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.

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

The construction industry is under increasing pressure to become sustainable. One way to address this is through the use of reclaimed materials. There are materials that have been previously used in a building or project, which are then re-used in another. The materials might be altered, re-sized, refinished or adapted, but they are not reprocessed in any way and remain in their original form. Materials that have been reprocessed and reused in the building industry are referred to as recycled materials.

Examples of materials that can be reclaimed include: bricks, slate roofing, ceramic tiles, fireplaces, doors, window frames, glass panels, metal fixtures and fittings, stairs, cobbled stones, steel sections and timber. A reclaimed material is often adapted for a different use - for example a roof beam might be used as a mantelpiece, and personally I have sold slate from a snooker table which was going to be used as a hearth to a fireplace.

Why Reclaim?

The building industry has a massive impact on the environment in terms of energy consumption, use of natural resources, pollution and waste. Every year in the UK, construction materials account for around 6 tonnes of materials per person, 122 million tonnes of waste (1/3 of total UK waste) and 18% of carbon dioxide emissions - a major contributor to global climate change. On top of this, the embodied costs associated with the extraction, production, manufacture and transportation of building materials are immense. Using reclaimed materials can significantly reduce these environmental impacts, and save up to 95% of the embodied costs by preventing unnecessary production of new materials, and reducing the amount of waste sent to landfill.

Where to find materials

The best place to source reclaimed materials is direct from a demolition or re-modelling project. Many of these projects carefully dismantle buildings in such a way that their materials can be sold and re-used. In the building trade this is known as deconstruction.

Reclaimed materials can also be sourced from salvage centres, reclamation yards and other specialist companies, who buy and sell materials that they have salvaged themselves from demolished sites. There are hundreds of salvage companies, some which deal only in high-end architectural materials, and others that are more like junkyards. Good quality, rare and heritage materials can be gleaned from salvage suppliers, and while purchasing can be more expensive than those sourced directly from a demolition site, there is a much wider choice of materials available on demand.

An untapped market

Although there are substantial environmental benefits to using reclaimed materials, the market is virtually untapped. At the moment, only 1% of reclaimed materials are used in new building projects, a percentage that really should be higher. One of the barriers has been a lack of information about sourcing and using the materials in design and development - including knowledge of specifications, standards, legislation and performance. But there are economic barriers too, including the cost of extraction in deconstruction, the limited flexibility of reclaimed materials, and the problems of storing and double handling materials between sites. In addition, medium to large building projects cannot take advantage of the reclamation industry because the salvage supply chain is not yet equipped to deal with large orders.

Reclamation in sustainable development

On-going rapid development means that many historic buildings are being demolished to make way for new affordable housing and commercial space. Redirecting building materials from the waste stream of this process, and reusing them in other nearby projects is a critical component of sustainable development. There is a huge amount of construction waste, and the potential to reuse this to reduce landfill and new materials is enormous. When reclaimed materials are secured from an existing building site, the environmental impact is virtually zero. Even when they are sourced from far away, reclaimed materials are still the most environmentally friendly option for supplying materials to the building industry.

- Richard James

During your construction course you will learn to use many different materials as you prepare for your future career. As you can expect it is therefore important to know of any health and safety requirements when using these materials. Before 1972 the most common element used to insulate buildings was asbestos. Only much later did we find out that breathing this in could result in lung restrictive illnesses and even death.

Asbestos is a naturally occurring material that was commonly used in buildings for insulation, including schools, offices and homes. Asbestos fibres are exceptionally strong and resistant to heat. It is usually found in ceiling tiles, flooring and pipes.

Asbestos only becomes a danger when it is disturbed, causing the fibres to become airborne. This is commonly referred to as friable asbestos (while intact asbestos is non-friable), and lungs are susceptible to breathing in the airborne fibres. Research has yet to determine a safe level of exposure, but one thing is for certain - the more prolonged the exposure, the greater the risk becomes for developing an asbestos related disease.

Asbestos related diseases

There are three diseases that are triggered by inhaling asbestos fibres: Asbestosis, Mesothelioma and Lung Cancer. Asbestosis is caused when the fibres are inhaled and become trapped in the lungs. In response, the body tries to dissolve the fibres by producing an acid. While not destroying the fibres, the acid serves to scar the lung tissue. Eventually the scarring can become so severe that the lungs become unable to function. The time from exposure to the manifestation of asbestosis in most patients is between 25 to 40 years.

Mesothelioma is a cancer of the outside tissue of the lungs. This cancer is solely linked to asbestos. The time from exposure to manifestation is from 15 to 35 years. Lung cancer can also be caused by asbestos, however the chances of development are greatly increased with smoking. The exposure to manifestation period is again around 15 to 35 years.

The risk of being exposed to asbestos is increased by the presence of construction. Work on ceilings and flooring can cause the asbestos to become friable. This is why non-friable asbestos is often recommended to be left intact and not removed. Asbestos does not just chip away or decompose; it must be physically disturbed to pose a threat to human health.

Asbestos is required to be removed, either before or during a construction project, or due to an accidental disturbance. Health & Safety Regulations require that certain precautions and procedures take place. These regulations aim to ensure that the appropriate steps are taken during an abatement procedure, and all health and safety precautions are taken.

So the answer to the question at the start of this post - how dangerous is asbestos? Very dangerous!

- Richard James

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