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.

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.

(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

The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) have recently released their first alterations to the 'TM13: Minimising the risk of Legionnaires' disease' guide in ten years. This comes following Britain experiencing its worst outbreaks of the disease to date, as well as in reaction to the advances in technology and environmental concern there are in managing water systems.

Legionella bacteria are commonly found in large sources of water such as rivers and lakes, but can very easily contaminate drinking water systems should it not be treated properly. If the bacteria are allowed to multiply and then become released into the air in water droplets, they become a serious health risk. Large buildings suchs as hotels, hospitals and office blocks, are particularly susceptible to contamination due to their more complex water supply systems.

It is aimed at primarily facility/premises managers, engineers, consultants or any other person involved in the design, installation or maintenance of building water systems. It sets to give out guidance on the appropriate design, installation, commissioning, operation and maintenance procedures necessary to minimise the risk of infection by Legionella from water systems within a building. Principles are highlighted, and practitioners in these fields are encouraged to apply them to their own particular building services applications.

This new guide also makes reference to health concerns on an international level, providing guidance on non-UK based requirements in the hope it will be a "valuable tool" in supporting compliance outside of the UK.

Speaking to HVP magazine, chairman for the new guide Greg Davies said: "The guidance has been revised and updated to reflect the legal, environmental and technological advancements we have seen over the last decade. The significant advantage of this document is it contains the level of advice needed to support those responsible for managing and maintaining water systems and services, for minimising the risks with legionella as well as how to demonstrate proactive control."

To purchase a copy of TM13, visit the CIBSE Knowledge Portal

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.

With Action Fraud recently reporting that fraudsters in Caerphilly have begun to use the Green Deal as a means of conning unwitting householders, it’s important that people know the basics when it comes to this new Government initiative.

The Green Deal’s aim is to encourage home and business owners to adopt more energy-saving technology in their properties, with the incentive of no upfront costs. Examples of possible improvements include:

  • Insulation (Such as loft or cavity wall insulation)
  • Heating
  • Draught-proofing
  • Double glazing
  • Solar panels/wind turbines

The installation cost will eventually be paid over time through your energy bill. What makes this unique is that the bill is attached to the property rather than the person, as this is where the money is being saved.

 

What to do to get involved

  • You will need to get an assessment of your property so that it can be determined what improvements can be made to your home. The assessor will also explain how much money you could be saving on your energy bill.
  • Choose a Green Deal provider to do the work for you. All Green Deal providers will have a mark of quality (pictured below) – it’s important you look out for this to make sure you are getting the right people for the job.

  • If you agree to the work, you will be signing a Green Deal Plan which is a contract stating what work is being done and how much it costs. Once the work is done, you’ll pay off the cost periodically through your electricity bill.

Further reading: https://www.gov.uk/green-deal-energy-saving-measures/?&gclid=CMjpsI3I6LYCFe3MtAod7kQAlw

http://www.greendealinitiative.co.uk/

When wanting to completely refurbish a bathroom, it can take a number of skills or tradespeople to complete the work. Firstly safely the water supply and any electrics need to be isolated, so that the de-commissioning of the bathroom suite can begin. Then the walls and ceiling can be torn down if required, with the rubble and old suite also having to be disposed of in a responsible way.

Following that any required alterations to the water supply pipes can be performed, as well as sorting out electrical wires, flooring and tacking new plasterboard walls and ceiling.

Once the finish plaster coat has been applied and dried, the bath can be made up and fixed in place. Once carpentry bits such as architrave and skirting boards can be fixed, then the tilling can take place. After this the rest of the plumbing can be completed and the electrics finalised, woodwork painted then if floor covering is going to be used it can go down (however if the floor is to be tiled this should be done before the woodwork).

So if you can organise the different trades or do all of this work yourself if you have the relative qualifications or the relative expertise of experience then managing the project yourself can save you a considerable sum of money , but it can take a considerable amount of time to organise and manage the project .

With a bathroom fitting company that can cover all trades and manage the project it might seem quite costly to begin with, but in the long run if you personally have not managed such a project then it might be advisable to employ such a company. But only after researching them through areas as “county court judgements”, “trading standards” and previous clients that have had similar work done. 

- Mark Lewis 

If you would like to learn more about bathroom fitting yourself, we offer a specially designed DIY Bathroom Fitting course here at Access Training. You'll learn everything you need to know including bathroom design, the fitting of covers, tap connectors, wastes, ball valves, siphons, WC seats and more. For more information about this or any of our other professional trade courses, contact us at 0800 345 7492.

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