Need to complete a plastering DIY job but have absolutely no idea where to start? Considering a career change to plastering but lack the expertise to make it happen? Fear not, Access Training is on hand to help prepare you for whatever it is that lies ahead. Like with all trades, the first step is to take a look at exactly what it is and understand some of the terms and definitions you'll come across. To assist with this, we've put together a brief list of some of the common plastering definitions to get you started;

Accelerator: A material that shortens the setting time of plasters and other cement-like materials.

Admixture: Any substance added to a plaster component or plaster mortar for the purpose of modifying its properties.

Aggregate: Granular material that does not contribute to the hardening reaction of the mortar.

Bonding Mortar: A mortar to produce a first bonding coat in a multicoat system. Usually applied in a thin coat.

Correction Time: The maximum time interval during which adjustment is possible without significant loss of final strength. This may be also referred to as adjustability.

Dot and Dab: A technique used to attach plasterboard to walls using small lumps of adhesive.

Float: A tool or procedure used to straighten and level the finish coat, to correct surface irregularities prodDouced by other tools, or to bestow a distinctive surface texture.

Grout:  A mortar or paste for filling crevices, esp. the gaps between wall or floor tiles

Hawk: A tool used by plasterers to hold and carry plaster.

Mortar: A plastic mixture composed of water and a cementitious material, which may be machine or hand applied, and which hardens in place.

Screed: To level or straighten a plaster coat application with a rod, darby or other similar tool

Setting Time: The time after which the mortar begins to harden. After this time the mortar is normally stable in the presence of water.

Substrate: Immediate surface to which the mortar is to be applied. In the case of a coating to be applied to an existing render, the render would be the coating's substrate.

Unsound: This refers to the condition of plaster where the hardened mass has lost internal strength, exhibiting cracking/spalling/delamination/etc. This general state may be contributed to by excessive aggregate addition, water damage, poor drying conditions, overwatering and other factors.

Now that you know some of the definitions you may come across when plastering, its time to have a go at the real thing. However attempting a job without proper training could not only prove expensive, but you might end up doing lasting damage to the wall or surface you're working on. To get the most rounded plastering experience the best option is a comprehensive plastering course from Access Training. With a variety of different courses for different skill levels, our experienced teaching staff will either fully prepare you for future DIY work or help you attain the vital qualifications needed to gain employment as a professional plasterer. With our courses open to people of all ages and backgrounds, you could just be a phonecall away from gaining a valuable new skill that will stay with you for the rest of your life. To find out more please take a look at our courses page or call us on 0800 345 7492.

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.

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.

Step 1: Turn off all the components electrically. This means the boiler, pump and any zone valves.

Step 2: Shut the pump valves situated above and below the pump. Most valves turn clockwise to close.

Step 3: Get a small bucket the open the screw on the end of the pump or one of the nuts holding the pump to the valve. If water keeps leaking out for more than a few minutes then the pump valves are not holding and you will need to follow steps 4 to 7. If not, proceed to step 8.

Step 4: Turn off the water supply. This could be at the main or in your loft.

Step 5: Identify any zone valves and set them to manually open (usually an arm or on the side of the valve body).

Step 6: Find the lowest drain point in the heating system and then, using a hose, drain the system of water.

Step 7: Repeat step 3.

Step 8: Once you have no water coming out, test the electrical connections and make sure they are dead. Remove the electrical connections making a note not live, neutral and earth.

Step 9: Unwind the nuts that connect the pump to the valves and remove the pump. Check that the old seals have come off the valves - most new pumps are supplied with new seals.

Step 10: If you have drained the system completely of water because the pump valves won't hold, replace those valves.

Step 11: Fit the new pump, making sure than the pump seals supplied are in place and that the connecting valves are tight.

Step 12: Open the pump valves. Shut the drain point and re-fill the system.

Step 13: Test for leaks. If there are any leaks you may need to tighten up one of the joints or use some jointing paste.

Step 14: If you have no leaks, drain the system again and re-fill with a suitable inhibitor (Sentinel x100 or Fernox).

Step 15: Only now do you reattach the electrical connections in the right place and fit the cover back on the pump. Turn on the electrics and run a test operation of the new pump.

Tip: Sometimes after draining down a heating system you can get air locks. Even if the pump is running fine you might not get a full flow to all radiators. The best thing to do in this situation is to turn the pump on and off. This moves the water and air suddenly. You should be able to hear air gurgle its way around and eventually to the air vents.

- Mark Lewis

 

We hope that this short guide has helped you in being able to carry out this task quickly and effectively. However the best way to find out more about plumbing is to take one of Access Training's intensive plumbing courses. These are available to both those looking to improve their DIY skills, and those wanting a change of career, gain valuable qualifications and become a plumber. For more information call us today on 0800 345 7492.

Q: What do I do if my radiator panel is leaking?

This is due to the metal corroding/rusting, and the first sign of it happening is that the floor under the radiator gets wet when the heating is on. The first thing to do is to turn off both radiator valves to stop any more fluid being lost from the pipe system, which can affect the boiler and the rest of the radiators. Place a container under the radiator to catch any more drips of fluid.

If you don't have any plumbing knowledge it would be more cost effective to employ a qualified plumber/heating engineer to do the work required - the immediate emergency has been dealt with, and you can afford to get some quotes for the work to be done. It shouldn't cost an arm and a leg, as radiator panels are readily available for most plumbing merchants if it's a standard style (i.e. a flat straight panel, not once that has been bowed for a curved wall like a bay window). So for the cost of the radiator panel and a few hours' labour time, the work should be completed to a satisfactory level.

For those of you who feel they have good mechanical experience and the correct tools, then you may want to attempt it yourself. Firstly you will have to measure the width and height of the radiator panel, and determine the style of radiator. If you're not sure, stand as close as possible to it, look directly down at the top and take a photo of the top edge. Show the assistant at the plumbing merchant and they'll be able to give you a similar one.

Once you have purchased the radiator you will need to drain the old one and dismantle the fittings. The tools required for the change-over are a masonry drill and drill-bit of the appropriate size for the wall plug you will be using (red wall plugs and a 6mm masonry drill-bit for example). Use pozi-drive screws rather than slotted head ones, as there's less chance of the screwdriver slipping. When using the driver, the screw should be at least an inch and a half to two inches long for large radiators.

For plasterboard walls a toggle bolt is one of the many fixings suitable for this type of wall. You'll need two adjustable spanners, a radiator bleed key and possibly a radiator valve key (this looks like an oversized Allen key). With the two adjustable spanners, one is used to hold the top of the radiator valve (with the head taken off) to stop it rocking on the pipe when you undo the nut to panel connection. For draining and disconnection, if you have a combination boiler turn the heating controls off so that the heating system cools down before starting on the replacement. Then affter changing the radiator you will need to repressurize the system to 1 Bar for up to 10 radiators. If you have a standard or back boiler the heating controls still need to be off, so that the pump is not running when you refill the exchanged radiator.

Before starting to drain you might want to put a bin liner on the floor with an old towel on top to catch any spills you might get under the radiator valve. When the radiator starts to drain from the nut you will need to open the little air bleed at the top on one end to allow all the fluid to drain out. When this has finished, again put a bin liner and old towel under the the other radiator valve. Now you can undo both valve-to-panel nuts all the way.

With these nuts undone, and depending on the size of the radiator you will have to gently move the pipes with the valves on towards the wall to enable you to put your thumb over the hole that will be there on the radiator. Lift the radiator off the brackets, keeping your thumbs over the holes and the radiator vertical so that it can be taken to a safe area to drain any sludge that occurs at the bottom of the radiator down a sewer drain.

The new radiator can be dressed with the new fittings for the top and the old fittings at the bottom. As for the joining of the new radiator and valves, it will have to be hung on new brackets. Then you can join the valves and the panel together via the nuts, again using the two adjustable spanners to do up the valve nuts in the same way you undone them. Make sure that the new air bleed at the top of the radiator is shut, and open both radiator valves at the same time to allow the pressure from both pipes to refill the radiator panel. You can then bleed the air from the valve at the top at one end until water comes out. For a combination boiler you will need to refill the system to 1 Bar, via the filling point directly under the boiler. With the pressure obtained turn the filling point off. With a standard/back boiler this will self-fill from the little plastic container in the loft. With the radiator bled of air it will be safe to turn the heating controls back on and get the radiators hot again.

- Mark Lewis

 

After reading this are you tempted to have a go at this or various other DIY tasks yourself? Or even considering a new career as a professional plumber? At Access Training we provide a number of professional plumbing courses suitable for whether you're looking to gain industry-standard qualifications and become a plumber or simply looking to gain some new skills for your home renovation projects. For more information contact us on 0800 345 7294.

Now that you've completed your patio course and it's time to lay the slabs, how do you decide which ones to use? Cost will usually have some effect on choosing the materials you use. Bear in mind whether you have a large or small budget, however the difference between a good looking patio and a rather dull looking one may be just a few pounds difference per metre, so is the cost saving any benefit?

Remember, a patio should last you years - to change it later could become costly. If possible the choice of slab should be in-keeping with the surrounding areas. Laying a patio that, when finished, does not look right in its surroundings will only cause disappointment and make you feel like it was a waste of time and money. You need to consider what the patio area will be primarily used for. Some patio slabs become very slippery when wet - riven slabs are less likely to become slippery but are slightly uneven, which may cause a few issues with your table and chairs (they may wobble).

During rainy periods, take into consideration that certain types of slabs require more to lay. Budget slabs are quicker to lay as each slab is the same size and thickness, while high priced slabs of natural sandstone etc. will require a longer time span, due to them being irregular in size and shape. A lot more skill is required when you lay this type of slab, but having said that they look amazing down and you will probably feel the cost was worth it. Remember if you are laying random sized slabs or mixed patio sizes extra time will also be needed. With this type of slab plan the layout (dry) before actually getting to work - if you don't know where the last slab is going don't lay the first one.

Again, this is a very brief explanation and no substitute for one of our dedicated patio-laying courses. If you would like more information on this or any other of our range of construction courses, contact Access Training Wales on 0800 345 7492.

Best of luck and fingers crossed for a good summer this year!

- Richard James

With the weather liking to change for the better over the next few days many of you are probably starting to look forward to what hopefully will be a proper summer this year. If you are in need of patio for your barbeque/sun loungers etc, here is a quick insight from Access Training on how to do it;

Step 1: Decide where you are going to pu the patio. Mark out its postition using pegs and a string line. Be sure to clear the area of any vegetation.

Step 2: Dig out the soil to a depth of about 150mm (6") below your intended finished patio level.

Step 3: You will need to lay a layer of hard-core of at at least 100mm (4") thick. Compact this layer using a place compacter (also known as a wacker plate).

Step 4: Using the line you created earlier start laying your slabs on a mortar bed approximately 50mm (2") thick. Tap each slab down with a rubber mallet and keep checking for level. Make sure there are even gaps between each slab. You can make a wooden spacer of around 10mm (½") to do this.

Step 5: Continue until all your slabs are laid, making sure you follow the fall as you go. If you need to cut any slabs use an angle grinder, making sure that you wear the appropriate personal protective equipment.

Step 6: When the patio is finished wait a few days for the mortar to set and fill the joints with a semi dry sand/cement mix. Wait a few days and then get the barbeque going and sit back and relax.

Obviously this is a very brief explanation and involves a little more knowledge on setting falls and levels. If you would like to learn more, here at Access Training we run dedicated courses on laying patios, which will give you a more in-depth look as well as practical training. For more information, contact us on 0800 345 7492.

In the second part tomorrow we shall look at deciding the best patio slabs to use for the job.

- Richard James

When installing a new towel rail/radiator, the first thing to consider is whether this new item will give the same heat output as the one being removed. To gauge the output of your existing radiator you will need to measure the width and height, as well as taking note of the radiator type. For example is it just the panel only? Single or double, without connector fins attached at the back of the panel(s)? These run top to bottom on the back of the radiator, and look similar to the corrugated sections.

With this information on hand you would be able to find out from a plumbers' merchant, or alternatively go online and check radiator sizing to get the output - which will be measured in watts/Btus. Once you have this reading, you can then either find a towel rail/radiator to give equal output as a replacement or decide it will be an additional feature to the bathroom, because those cute little towel rails/radiators don't usually give the required heat output to keep the room warm enough. If you're replacing the radiator completely, then make sure you have the appropriate wall space for the new item.

Once you have made your choice you will need to look at what type of heating system you will attach it to. You may have a combination boiler (a sealed heating system), filled by either a metal braded hose detachable from the valves it's connected to, or a knob/lever valve built into the boiler and usually found underneath. This is what you will use to refill your boiler and heating system after the new rail/radiator has been fitted, but first you must get a few fittings to be able to reconnect the new item.

These can be done by soldered or compression fittings. Once you have these fittings you can drain the heating system of the water/chemicals that should be in there, and connect a hose pipe to a drain-off valve found at the lowest points of the pipe work going to the radiators. There could be more than one of these, depending on the design of the pipework. Put the other end of the hose in a foul drain gulley only (due to the chemicals in the water from the system), and turn the electric supply off at the power point the boiler is connected to. Take the fuse out to make sure no one accidently turns the boiler back on while you're draining the water out of the heating system, then you can start by opening the draining valve the hose is connected to until the initial pressure that was in the system has come out.

You can now start to bleed the individual radiators by opening the air bleed valve sited at one top end or the backside of the panel with a radiator air bleed key. Start with the top radiators first, and when they have stopped draining do the lower ones. With the system drained you can lift the flooring under the existing radiator to expose the pipework. If you don't feel competent enough to solder the pipework and fittings, you can use compression fittings to alter and connect the new item.

When the new item has been both hung and piped up, you will need to go around closing all the air bleeds on the other radiators and shut the drain-off valve before filling the system. You'll require someone else at the new radiator so they can tell you if there is a problem before you put too much water in when filling the system. Pressure the system to 1.5 bar on the boiler gauge, shut off the filling point and check your new pipework and fittings. Leave things at that pressure for about 10-15 minutes to see if it is holding, and if it is after that period then it is safe to start bleeding the radiators until the pressure has gone. Go back to the boiler to re-pressurise to 1.5 bar and shut off the valve again, repeating this filling and bleeding until you have to radiators left to fill and bleed. With only two left only pressure them to 1 bar before bleeding, and again to 1 bar after the radiators have been bled. Replace the fuse in the fused spur, turn the electric on and put the controls for the boiler onto constant, allowing you to check your new installation is heating up okay. When the system is up to full temperature and there are no problems the flooring can be replaced.

However if you have an open vented system, you should find a small header tank in your loft connected to the heating pipework in the airing cupboard. There will be a stop valve on the pipework feeding that tank - you should shut this off (turning off your boiler's electric first), and then drain down the same way as previously mentioned. This time when you turn the valve back on, you will have to keep an eye on the new pipework and item for leaks. If you hear air leaking out of your new work as it is filling, stop and fix before continuing. If no air is leaking keep filling until the tank is full. When it stops you can then bleed the radiators, starting downstairs and working up. Turn the power back on to the boiler and put the controls on constant like previously mentioned, allowing it to heat up and then replacing the flooring once full heat has been achieved.

- Mark Lewis

 

If after reading this you still feel like you might need a little bit of extra practice before taking on such a DIY task, have you considered one of Access Training's intensive plumbing courses? Not only to we offer them at a variety of difficulty levels suited to whatever renovation plans you may have, but also professional qualifications should you choose to take things further and become a fully trained plumber. For more information on our courses and to discuss your needs call us on 0800 345 7492

While the best way to gain envious 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...