moment, many firms are trying to save money in the wrong ways. The main concern I have is with the plumbing and gas industry and their blatant disregard for Electrical safety. There any many companies that put pressure on their installers to wire the heating systems.

News flash - they are not qualified and indeed nowhere near competent to do so, unless they have received adequate training. It might save money in the short term but imagine the lawsuit when someone’s house is on fire or someone dies from an earth fault because of inadequate Earthing.

As an Electrician I’m fed up of being approached by these companies asking if I could sign off their work. Quite frankly a majority of the time their work is like that of a child and nowhere near the standards required for me or any other sane Electrician to put their name to. I have worked for many heating firms over the years and the only way to ensure safety and quality of work is to have a competent Electrician to do the wiring, in my experience one Electrician can easily wire three to five heating systems a day.

This is where I get the title “each to their own”. I am not expected to connect up a gas pipe and I would never attempt it! But Heating installers are encouraged to do Electrical work and in my eyes its madness unless they have received adequate training.

- Neil Thomas

If you need to gain the qualifications needed to wire a heating system, look no further than Access Training's range of accredited intensive electrician courses. We provide PAT Testing training, Part P courses and all the qualifications needed to become a domestic electrical installer. Contact us on 0800 345 7492 to find out more about what we can offer you and discuss exactly what you need.

Following on from part 1 we will now look at what training courses are available to you, as well as factors such as their cost and duration.

At Access Training we deliver many construction courses, including;

 

Each course can vary from a one week taster course to a total of eight weeks, depending on the outcome you wish to achieve. The one week taster course will give you a good insight to your chosen trade, basic use of tools and basic techniques. Then there are two and three week courses which obviously involve a more in depth look at the particular trade. Each of these courses can give you a recognised qualification from City & Guilds.

The eight week course will give you a CAA Level 2 (Construction Awards Alliance) and potentially a NVQ diploma, both of which are again highly regarded and recognised C&G qualifications. The cost of each course varies, so I suggest you contact Access Training Wales and speak to one of the course advisors.

OK you’ve finished the course you’ve gained your qualification, what next? The truth is finding work is not as difficult as you may think. Most trainees after leaving Access Training start by doing small jobs for friends, family and neighbours.  This will build your confidence and give you some indication of how long a job will take. Best of all you will be under no pressure from family to complete by a certain deadline.

Then there are construction “agencies” that employ people to work on various jobs. They’ll find you the work, but be prepared to work maybe one week here, two weeks there and so on. This is a great way of gaining experience quickly and you will be on a fixed hourly rate, usually around £12 per hour.

So now that you’ve gained both experience and confidence, it’s time to go on your own. This is where you can earn a lot more money – it’s not uncommon for a good tradesperson to earn between £600-800 per week. Keep your options open, if you completed a bricklaying course don’t think that you can only lay bricks. Bricklayers can usually lay patios, decorative work indoors, build archways and more. If you completed a plastering course, plasterers can usually fix coving up, lay screed floors etc. One very lucrative area from a plastering point of view is “Venitian” or “Polished” plastering. There is a niche in the market for this type of work, if you have good trowel skills you can learn this method relatively quickly, and the price for doing this work is roughly £60 per square meter. So the choice is yours – there is work about for good tradespeople, so if you feel you need a career change then go for it!

If you need more information contact Access Training Wales on 08003457492.

- Richard James

 

Choosing to make a complete career change is difficult at any time of life. There are many factors to take into consideration – what opportunities are there? What training courses will I need to attend? How available is the work and how long will it last?

Take for instance many construction trades (bricklayer, carpenter, plasterer, tiler etc.). At this given time work is pretty slack in the construction industry, but I firmly believe that it won’t last much longer. So now is a good time to begin training for new skills. As soon as the construction industry opens its doors again, there will be a definite skills shortage. Having decided to take the challenge and change career what can you expect to be doing on a daily basis?

Take the plastering trade as an example, which provides plenty of opportunity to work both inside or outside. The weather in this country is not the best, so having the chance to work indoors is an added bonus; you will be working most days and won’t be losing money. Plastering covers more than just “plastering” a wall, it could be screeding a floor, plaster boarding a ceiling, dot & dab on walls, dry lining a wall, the list goes on. This is all internal work, whereas dashing, fine down, K render are all external.

Are there any transferable skills you could use, depending on your background? Plastering involves calculating quantities for mixes etc. so numeracy skills would be an advantage. A lot of questions are asked in the workplace so good communication skills would help, the ability to work unsupervised is a great asset to have, as a lot of the time you are given work and be expected to carry it out unsupervised to a high standard.

So having trained for your new career, what qualifications do you need for the construction industry? An NVQ in a relevant trade is essential; this will allow you to apply for a CSCS card – a must have to work on building sites.

Tomorrow in part 2 I will discuss what training courses are available to you, as well as their cost, duration and what you can expect to learn. Also included will be what prospects are open to you and potential wages upon completion.

- Richard James

Loft insulation is an excellent means of helping to save energy and prevent heat from escaping from our homes. With high cost of fossil fuels in today’s economic climate, and these fuels progressively running out, we shouldn’t be so frugal by putting things in the loft after the extra thickness has been added. After all, just because we might not have paid to have it installed doesn’t mean we should ignore the purpose for which it is intended for - TO SAVE US MONEY! Not only that, but to save on the resources which are only getting more expensive for energy companies to get at and transport to us. We are all guilty of storing things in the loft, and surely these items are not really needed if they’ve been put away from view?

The loft is not an ideal temperature-controlled space in our houses and we are endangering things that could be damaged by the cold and moisture that can form there. Sometimes we have to be brutal with what we are storing and just get rid of it. Let the lagging do the job it’s intended to for and financially you will benefit once your loft has been lagged to the new standards. DON’T put things up there again – your house will stay warmer for longer and you will be happier and wealthier. You also will be reducing your carbon footprint, which is vital to the planet and our descendants for the future. There are a considerable number of ways you can lower your carbon footprint, but many are still quite expensive and take a number of years to pay for themselves. Loft insulation is the cheapest form of energy conservation there is as it’s free to everyone – so why not take advantage of this?

- Mark Lewis

Not all electrical work requires a trained professional. Minor tasks such as replacing a light switch can be performed without having to notify your Local Authority Building Control Department, however they still must be done to current Building and Electrical regulation standard.

While there are a wide variety of different types of light switch you might find in the home (including pull-cord switches, narrow architrave switches and rotary dimmers), here is a guide to the most basic of them – the one-way and two-way switch. The difference between them is that two-way switches are used where there is more than one switch connected to the same light (e.g. at the top and bottom of the stairs).

 

Safety first

Before you start ANY sort of electrical work make sure the power is switched off at the main consumer unit OR switch off the relevant circuit breaker and lock it if you can. Then make sure that the circuit is indeed dead using a voltage tester/meter. Also take note that since 2006 the core colours inside electrical cables have changed. In the new two-core-and-earth cable, the live or phase core is insulated in a brown sheath rather than red. The neutral core is now blue as opposed to black.

 

What you will need:

  • Voltage tester/meter
  • Side cutters Screwdrivers
  • Green/yellow earth sleeving
  • Suitable replacement plateswitch (1 or 2-way)
  • Screws
  • Brown PVC electrical tape or sleeving
 

For one-way switches:

Step 1: Isolate the circuit and then confirm that the power is off using your voltage tester. Unscrew the switch faceplate and pull it forward, revealing the connections behind. These terminals will usually be marked something like L1, L2 and COM.

Step 2: Draw a diagram so that you remember which colour and number of wires were attached to each terminal. Then release the terminal screws and pull the cores from them. If the earth core is properly insulated in green/yellow sleeving and connected to the mounting box, leave this attached.

Step 3: Connect these cores to the correct terminals of the new switch, using your diagram as a reference. Tighten the screws and check they are clamping the cable cores firmly by gently tugging the wires.

Step 4: If there isn’t one already, fit a length of brown sleeving over the blue core to indicate that it is a switched live.

Step 5: If it’s not already fitted, put some green/yellow sleeving over the bare earth core of the incoming cable and connect it to the earthing terminal of the mounting box. If you’re using a metal switch, be sure to earth the switch faceplate as well.

Step 6: Double check that each connection is secure, then push the cable back into the mounting box and fit the faceplate.

 

For two-way switches:

While this is similar to a one-way switch there will normally be three cores to the cables – coloured brown (formally red), black (yellow) and grey (blue). Again these terminals will be labelled something like L1-3 and COM.

Step 1: Isolate the circuit and make sure the power is off with your voltage tester.

Step 2: Remove the faceplate from the existing switch and disconnect the cable cores.

Step 3: Note which colour goes to which terminal (write it down if you think you’ll forget!) and then transfer them to the corresponding terminals on the new switch.

 

While this is simply a brief guide to some of the electrical work you can do yourself around the home, more technical electrical work will require you to have a Part P qualification if you wish to carry it out yourself. If you are interested in learning about more work you can do or achieving Part P qualification then the best way is to learn from one of Access Training’s comprehensive electrical training courses. Offering professional qualifications to both aspiring and existing electricians as well as DIY courses, there truly is something for everyone regardless of age, gender, background or experience.

Contact Access Training on 0800 345 7492 for more information or to arrange a visit of our training facilities.

Not everyone needs an extensive plumbing course to know the rights and wrongs of the trade, but with all the DIY products that are for sale in various outlets, there is good information available to prevent water contamination by misconnection of sanitary and waste water from dishwashers, washing machines and such. However, the majority of people don't ask for this advice so not to seem ignorant or feel embarrassed about not know how or what is the right way to do things.

With the economic climate the way it is, the vast majority of people also cannot afford a tradesman with the correct knowledge to do the work properly. There are the unscrupulous people who pretend to be a qualified tradesman, undercut a price just to get the work and don't really care about the consequences of their actions.

Then the poor misguided home owner gets the backlash from the relevant authorities when the source of the contamination is traced back to a particular home. It's very hard to educate people that asking for advice is not showing ignorance. It would only show their concern for doing it the correct way and the people who would give that free information would be only too happy to give them without making them feel humiliated or stupid.

But that's human nature, and people only employ a tradesman when they have that spare amount of money to get the job done. I'm sure the vast majority of people would like to think that any work done to the correct standards without causing problems as rivers and streams being polluted to the degree that is being reported by the water authorities, but unfortunately it always comes down to money.

- Mark Lewis

Although Part P Building regulations require a qualification to undertake extensive electrical work in your own home, minor tasks such as replacing damaged sockets or light switches can be done without having to notify your Local Building Authority Control Department. In this post we'll take you through a few simple steps to replace a plug socket or alternatively change a single one into a double.

 

Safety first

Before you start ANY sort of electrical work make sure the power is switched off at the main consumer unit or switch of the relevant circuit breaker and lock it if you can. Then make sure that the circuit is indeed dead using a socket tester. Make sure to also have protective gloves and safety goggles on you at all times.

Also take note that since 2006 the core colours inside electrical cables have changed. In new two-core-and-earth cables, the live/phase core is insulated in a brown sheath as opposed to a red one and the neutral core is now blue rather than black. If you are connecting old and new cables together, take extra care to make sure that the cores are attached by their corresponding colours.

 

What you will need:

  • Socket tester & socket template
  • Screwdriver
  • Pipe and cable detector
  • Drill
  • Socket faceplate or new double socket
  • Wall plugs and screws
  • Mounting box
  • Green/Yellow pvc sleeving

 

To change a damaged socket:

Step 1: Confirm you have switched off the main power using your socket tester. Once sure unscrew the socket faceplate and pull it away from the wall. Keep the screws just in case the new ones don't fit.

Step 2: Loosen the terminal screws and release the cable cores. Should the insulation be heat damaged, cut back the cores and strip the ends. If the earth core is bare, cover it with the green/yellow sleeving.

Step 3: Connect the brown (or red) core(s) to the live terminal of the faceplate, the blue (black) ones to the neutral terminal and the earth core to the earth terminal. Tighten the screws fully and fit the new faceplate. When you have turned the power back on, use the socket tester again to check it is wired correctly
 

To change a single flush socket to a double:

Increasing the number of sockets in a room isn't as difficult as it might sound if you follow these simple steps...
 
Step 1: Isolate the circuit and then use the socket tester to make sure that it is dead. Unscrew the faceplate and disconnect the cables from the single socket mounting box.

Step 2: Knock out the middle section in the double box and pass the cables through. Mark where the screw holes are on the wall using a pencil, remove the box and drill.

Step 3: Screw the new box in place and connect the cables to the terminals. Fit the new faceplate and then test using the socket tester again once power has been restored.
 
Hopefully after reading this you'll feel confident enough to do these tasks yourself without having to pay for a professional electrician! However if you're interested in learning more about what electrical tasks you can perform at home with the right training, or alternatively hoping to gain qualifications to become an electrician - look no further than Access Training's range of bespoke electrical courses. From Part P to PAT Testing and wiring regulations to DIY, we offer something for everyone regardless of age, background or experience.
 
Contact Access Training on 0800 345 7492 for more information or arrange a visit of our training facilities.

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