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

Full story: Daily Mail - 'Incompetent' plumber causes gas explosion

A 32-year old plumber is currently in course after he caused a gas explosion which resulted in a home being 'blown from its foundations' and leaving the couple inside with serious burns.

While converting the former kitchen of Martyn Moody and his wife Theresa's luxury home in the Lincolnshire Wolds into a dining room, plumber Daniel Hickling cut off and capped the protruding gas pipe, burying it under the floorboards. However during the work he punctured the pipe and failed to carry out a straightforward check to ensure there had been no damage to it.

Later the couple smelt gas and began searching their home. During this time Mr Moody flicked on a cigarette lighter and the flame ignited, causing a massive explosion with such force that the entire building moved an inch. Mr Moody, a retired construction and electrical tradesman spent two weeks in hospital undergoing skin grafts after suffering serious burns to his hands, arms and scalp. His wife suffered burns to her legs and feet nut was released from hospital after two days.

The home, which the couple had built for themselves in 1993, sustained so much damaged that it had to be almost completely rebuilt. It was a year before the couple were able to move back in. They were also left £100,000 out of pocket after being found to be underinsured on their contents insurance and thus had to cover some of the loss themselves.

Lincoln Crown Court were told by prosecutor James Puzey that Hickley was "incompetent to carry out this work and it was carried out incompetently. That led directly to an explosion which almost destroyed the property and caused serious injury to the householders." It was also revealed that he was not a registered Gas Safe engineer and failed to tell the couple this when he agreed to do the work. However he claims that he did not know he would be working on a gas pipe and as such never put himself forward as properly qualified.

Hickley has admitted to breaching the 1998 Gas Safety Regulations and performing work to an inappropriate standard. Recorder Helen Malcolm QC has adjourned the case to a future date when she will give her ruling on the case following these two days of evidence.

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Cases like this are a prime example of why having the right qualifications to do the job is vital. Simply having plumbing qualifications is not enough if you are potentially going to work with gas pipes, as not only are you breaking the law and could potentially face prosecution but you are also endangering the lives of your customers. If you train as a gas engineer, becoming Gas Safe Registered isn't just advised, it is essential proof that you are legally competent to work with gas pipes and gas appliances safely. If you are a plumber and would like to learn more about gas engineering, gaining the qualifications required to be eligable for Gas Safe registration, we at Access Training offer comprehensive gas courses to ensure you are fully trained. To find out more click the link or give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

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.

The most common part of a building that usually requires new pointing after it’s been built is the chimney stack. Due to the adverse conditions put upon it, it’s not surprising that it requires re- pointing. Usually you will find that the old cement/mortar will come out fairly easy. A cavity wall tie is often used for this process when the bricks are hard, as no damage will occur to the arris (edge) of the brick. If the bricks are of a soft nature you could use a piece of wood cut down to the width of the joint. Failing this you could use a “plugging chisel” which is a tapered chisel and can be purchased from most building supplies.

PROCEDURE

Take out all the mortar/cement to a depth of no more than 15mm, ensuring you are wearing the appropriate P.P.E. (safety glasses. dust mask etc.) After all the mortar/cement has been taken out brush all the joints to make sure any loose material is removed. This also make sure the arrises are clean. Do not use a wire brush as this will damage the brick. Wash down the wall with clean water - stubborn patches or stains can be removed using a scrubbing brush. Allow the wall to dry out, if you don’t it will become difficult to point the wall and the bricks may get soiled with the mortar. Also the more water there is in the wall, the more shrinkage movement there may be when the wall dries out. If this happens (moisture trapped in the joints), the first sign of frost the moisture will freeze and will expand and the wall gets damaged.

MORTARS FOR POINTING

If the area to be pointed is built with hard bricks in exposed places, a mix of 2:1 is preferred. This is two parts sand to one part cement, not mixed to wet. For general brickwork a mix of 3:1 is preferred.

In Part 2 I will explain the procedure to carry out the pointing sequence.

- Richard James

 

If you would like to learn more about bricklaying or any of aspect of the construction trade, Access Training offer a wide variety of construction courses to both beginners and existing tradesmen in need of new/updated qualifications. If you would like to find out more upon what's on offer, give us a call on 0800 345 7492 and arrange a visit of our accredited training centre.

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.

Following on from part 1 we will now look at what training courses are available to you, as well as factors such as their cost and duration.

At Access Training we deliver many construction courses, including;

 

Each course can vary from a one week taster course to a total of eight weeks, depending on the outcome you wish to achieve. The one week taster course will give you a good insight to your chosen trade, basic use of tools and basic techniques. Then there are two and three week courses which obviously involve a more in depth look at the particular trade. Each of these courses can give you a recognised qualification from City & Guilds.

The eight week course will give you a CAA Level 2 (Construction Awards Alliance) and potentially a NVQ diploma, both of which are again highly regarded and recognised C&G qualifications. The cost of each course varies, so I suggest you contact Access Training Wales and speak to one of the course advisors.

OK you’ve finished the course you’ve gained your qualification, what next? The truth is finding work is not as difficult as you may think. Most trainees after leaving Access Training start by doing small jobs for friends, family and neighbours.  This will build your confidence and give you some indication of how long a job will take. Best of all you will be under no pressure from family to complete by a certain deadline.

Then there are construction “agencies” that employ people to work on various jobs. They’ll find you the work, but be prepared to work maybe one week here, two weeks there and so on. This is a great way of gaining experience quickly and you will be on a fixed hourly rate, usually around £12 per hour.

So now that you’ve gained both experience and confidence, it’s time to go on your own. This is where you can earn a lot more money – it’s not uncommon for a good tradesperson to earn between £600-800 per week. Keep your options open, if you completed a bricklaying course don’t think that you can only lay bricks. Bricklayers can usually lay patios, decorative work indoors, build archways and more. If you completed a plastering course, plasterers can usually fix coving up, lay screed floors etc. One very lucrative area from a plastering point of view is “Venitian” or “Polished” plastering. There is a niche in the market for this type of work, if you have good trowel skills you can learn this method relatively quickly, and the price for doing this work is roughly £60 per square meter. So the choice is yours – there is work about for good tradespeople, so if you feel you need a career change then go for it!

If you need more information contact Access Training Wales on 08003457492.

- Richard James

 

Choosing to make a complete career change is difficult at any time of life. There are many factors to take into consideration – what opportunities are there? What training courses will I need to attend? How available is the work and how long will it last?

Take for instance many construction trades (bricklayer, carpenter, plasterer, tiler etc.). At this given time work is pretty slack in the construction industry, but I firmly believe that it won’t last much longer. So now is a good time to begin training for new skills. As soon as the construction industry opens its doors again, there will be a definite skills shortage. Having decided to take the challenge and change career what can you expect to be doing on a daily basis?

Take the plastering trade as an example, which provides plenty of opportunity to work both inside or outside. The weather in this country is not the best, so having the chance to work indoors is an added bonus; you will be working most days and won’t be losing money. Plastering covers more than just “plastering” a wall, it could be screeding a floor, plaster boarding a ceiling, dot & dab on walls, dry lining a wall, the list goes on. This is all internal work, whereas dashing, fine down, K render are all external.

Are there any transferable skills you could use, depending on your background? Plastering involves calculating quantities for mixes etc. so numeracy skills would be an advantage. A lot of questions are asked in the workplace so good communication skills would help, the ability to work unsupervised is a great asset to have, as a lot of the time you are given work and be expected to carry it out unsupervised to a high standard.

So having trained for your new career, what qualifications do you need for the construction industry? An NVQ in a relevant trade is essential; this will allow you to apply for a CSCS card – a must have to work on building sites.

Tomorrow in part 2 I will discuss what training courses are available to you, as well as their cost, duration and what you can expect to learn. Also included will be what prospects are open to you and potential wages upon completion.

- Richard James

Asking this raises a number of other questions. The plumber may be capable of connecting cables to the shower but does he know how to check that the existing cable can take the load current of the new shower? Does he know how to carry out all the required electrical tests that are required when installing new electrical equipment? Does he have access to the required test equipment to allow him to perform the tests (this equipment is expensives - in the region of £600+, and usually only carried by qualified electricians)? If he has access, is it the right equipment? Is it manufactured to the revelent BS or EN standards? Has it been well maintained and regularly calibrated? Does he have and can correctly fill out the correct electrical test certificate for the job? Has he informed you that you will need to notify the local building authority control (any electrical installation work that has been carried out in a room containing a bath or shower has to be pre-notified as a requirement of Part P). Oh yes I nearly forgot - there is also a charge payable to the Building Control Authority to notify works under Part P!

Are you starting to wonder if the plumber is the man for the job? If you have any doubt whatsoever, no matter how small - get a "proper" electrician to do the work. One who has undergone training and experience in doing the work. Engaging an electrician who is a member of a recognised 'Competent Person Scheme' will save you the cost and hassle of dealing with the Building Control Authority.

Have you made your mind up yet?

- Mark Jenkins

 

Alternatively, would you like to have a go at this yourself? Considering a career change to become an electrician? Access Training offer a number of bespoke electrician courses to people of all ages and backgrounds, from professional qualifications to DIY courses. With qualifications including general installation, Part P training, PAT Testing and more, we're certain we have the right electrical course for you. For more information call us on 0800 345 7492.

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.

Now that you've completed your patio course and it's time to lay the slabs, how do you decide which ones to use? Cost will usually have some effect on choosing the materials you use. Bear in mind whether you have a large or small budget, however the difference between a good looking patio and a rather dull looking one may be just a few pounds difference per metre, so is the cost saving any benefit?

Remember, a patio should last you years - to change it later could become costly. If possible the choice of slab should be in-keeping with the surrounding areas. Laying a patio that, when finished, does not look right in its surroundings will only cause disappointment and make you feel like it was a waste of time and money. You need to consider what the patio area will be primarily used for. Some patio slabs become very slippery when wet - riven slabs are less likely to become slippery but are slightly uneven, which may cause a few issues with your table and chairs (they may wobble).

During rainy periods, take into consideration that certain types of slabs require more to lay. Budget slabs are quicker to lay as each slab is the same size and thickness, while high priced slabs of natural sandstone etc. will require a longer time span, due to them being irregular in size and shape. A lot more skill is required when you lay this type of slab, but having said that they look amazing down and you will probably feel the cost was worth it. Remember if you are laying random sized slabs or mixed patio sizes extra time will also be needed. With this type of slab plan the layout (dry) before actually getting to work - if you don't know where the last slab is going don't lay the first one.

Again, this is a very brief explanation and no substitute for one of our dedicated patio-laying courses. If you would like more information on this or any other of our range of construction courses, contact Access Training Wales on 0800 345 7492.

Best of luck and fingers crossed for a good summer this year!

- Richard James

With the weather liking to change for the better over the next few days many of you are probably starting to look forward to what hopefully will be a proper summer this year. If you are in need of patio for your barbeque/sun loungers etc, here is a quick insight from Access Training on how to do it;

Step 1: Decide where you are going to pu the patio. Mark out its postition using pegs and a string line. Be sure to clear the area of any vegetation.

Step 2: Dig out the soil to a depth of about 150mm (6") below your intended finished patio level.

Step 3: You will need to lay a layer of hard-core of at at least 100mm (4") thick. Compact this layer using a place compacter (also known as a wacker plate).

Step 4: Using the line you created earlier start laying your slabs on a mortar bed approximately 50mm (2") thick. Tap each slab down with a rubber mallet and keep checking for level. Make sure there are even gaps between each slab. You can make a wooden spacer of around 10mm (½") to do this.

Step 5: Continue until all your slabs are laid, making sure you follow the fall as you go. If you need to cut any slabs use an angle grinder, making sure that you wear the appropriate personal protective equipment.

Step 6: When the patio is finished wait a few days for the mortar to set and fill the joints with a semi dry sand/cement mix. Wait a few days and then get the barbeque going and sit back and relax.

Obviously this is a very brief explanation and involves a little more knowledge on setting falls and levels. If you would like to learn more, here at Access Training we run dedicated courses on laying patios, which will give you a more in-depth look as well as practical training. For more information, contact us on 0800 345 7492.

In the second part tomorrow we shall look at deciding the best patio slabs to use for the job.

- Richard James

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