Tag: plumbing

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!


At MyBuilder, we see jobs posted from massive home renovation projects to small odd jobs around the house. A few decades ago, some of these smaller jobs were done by members of the household, and much like hemming a pair of trousers or sewing up a loose button, it wouldn’t have even been considered to hire someone else to do these jobs. Below we review some of the household tricks your parents should have taught you…

Fix a leaky tap

Mending a dripping tap is something that can take less than five minutes if you have the right tools and some replacement valves or washers. It’s not that hard at all – just remember to cut off the water supply before beginning. One of the hesitancies in tackling taps is the fear of not having running water at all or creating a flood, but the only thing to fear is fear itself. The ‘how to’ can depend on the type of tap, but in general should not be a serious job.

Bleed a radiator

If the heat is not the same at the top and the bottom of your radiator(s), then you probably have air collecting at the top and they need bleeding. It’s a routine and minor maintenance issue that every man, woman and pet should know how to do. All you need is the radiator key and a cloth to catch any drips. Why call in a specialist to do the plumbing equivalent of tying your shoes? Loosen the screw until water comes out, then tighten. Just be careful not to burn yourself!

Change a plug

“Red is hot, blue is not, green and yellow earth the lot.” In the good old days, you had to know which were the earth, live and neutral wires in a plug, and there were lots of different ways to remember which was which.

No one wants to advocate playing around with electrics these days. While sensible from a safety point of view, the great British tinkering culture has taken a real knock. We’re all worse off for it, too!

Put up a bookshelf

Have you ever screwed something into the wall, only to have it slowly and annoyingly sag and then eventually fall right off the wall? Bookshelves are the typical example of this, partly because they end up carrying so much weight. It’s easy enough to place your bookshelf on the wall, get it level and draw circles where the screws go.

The real trick is getting the fixings right, based on the type of wall you have. With a brick wall, you need wall plugs – and good ones. You need to drill deep with a hammer drill and make sure the hole is the right size. Tape an envelope to the wall just underneath the hole to catch all the dust. If you’ve hit loose mortar or plaster, fill the hole and move the shelf somewhere else; if the wall isn’t solid, the bookshelf won’t be either. The plug should be snug and tapped in lightly with a hammer, and make sure the screws are long enough to go all the way into the plugs. There are a few steps so plan on taking up to 30 minutes to do the job, but overall, putting up a bookshelf is a straightforward DIY job that you can teach to your children.

Change fuse in a fusebox

Another activity that’s changed over time is replacing fuse wires in the fuse box of a property. This could be a tricky process that involved inserting fuse wire through a small cylinder, and tying up the ends around tiny screws. Nowadays, modern consumer units remove the need for this, and if simply tripped means the homeowner can turn the relevant switch from off to on. It’s another item in the house that is neatly boxed up and is not exposed (not literally) to the homeowner, meaning less is understood about the process.

Drive a screw

Using electric drills as a screwdriver mostly just ends up stripping the head and making it impossible to remove. You’re really in for it if you ever have to take it out again. What happened to the good old fashioned screw driver and a bit of elbow grease? Much less painful in the long run!

Locate stopcock

It’s one of those situations where you might not need to know this until it becomes a problem, but knowing this beforehand can make things so much easier in an emergency. Stopping the water coming into a property shouldn’t be a common occurrence, but if you needed to immediately stop the water flow (let’s say in a flat where could cause flooding to the flat below), would you know what to do?

We haven’t convinced you to brush up on your DIY? Post your job and our tradesmen will still be happy to help!


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