Organising a big home renovation project can be a really exciting thing, especially if you're already a DIY enthusiast. However it's also easy to get carried away and overestimate things, leaving you a bit stuck when it comes to actually carrying the work out. With that in mind, here is a selection of handy tips to avoid frustration and make sure you get it all right the first time.

Be realistic with your budget:

Before you start any of the work or gathering the tools and materials, it's wise to set an overall budget for your project. Try to account for everything as accurately as possible, that way you won't see that ballpark figure going up and up as the work goes on. One thing to always keep in mind is encountering unexpected issues along the way, so it might be a good idea to set aside some excess funds just in case of an emergency. Knowing your budget also makes sure you aren't getting in way too over your head either.

Don't skimp on the cost:

This might seem a little contradictory to the above, but the point here is to not settle for the cheapest materials on the market. Odds are these are the ones that won't stand the test of time, and you could find yourself having to do the work all over again sooner than you might think. Know the average price of the materials, what the best ones are to use and do a job that will be the best it possibly can.

Prepare the work properly:

For example, if you're painting a room, don't skip taping the surfaces you don't want to paint. Don't just assume you'll be 100% accurate the first time, because odds are you'll end up with paint splashes where you don't want them.

Make sure your measurements are accurate:

Avoid having unnecessary waste material, as not only is it a waste but it means you also may end up having to go out and buy more material when you didn't need it in the first place. There could even be worse repercussions to inaccurate measurements - imagine having custom kitchen cabinets made, only to find they're the wrong size when they arrive. Times like these the best advice is always "measure twice, cut once".

Use the right tools for the job:

If you're missing a tool needed for the job, don't try and improvise with a different, potentially unsuitable one. Either buy one or rent/borrow it, because not doing so goes hand in hand with our last bit of advice...

Safety ALWAYS comes first:

Even when keeping everything else in mind, this should always be your number one priority? Is your work really worth the risk of serious injury. Protection such as safety goggles, gloves and (in some cases) a hard hat should be a given, but if at ANY point you feel like you're out of your depth stop what you are doing and get a trained professional to complete the work. Even the best DIYers know their limits.

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If you have a home reburbishment in mind but lack to the skills to carry it out, or alternatively are looking into property development as a potential career path but lack the qualifications to make it happen - Access Training Academies are here to help! Offering training in various trades including electric, plumbing, gas, tiling, plastering, carpentry, brickwork and painting & decorating, you can attain the perfect skillset to cover any job properly. To find out more about our multi-skills courses and talk to one of our sales advisers, give Access a call on 0800 345 7492.

An important part of Gas Safety Week is making sure people know exactly what to do in the event of a gas leak.

Every year thousands of people across the UK are diagnosed with carbon monoxide poisoning. This highly poisonous gas can't be seen, smelled or tasted, but can kill quickly and without warning. Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness and then eventually collapsing and even loss of consciousness. As an invisible gas, carbon monoxide can be extremely difficult to detect. However there are ways that you can determine whether an appliance (such as fires, heating boilers, water heaters or cookers) are dangerous. These include:

  • The pilot light continually blowing out
  • An orange or yellow flame rather than a blue one
  • A discoloured scorched area on an appliance
  • A musty smell or signs of soot
  • More condensation than normal on windows

If you see any of these things, whatever you do DO NOT try to attempt any sort of repair work yourself - you could only end up making it worse. Instead what you should do is call the free emergency gas number on 0800 111 999 and follow their instructions. As soon as you suspect a leak, don't start any flames or operate electrical switches. Make sure to put out any fires, open doors and windows to air out the rooms, keep people away from the area and turn the gas off at the control valve. 

Once you've made the call, a trained operator will log a number of details onto a computer. The kind of questions they'll ask you are:

 

  • Your name and phone number
  • The address and postcode of the suspected gas emergency 
  • How many people are at the property 
  • Where the smell is most noticeable 
  • How long the smell has been noticeable
  • Are any neighbours affected 
  • Any special circumstances or access information
Following that you'll be asked a number of questions to determine the severity of the situation. This information will be recorded and sent off to an engineer to take action if its required.

 

Last month the Government announced that they would be making amendments to Part L of the Building Regulations, which deals with energy efficiency in both domestic dwellings and commercial properties. These changes, which will come into effect in April 2014, are designed to bring about a 6% improvement on new-homes compared with the original 2010 standard and a 9% improvement for non-domestic buildings.

So what exactly does Part L cover? The answer is essentially ANY method of providing heat and energy to your household or commercial building. This includes electricity, hot water, heating, wall/loft insulation, lighting and more. The last revision to these regulations was made in 2010, and have since made it so that every dwelling started after the 1st October 2010 must adhere to these new rules. This also stretches to new installations which are moved even slightly after this time.

An example to give it some context: Since 2010 all central heating systems and hot water outlets must be fitted with a thermostatic mixing valve (TMV) to regulate hot water temperatures and keep them no higher than 45°C. A bath fitting before October 2010 would not need one of these, and should the homeowner choose to refurbish their bath without it moving in the room this would continue to apply. HOWEVER if he or she then decided to get a new bath a move where in the bathroom it is fitted, it would then be subject to these new requirements.

Of course the Government's flagship method to bring down the carbon footprint is the Green Deal, which is pushing for more households to adopt renewable energy methods such as solar photovoltatic, solar thermal and underfloor heating. However one other method they are trying is through ECO, which stands for Energy Company Obligation. If you're on certain benefits (visit here for the full list), are retired/disabled/have children and own or rent your home, you could find you are entitled to all or part of the cost towards boiler repair/replacements and loft/cavity wall insulation.

What will play a significant part in these new changes however is lighting efficacy. The revised Part L will include a new method for measuring lighting efficiency, which takes into account the whole installation rather than the individual components. This is called LENI - the Lighting Efficiency Numeric Indicator. The Lighting Industry Association have put together a mini guide to these new requirements, including the formula and calculations to work out luminaire efficacy the LENI, which can be viewed here

Make no mistake, there is A LOT of information and statistics surrounding Part L but hopefully this post has made things a little clearer for you and given you a better idea of what is required to help reduce Britain's carbon footprint.

To round of the week we turn to capentry for our quick definition guide. Hopefully this post will give you a beginner understanding of some of the more basic terms carpenters use, and you'll be able to use them to build up your own DIY knowledge or even as the first step in becoming a professional carpnenter!

Architrave: The ornamental mouldings fitted around a door or window frame. These also cover the joint between the plaster and wood framing.

Auger: A long drill-bit-like tool turned with the hands, usually by means of a handle.

Bead: A rounded shape cut into a square edge to soften the edge and provide some protection against splitting. When several beads are placed together, they are called Reeds. If the bead lies below the surface, it is referred to as a Sunk Bead.

Bench Hook: A workbench accessory used to provide a stop against a piece of wood being worked can be placed to hold it steady whilst cutting, planing, or chiseling that piece of wood.

Brace: A part of a timber or metal structure spanning a diagonal space that adds strength and stability, and resists compression or tension.

Dado: Decorative panelling applied to the lower part of an internal wall.

Dado Rail: Decorative moulding applied to an internal wall at a height of around 1m. 

Dowel: A short length of wood, round in section, used for a variety of purposes such as joining timbers, plugging fixing holes etc.

Eaves: The bottom edge of a roof that meets the walls of the structure. This is also where the water is collected into the gutter.

Fibreboard: A lightweight and weak manufactured board often used when making cheaper furniture.

Grain: The appearance, size and direction of the fibres of the timber.

Hardboard: Manufactured board made with compressed particles of wood formed together. One side of the board smooth with the other side rough. Hardboard in sheet form is often used and subfloor covering to give a smooth and flat surface.

Joists: Lengths of timbers that support ceilings and floors, usually fixed in parallel.

Mitre: A 45 degree angle joint that neatly joins two pieces of timber together.

Stud wall: A timber framed internal wall faced with plasterboard that is non-load bearing.

While this should be enough to get you started on the theory side of things, the next step is to find the correct carpentry training that can offer you exactly what you need. You might want to gain qualifications and seek employment as a professional carpenter, or alternatively you could simply be looking tp build up your DIY skill set properly. Access Training offer a range of carpentry courses to suit both parties, and are available to everyone no matter their background or skill level. To find out more about what we can give you, take a look at our courses page or give our team a call on 0800 345 7492.

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.

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