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.

It will come as news to some of you that there is such a thing as a Considerate Contractors Scheme (CCS) in existence, which is due to publish its new code of practice in the new year, with the aim of making considerate contractors of us all.

The new regulations, which have been in development for the past three years, take the form of a five-point code. All CCS-registered sites and companies will be assessed against this code by scheme monitors, who will be charged with checking all registered sites and companies, as well as reporting and scoring the visit.

The new code, due to be implemented as of 1 January 2013, will replace the eight-point code which has remained largely unchanged for the past 15 years. However, with the expected standards having changed over the years, it is time raise the bar, with so many sites easily meeting the requirements of the code.

So, as of the new year, the five sections of the code will include:

•    Enhancing the appearance
•    Respecting the community
•    Protecting the environment
•    Securing safety
•    Caring for the workforce

To give contractors a thorough understanding of the new code, each section will be accompanied by an aspirational statement, along with four bullet points which list the areas the scheme considers within that section.

The latest incarnation of the Considerate Contractors Scheme is to introduce a scoring system, which scores each section out of a maximum 10 points. 5 points for each section signifies compliance, whilst a score of 10 signifies that registered sites or companies have introduced innovative practices or thinking that goes far beyond the expectations of the scheme, working to advance the standards by which the industry is judged.

Scheme chief executive Edward Hardy said: “After three years in development, the scheme is pleased to publish the new code and supporting documents. Working with a number of contractors and clients throughout the review process, the scheme is confident that the new code remains in keeping with the industry’s values, presenting an exciting challenge for registered sites and companies in raising the benchmark of considerate construction.”

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.

Get in touch to learn more about our training courses!

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