This week saw another the arrival of another royal baby, with the Duchess of Cambridge giving birth to a boy, the fifth in line to the throne. While the as-yet-unnamed prince will be growing up in a palace, there are plenty of changes you can make to your own home that would impress any youngster, no matter how royal.

 

 

Create a stylish nursery

 

His Royal Highness may have an opulent nursery, but many new parents enjoy the thrill of being able to create an entire room designed for the little one, that can adapt and change with them as they grow. The most important thing is getting the basics right, which means getting it decorated to a high standard, a job that an experienced painter and decorator can help with.

 

Build a garden play area

 

The latest royal will have acres of land to romp in, but even a small garden can be the perfect playground with a little love and imagination. Clever design and the help of a talented landscape gardener or builder can create a garden that has tonnes of fun features for youngsters to enjoy, from raised beds for learning about plants, to sand boxes, covered seating areas and climbing frames.

 

 

Create bespoke furniture

 

Handmade furniture may sound like something reserved for royalty, but you don’t have to invest in ancient antiques to have something built specially for you and your needs. A carpenter or joiner could make a fitted bunk bed with a desk under it perfect for a child’s bedroom, that would make any youngster feel special.

 

Make sure your home is safe

 

While the royal palaces and castles look impressive, there are plenty of features beneath the surface that aren’t quite up to scratch – Buckingham Palace is undergoing extensive renovations to ensure its 100 miles of electrical cabling are safe, and its 30 miles of pipework are leak-free. Thankfully, your home should be easier to check out – an electrician can make sure your electrics are up to date, while a Gas Safe registered gas engineer can inspect your heating and boiler.

 

 

A house is a complicated thing. When something goes wrong, it can be hard to figure out what the problem is, and most importantly, how to fix it. That’s when an experienced tradesman can step in.

Here at MyBuilder, there are thousands of tradespeople who know their trades inside out, and are always willing to share some of their extensive knowledge. Ask A Tradesman is filled with burning questions people have had about their home improvements, from the big to the small. We’ve collected some of the most popular questions that have been asked on the site, and collated the best answers. If you need to know more, don’t hesitate to ask your own question.

 

 

Double-glazing drama

 

Question: I’ve just moved into a house which has a number of windows with condensation between the glass panels. Can they be cleaned or do they require replacing?

Answer: Unfortunately for anyone hoping for a quick and easy resolution to this fairly common problem, the best solution is to replace the windows – though just the glass, and not the frames. Though they can be removed and cleaned, replacement is often the simpler and cheaper option.

The condensation occurs when the seal at the edge of the glass breaks down, allowing air and moisture into the gap. If you purchased the double-glazing yourself, you should check with the manufacturer as they may still be under warranty. Otherwise, it is worth hiring a window fitter or glazer to come and measure for the replacements. As BJD Building / Roofing says: “If you have condensation between the glass, it means your units have broken down, best to get a window fitter out to measure up for new units, he will need to remove a couple of beads to also measure thickness of glass.”

 

 

Fusebox FAQ

 

Question: I’m buying a house which has an old fuse box. This was noted on the survey I had done and it was suggested I update it. Is this really necessary? There’s nothing actually wrong with the fuse box – it’s just old fashioned? Are there any safety concerns with these old ones or is this just something they tend to note on such surveys?

Answer: All of the electricians who responded to this query had a similar response – while there may not be anything wrong with the fuse box, any older fittings like this are worth checking out to catch problems before they occur. While the installations would most likely have been done in line with all the regulations that were current at the time, components do wear down over time, leading to issues, so it’s worth having an electrician give it a once over. If it’s found that it doesn’t meet current standards, it will need to be replaced.

N C Electrical said: “If you have an old fuse box you will also have old wiring. Essentially there is nothing ‘unsafe’ with old installations – they will comply to the regulations around at their time of installation. However, old wiring will have been used and will over time wear out just like anything else, the main problem being in the breakdown of insulation. New fuse boxes have switches that are extremely sensitive and if there is a breakdown these switches will not accept the wiring, meaning it cannot be done or causing nuisance tripping. Another problem with old wiring is that electrical screws can become loose, causing wires to become loose, causing unsafe situations.”

 

 

A Payment Poser

 

Question: What is a reasonable payment schedule? Should I give a deposit on confirmation of wanting a builder to do this work?

Answer: This is a complicated question with an answer that varies depending on lots of elements, particular the scale and length of the job, and of course, its cost. Many builders undertaking large projects that are expected to run for several weeks will ask for a deposit to reserve their time and show that the customer is committed to the work. Some will not ask for a deposit, but will lay out a list of staged payments to be made when various milestones are reached, such as when footings are completed, the superstructure finished etc, with the final payment to be paid upon completion. Most builders will have trade accounts so will not need payment for materials upfront. In any case, homeowners and tradesmen should be clear and happy with the schedule before any work is begun.

F Geo Robinson (Coventry) Ltd said: “A good well set up builder should have the resources to finance his own work. However in today’s troubled times getting paid is a worry and it’s all about risk reduction, for both parties. My advice is a small deposit, say £1,000 (on an £8,000) if it is asked for. Then a substantial interim payment if you are happy with progress after a couple of weeks, of say £4-5,000, leaving a reasonable sum to make sure the job is completed. (Finishing a job is always the hardest part for a builder, when most of the value is complete and just the snagging to do).”

 

 

Tiling Teaser

 

Question: Can you tile over old tiles?

The answer to this is simple: yes, but why would you? Tiling on top of old tiles means that any problems with the originals, such as becoming loose, will still be an issue with the new layer, while the extra thickness can also make it more difficult to accurately install fixtures and fittings. People worry about removing plaster from the wall when stripping old tiles, but re-skimming the plaster as a preparation for the new layer is part and parcel of achieving a good finish.

BJD Building & Roofing: “You can tile over tiles, with the right preparation, but I would never do this – the proper way is to strip right back to original wall finish. Don’t worry if you do pull a bit of plaster when stripping the tiles, as it’s easy enough to replace. Tiling over tiles can make it awkward, i.e. extra thickness when tiling around shower fittings. For the sake of a few hours work, I would take them off.”

 

 

Sometimes, the most important things go unappreciated. They’re always there, doing their job, working hard in the background, but until there’s a problem, we never pay them any attention.

That’s how it is with things like our boilers and cookers. Throughout the winter, or whenever we need a blast of comforting warmth, we switch on the heating, and there it is, our radiators quietly getting the job done. When we want a relaxing bath or reinvigorating shower, we turn the taps and enjoy the hot water the boiler happily provides without even thinking about it. When we want a nice meal, we turn to the stove and flick the hobs into life. But when something goes wrong, that’s when we notice it, and realise how crucial they are to our homes.

 

 

What to look out for

 

There are a number of issues that can occur as a result of problems with your gas appliances. When it comes to the boiler, you may notice unusual noises such as bangs or gurgles, or spot leaks and drips. It may lose pressure, keep switching off, or the pilot light may go out. With gas hobs, you may spot that the flames are uneven, smaller than usual, or yellow in colour, or smell more gas than usual. In any instance, if you’re concerned that something isn’t working as it should, it’s always worth checking it out, especially when it comes to gas, as leaks can be dangerous. The smart choice is hiring a qualified gas engineer.

 

 

All about the Gas Safe Register

 

When it comes to gas, only engineers who are on the Gas Safe Register are legally allowed to work on gas in the home. Unlike many other trades where experience may be the only qualification needed, it is essential that you only hire a Gas Safe registered tradesman. The Gas Safe Register replaced the CORGI gas register in 2009. Tradesmen who are on the register are allowed to carry out works such as installing or servicing gas boilers, fitting or repairing gas hobs, and any other work on a heat producing appliance connected to a natural gas or liquid petroleum gas (LPG) supply. Tradesmen on MyBuilder who are Gas Safe registered will mention it on their profile – however, you should always check their registration yourself when you meet them.

 

Check the Card

 

When you meet the tradesmen, always ask to see their Gas Safe Register card, if they do not offer to show it to you. On the front of the card, you can check their picture and unique number, which you can check on the Gas Safe Register site. There is also an expiration date which will show you if their registration is current. On the back of the card, it details which particular work they are able to carry out, from pipework (the minimum requirement) to boilers, cookers and water heaters.

 

 

Gas safety is all year round

 

While you must use a registered gas engineer to work on the gas in your home, you can keep gas safety in mind all year round. You should have your boiler serviced once a year to make sure it’s in full working order, and catch any problems before they strike at the worst time. You should also have a carbon monoxide alarm, that can alert you to high levels of the dangerous gas. If you have any questions about gas in your home, you can ask a MyBuilder tradesmen. Or, find out more about hiring a great gas fitter in our hiring advice pages.

 

 

Damp is one of the most common issues people find in their homes, and it can often cause people to panic. However, a little education can go a long way, so we spoke to Kevin Campbell of Anke Ltd in Welwyn Garden City, to find out more about how you can deal with the issue.

Kevin is a former military man who spent six years in the Army before becoming a tradesman. Even though he’s left his uniform behind, he’s still a man on a mission, aiming to improve the damp proofing industry and help people deal with the issue in their homes. Over his years on MyBuilder he’s built up dozens of pieces of feedback, all positive, while building a crack team.

We asked him for some tips on dealing with damp when it appears.

 

 

Buy a hygrometer

 

One of the best ways for understanding damp in the home is to discover what the moisture level, or humidity, in your home is. To find out, the easiest way is to buy a digital thermal hygrometer, a device that will tell you the temperature and the humidity level in your property. Kevin said: “The most common cause of damp is simply to do with ventilation – a build up of moisture in the home which isn’t getting out properly. With a hygrometer you can keep an eye on it easily.” Humidity can build up from a number of sources – condensation from baths and showers, cooking, or drying damp clothes on radiators. The answer is often as simple as keeping the place warm, being attentive to keep windows open where possible and ensuring vents and extractor fans are all in working order.

 

Kevin is expert when it comes to fixing damp issues

 

Don’t panic if you spot mould

 

Black spot mould is a relatively common occurrence in many homes, and can often be spotted in bathrooms and around doors and windows. It can be persistent unless the underlying cause, excess moisture, is dealt with, but importantly, it is not a warning of the much more problematic rising damp. Kevin said: “Only 20% or so of damp at low level is rising damp, but people focus on it because they hear horror stories. There’s only a couple of ways to show it is rising damp – things like peeling paint, a salt band on the wall and a damp skirting board. There won’t be black spot mould where there’s rising damp, because the salts in the rising damp would kill it off.”

 

Is there a simple solution?

 

“I love solving problems,” Kevin told us. “Sometimes you find what it is and just fix it, it’s a really good feeling.” Often, damp can take the form of penetrating damp, where water is coming through the walls thanks to an issue like a broken pipe, leaking gutter, or faulty window. These problems may take an experienced tradesman to identify, but once they’ve been discovered, they can be fixed for good.

 

 

Dealing with rising damp can be a big job, so be prepared

 

Rising damp occurs when moisture from the ground soaks up through the lower parts of the home. Modern homes are built with damp proof courses of slate or plastic to stop moisture rising, however, these can fail, while older houses may not have this protection. Repairing a damp proof course can be a large project, involving stripping back walls, but it is necessary to protect the home long term. Kevin said: “The hardest thing is managing people’s expectations when it comes to the job – they don’t realise how intense it can be. But I think we’re good at explaining to people and helping them through it. It’s hard work, very dusty and messy, but I enjoy it.”

If you have more questions about damp and damp proofing, you ask a tradesman for more specific advice. If you need to find a damp proofer, then you can get started straight away.

 

 

Here at MyBuilder, we like to think all of the great tradesman on the site are heroes – taking on jobs big and small, fixing leaks and building extensions, and helping homeowners to feel happy in where they live.

But last week, one London builder took that heroism to the next level, after he risked his life to foil a diamond heist.

The Evening Standard reported how the unnamed building site manager, originally from eastern Europe, suffered a punctured lung and cuts all over his body when a gang of would-be thieves attacked him with an axe and an iron bar.

The builder stepped in when he saw a group of men preparing to launch a smash-and-grab raid on Boodles, a high-end Knightsbridge jewellers which stocks luxury gems and watches. The heroic tradesman was watching men on scooters taping up the licence plate on a Land Rover, and believed they were trying to steal it, unaware it was being used in a robbery. When he intervened, he was hit with a metal bar and stabbed with what he believes was a screwdriver, before another man attacked him with an axe. He was protected by his two thick jackets, but still suffered serious injuries. However, he doesn’t regret his actions, telling the newspaper: “We have to stand up to these people, I wanted to join the police. I think it’s important to step in and make society better.”

The police are investigating the attempted raid, which took place at 11am on Friday 30th March, and say nothing was stolen. The builder’s colleagues all branded him a hero, and we think so too!

If you know a hero tradesman – whether they’ve foiled a crime, raised money for charity, or just gone above and beyond in getting the job done for you – we’re always happy to hear about them. And if you need to find your own hero tradesman, you can get started right here.

 

If you see Kevin Campbell working with military precision, that’s because he is.

Kevin, the damp proofer and plasterer behind Welwyn Garden City’s Anke Ltd, didn’t begin his career working as a tradesman – instead, at 16, Kevin joined the Army and spent six years being sent around the world, as he told us: “I was in the cadets as a kid so it just made sense to me to join up when I left school. I did three operational tours of Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Jordan, Cyprus. I loved it – I was the second youngest Lance Corporal in the Army. Looking back I think I probably joined when I was a bit too young though. You have to grow up very quickly. It’s easy to feel you’re missing out on other things, when your friends are all going off on lad’s holidays and stuff – but it gives you a good work ethic.”

It’s an ethic that Kevin still carries with him, even now. “I still get up at 5am – even on weekends!” Arriving on Civvy Street was a culture shock to begin with. “I spent six months wondering what to do, doing a bit of bar work, but I knew the owner of a groundworking company and that got my foot in the door.” There was just one issue: “I realised I didn’t want to be outside any more.”

 

 

That was Kevin’s inspiration to find an indoor trade that would allow him to stay out of the rain, and appeal to his problem-solving nature. At first, it was plastering that caught his eye, but after a while he realised that specialising in damp proofing, with its technical nature, would be the career for him. “It’s hard work,” he told us, “it’s very hard – always dusty and messy. But I enjoy it. I’m always working.”

Kevin did a variety of technician’s courses to expand his knowledge of the trade, but there’s no substitute for experience. “No matter what you learn on a course, you really learn on the job, seeing different situations. I’m always willing to ask questions and get second opinions from other people. I’d rather get it right than guess.”

As he points out, damp proofing is an industry that can have a bad reputation for unscrupulous tradesmen, misdiagnosing issues and overcharging customers. “I really want to improve the reputation of the industry,” he said, “and a lot of it is about education. A large percentage of damp problems are simply caused by poor ventilation and can be easily fixed. Only 20% or so of damp at low level is rising damp, but people focus on it because they hear horror stories. I’ve been to see homeowners who’ve been told they have rising damp and will need to pay thousands of pounds for treatment, when it’s actually a small issue.”

 

 

Anke Ltd (the name comes from combining letters in Kevin’s name with his son, Austin’s – as Kevin said, “you have to think outside the box!”) was set up three years ago and has already built up 87 pieces of feedback on MyBuilder, all of it positive. “I stumbled across it one day and went from there – it’s been great for us, and I’ve recommended a few more people to join it.” The company has grown to have five full-time employees, and Kevin is considering growing the team. “They guys I’ve got are all great – I’ve kissed a lot of frogs to find my princes. I could probably take on a few more guys, but it’s all about finding the right people – training them to think the way you do. It’s very hard. Everyone tradesman can snag another tradesman’s work, but you’ve got to have a line where what gets done is acceptable. We’re all human and all make mistakes, and people can get told the wrong thing by the wrong people. Ultimately, experience is what counts.”

As the business continues to grow, Kevin will carry on getting up at dawn, doing great work, and trying to improve the reputation of the industry. He may not wear a uniform anymore, but he’s still a man on a mission.

 


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