The question most electricians are asking in this day and age is which CPS (Competent Person Scheme) to join - there seems to be quite a choice out there. Does it matter which one we choose? We could go with the well known few or alternatively try one of the other scheme operators. What are we getting for our money?

Well let's be clear about one thing - they are all equal! Each scheme has to be approved by the Department for Communuties and Local Government (DCLG) and all have to meet the same criteria. No scheme can therefore be discriminated against and one scheme should not be a preference over another in any contractual specification. To do so would be against the law.

So in reality it doesn't matter which scheme you choose, it's down to personal choice. Some are better than others if you want to move into the renewables sector. Most are upfront and explain their charges clearly. Some will even give you stickers for your vehicle; others don't - you have to pay for them! Some offer a workmanship guarantee as part of your membership, with others you have to purchase this separately.

So in my humble opinion, shop around and go for the scheme that offers your company the best service for you. Every scheme has to assess you to ensure you are working to a competent level; that is the important factor in all this, not which sticker you put on your van.

- Mark Jenkins & Neil Thomas

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

There are a few options open to you if you want a change of career, the good news being it's not as difficult as some people think. If you're looking for a more active job which involves a level of craftsmanship, have you considered one of our intensive carpentry courses? Of course, the first thing you need to decide though is which you would prefer to be - a carpenter or a joiner?

A joiner is the one that makes the time products that a carpenter then fixes on-site. For example, a joiner may be employed to make the doors, windows, stairs etc., "joining" the wood in a workshop. Meanwhile carpenters normally install these products made by the joiner. On-site carpenters will fit door frames, joists, roof trusses and more. Therefore as you can see carpentry and joinery are quite different trades. A joiner might make a beautiful circular window, but the carpenter may do a better job installing it. Similarly, a carpenter may hang a door to a high standard - something a joiner might not be able to do.

Once you've decided which trade you wish to pursue, there are a few options open. The college route will take the longest, possibly up to two years to achieve a CAA Level 2! Being an ex-college lecturer, I've also found that "mature" students mixed in with a class of 16-17 year olds can be a little challenging for an older person. The other route available is an intensive eight week course, which we run here at Access Training. This will give you the same qualification (CAA Level 2) but in an adult environment. It has the added advantage of changing your career in a very short time span and can then be further developed to obtain your NVQ Level 2, which requires some addition evidence being demonstrated at your workplace. Once you have your CAA if you only wish to work for yourself this will be an adequate qualification, however if you wish to go and work "on-site" or in a joiner's workshop then you would need to achieve the NVQ as well. This will give you the full CSCS card required to work in these places.

Once you have your qualification a good place to start (and build your confidence) is by doing jobs for friends, family or neighbours. One of the biggest factors in making a career change is having the confidence to go and try it - the help, training and expertise is out there. Having been training with people for over 16 years I can assure you that it is possible and achievable with some effort on your part

If you would like more information on Access Training's range of carpentry and joinery courses, including the professional qualifications you can achieve from them, give us a call on 0800 345 7492.

- Richard James

This is a question posed by many a householder, however of the reality is that it might not need to be changed. If the fuse board is damaged and there's a chance that people could touch "live" parts (risking an electric shock), then it does need to be changed.

The old fuse board will not meet the requirements of the BS7671 Wiring Regulations 17th Edition Ammendment 1 (2011). The fact that the installation does not meet the requirements doesn't mean it is illegal or indeed unsafe, however the new requirements are intended to make the installation "more" safe by reducing the chances of getting an electric shock.

In order for your domestic installation to meet the requirements of the "Regs" it must also meet the new RCD (Residual Current Device) requirements. RCDs cannot be fitted in older style fuse boards so if your installation needs to be brought up to date and made safer a new consumer unit will be needed.

There are numerous areas where RCDs are required, which should be rated at 30mA. These include;

  • Any cable buried in a wall or partition at a depth of less than 50mm from the surface requires protecting by an RCD unless it is protected by earthed metalwork such as conduit or trunking.
  • Any cable passing through a wall or partition that contains metal parts other than screws or nails.
  • Any cable that is installed outside the 'cable safe zones' needs protecting with both earthed metalwork and an RCD.
  • Every socket outlet rated 20A or less that is used by "ordinary persons" (i.e. home owners) intended for general use, require RCD protection.
  • Mobile equipment used outdoors rated up to 32A.
  • All circuits supplying power to a room that contains a bath or shower are required to be RCD protected.
If you ask an electrician to install a new socket and you do not have RCD protection, then this new work will need to meet the requirements. This could mean that your fuse board will need to be replaced so that the RCDs can be installed! This simple and relatively cheap job has now become much more expensive, but the end result is that your electrical installation is much safer.

Should you be planning to do this (or any other electrical task) yourself, have you considered taking one of Access Training's bespoke electrician courses? Whether you're looking to gain new DIY skills to help you around the home or professional qualifications in order to become an electrician, we can help you.

For more information contact us at 0800 345 7492.

- Mark Jenkins

Combining trades, such as taking both a plumbing and gas engineering course, has always been an ideal way of making sure you are never short work as a qualified professional. It's something we've always encouraged at Access Training, but it's also something that seems to be becoming more and more essential in today's working environment.

The AA training their patrol officers in plumbing emergencies, for example, is a sign of the recession and the need for employers to diversify their workers. With British Gas also now venturing into other areas such as blocked drains, electrics and white goods repairs, it is obvious that in today's climate you cannot rely on a single trade only for a living. I feel grateful that the time I had spent on the tools, only doing plumbing and heating installations for 25 years (single trade only) is now a thing of the past.

It is said there is a major shortage of qualified tradespeople to cover the demand of work that is out there. I suppose I was one of the few tradesman that was never out of work, mainly doing new build but also refurbishments, commercial and industrial installations. I thought I was diversifying at the time, but it would seem even that wouldn't be enough these days. In doing these lines of work I had gained the required qualifications and felt I had gained a vast knowledge of these areas. But I admit that I feel I could not know all there is to known in these fields, with products and techniques regularly changing along with different regulations you need to comply with.

So to think of these mechanics who have to do plumbing course, I don't think it's detrimental to those qualified tradespersons who are of high quality, conscientious and only charge a fair fee for their work. They should not be worried about losing work to companies like British Gas and the AA, but what would be a point of concern is to what level they will be taught to.

Are you a plumber or gas engineer looking to expand your resume in order to take on more work? At Access Training we train both people with no prior experience to become fully qualified in their chosen field and experienced tradesmen looking to train in a new area of work. Each course will give you a professionally recognised qualification, providing you with the skills and knowledge you'll need for any task. For more information, contact us at 0800 345 7492.

- Mark Lewis

At Access Training our bricklayer courses will train you up to the highest possible standard. However there have probably been instances where you've seen newly built houses or walls with high quality brickwork, only to see white patches unevenly spread over the structure. This is most probably "efflorescence" and this post aims to teach how you can help prevent it in your future work.

So what is efflorescence? It is the formation of (usually white) salt deposits on the surface of brickwork, which causes a change in appearance. Apart from the unsightly appearance and discolouration, efflorescence can sometimes indicate serious structural weakness.

While there is an agreement that it is caused by a multiple of factors being combined with materials, views differ as to which factor is the main cause of efflorescence. It is usually impossible to deduce the exact causes with absolute certainty.

To help prevent efflorescence, some factors to consider are;

Cement: The type/make of cement chosen can influence efflorescence in exceptional cases. Pigments in coloured cement and other admixtures added to the mortar may contribute to efflorescence through their salt content.

Aggregates: These can contribute to efflorescence if they contain soluble salts. Sand contaminated with salt is a major factor, therefore sands in close proximity to the sea are an obvious risk.

Salts: Soluble salt is present in the materials used to make bricks, therefore it is capable of being transported and deposited on the surface as efflorescence.

Water/Cement ratio: Generally a high water-cement ratio encourages the movement of water and salt through the brick, giving rise to efflorescence.

Mortar Constituents: The composition of mortar is of significance. Lime used should be hydrated and free from calcium sulphate. The use of unwashed sand or sand contaminated with salt, or pigments containing soluble salts can also contribute to efflorescence in brickwork.

The following practices may also cause efflorescence;

  • No protection from the rain, especially during construction.
  • Materials left uncovered on site.
  • Lack of drips on cills.
  • Poorly filled joints/bad workmanship.
Look forward to future articles which will cover other types of staining to brickwork - including lime staining, vanadium and peacocking.

If you are interested in learning more about bricklaying and would like to train professionally, Access Training have a variety of professional bricklaying courses available. Learn more by calling 0800 345 7492.

- Richard James

TrustMark, the government endorsed quality mark for tradesmen, is looking to continue the progress it made in 2012, when its website racked up 3.9 million searches from homeowners looking for trustworthy local tradesmen.

Electricians experienced the largest rise in searches, benefitting from a 28 per cent rise in October compared with the same month last year. Following closely behind were searches for heating engineers, plumbers and glaziers, with many homeowners searching for tradesmen who could carry out urgent work on their properties given the poor weather conditions experienced across the UK.

All of the firms featured on the TrustMark site have had their technical skills independently checked during thorough onsite inspections, ensuring the high quality of the work on offer and the adherence to particular trading practices.

Stuart Carter, head of PR and marketing at TrustMark, said: “With the economy in its current state we are delighted to see such high numbers of viewings from homeowners searching for TrustMark tradesmen, particularly as it shows many still require a professional tradesman to do their work.

“TrustMark tradesmen’s searches have been increasing year on year and this considerable success has been a result of a number of marketing initiatives carried out during 2012 and working in partnership with key consumer organisations such as Citizens Advice, the Trading Standards Institute and National Home Improvement Council who are all signposting people to TrustMark.”          

The service, which has more than 23,000 licensed tradesmen on its database, is proving to be a big help to people looking for a good local firm who can do a great job at a reasonable price. TrustMark also has a simple complaints procedure which makes it easier to resolve any problems.

Did you know that this week is national back week? From today until the 12th of October, National Back Week aims to highlight how important it is for trade professionals, electricians and plumbers to really look after their back and ensure they’re fighting fit and ready to give their all to their job.

Back pain is the second most common cause of long-term illness in the UK and without a healthy back it’s very hard to do anything – and even more so if you’re constantly on the move and performing highly practical tasks for your job. Whether you’re lifting, driving, stretching, climbing or painting, without a healthy back it is much harder to do your job properly.

That’s why National Back Week was launched by BackCare, the charity for healthier backs, to raise awareness of keeping your back in tip-top shape. But what steps can trades people take to ensure a healthy back?

Keep moving

Like all muscles, the tendons and sinews that make up your back get stronger the more often they’re used. So, a great way of keeping back pain at bay is by staying active. Luckily, as a tradesperson, you’re likely to be frequently on your feet, bending, lifting and using your back muscles, so they are likely to be pretty strong. If you have injured your back, remember that strengthening those muscles is the key to regaining your health, so try low-impact exercise like swimming.

Sit well

Although you’re likely to be frequently off your feet, many back problems arise as a result of poor posture while seated. So when you’re doing paperwork or relaxing at home, ensure that your back is straight and well-supported. Plus, be sure to frequently adjust your sitting position, as sticking to the same posture for a long period of time could lead to a repetitive strain injury.

Lift safely

Many back injuries occur as a result of lifting something that’s too heavy for you to cope, and it’s important to remember that no bravado and man-points can mask the agony of a bad back. So, when you’re next confronted by a package that’s too heavy to lift, ask a friend to help you with it, or transport it in pieces. By recognising your limits, your back will stay safe.

Here at Access, we provide a wide variety of plumbing, decorating and electrician courses that can suit your specific background, age and career needs. To learn more about our fun, flexible courses, explore the rest of the site or speak to one of our team on 0800 3457492. 

Good news for builders, electricians and those who have studied on carpentry courses: the Government have announced a conservatory building initiative that could provide a huge boost to skilled, trained workers. 

The plans, which are hoped to kick-start the stalling British economy, will see homeowners given new opportunities to build large conservatories, extensions and other household constructions without worrying about expensive, problematic planning permission. People will be permitted to extend their homes by up to eight metres with no opposition thanks to the new relaxed regulations, while demand for quality builders, plumbers and carpenters is also expected to grow as more people choose to extend their properties. 

The rules are a temporary solution and will be applicable in the UK until 2015, and do not apply to loft extensions or multi-storey builds. Currently, domestic planning application fees are around £150, and paying professional advisors can cost thousands more. Planning permission is a barrier to many homeowners building extensions. And although around 90% of applications are eventually approved, they can drag on for months.

Skilled workers are also sure to benefit from other commercial aspects of the initiative, in which businesses will be able to expand shops by 100 square metres and industrial units by 200 sq. m without worrying about planning permission, so long as they own the premises. 

Alongside the removal of planning laws, the Government have also tried to give a shot in the arm to the housing industry, by underwriting £10 billion of borrowing for property developers and housing associations to build on sites, and launching an extension of the FirstBuy scheme, which will help first-time buyers without a deposit get an equity loan to get a mortgage. The Prime Minister David Cameron estimated that the plans would see an extra 70,000 houses being built in the UK and 140,000 jobs being created.

Are you looking to learn a trade to make the most of the renewed interest in house extensions and conservatory building in the UK? From carpentry courses to plumbing courses, electrical courses and much more, at Access Training we have a variety of flexible courses for all abilities.

Thanks to the global recession and rising mortgage prices, the British housing market has well and truly undergone a bit of a slump in the past few years. However, because of these limp house prices, homeowners are choosing instead to register on a decorating course, pick up the paintbrush and improve on what they’ve got at home.

Instead of ploughing thousands of pounds into a new mortgage, investors are finding that it’s actually wiser to invest in their own skills by enrolling on a decorating course, and making the most of the home that they’re currently in.

Whether homeowners already are a dab hand with paint rollers and wallpaper paste, or have always shied away from DIY decorating, a new wave of proprietors are discovering that re-invigorating a home with desirable décor can give a living space a real fresh perspective – and what’s more, they’re enjoying it!

By learning about the latest decorating tips, trends, fads and fashions on decorating courses, homeowners and hobbyists alike are finding how to improve on what you’ve got is a prudent and effective practice.

For many, enrolling on a decorating course near them can also be the difference between doing it yourself for pennies and employing a decorating or home improvement contractor for a greatly inflated fee. Those without the confidence and the wherewithal to undertake even the simplest household improvement tasks will either live in a tawdry, downbeat home or face paying decorators a hefty fee. With a decorating course, you could save thousands by Doing It Yourself.

Re-invigorate your home today and learn various fashionable decorating techniques with a decorating course at Access. From informative home improvement, wallpapering and decorating courses to more professional qualifications and NVQs in painting and decorating, Access have a range of decorating courses to suit you.

Whether you’re looking to improve your home’s décor or start up a professional decorating service, talk to Access about enrolling on a decorating course today on 0800 345 7492.

Star of property program Relocation, Relocation, Phil Spencer has advised property developers and those considering property development courses to think very carefully when considering how to invest in their projects. He stated in The Times that there are adaptations property developers can make which will add over 9% to the value of a property. If you are considering attending one of Access Training’s property development courses, then this should come as excellent news. Upon completion of our property development course, you will be in a position to reap the rewards of your hard labour when it comes to selling your home and moving on. 

Adding value to a project is the bottom line for all graduates of property development courses; Spencer explained the most effective way of achieving this was with a kitchen, bathroom or garden refurbishment. The tutors at Access Training’s property development courses whole heartedly agree with this point and teach their students how to carry out such refurbishments to the most exacting of standards.

Those of you considering undertaking property development courses should firstly note Phil’s comments:  “If you are only going to improve one room, make it the kitchen. This has now become the showpiece area of the home. We don’t just cook in it; we do homework, watch television and hold dinner parties in it too. The number one priority is creating a handsome and efficient work surface, ensuring easy access between the three points of the kitchen triangle, namely the sink, fridge and cooker.

“You should also ensure the equipment you install is as up to date as possible, so it won’t look outdated in 10 years. Property development courses teach individuals to ensure the price bracket of your kitchen matches the price bracket of your home. There is no point putting a £25,000 kitchen in a £250,000 house; you won’t see a return on investment. Equally a £10,000 kitchen in a £1 million house will only drag down the value. Typically, a new kitchen will add 4.6 per cent onto the value of your home.”

Phil also offered some valuable advice as to how best refurbish your bathroom: “The secret is to keep things simple. You don’t need to do a lot with the room; it’s all about the features you put in. You should think about a set of new taps (£20), a heated chrome towel rail (£50), a big shower head (£20), a power shower (£250-£750) and a glass screen (£100) or glass door (£125) instead of a shower curtain. A new bathroom puts 2.88 per cent onto the house value.”

The third area that Phil said that graduates of property development courses should concentrate on is the garden: “Make it accessible and enjoyable from the house; glass doors are a good idea, as is outdoor lighting. View the garden as another room; install decking (£250 up to £5,000) and you can add two per cent to the house value.”

If you are considering property development and are looking for all encompassing property development courses, Access Training can offer you property development courses which will teach you the trade skills needed to add real value to your property at a fraction of the cost. Take a look at our bathroom fitting courses, kitchen fitting courses for more details. Alternatively call us now and we’ll answer all you questions.

Undertaking a career change can be a daunting proposition for anyone thinking of becoming a professional tradesperson, especially if they are considering enrolling onto a training course such as one of the electrical courses with Access Training. Most people contacting the Course Advisors at Access Training explain their plans but also express their reservations about taking the leap into a subject such as electrics, where they have no previous experience at all. 

To help allay any fears or misconceptions people may have, the team at Access Training decided that some work experience could be arranged for people if they would like to gain a greater understanding prior to attending their training for example, before one of our electrical courses. We approached Steven Walker who immediately jumped at the chance of working with Access Training again, having been in the position himself of changing career and not knowing where it might lead.

Steven Walker had formed his own plumbing and electrical installation company, SK Solutions, last year after completing an electrical course with Access and his company continues to go from strength to strength. He was delighted to be able to show students the ropes and give them an insight into the trade and agreed to show the first two students the type of work he was undertaking. The result being that the student’s fears about their radical change in careers were soon put to one side as they began their work at SK Solutions Ltd.

Since completing his course, Steven has found that the amount of plumbing and electrical work was building up quickly and he was finding his services to be in much demand. He then decided the time was right to recruit a fellow student from the very same plumbing course he attended only a matter of months earlier. Such is the faith and high regard that Steven held for the quality of the student produced by Access Training, he has now gone one step further and decided to take on students before they have even begun their course.

This example shows just how highly the electrical courses offered by Access Training are regarded. We go the extra yard to make sure our students receive the service and training they deserve, every step of the way. If you are looking to start a new career and are considering enrolling on a course then contact Access Training today. Our electrical courses and plumbing courses really are the best around and we always take any extra steps we can to help our students enjoy a stress-free career change.