It’s happened to us all at some time or other, the job we have been putting off because it’s a little bit too big or we’re not sure how to do it. We bite the bullet and decide to get a tradesman in to do the work for us. Which tradesman? Where do we go to find out if the voice at the end of the phone is in fact a ‘quality’ tradesman and not John Wayne with a screwdriver?

You could go to www.trustmark.org.uk

TrustMark is a government endorsed scheme that regularly checks that the registered tradesmen are providing their customers with the quality service and workmanship members of the public expect and deserve (quite rightly). Trustmark registered firms have to;

  1. A firm's technical skills have been independently checked through regular on-site inspections, as well as checks on their trading record and financial status;
  2. Firms have signed up to a code of practice that includes insurance, good health and safety practices and customer care;
  3. The approved scheme operator has checked and will continue to monitor the firm's quality of work, trading practices and customer satisfaction;
  4. Firms are able to offer an Insurance Backed Warranty;
  5. Deposit Protection Insurance is available for consumers in the event a firm should cease trading;
  6. Firms will be able to tell you about any building regulations you must comply with and may also be able to provide appropriate certificates;
  7. If you have a problem or disagreement with the firm, there will be a clear and user-friendly complaints procedure to help resolve the issue;
  8. The scheme is fully supported by Government, the building industry and consumer protection groups.
  9. All of these checks will give you - Peace of Mind.

When employing a tradesman TrustMark recommends you take the following advice;

  • Be specific and set out a detailed, clear brief when requesting at least three quotes.
  • Ask friends and family for a recommendation and check the TrustMark website to ensure that the tradesman is registered for the particular trades you require
  • Use a firm that advertises using a landline phone number and be very wary of those only willing to give you a mobile number
  • Seek references, speak to previous customers and if a reasonable sized job, visit previous jobs
  • Don't just go with the cheapest, consider your ability to communicate with the firm and the quality of their work
  • Only pay for work that has been done and not by advance payments
  • If materials need to be bought in advance by the tradesman, it is reasonable that the customer is asked to pay a fair percentage of these costs as the job progresses
  • Always use a written contract as it offers you protection if anything does go wrong
  • Agree in writing any changes to the agreed contract value and ensure these are agreed in writing before the work is done.

If you use a TrustMark tradesman your work should be carried out to a high quality and if things go wrong (God forbid) you, through the scheme, have a means of recourse. That has to give you Peace of mind.

- Mark Jenkins

 

Mark Jenkins is the Electrical Course Development Manager at Access Training. If you would like to learn more about electrical work and maintenance, you might want to consider one of the many electrical training courses we offer. These are available for both DIY enthusiasts AND people looking to gain the vital qualifications needed to make the career change to become an electrician. To find out more give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

(Part 1 of this article can be viewed HERE)

Now that we know what causes brickwork to need re-pointing and how to prepare for it, it's time to look at the procedure itself for getting your brickwork back up to scratch!

POINTING PROCEDURE

You will require a hawk to carry the mortar, a pointing trowel and a soft brush

  • Always start at the top of the walling to be pointed and work downwards to prevent dropped mortar marking the cleaned brickwork below.
  • Make sure the joints are clear of any loose old mortar.
  • Load the hawk with mortar flattened to about a 10mm thickness.
  • Using your pointing trowel, pick up small amounts of mortar from the hawk and press firmly into the “perp” joints, (these are the vertical joints). Carefully fill each perp joint using a second filling if necessary.
  • After filling the perp joints start on the bed joints (these are the horizontal joints)
  • Carefully fill each bed joint with a second application if required.
  • After completing an area of approximately one square meter, finish the mortar off with a pointing trowel. **
  • Apply the mortar filling to the rest of the wall.
  • When sufficiently dry, brush off with a fine brush to remove any excess mortar.
** At this stage there are a number of different finishes you could apply, however they require in-depth tutorial that can't be provided from this blog alone. If you would like to find out more, give Access Training a call on 0800 345 7492 for information on our range of bricklaying and construction courses for DIY enthusiasts and professionals alike.

- Richard James

electric shower

Firstly when you’re having problems with your electric shower don’t attempt to fix it, this is false economy – you’re much better off changing the item completely. Here are a few steps to show you how to change an electric shower. 

  • Step One - Safely take off the front cover of the electric shower box. There will be at least 1 or possibly 2 small screws holding this in place. Next, take off the front temperature and control knobs by pulling them straight off (this shouldn’t be too difficult to do). With the front cover off you should be able to see a valve on the water pipe going into the shower unit, it should have a screw slot in the middle of the valve. Turn this a ¼ turn either way and test the shower to see if this has turned off the water. You can use the control knob by temporarily re-attaching it to the shower to get the water to flow.
  • Step Two - When changing an electric shower, you must turn off the electric supply at the consumer unit (or fuse board as it’s commonly known). The fuses/trips should be marked but if they’re not, the 1 of 2 possible trips you are going to turn off will be either a 35 amp or a 45 amp depending on the Kilo-watt power of the shower. For a 35 amp fuse/trip, the shower should not be over 8.5 kilowatts. For a shower that is greater in kilowatts, the fuse/trip will be a 45 amp.
  • Step Three - The next step in changing your electric shower is to check that the electric has been turned off by either pulling the cord switch in your bathroom or the wall-mounted one outside. Run the shower and make sure that the running water isn’t warm/hot. With the electric turned off, you can put a notice hanging from the consumer unit to warn others not to turn back on.
  • Step Four - If the water is now off you can take off the water connection where it connects closest to the unit. Undo the electric cable connections and remove the unit, remembering to replace like-for-like in the kilowatt power rating of the unit (this rating can be found somewhere on the old unit, and on the front cover box of the new one).
  • Step Five - When you have connected the new unit to the electric cable and to the water supply, check the water flow through the unit first, then with the cover on the unit you can turn the electric fuse/trip back on. Go back to the unit and turn the wall-mounted switch or pull the cord on, turn up the thermostatic control on the unit and the water control knob to on. Your new shower should be working, but with the new shower unit you will have the manufacturer’s instructions in the box. Follow these carefully, and it should be safe for you to install.

- Mark Lewis

 Would you like to learn more about the kind of DIY plumbing tasks you can perform yourself around the home? Access Training offers a number of bespoke plumbing courses for both DIY enthusiasts and those looking for a career as a professional plumber. You'll have access to our state-of-the-art training facilities and be taught by fully-trained plumbers with many years' experience in the trade. To find out more, give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

While there will always be a demand for qualified tradesmen such as electricians, plumbers and gas engineers, setting yourself apart from the other tradesmen in your local area is an important factor is getting your name out there among potential clients. And the best way to do this is to consider qualifying in more than one skill. Commonly gas engineer training goes hand in hand with plumbing qualifications, but there are far more potential combinations that could benefit your future career.

For example, if a plumber were to undertake electrical training it would open up a variety of new work for them that they wouldn’t be able to complete otherwise without a second tradesman. They would be able to properly install power showers, and by achieving a Part P qualification would also be permitted to sign off the work themselves once they had joined a relevant Competent Person Scheme.

In turn, if an electrician had plastering qualifications, they could provide a fresh finish to a wall surface after tearing it apart to complete an installation. The same applies for combining plastering, tiling and/or carpentry courses. You’ll be increasing both your eternal potential and boost your chance of success when starting up your own business.

Take note though, it’s vital that you train properly for your second skill just as you did the first. A plumber should not be attempting any electrical work without the proper electrical qualifications and the same goes for any other potential trades. Not only would you be putting yourself at risk, but your customer as well. By training properly, you’ll be able to do the job properly and known as a tradesman capable and competent enough to get the job done on their own.

If you would like to find out more about the multi-skills training routes available to you, give Access Training a call on 0800 345 7492 and our team will be happy to tell you more.

If you are replacing the motor, you will need to turn off your central heating system at the fused spur, removing the fuse to prove safe isolation. Open up the wiring centre or junction box that the 2 or 3 port valve is wired to and check for power at the brown and orange wires – you should have no power on the valve motor. If you check when turned on and then remove the fuse and check again then you know it is safe to carry on.

When you remove the pozidrive screw from the silver top (located at end of head) you will immediately see the motor with two blue wires. To the left of the motor is one small pozidrive screw, remove and keep it safe as you will need it to screw back the new motor. Twist the motor slightly to the left to remove the screw holder from the body and pull motor clear, slight resistance from the motor shaft gearing.

Disconnect the two blue wires and using the new motor and plastic electrical twisters included in the box, bare the wires and twist them together replacing the motor in reverse, i.e. push the motor gear shaft into hole in actuator body, twist to align screw hole and re-secure using small screw that you kept safe. Replace the metal head cover and screw and replace fuse in fused spur. Switch on the central heating system and check that when you are calling for heat or hot water that the motor moves – you will see the arm of the valve move as an indication that it is working.

It's long winded I know but I hope this helps. If you are unsure, contact a Gas Safe heating engineer.

- Mark Lewis

If you would like to learn more about the kind of gas/plumbing tasks you can do yourself around the home, have you considered taking one of Access Training's DIY plumbing courses? We offer courses for those simply looking to get new skills under their belt as well as those aiming to gain professional qualifications in the trade. Whatever your needs are, give us a call on 0800 345 7492 and we'll find a course suitable for you.

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