Category: Homeowner and landlord advice

 

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.

 

 

The Easter weekend is one of the most popular times of the year for homeowners to tackle a DIY project, and while we all love the satisfaction that comes with taking on a job ourselves, if you’re in any doubt at all, you shouldn’t be afraid to leave it to the experts. Hiring a great quality tradesman can help ensure a job is done to a true professional standard – and leave you free to enjoy your long weekend in plenty of other ways.

Hiring a tradesman can also help keep you safe – every year, thousands of well-meaning home improvement enthusiasts become part of a terrifying statistic – one of the 220,000 people who wind up in hospital after their DIY goes wrong, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA). We’ve looked at some of the most common sources of accidents, and suggested the best people to hire if you’re in any doubt.

 

 

Knives and scalpels

 

Care has to be taken with anything sharp, especially if you’re cutting something tough like a carpet. Many people try and fit their own carpet or lino, but an experienced carpet fitter can ensure it’s all properly measured, fitted, and done without getting any blood on the pile.

 

Saws

 

With saws, it’s not just the sharp blades that are the issues, it’s people cutting on unsuitable surfaces, where the material being cut isn’t properly secured. If you haven’t invested in a work bench or other solution when you’re trying to prepare your shelves or skirting board, find a carpenter or joiner who will be well-equipped to tackle any job.

 

 

 

 

Screwdrivers

 

The humble screwdriver may not seem like the most threatening item in the toolbox, but a quick slip is all it takes for someone to wind up spending their bank holiday in A&E. Whatever you’re trying to get done with the humble flathead, consider using a handyman who will be well versed in all sorts of quick fixes around the home.

 

As well as tools, materials are the source of thousands of accidents as well.

 

Paving / Concrete blocks

 

Any heavy items can cause problems if not handled properly – either slipping onto toes and fingers, or causing back and other injuries from being carried without proper technique. Driveway pavers and landscaping specialists are used to dealing with all sorts of heavy items and installing them properly and safely.

 

Paint and paint pots

 

A tin of white emulsion isn’t the most foreboding object, but thousands still wind up hospitalised after misusing it. One of the most common issues is people painting ceilings and getting paint drips in their eyes. A painter and decorator who is familiar with their materials and techniques can get a perfect finish without any nasty accidents along the way.

 

 

The weather may be annoyingly changeable, but spring is still in the air. The daffodils are out, the clocks will soon be going forwards, and there’s no better time to think about doing some work on your home.

Spring is the most popular time for people to put their property up for sale, a process which often requires carrying out some work to show it off at its best. Even if you’re planning on staying put for the time being, a little work can go a long way in helping you fall back in love with your home, so here are some spring ideas for sprucing it up.

 

 

Get Rid of Your Rubbish

 

Sometimes it’s not what you add, it’s what you take away that counts. And while it may be painful to get rid of something that’s been there for a long time, if it’s only holding you back, now is the time to get rid. If you want to strip a living room or a bedroom back to a blank canvas so you can start again, or just get rid of something that’s been hanging around long past its sell-by date like an unsightly shed or outbuilding, a demolitions and clearance specialist can do the ultimate spring clean for you, and help you get back to a clean slate.

 

Revamp Your Rooms

 

Whether it’s a simple coat of paint or a total transformation, redecorating can make a room feel brand new. There are almost infinite options, style, trends and fashions you can take influence from, which you can adapt and recreate according to your own budget. Whether you need a painter or a plasterer, a carpet fitter or a tiler, experienced tradesmen can help overhaul a home.

 

 

Update Your Kitchen

 

They say the kitchen is the heart of the home, and like any heart, it needs to be kept in tip-top shape. While installing an entirely new kitchen can be a costly project to undertake, there are smaller ways to refresh the room, from changing the cupboard doors to adding a new coat of paint or tiling splashback. However, if you want to go the whole hog, a quality kitchen can be tailored for your family and last for years to come, making it a potentially valuable investment for the future.

 

Give Your Garden Some Attention

 

It’s not just the inside of your home that always needs attention – after months of bad weather, sometimes it’s our gardens that are crying out for some love. A new planting scheme can bring a garden to life, but landscaping can also help to create a new atmosphere and purpose. Dedicated seating areas, paths and terraces can all add interest and utility to a garden, and spring is the perfect time to tackle the project, so your outdoor space can be ready to enjoy in the summer.

 

 

Start Thinking Bigger

 

While it’s always satisfying to create a big impact with little effort, sometimes, a big effort is truly worthwhile. Adding an extension to your home, or converting your loft from underused attic space into fully usable living space, is a major project to undertake, but one that can completely change how you use and feel about your home. If you’re just thinking about how you could transform your home, an architectural designer could be a good place to start – they can look at your home and come up with plans, before a specialist building company can get to work.

 

Roofs take a battering in bad weather

 

“The Beast from the East”caused chaos across the country in recent weeks and homes around the UK took a battering. On MyBuilder there are thousands of expert tradesmen able to deal with the impact of stormy weather, so don’t delay if you have a problem that needs taken care of.

 

 

Roof Damage

The high winds and swirling snow put roofs to the test, and many won’t have passed with flying colours. If you discovered a leak or have any damaged tiles, now is the time to get them sorted by an experienced roofer, before getting to April and its showers.

Frozen Pipes

Households in some parts of the country lost their water supply after mains pipes struggled to cope with the freezing temperatures, and many homes will have seen their pipes suffer too. If you have any concerns, a good plumber will be able to address them.

 

Trees often need attention after storms

 

Boiler Check-up

When it’s cold outside, the last thing any home needs is to find its heating on the blink. A gas engineer can inspect your boiler and make sure it’s good to go for any more cold snaps.

Investigate Insulation

If you discovered that no amount of central heating and woolly jumpers were able to make your home feel warm and cosy throughout the wintry weather, it’s probably a good idea to consider improving its insulation. A specialist can help you decide what method will be most effective for your property.

Tree Time

The Beast from the East brought down trees around the nation, causing problems for traffic and putting property at risk. If you suffered any damage, or are concerned about any trees will cope with future storms, a tree surgeon can give you piece of mind.

 

 

Guttering Inspection

They may not be the most glamorous part of our homes, but guttering and drainpipes do sterling work in protecting our home from water damage. Bad weather can cause issues which will only get worse over time, so it’s vital to address any problems early with a specialist.

Fence Fixing

Wooden fences and gates are often major casualties of inclement weather, and can be an unsightly nuisance until they’re taken care of. A good fencer can help replace or repair damaged fences and gates quickly and efficiently.

 

 

 


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