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.

Cardiff Council has called for contractors interested in potentially building an indoor arena and convention centre in the city centre.

Though these plans are still in the early stages, the council is looking for firms interested in these two major building projects, both expected to cost around £60 million to build. Along with the Welsh Government they are exploring a number of different funding options, including potentially borrowing (with a low interest long-term repayment plan) from the Treasury's Public Works Loan Board. Another avenue that has been suggested is the use of tax increment financing.

Talks with other cities and developers have seen it draw up plans for a 15,000-seat capacity indoor arena in a horse-shoe layout, rather than conventional fan-shaped floor plate. It will not only be used to stage major sporting events and concerts, but also annual party political conferences.

Alongside this the council also aims to deliver a 1,500-seat international conference centre with around 500,000 sq ft of exhibition space. The plans are an essential part of the Labour council’s vision for boosting the capital’s economy over the next 20 to 30 years.

Via Construction Enquirer

Government proposals for tougher sentencing on rogue traders has been welcomed by TrustMark, the Government endorsed quality mark for reputable tradesmen.

Following the Sentencing Council's consultation on fraud, bribery and money laundering, a revised framework has been put forward that will affect trades who falsify registeration marks, commit fraud and in some instances even bribe the public.

"The Sentencing Council’s new proposals will hopefully act as a deterrent to those cowboys who give tens of thousands of great law-abiding tradesmen a bad name," explains Liz Male, chair of TrustMark. "These criminals put their victims at risk and rip them off. The new guidelines are tougher on those who commit multiple offences, especially when the victims are particularly vulnerable."

In addition to this TrustMark is also pushing for even tough penalties on rouge traders fraudulently winning work involving electricity, gas and other potentially fatal substances such as asbestos.

"Tougher, simpler, sentencing guidelines will help us get the message across to rogues that their activities are unacceptable and have no place in our industry," she continues. "Ripping off the vulnerable and putting safety at risk must be deterred and we believe the Sentencing Council’s guidelines go some way to help doing that."

To coincide with this news, TrustMark has introduced a new logo download system this month in an attempt to reduce the risk of fraudulent misrepresentation. Each of its 14,500 registered firms will now be required to use their personalised logo in all of their website and marketing activing, detailing the trades that they have been inspected and licensed for by TrustMark. 

"The new TrustMark logo will provide a more transparent environment of trust for consumers as they will now be able to immediately see if a TrustMark firm has been inspected and is licensed for a particular trade. And tradesmen will be able to give themselves a competitive edge by demonstrating to customers that their work has been inspected and they offer warranties." said Liz.

This year alone TrustMark has had to take action against almost 100 firms that have been found to be misusing its logo, and regularly liaises with Trading Standards and the police when rogue traders are found. It then details each succesful legal action taken on its "Fakes and Forgeries" webpage, in an attempt to warn other homeowners about which business names to avoid.

You can keep up to date with the developments at TrustMark by visiting their official website.

Via Installer Online

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Have you considered stepping into a brand new career and becoming a fully qualified tradesperson? Here at Access Academies we offer a full spectrum of trade courses including plumbing, gas, electricity, carpentry, tiling, plastering and painting & decorating. By training with us not only will you enjoy our state-of-the-art facilities and experienced tutors, but also gain exactly what you need for a long and prosperous career. To find out more please get in contact with our course advisers on 0800 345 7492.

£617.5 million is planned to be spent on transport and housing infrastructure construction, according to plans published by Welsh finance minister Jane Hutt.

The transport investments will include £40m for the dualling the A465 between Gilwern and Brynmawr, £40m spend on improving the M4 Brynglas tunnel and then £17m for improvements to the A55 in North Wales. £62m will also go toward the first phase of a new scene to create a South East Wales metro system through better bus and rail links.

Meanwhile a total of £170m will go toward housing, £140m of while will be used up until 2016 on the "Help to Buy" scheme. This is in addition to the £34.5m already invested in it during this current financial year.

Other investments included in the plans are £38m toward improving Welsh health facilities (including the final phase of the Noah' Ark Children's Hospital for Wales), £70m for home energy efficiency scheme ARBED ECO and £20m to support a programme of flood and coastal defence improvements.

Jane Hutt said: "Since 2010, the UK government has made significant cuts to our capital budget. By 2015-16 it will be 33% lower in real terms than in 2009-10.

"The tough economic conditions continue but I am determined to use every pound available to invest in infrastructure and boost economic growth in the long-term."

Via The Construction Index

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Are you looking for a new career working in the construction industry? Unsure where to start or lack the necessary qualifications to make it happen? Access Academies offer high quality, intensive courses in bricklaying, carpentry, tiling, plastering and even painting & decorating. Our courses are fully accredited and will provide you with the perfect groundwork to make that dream become a reality. To find out more contact our course advisors on 0800 345 7492.

We wrote about it back in mid-August, but this week saw the official launch of WaterSafe, the new plumbing assurance scheme to give consumers the peace of mind that they know the plumber they've hired is fully qualified for the work.

Thought the website went live a while ago, the scheme brings together the following seven existing Approved Contractors' Schemes operating in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland:

  • The Water Industry Approved Plumbers’ Scheme (WIAPS)
  • Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors (APHC)
  • Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE)
  • Scottish and Northern Ireland Plumbing Employers’ Federation (SNIPEF)
  • Anglian Water’s A Plus
  • Severn Trent’s Watermark
  • Thames Water’s TAPS.

Supported by all key plumbing bodies and water companies in the country, WaterSafe provides an online database and search facility of plumbers, recognising their qualifications and competency. 

To join the scheme, recognised plumbers employed by an approved business on the register will need to have successfully completed an NVQ Level 2 in Mechanical Engineering Services (6089 - Plumbing) and hold a water industry-recognised Water Fittings Regulations qualification. Unlike the Gas Safe register WaterSafe is not a legal requirement, however by joining a nationwide register plumbers will become part of a wider group of professionals that is set to become the biggest search facility for approved plumbers in the UK.

Kevin Wellman, chief executive officer for the Chartered Institute of Plumbing & Heating Engineering (CIPHE) and board member for WaterSafe says: "Following months of planning and investment, we are hugely excited to launch WaterSafe.

"Until now, the plumbing industry has not had the presence of a scheme that encompasses all of the Approved Contractors' Schemes in the UK. As such, it has been very difficult for consumers to make an informed choice when sourcing a credible plumber, struggling to distinguish from the plethora of trade associations, accreditation bodies and trust marks.

"WaterSafe has been designed to negate this confusion. By bringing together these existing schemes under one unique umbrella organisation, WaterSafe offers assurance of a professional, accredited plumber every time. In this way, our aim is to not only promote good plumbing practice and compliance with the Water Fittings Regulations and Byelaws, but also clamp down on the inherent issue of rogue plumbers. WaterSafe will give competent and approved plumbing businesses the recognition they deserve."

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If you have any outstanding plumbing qualifications or are looking to become a professional plumber yourself, have you considered a comprehensive plumbing course from Access Training? Our courses are suitable for both newcomers and experienced plumbers alike, so give us a call on 0800 345 7492 or check out the plumbing courses section of the site to find out more.

A committee of MPs have banded together to call for changes to be made to the Green Deal so that it is made more finanically attractive to both homeowners and landlords.

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Excellence in the Built Environment has compiled a 36-page report, entitled "Re-energising the green agenda", suggesting that the government's flagship green policy needs to be clearer in the public eye as many people are still unaware of its existence. The report commends the setting up of the Green Deal, but believes it is time for it to be reworked to make it work for social housing and to make the financial incentives it offers more permanent. It also advocates greater clarity from the government, saying:

"Despite setting out ambitious targets, the government has been sending mixed messages about its commitment to the green agenda. This has been particularly apparent over the delay to the revisions to Part L of the Building Regulations covering energy efficiency, and the slow progress on establishing how zero carbon will be met for domestic buildings in 2016. In recent years unexpected changes to the feed-in-tariffs also caused consternation and undermined confidence in the construction sector."

They have set out seven recommendations to the government in terms of changes, which include making retrofit more finanicially attractive by looking at ways in which it can reduce the interest rate on the Green Deal, bolstering the Green Construction board to make it a more transparent organisation that provide a clear construction industry focal point, and setting up an Existing Homes Hub (along the lines of the Zero Carbon Homes Hub), to engage with the industry on sustainability issues and provide a neutral space for the industry and DECC to work together.

Group chairman Oliver Colvile, Conservative MP for Plymouth, Sutton and Devonport, said: “The world faces significant environmental challenges, and to help combat them our government needs to ensure Britain plays its part in reducing CO2 emissions; make our homes more energy efficient; reduce the costs of heating our homes; help combat fuel poverty and meet our required energy needs.

“We hope this report sends a clear message to government to reaffirm and re-energise its commitment to the delivery of the sustainable agenda in construction and the built environment and in doing so, provide clarity and certainty to help industry play its part in turning policies into success stories. The potential to create jobs at home and export our new skills and expertise in this field abroad is a prize in itself.”

The full report can be read here at www.cic.org.uk

Via The Construction Index

So you've got your qualifications and are ready to start your new life as a self-employed tradesperson. Being your own boss can mean great things like having full control over what jobs you do, what hours you work and when you can take your holidays - but there are some things you'll need to put some serious consideration toward. It's time for you to consider just how much you plan to charge for your services.

Many people will work it out from a simple calculation of hourly rate multiplied by 35 hour week multiplied by 52. However how do you come up with a reasonable hourly rate in the first place? Installer Online have come up with a list of 10 things you'll need to factor in to come up with the best price tag:

  1. Invoicing: Ask any self-employed person and they'll tell you this is a far more important part of the job than you might realise. Time spent invoicing or chasing up cash is definitely something to consider.
  2. Marketing: Word of mouth is only going to get you so far, you're going to need to come up with some sort of marketing plan. How extravagant you choose to be is entirely up to you, but either way it's going to cost money.
  3. Your skillset: So you've got the qualifications, but is that it? Will these need updating every so often? You might be alright as not many qualifications need regular top ups, but be sure to research this when starting up the business.
  4. Accounting & Tax: When you become self-employed you become responsible for paying your own tax. If book-keeping isn't your strong suit, have you thought about employing an accountant? This can prove quite costly, but there are also accounting services available which are tailored specifically to the contractor, freelancer and sole trader. They have low costs and simple online interfaces to allow you to process your own accounts. Many of these are available from a low monthly fee and not only save you time and money they can also relieve you of the stress of scribbling around to do your accounts at the last minute.
  5. Holidays: The downside of having the freedom to choose your own holidays is that you're no longer paid for that time. Including bank holidays most full time employees get around 6 weeks paid leave per year. This is the equivalent to a 12% increase in your hourly or daily rate.
  6. Insurance: Every business needs insurance. Not just that, but there's many different types you may need - public liability, business car insurance, contents insurances etc. Make sure you know exactly what you need and scout around for the best prices.
  7. Your toolkit: Again, these are going to cost money and inevitably need replacing somewhere down the line.
  8. Travel: Petrol costs are another thing you're going to have to keep in mind.
  9. Quotes: You will have to pitch and quote for work in order to generate new business. These take time and often a lot of effort and often you won’t get paid a penny unless you win the business. Although you can offset the cost of providing quotes by upping your hourly rate this will be one of the biggest areas that you will find you work on with no pay whatsoever.
  10. Premises: As your business grows, you may find that working in a spare room or out of your van simply doesn't cut it. Whether its for admin or storage purposes, any excess space you need may end up incurring additional costs.

So with those things in mind, does your initial estimate seem a little low? Installer Online advise raising it by around 30%, but you also need to be aware of just how much your customers are prepared to pay. But don't get discouraged! Although it's a lot to think about its true that tradespeople earn an impressive annual wage, and 70% of the self-employed workforce now earn over the national average of £26,093!

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Have you considered stepping into a brand new career and becoming a fully qualified tradesperson? Here at Access Academies we offer a full spectrum of trade courses including plumbing, gas, electricity, carpentry, tiling, plastering and painting & decorating. By training with us not only will you enjoy our state-of-the-art facilities and experienced tutors, but also gain exactly what you need for a long and prosperous career. To find out more please get in contact with our course advisers on 0800 345 7492.

Via British Builder and Developer

Remember when a van was simply a place that got you from A to B? Well, new research published by Direct Line of Business has revealed that those days may be long gone, with tradespeople using their vehicles for all sorts of different purposes.

Plumbers, electricians, gas engineers and various other forms of tradesperson are practically living out of their vans now - if not using them for sleeping then as mobile officies or even entertainment centres. Unsurprisingly nearly half (45%) are using them as a dining room to eat meals while on the job, and a lower 31% using it as a mobile office to manage their business.

One in ten (14%) are also using their vans as a place to smoke, which can cause additional dangers to their health. Smoking in an enclosed area poses additional health risks, as research from the British Lung Foundation found the levels of toxins in a vehicale can be up to 23 times higher than in a smokey bar.

Perhaps the most fun statistic of the results was that one in ten are using it as somewhere to keep themselves entertained with video games. While most of these might be doing so with their mobile phones, some (2%) are even going as far as to install consoles such as X-Boxes and Playstation 3s. As many as one in 20 (4%) have televisions in their vehicles.

Melissa Hunt, Business Manager at Direct Line for Business, said: "With tradespeople working long hours on the job, it is no wonder they often end up eating, managing paperwork and even sleeping in their vehicles. However, customising their van with the latest gadgets and installing entertainment centres may not only be a distraction and compromise their safety but it is unlikely to be covered if stolen."

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Have you considered stepping into a brand new career and becoming a fully qualified tradesperson? Here at Access Academies we offer a full spectrum of trade courses including plumbing, gas, electricity, carpentry, tiling, plastering and painting & decorating. By training with us not only will you enjoy our state-of-the-art facilities and experienced tutors, but also gain exactly what you need for a long and prosperous career. To find out more please get in contact with our course advisers on 0800 345 7492.

Via Construction Enquirer

Towards the end of September we wrote up a post revealing some of the horrific conditions the Health & Safety Executive had found construction sites in, and now they have returned with even more shocking images of what some workers are subject to.

The HSE are still compiling the final results of their tour across UK building sites (which ran over the course of September), but their initial figures have ALREADY shown that nearly half the sites they visited had some sort of serious safety failing.

This alarmingly high rate has promoted the Unite union to call for increased funding in order for the HSE to carry out more site inspections.

Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: "The HSE's spot checks throughout September are proof that the Executive needs more capacity and funding.

"The extent of the breaches uncovered also shows why trade union health and safety committees are so important in the construction industry and why we need more.

"The ending of the spot checks will be manna from heaven for the worst employers and unfair to employers who work with unions to get it right. The government’s attack on health and safety must be reversed."

Below is the latest batch of pictures released by the HSE:

Wheeled scaffolding precariously balanced at this site.

This site seems to have absolutely no regard for electrical safety.

Would you use this ladder at the top of a four lift scaffold?

I would hardly call this support adequate.

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