We wrote about it back in mid-August, but this week saw the official launch of WaterSafe, the new plumbing assurance scheme to give consumers the peace of mind that they know the plumber they've hired is fully qualified for the work.

Thought the website went live a while ago, the scheme brings together the following seven existing Approved Contractors' Schemes operating in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland:

  • The Water Industry Approved Plumbers’ Scheme (WIAPS)
  • Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC)
  • Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE)
  • Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF)
  • Anglian Water’s A Plus
  • Severn Trent’s Watermark
  • Thames Water’s TAPS.

Supported by all key plumbing bodies and water companies in the country, WaterSafe provides an online database and search facility of plumbers, recognising their qualifications and competency. 

To join the scheme, recognised plumbers employed by an approved business on the register will need to have successfully completed an NVQ Level 2 in Mechanical Engineering Services (6089 - Plumbing) and hold a water industry-recognised Water Fittings Regulations qualification. Unlike the Gas Safe register WaterSafe is not a legal requirement, however by joining a nationwide register plumbers will become part of a wider group of professionals that is set to become the biggest search facility for approved plumbers in the UK.

Kevin Wellman, chief executive officer for the Chartered Institute of Plumbing & Heating Engineering (CIPHE) and board member for WaterSafe says: "Following months of planning and investment, we are hugely excited to launch WaterSafe.

"Until now, the plumbing industry has not had the presence of a scheme that encompasses all of the Approved Contractors' Schemes in the UK. As such, it has been very difficult for consumers to make an informed choice when sourcing a credible plumber, struggling to distinguish from the plethora of trade associations, accreditation bodies and trust marks.

"WaterSafe has been designed to negate this confusion. By bringing together these existing schemes under one unique umbrella organisation, WaterSafe offers assurance of a professional, accredited plumber every time. In this way, our aim is to not only promote good plumbing practice and compliance with the Water Fittings Regulations and Byelaws, but also clamp down on the inherent issue of rogue plumbers. WaterSafe will give competent and approved plumbing businesses the recognition they deserve."

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If you have any outstanding plumbing qualifications or are looking to become a professional plumber yourself, have you considered a comprehensive plumbing course from Access Training? Our courses are suitable for both newcomers and experienced plumbers alike, so give us a call on 0800 345 7492 or check out the plumbing courses section of the site to find out more.

The summer months are behind us and despite a few more days of good weather, homeowners will soon be getting ready to turn their boilers and central heating on for the first time since the Spring. Houses are going to need heating, and when these boilers need maintenance and replacement who's going to be there to pick up the slack? Your local plumber of course!

With plumbers and gas engineers expected to see a rise in business over the next few months, if you've been considering a change in career to one of these trades now is the perfect time to make it happen. Earn your plumbing and gas qualifications on one of Access Training's range of professional trade courses, following which you'll be able to apply to join the Gas Safe Register - a legal requirement of anyone working on gas appliances in the UK. You'll then find yourself in a world of work with plenty of variety - you'll be meeting new people every day and no two jobs will be quite the same. Not only that, but the rewards are great too - and these only get better if you take the extra steps to become a self-employed tradesman.

Winter might be coming, but life as a plumber/gas engineer certainly won't leave you out in the cold. To find out more have a look at the course section of our website or chat with one of our sales team on 0800 345 7492.

Last month not-for profit training charity JTL launched a new initiative aimed at encouraging more women into trade (particularly electric and plumbing) apprenticeships. Its launch was marked by a parliamentary reception and is back by a number of MPs, including Labour Party leader Ed Miliband.

Currently, women make up just 2% of apprentices in the construction sector, and around 1% of apprentices within the electrotechnical industry. To help try and raise these numbers, JTL have appointed 10 inaugural apprentice ambassadors (all of which are former JTL apprentices) - chosen for their personal success and passion when it comes to promoting apprenticeships. These people will then travel across England and Wales, speaking at schools and local events in an attempt to encourage more young women to sign up. The apprentice ambassadors will also act as mentors to any girl who signs up for a JTL apprenticeship, with the charity also hoping to appoint more ambassadors next year as the scheme grows.

JTL chairman Dr Ian Livsey said: “We wanted to bring the ambassadors to Westminster to highlight the issues which prevent women from entering these apprenticeships. We have helped more than 40,000 apprentices train over the last 24 years, but only a small percentage have been female. This has been because women don’t see building services as something that they can do. This perception is something we need to change. Hopefully, by hearing the stories from the ambassadors and by seeing that employers are willing to support female apprentices, more young women will want to take up apprenticeships in the electrical, plumbing and heating and ventilating sectors, and make that first step to a skilled career.”

Now in their 23rd year, JTL was originally established by the Electrical Contractors Association and Unite the Union to manage training in the electrical sector. The company works with more than 120 colleges/private training centres, to which they sub-contract the knowledge syllabus elements of the NVQ Diploma.

While good practical training may be the most vital quality to have in a plumber, it's important that they also have a good grasp of the common terminology they may come across while on the job. So Access Training have put together a very basic glossary of various plumbing terminology, which will hopefully be of benefit to some of you.

Actual capacity: The amount of water contained in a cistern or other container when it is full to its practical working level.

Air-lock: Air trapped in pipes, causing a reduction or complete stop in the flow of liquid.

Back-siphon: A condition where the flow of liquid is reversed and siphons back towards the source, which can lead to contamination.

Bar: The unit that water pressure is measured in.

Bleed valve: A valve that releases air from the central heating system.

Cistern: A contained used for holding water at atmospheric pressure.

Flow rate: The volume of water that is delivered to a tap, recorded in litres per minute (l/m) or litres per second (l/s).

Grey water: Waste water from domestic processes.

Hard water: Water which contains a higher level of calcium salts, making it an alkaline. When heated it deposits the salts on various components in a system, causing "furring up".

Main water valve: The main water shutoff that prevents any water from going into any of the pipes or plumbing. Plumbers may refer to it as the main shutoff valve.

Nominal capacity: The amount of water contained in a cistern or other container when it is full to the top edge.

Soft water: Rain water that falls on peaty, moorland and sandstone areas and is acidic. Soft water is better for washing, but can lead to many corrosion problems.

Stopcock: A hand operated on/off valve permitting water flow in one direction. The house stopcock is located where the supply enters the property, and can be used to shutoff water to all fixtures in the house.

Storage cistern: A specific type of cistern used for storing water to be used, such as delivering hot and cold water through pipework.

Supply pipe: A pipe that carries mains cold water around the home.

Tank: A container that is not open to atmosphere, usually a non-cylindrical closed vessel.

Vent pipe: Pipe that allows the release of air or water from a hot water system.

Of course this is only a very brief glossary, and missing many of the things you'll need to know as a professional plumber. If you would like to learn more and perhaps even gain the qualifications needed to become a plumber, an Access Training plumbing course could be exactly what you're looking for. To find out more please visit the courses section of our website or give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

Gas Safe has proved time and time again to be an effective method in separating genuine gas engineers from cowboy traders, so that the general public know that when they hire a tradesman he or she is legitimate. But despite this, this sort of system is currently only available for gas engineers - so Joe Bloggs may not have the same level of certainty when hiring a plumber for wet work.

Until now that is. Or more precisely, October 8th 2013.

WaterSafe has been put together to provide a search facility of all Approved plimbers working in the UK, thanks to a partnership between UK water suppliers and the seven Approved Contractors' Schemes working across the UK. It will promote compliance with the Water Supply Regulations 1999 and Scottish Water Byelaws in order to protect the public and make it even more difficult for unqualified dishonest plumbers to get work. Unlike the Gas Safe register this isn't a legal requirement, but will publically show plumbers are both fully qualified and competent in their trade. So arguably its something that's probably in your best interest to do.

WaterSafe's website isn't open just yet, however it can be found at www.watersafe.org.uk where you can find all the relevant contact details to find out more about the scheme. Keep checking back to this blog, as we're sure to be covering more of this brilliant new scheme closer to its official launch.

In the meantime - if you have any outstanding plumbing qualifications or are looking to become a professional plumber yourself, have you considered a comprehensive plumbing course from Access Training? Our courses are suitable for both newcomers and experienced plumbers alike, so give us a call on 0800 345 7492 or check out the courses section of the site to find out more.

100% customer satisfaction is one of the main things we aim for here at Access Training, so it always pleases us to hear feedback from our former students on their course experience and the training company as a whole. You can view some of the older testimonials we've received on this very website, but below is one we received via email recently:

"I recently completed six weeks of training at Access, which included tiling, plumbing and electric. This training has allowed me to set up my own property maintenance and domestic electrics business as well as join a Competent Person Scheme.

None of this would have been possible without the support and guidance of the excellent staff in Cardiff. Quite simply they are some of the most down to earth, knowledgeable and professional people I have ever had the pleasure to be involved with.

The whole set up is a fantastic learning ground, particularly for military personnel and I have since written to our regional training advisors within the RAF who deal with resettlement training. The transition to civilian life could have been dull and daunting, but it’s been quite the reverse and the staff are a credit to their respective trades AND the company as a whole.

Often the administration side of an organisation gets missed when it comes to thank yous but the staff were ambassadors, making the whole process both simple and cost effective.

Not only have I recommended Access Training to a number of colleagues I look forward to returning in the future to extend my electrical qualifications further."

- Dougie Bon (Retired RAF Squadron Leader)

If you would like to take the steps toward a new career in a trade, give us a call on 0800 345 7492. We offer training courses in electric, plumbing & gas, plastering, tiling, carpentry, bricklaying, decorating and more. Each will provide you with the necessary qualifications to achieve a successful and enviable career in your chosen trade. You are also welcome to come take a visit of our Cardiff training centre, so you can see first hand the facilities and quality of teaching that we offer.

Flush only once. If it's not flushing the first time, don't flush again. This will cause more water to be pumped into the toilet bowl. If the toilet becomes clogged the first flush will not cause the bowl to overflow, but the second flush might!

Put on a pair of rubber gloves. Toilets are inherently unsanitary places to work, but a good pair of rubber cleaning gloves will protect you from any germs within. If you can see the cause of the clog, remove it from the toilet if possible.

Protect the floor. What's worse than a clogged toilet? An overflowing toilet. Minimize the potential damage by placing newspapers or paper towels on the floor to soak up liquid. Besides, minor splashes and spills are bound to occur when you're unclogging the toilet. The paper will make for easier clean-up later.

Make sure the water supply to the toilet is off. It should be located right behind the toilet, and looks like a regular faucet knob. Do not shut off the supply for the house, since this will prevent others from using water. If the water is off to at least the toilet, this will prevent the bathroom from flooding.

Ensure that the bathroom has good air circulation. Turn on the ventilation or open a window to minimize foul odours, and to protect against potentially toxic fumes from any chemical products you may need to use.

Plunger Method

If you know there's an object (such as a child's toy) causing the clog, skip the plunging and go straight to another method.

Be sure to use the right plunger. It is important to use a large heavy-duty rubber plunger, either the ball-shaped type or one with a fold-out rubber flange on the bottom which forms a seal. Do not use the small cheap suction-cup type of plunger––these will often not work. Remember, the larger the plunger, the more force you can apply down into the clogged drain. The plunger should have a shape which ensures that the water you force out of it when you push down does not shoot back up into the toilet bowl instead of pushing into the drain.

If your plunger is not making a tight seal, try wrapping an old rag around the end of the plunger and press down on any leaks. Run the plunger under hot water before using it. This will soften it up, which will help with creating a seal.

Insert the plunger into the bowl and press down firmly but slowly. Make sure you're covering the hole completely. The plunger should be submerged in water to be effective. It is important to be pushing and pulling with water, not air.

Add water to the bowl if necessary. Sharply pull up on the plunger to create suction in the drain, then push in to create pressure. Remember, the clog got jammed going in, so don't be too aggressive with your pushing because you might just jam it further. It is more the suction than the pressure, constantly disturbing the clog in both directions that will gradually cause it to be loosened.

If the plunging eventually drains the bowl but the clog is still blocking a free flow down the drain, leave the plunger in the bowl and fill the bowl with water again. Fill it to the point it is normally after a regular flush. Then plunge again. Stubborn clogs might require you to do this a number of times.

Should plunging fail to unclog the drain, a wire coat hanger may clear the obstruction. This will generally work if there is an obstruction in the first few inches of the drain.

Unravel the hanger, twisting the top ends apart until they are no longer connected. (To avoid damaging the porcelain tightly wrap one end with a rag). Stick the wrapped end of the wire into the drain. Once the wire is in the drain, twist it, push it, and manoeuvre it in a circular motion to clear the drain

Plumbing Snake Method

Purchase or borrow a plumbing snake. A plumbing snake (also sometimes called a "flexible cleaning tool" or "auger") is a flexible coil of wire that can "snake" through the curves of a drain and get deeper than a wire can. The best snake is a "closet auger" which is designed specifically to clear toilet clogs without damaging or staining the bowl. A plumber would likely use a closet auger.

Insert one end of the snake into the drain. Push down, feeding the snake further into the drain until you feel an obstruction. Twist and push the snake through the obstruction until the water begins to drain

Snake in reverse, as it may become necessary to remove the toilet and run the snake through in the opposite direction. This is especially true with hard obstructions that may have been flushed by a curious child. If a hard obstruction is known, and you are not comfortable removing and replacing the toilet, contact a plumber.

- Mark Lewis

 

Mark Lewis is the Plumbing Course Development manager at Access Training. If this blog has interested you and you would now like to learn more about the plumbing trade, you might want to consider one of our extensive plumbing training courses. These range from DIY courses for enthusiasts to professional courses that will give you the qualifications you need to become a plumber. If you would like to find out more give Access Training a call on 0800 345 7492 and we'd be happy to explain in greater detail.

The BPEC Charity is once again taking nominations for its Life Award programme, which offers a grant of up to £15,000 to those with plans of improving others' lives using their plumbing skills.

Last year £30,000 was given to four projects which ranged from developing a safe water system to a health clinic in Mozambique, apprentice plumbers working alongside a village community in Uganda to build drinking water wells and similar safe drinking water work in Nicaragua. A little closer to home, the charity also gave money toward the development of a virtual plumbing college online to support students and teachers alike. Regular updates on these projects can be found on the Life Award's progress blog

There are three separate opportunities for financial support over each year which are open to ALL who are working in the UK plumbing industry, whether you are self-employed, a tutor or even an apprentice. These are the BPEC Life Award, the BPEC Support Fund and the BPEC Sport Awards.

The BPEC Charity, also known as BPEC (Training) Ltd, was re launched in 2012 with the strapline of "re-investing in our industry". The charity's focus is to raise the knowledge and skills of those working in the UK Plumbing and Heating industry. It also provides the opportunity to offer support to those who would like to pursue a career in the industry, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. More about its vision, mission and values can be seen HERE.

You can register to find out more about the Life Award. The deadline for entries is the 31st July.

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Access Training's bespoke plumbing courses are BPEC accredited, a sure sign of the quality of learning we offer students. If you are interested in gaining the necessery qualifications to become a plumber, our experienced teaching staff are ready and waiting to help you. To find out more give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

 

As of the 1st July 2013, all bathroom products covered by Harmonised European Standards will be required to have the familiar marking pictured above fixed to them or their packaging.

This comes with the introduction of new legislation from the CPR (Construction Products Regulation) that will be in place throughout Europe. These changes are mandatory and failure to comply could lead to an up to three months prison sentence and/or a fine of £5,000 per incident. Products will also need to bear a type, batch or serial number, with technical documentation being retained for a period of ten years after the product has been sold.

While the CE mark is NOT a quality mark it does however indicate that the product is fit for its puporse. It is a key indicator of compliance with European legislation and enables it free movement throughout the European market.

Chris Taylor-Hamlin, technical director of the Bathroom Manufacturers Association, said: 

"It’s a serious issue. Fortunately members of the BMA have been fully informed, through our technical committees, for over 12 months about the requirements of the new Regulations and have been able to plan changes to their inventory - it’s one of the many advantages of membership. But we have heard of some horror stories of suppliers who have been blissfully ignorant of the changes and are now having to spend thousands having their products tested and relabelled. It’s hit their bottom line.

"CE marking is a necessary burden. It outlaws non-compliant products, and highlights those suppliers who have no infrastructure for recording keeping and batch marking. These new regs mark a major step change in our industry."

Installing a tap will only take you around half a day, but you will need basic plumbing skills. Under current regulations you have to fit an isolation valve and a double check valve inside your home when you put in a new outdoor tap (see below for details). If you need to know more about the regulations talk to your Water Company or local council.

Turn the isolation valve off if there is one on your cold water supply pipe where your new garden tap is to be connected.

If there's no isolation valve, turn off your main stopcock. This is fitted on the pipework and normally found either in the kitchen or where the mains water enters your house.

Finally if you can't find the stopcock, turn off the water authority's valve under the cover in the street or your front garden. You'll need a special long-handled spanner, available from plumbers' merchants. Once the water supply is off, open the cold tap on your sink until the water stops running and the system is drained.

If you're installing a new tap you need to bore a hole through your outside wall for the connecting pipework. It's easiest to make the new connection near an exposed cold water supply inside your house - near the kitchen sink, for example.

Position your outdoor tap at least 250mm above the damp-proof course. Then mark the screw holes where your tap will be.

You will need a 15mm diameter pipe to connect the tap to the cold water supply inside the house. Position the hole for this about 150mm above where you've marked the position of the tap.

Before drilling the hole, run the pipe through a piece of 22mm diameter copper pipe. This acts as a 'sleeve', which will prevent the pipe rubbing and water leaking out of the hole if the pipe bursts. When drilling, make sure the hole is wide enough to take the sleeve's diameter.

Steadily drill through the wall with a heavy-duty power drill and a large masonry bit at least 325mm long. Take out the core bit regularly to clear the loosened masonry and let the bit cool down.

With the supply turned off, cut through the cold water pipe directly below the exit hole you've drilled in the wall. Use a hacksaw or pipe slicer to do this and file the ends of the pipes smooth.

Remove enough pipe to fit a T-piece connector. Connect one end of a short piece of pipe to the T-piece. Connect the other end to an isolation valve. This allows you to cut off the water supply to the new tap if you need to in the future. Isolation valves let you turn off the water to an individual appliance without having to turn off the whole water supply. You can get two types of isolation valve: a push-fit valve, which simply pushes on to the ends of the pipes, and a compression valve.

Fit the valve the right way round or else it won't work correctly – there will be an arrow on the valve showing the direction of the flow of water.

When you've turned off the water supply, mark the section of pipe that needs removing to receive the valve. Cut the section from the pipe and be sure to file the ends smooth again.

Now slide a compression nut onto each piece of pipe followed by the olives. Push each end of the pipe into the fitting and tighten the compression nuts by hand.

Use a pair of pliers to hold the body of the valve and tighten the compression nuts about three-quarters of a turn with an adjustable spanner. When you turn on the water supply again, check for leaks. Tighten the compression nuts a little further if you have to.

Next you'll need another short piece of pipe to connect the isolation valve to a double check valve. Water regulations say you must fit one of these to your outside tap pipework. Double check valves stop water flowing back up a pipe the wrong way. This prevents contaminated water entering your drinking water supply.

For a new outside tap the double check valve must be fitted in your internal pipework, after the isolation valve. Double check valves are installed in a similar way to isolation valves.

After fitting the double check valve insert another short piece of pipe and an elbow. Then fit a length of pipe long enough to reach horizontally through the wall to the outside. When it's through the wall, cut the pipe to leave about 25mm protruding.

Finally, you'll need to cut a piece of pipe that reaches from the pipe protruding from your outside wall down to the position of your tap. These pipes will be connected using another elbow joint.

Connect all the parts together and tighten the joints with two adjustable spanners. You can tighten the joints more if they leak when the water supply is turned back on, but be sure not to over tighten.

Drill the fixing holes for the tap's wall plate, insert plugs and screw the tap plate to the wall. Screw the tap tail into the elbow joint.

Use plastic retaining clips for the pipes on the inside wall to stop the pipes vibrating and knocking against it. Then seal around the pipe hole in the wall with an expanding foam filler or sealant.

Water resistant foam pipe lagging should cover all the pipework that is on the outside of the building to protect against freezing. This will be fitted after testing for leaks.

Finally, turn the water supply back on and check for any leaks. Tighten joints if you need to and then you're ready to go!

- Mark Lewis

 

While we hope that this quick guide has helped you in installing your very own outside tap, there is only so much that can be explained online. If you would like to learn more plumbing skills, whether it be for future DIY projects or to attain the qualifications to become a professional plumber, we offer a number of intensive plumbing courses here at Access Training. If you would like to find out more, contact us on 0800 345 7492.

Full story: HVP Magazine - Plumbers feeling positive for 2013

Plumbers across the UK are expecting to see an improvement in business throughout this year, as discovered by a recent event organised by software/service provider Sage. An overwhelming 90% of attendees are expecting their business to grow by up to 15% by the end of 2013, with many revealing that in the past managing their finances and administration tasks have been their biggest difficulty.

The main focus of the event, which was held in Croydon, was to determine whether local businesses understood the recent changes to PAYE (Pay-As-You-Earn tax) reporting with the introduction of RTI (Real Time Information) reporting requirements. Overall knowledge of these changes seemed divided, with only about half being aware of the changes and what they meant. However a third of respondents planned to increase their staffing in the near future with an apprentice or full-time employee. Those intending to expand were uncertain about what the changes mean for them, whilst those that don’t cited extra red tape as the main reason for remaining a sole operator.

Neilson Watts from Sage UK said: "I’m not surprised that the research highlighted so many people struggle with their finances. No one starts a business or becomes a plumber because they love the admin side of things – it’s because they have a skill and a genuine passion for their trade, but if you don’t get it right it can come back to bite you."

 

So will 2013 be the year you strike it big as a plumber? If you're looking to change careers and move into the world of plumbing, it's important to be fully prepared. Access Training offer a fully comprehensive plumbing course, giving you all the industry standard qualifications employers look for. But as well as improving your prospects for employed work it'll also give you good grounding to set up your own self-employed plumbing business. Even when you've completed the course, Access Training will be on hand to help you as you set up the business and our tutors available to give advice whenever you may need it.

Make 2013 your year. Call 0800 345 7492 today.

With the recession only just behind us and various other money troubles coming into play, it isn't surprising that the country as a whole has adopted some sort of "DIY Nation" mentality of late. And while its encouraging that more and more people are picking up tools and having a go at something they could perhaps do without the aid of a trained professional, this is something that could potentially affect the amount of work of those with the qualifications. However, a recent study has revealed that this might actually not be the case.

The study, commissioned by business insurance broker Swinton Commercial, took a sample of 100 tradesmen and women across the UK and found that in fact business is booming due to the number of botched jobs performed by budding DIYers. 20% of the plumbers who took part said that it often accounted for up to 84% of their workload! A further 25% said that they were regularly called out to fix DIY mishaps at business, while 100% of them were in agreement that over-ambitious DIYers are putting themselves and others at risk.

Some of the jobs reported included:

 

  • A waitress in a cafe attempting to repair a commercial boiler using a bread knife and scissors while the unit was still live.
  • An unsecured bath where overflows were running into the ceiling void. Lead pipes had been left and fudged into the copper pipes, with boxing made from MDF absorbing water.
  • A basin tap fitted without a sealing washer, causing a large water leak, which ran through the ceiling in the hallway.

 

So how does this affect you? If you consider yourself a DIY enthusiast and often do this sort of work, it's vital that you know what you're doing before you start. Access Training offer a number of DIY training courses in plumbing, electric and various construction trades. These courses outline what you're capable of doing around the house on your own not just safely, but legally as well. Knowing when a job is too difficult for you is extremely important, and there's no substitute for the work of a professional tradesman when it is needed. 

Full story: http://www.hpmmag.com/newsitem.asp?newsID=2089