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

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

Some of the jobs reported included:

 

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

 

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

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

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.

While there will always be a demand for qualified tradesmen such as electricians, plumbers and gas engineers, setting yourself apart from the other tradesmen in your local area is an important factor is getting your name out there among potential clients. And the best way to do this is to consider qualifying in more than one skill. Commonly gas engineer training goes hand in hand with plumbing qualifications, but there are far more potential combinations that could benefit your future career.

For example, if a plumber were to undertake electrical training it would open up a variety of new work for them that they wouldn’t be able to complete otherwise without a second tradesman. They would be able to properly install power showers, and by achieving a Part P qualification would also be permitted to sign off the work themselves once they had joined a relevant Competent Person Scheme.

In turn, if an electrician had plastering qualifications, they could provide a fresh finish to a wall surface after tearing it apart to complete an installation. The same applies for combining plastering, tiling and/or carpentry courses. You’ll be increasing both your eternal potential and boost your chance of success when starting up your own business.

Take note though, it’s vital that you train properly for your second skill just as you did the first. A plumber should not be attempting any electrical work without the proper electrical qualifications and the same goes for any other potential trades. Not only would you be putting yourself at risk, but your customer as well. By training properly, you’ll be able to do the job properly and known as a tradesman capable and competent enough to get the job done on their own.

If you would like to find out more about the multi-skills training routes available to you, give Access Training a call on 0800 345 7492 and our team will be happy to tell you more.

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.

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.

Within industry I feel there is a very bad trend at the moment, many firms are trying to save money in the wrong ways. The main concern I have is with the plumbing and gas industry and their blatant disregard for Electrical safety. There any many companies that put pressure on their installers to wire the heating systems.

News flash - they are not qualified and indeed nowhere near competent to do so, unless they have received adequate training. It might save money in the short term but imagine the lawsuit when someone’s house is on fire or someone dies from an earth fault because of inadequate Earthing.

As an Electrician I’m fed up of being approached by these companies asking if I could sign off their work. Quite frankly a majority of the time their work is like that of a child and nowhere near the standards required for me or any other sane Electrician to put their name to. I have worked for many heating firms over the years and the only way to ensure safety and quality of work is to have a competent Electrician to do the wiring, in my experience one Electrician can easily wire three to five heating systems a day.

This is where I get the title “each to their own”. I am not expected to connect up a gas pipe and I would never attempt it! But Heating installers are encouraged to do Electrical work and in my eyes its madness unless they have received adequate training.

- Neil Thomas

If you need to gain the qualifications needed to wire a heating system, look no further than Access Training's range of accredited intensive electrician courses. We provide PAT Testing training, Part P courses and all the qualifications needed to become a domestic electrical installer. Contact us on 0800 345 7492 to find out more about what we can offer you and discuss exactly what you need.

Not everyone needs an extensive plumbing course to know the rights and wrongs of the trade, but with all the DIY products that are for sale in various outlets, there is good information available to prevent water contamination by misconnection of sanitary and waste water from dishwashers, washing machines and such. However, the majority of people don't ask for this advice so not to seem ignorant or feel embarrassed about not know how or what is the right way to do things.

With the economic climate the way it is, the vast majority of people also cannot afford a tradesman with the correct knowledge to do the work properly. There are the unscrupulous people who pretend to be a qualified tradesman, undercut a price just to get the work and don't really care about the consequences of their actions.

Then the poor misguided home owner gets the backlash from the relevant authorities when the source of the contamination is traced back to a particular home. It's very hard to educate people that asking for advice is not showing ignorance. It would only show their concern for doing it the correct way and the people who would give that free information would be only too happy to give them without making them feel humiliated or stupid.

But that's human nature, and people only employ a tradesman when they have that spare amount of money to get the job done. I'm sure the vast majority of people would like to think that any work done to the correct standards without causing problems as rivers and streams being polluted to the degree that is being reported by the water authorities, but unfortunately it always comes down to money

- Mark Lewis

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.

When hiring a plumber or any other tradesperson, there are a number of things you should find out beforehand. Questions such as what kind of plumbing training they've had, their qualifications and previous experience are crucial when it comes to getting the best value for money.

The first and foremost way to find a reputable tradesman is to ask friends, family or other tradespeople for a recommendation. Others who can recommend a tradesperson have had the experience of what he/she is capable of, how much they charge for certain works, how reliable they are and most importantly how good their work is.

Failing this, there are schemes where tradespeople register with known as competent person schemes. Any tradesperson who has joined such a scheme is prepared to have his work regularly checked by such people as Building Control officers from the local council, water authorities and competent person scheme inspectors. These control the quality of the tradesperson's work, and can be trusted.

Unfortunately there is nothing to stop cowboy tradespeople setting up and trading. Only when they have ripped off a number of people who have subsequently complained to Trading Standards will there be an investigation into the quality of work and the prices they charge.

But if you have employed such a tradesperson who has not done an acceptable level of work to your property, then you have the right to call them back regardless of the price you paid them. The attitude of "you didn't pay a lot so what do you expect" is not an excuse for poor quality of work. As a tradesperson who has been in this industry for over 30 years, the price you pay for a job should not reflect the quality, and any tradesperson with a good work ethic towards their customers will not overcharge and do the job to the standard required. Their customers will feel they have had value for money and won't have to call the tradesperson back for a fault on their work.

- Mark Lewis

 

Are you looking to change careers and become a professionally qualified plumber yourself? Access Training Wales offer a number of accredited plumbing courses, not just for those looking to start a new career but also for DIY enthusiasts wanting to earn some new skills. For more information on what courses are available to you give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

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

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