Tag: chimneys

Lee Picknell - Fascias, Soffits and Guttering

Last month’s Storm Doris didn’t have the most dramatic name in the world, but when it was classed as a “weather bomb”, it felt a bit more serious. When it was disrupting travel and damaging property around the country, it definitely made its presence felt, and with April and it’s traditional showers on the way, there’s no better time to think about how your home will cope in a storm.

Fix your fencing

 

Fencing, especially when it’s old and neglected, is one of the most common casualties of bad weather and strong winds. You can prepare for the worst by checking for loose boards or panels, and making sure posts are still deeply rooted. If it does suffer damage, an experienced fencer can help repair or replace the affected areas.

 

Ready your roof

 

Another common victim of high winds and lashing rain, it only takes a small amount of damage to a roof to lead to big problems down the line. A few tiles out of place can lead to major leaks, which can mean significant redecoration. If you’re worried, consult a roofer. Danny Morgan of Morgan Roofing advises asking for pictures from tradesmen so you can see what they’re doing: “When it comes to roofing, a lot of the problems with bad tradesmen stem from the fact they can see things you can’t. I make sure I take pictures of everything, before and after, so I can show the homeowner what needs doing and how I’ll tackle it.”

 

Carl Lamon - Chimney & Fireplace Specialist

 

Gird your guttering

 

As with roof damage, a broken gutter can seem insignificant at first, but can lead to much bigger problems – if a leak is pouring water onto a particular spot on the wall, it can lead to internal damp and mould, and ruin external plaster work or painting. A specialist in fascias, soffits and guttering like Lee Picknell of LP Fascias (top picture) will be able to repair damage and replace any broken parts.

 

Check out your chimney

 

As with loose roof tiles, if chimney pots or bricks come off in a storm, they pose a threat not just to property but people too. If your chimney is old or hasn’t been inspected in a while, it can be worthwhile to have a chimney and fireplace specialist like Carl Lamon of Oxon Stoves (middle picture), or an experienced bricklayer, to assess it and deal with any issues before it becomes dangerous.

With the long-range weather forecast predicting a cold November and possible snow, we’ve come up with a checklist of DOs and DON’Ts in preparation for the winter weather, including tips from some of our expert tradesmen.

GAS

DO review your fuel options

MyBuilder tradesman Tom Paterson, of Paterson Heating and Plumbing Services in the West Midlands, has started to heat his house with solid fuel (wood) due to the escalating cost of natural gas, although he still uses gas for cooking and hot water. He’s not the only one switching over from gas either, with many of his customers turning to solid fuel to keep their homes warm and costs down. We’d be interested to hear from other people who have done the same.

DON’T keep turning on the heating

Turning off the heating during the day is a commonly used tactic to save on the gas bill. The suprising bit is that it doesn’t always work. When you let your home get cold during the day, your boiler has to work extremely hard to get it back up to a comfortable temperature, and may end up over compensating and using up the same amount of energy that you saved during the day. And don’t underestimate the tendency of family members to get frustrated with the cold house and crank up the heating when it suits them. You might be better off keeping the thermostat at 17-19 degrees and maintaining a warm house throughout the whole day. To find out whether this works best for your home, it’s easy to run a test and measure usage.


ROOFING

DO get your roof checked

To avoid winter leaks, get an expert to check for broken, missing or slipped tiles. According to Garry Connor, an experienced roofer based in Cheshire, one of the most common sources of winter leaks are ridge tiles that have come apart, allowing water to seep into the roof line. Another key place a specialist will look at is the flashing round the chimney stack, as it can lift up or tear and expose the joint to the elements.

DON’T go clambering on your roof

Roofers use specialist equipment including purpose-built ladders, scaffolding and cherry pickers. Given that you can’t do a proper roof inspection from the ground, it is more sensible and safer to let the experts (who are insured and trained) get up there and give you their informed opinion.

winterdosanddonts

CHIMNEYS AND FIREPLACES

DO buy wood from a reputable seller

With gas prices on the rise and woodburners making a big comeback, there’s plenty of opportunity for unscrupulous log sellers to try and offload poor quality fuel. Get a moisture meter (you should be able to pick one up for less than £20) and check the moisture content in your logs before you use them – if it’s over 20% you need to leave them to dry out. A bona fide log supplier will only sell properly seasoned wood.

DON’T burn unseasoned or damp wood

Chimney and fireplace specialist Courtney Gibbs warns that burning damp wood can create a tar that sticks to the flue, potentially causing a blockage and putting you at risk of a chimney fire. If the window on your wood burner turns black, the chances are that your wood is too wet or you have a problem with your flue.


DAMP PROOFING

DO clear your drains

Make sure there are no leaves or debris clogging up your drains, guttering and down-pipes advises Dean Webster of South East Timber and Damp. It’s important to get water away from your property because if it hangs around, you risk developing a problem with damp.

DON’T overlook your brickwork

Pointing should be checked for cracks where water could seep in. Keep an eye out for signs of spalling on your brickwork. Spalling occurs when moisture has got into the brick and the freezing and thawing process causes it to flake.


PLUMBING

DO insulate exposed pipework and tanks in lofts

Berkshire-based plumber Kevin Parsons was brought up in Edmonton, Canada where temperatures can fall as low as minus 25 degrees. He knows the importance of insulating all pipework; back home in Canada electrically charged lagging is used to counteract freezing temperatures. It is now available in the UK but foam insulation lagging wrap is more generally used, and is highly effective as long as joints and corners are well covered.

DON’T ignore that dripping tap

Changes in temperature cause pipes to expand and contract, and joints can become loose. However, leaky pipes may not be immediately visible or accessible so keep an eye out for evidence of watermarks on walls and ceilings and act quickly if you spot anything. Something as simple as a dripping tap could be the sign of something more severe!

At MyBuilder, even though we have approved hundreds of thousands of jobs over the years, we still come across jobs when it is not clear which type of tradesman should be working on the project. Sometimes the whole job could be done just as well by professionals across different trades; for other jobs, several individuals across different trades may be needed to complete the work.

See if you know which type of tradesman could do the following:

- Who fits a power shower – a bathroom fitter, electrician or plumber?

- You want some new garden decking to be built, who can build the decking for you?

- You see mould growing on the walls of your bedroom – who do you call?

You can find out the answers below; see how many you can get out of the 13 in total!

Fitting a power shower – Replacing an old or broken power shower is actually just a small plumbing job, since the electrics are already there. However, if there isn’t an existing power shower and one is being fitted for the first time, you do need an electrician or a plumber who is part P certified (to do the electrics).

Window sills – if you had to replace any windows, you would ask for a window fitter to do the job. But what about the window sills? Damage to window sills, especially for older properties is common and can easily ruin the appearance of a house. It does depend on the property, as if the window sills are made from brick, a bricklayer is probably the most skilled tradesman in this instance to undertake the work. If the window sill is made from wood, a joiner could be the better option as they can replace the old and potentially damaged wood; or it could be a stonemason if the window sills are made from stone. If the windows need to be replaced then it could be a job for a window fitter, who would look at replacing the whole area and can find the relevant tradesmen to work on the project as a whole.

Kitchen worktops – it might be too expensive to have a brand new kitchen fitted, so instead you just want to change the kitchen worktops, especially if they’ve been scratched and a bit worn after years of use. Although kitchen fitters can fit various types of kitchen worktops, carpenters are equally skilled and competent enough to do the installation – it is not uncommon for kitchen fitters to have experience as carpenters.

solid-wood-worktop-mjwoodgate

UPVC doors – if you want new UPVC windows fitted, you would call upon a window fitter. But what about UPVC doors? For normal internal doors, carpenters are skilled enough to be able to hang them at the right height so they do not scrape the floor or have a large gap between the door and the floor or ceiling. However, fitting UPVC doors can be quite different, and so we recommend using a window fitter, as there are similarities when fitting UPVC doors to fitting UPVC windows, but do check with them first.

Floor tiling – if you want tiles laid e.g. on your bathroom or kitchen floor, it can be tricky to decide between a flooring fitter or a tiler. Whilst flooring fitters may know how to lay tiles, it is more likely that a tiler will know how to tile a floor so that it looks immaculate!

porcelain-tiling-mtctiling

Flashing (weatherproofing) can be tricky as it could utilise the skills of a roofer or a chimney specialist, especially if the area to be worked on is in and around a chimney stack. The answer for which tradesman should be used is not straightforward, however roofers are likely to be a good first port of call, who may involve chimney specialists if needed.

Garden decking – often gardeners can work on most aspects of the garden, including fencing, but what about decking? Some landscape gardeners can build decking, but can often also be done by builders and carpenters. Our suggestion is to put garden decking jobs for landscape gardeners, as not only will they possibly be able to do it themselves (and if they can’t they will probably know someone who can), but they can help with the design and implementation in conjunction with the rest of the garden.

garden-decking-thegardensaint

Damp proofing – this may seem obvious, if the property is suffering from damp issues, then you should call a damp proofing specialist. But the question should be “Is it really an issue with damp?” It is common that condensation issues are easily confused with damp penetration, and so the easiest and cheapest solution is to try and address the cause. Some of these can be solved by relatively straightforward solutions such as allowing more ventilation into the property (e.g. opening windows), and hence don’t necessarily need the skills of a damp proofing specialist.

Laminate flooring – flooring such as laminate and vinyl come in various forms, so it’s not as straightforward as carpet fitting for example, which obviously would utilise the skills of a carpet fitter. Who lays laminate flooring depends on the type of laminate – if it is the type which is rolled out, then there are similarities to carpet fitting, and hence a carpet fitter is likely to be able to lay the laminate. If the laminate is more like pieces which are cut out and pieced together, then a flooring fitter is probably more suited for this job.

Gas boilers – we’ve had questions asked to MyBuilder, such as what should be done if the timer for a heating system (e.g. central heating, oil) no longer works correctly. The best bet is to call out a (central) heating engineer, who should have the relevant parts to work on the boiler if needed.

Handymen – handymen are all-rounders and due to this stereotype, sometimes the smaller jobs are assigned to handymen in the belief that “it’s only a little job”. Sometimes, this may be the case, but remember that even for smaller jobs, it may require a level of skill and expertise suited for someone who works in that specific trade day-in day-out. One example includes fitting a curtain rail – on the face of it, the job can look quite straightforward, but if it involves getting involved with the brickwork or plaster, then could involve the expertise of a carpenter and joiner.

Lastly, a few slightly less common ones we’ve seen at MyBuilder, but relevant nonetheless!

skylight-skywardservices

Install a skylight – although there elements of skylights that builders could do, this should really be a job for a qualified roofer. Not only can it have an impact for building control, but there are elements such as ventilation and insulation that need to be adequately addressed.

Taking out a jacuzzi bath – to remove a standard bathtub, a plumber would usually suffice; but for a jacuzzi, do you also need an electrician? It’s advisable to have both, or a plumber who is suitably qualified to work with electrics in the bathroom. If the plumber doesn’t have the skills themselves, they will often know someone who has!

Home improvements should generally add value to your property and make it more enjoyable to live in. Then there are projects that could ruin the look of your home and send buyers running for the door.

Here are but a few of the home improvement projects you should think twice about before taking the plunge.

Artex

This nasty, textured coating was daubed over many a ceiling and wall throughout the 70s and 80s. Modern artex doesn’t contain traces of asbestos like it did in the 70s but there are other good reasons why you should leave well alone. Artex is practically impossible to remove without tearing strips off your knuckles, or gouging holes in the ceiling. To get rid of it, you’ll need a plasterer to skim the room. You should also think twice about choosing artex if you want to sell your home – most people hate it which could impact the sale price.

Artificial grass

A worrying trend is developing up and down the country where people are turning their gardens into small 5-a-side football pitches in the name of low maintenance. We don’t care what people say in defence of artificial grass, it’s simply not acceptable in a British garden.

Changing the layout of your home

Aspirational home improvement shows have turned ordinary folk into visionary property developers. Knocking down walls and creating new rooms can be a smart way of adding value to your home. Get too carried away with the sledgehammer however and you could see the asking price tumble.

An ensuite bathroom is often given the thumbs up by estate agents and potential buyers. Creating a well proportioned en-suite in a sizeable master bedroom would probably add value. Shove a pokey shower room into the corner of a small bedroom though and you’re likely to scare buyers away.

Open plan layouts are fashionable these days, particularly in period properties. Go easy with the loft look though. Removing a hallway so that the entrance opens into the living room can be off-putting, as can building a staircase in the middle of a reception room.

Above all, no matter how tempted you are to turn ‘that box bedroom’ into a walk-in wardrobe or mammoth shoe cupboard, don’t. Removing a bedroom, no matter how small, is likely to knock £££ off the value of your home.

Painting brickwork or stone

Applying masonry paint to brick or stone is possibly the most fun you could have with a paintbrush. Pause for a minute though before you commit to livening up that tired old brickwork with a lick of paint. You may be glossing over underlying brick problems that could cause freshly applied paint to flake off. You can also expect to repaint it every three to five years. Finally, it’s worth noting that removing paint from brick or stone is extremely difficult, if possible at all.

Pebbledash

This spiky exterior finish has been used to to cover walls in England and Wales since the the turn of the 20th Century. Fashionable for a time, it was commonly used by builders to cut costs and cover up poor quality brickwork. Use has declined since then, but it’s indelible mark has been left on millions of semi-detached suburban homes.

So why should pebbledash be consigned to the history books? Supporters might speak highly of it’s hard-wearing characteristics and low maintenance. It’s near indestructible qualities, however, make it nearly impossible to remove without destroying the brickwork – meaning that you may live to regret peppering your walls with the stuff. Or maybe you won’t – it’s not unusual for pebbledash to last 70 years or more without maintenance. It’s also a nightmare to paint and likely to lower the value of a modern home.

PVCu windows and doors

Even the best maintained windows and doors will need to be replaced at some point. When this financial bombshell eventually lands, the choice of materials available to most of us will be either PVCu or timber. All replacement windows must comply with building regulations, so a timber framed window should be as safe and energy efficient as it’s PVCu cousin. The deciding factor for many people is cost. Timber framed windows are often significantly more expensive than PVCu. So why should you think twice about choosing PVCu?

Supporters (salesmen) will claim that PVCu is hardwearing, long-lasting and easy to maintain. What the brochures won’t tell you is that PVCu degrades in the sun, becomes permanently discoloured if not cleaned regularly and that window mechanisms require annual lubrication and adjustment if they are to last for the advertised lifespan (typically 20-25 years). Damaged windows can be extremely difficult to repair and units that mist or fog will usually need to be replaced. PVCu is also environmentally hazardous. It contains the chemicals chlorine and dioxin, making it a material that is both expensive and dangerous to recycle. Last but not least, many people dislike PVCu windows which might well make your house less saleable.

Removing chimney breasts

Before central heating was introduced in the 1970s, fireplaces served a very practical purpose, heating British homes throughout the cold winters. Over the decades that followed, period fireplaces were gradually discarded and hearths were either filled with decorative paraphernalia, or simply covered up. For many, chimney breasts were something that, if removed, would make the room bigger. What could make more sense?

For a start, the chimney forms an integral part of the house structure so you will need to get a structural engineer involved. Removing a chimney breast from any part of the house without suitable support may cause serious structural damage or worse. Without building regulations approval you could also face prosecution which in turn will cause problems when it comes to selling your home. Don’t forget the neighbours either. There’s a good chance that works may be governed by the Party Wall Act.

Chimney breasts are built using bricks. Lots of them. As you might expect, they also contain lots of soot. Plan on filling several skips and living with dust for weeks or months afterwards. You will also need to make good each room afterwards which might include fixing joists, plastering walls and decorating.

One final point to consider: it’s highly unlikely that you’ll ever have an open fire again. That may suit you down to the ground but prospective buyers may not share your point of view – especially if you live in an otherwise well maintained Victorian town-house.

If you’re seriously thinking about carrying out any of the above home ‘improvement’ projects, do yourself a favour and call the experts in first.


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