Tradespeople answer your burning questions

Your home doesn’t come with an owner’s manual, so when it comes to home improvements it’s easy to be left scratching your head.

Luckily, MyBuilder’s tradespeople are experts at what they do, combining professional qualifications, years of experience, and practiced people skills, to help them put your mind at ease no matter how big a problem you have.

We’ve put together some of the most popular home improvement brainteasers that people have asked MyBuilder tradespeople - but if you have a burning question of your own, you can pose your own puzzler:

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Which comes first? Plaster, or the skirting board?

A big question people have about any construction project is what order things happen in. With a hundred things to be done, the order is crucial, but without experience, it can be hard to know which job comes first, and what needs saving until the end.

When it comes to plastering and woodwork though, the answer is simple - make sure the plastering is done and finished before you install your skirting boards, door frames and architraves.

That way, your skirting boards will remain free of plaster drips and marks, while the plasterer will have the entire wall to work on, without having to start from the skirting.

"Always plaster before skirting boards are fixed, this way you will get a nice neat finish on to new plastered walls." - G.S Plastering Services

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Do you need an electrical certificate for new kitchen sockets?

Electrical work is a big source of concern for many homeowners, as it is a job that has to be carried out safely.

Nearly all electrical work in the home needs to be provided with certification to prove it was carried out in line with the latest safety regulations. This will prove to insurers that the work was done properly.

Different work requires different kinds of certification. If new sockets are being added to an existing circuit in your home, then the electrical should provide a Minor Works Certificate. If they are adding a new circuit, then an Electrical Installation Certificate is needed.

A fully qualified electrician is able to self-certify their work, and give you the paperwork you need.

"Any electrical work that is undertaken in a domestic property should be carried out by a competent person who will give you an appropriate certificate upon completion.

"This will either be a Minor Works certificate, issued if an existing circuit is extended or altered (e.g adding a socket to an existing circuit) or an Electrical Installation Certificate if a new circuit has been installed from the distribution board." - National Safety Inspections

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Do I need to sand walls before painting?

Another puzzle for home decorators is how to ensure your paintwork has a perfect finish. As with so many things, preparation is key.

When it comes to painting on to new plaster, there are differences of opinion. Some painters agree that a gentle sanding can help “key” the paint to the plaster, allowing a good surface for the paint to adhere to.

However, most say that good quality plastering should be smooth and ready to paint on to, and that it’s only after applying a mist coat of paint that you should sand any imperfections before continuing with the next coat.

"Depending on the finish, I usually apply the first / mist coat, after that feel the wall as I find it highlights it more, then give it a light 120 sandpaper rub.

"It doesn’t need a great deal, just a rub over, which should relieve all grit under the surface. A light rub for the extra smooth finish is always what I go for!"Liam Smith Painting & Decorating

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Is plastic piping a safe replacement for copper?

Many homeowners expect their plumbing to be traditional copper piping, and can be concerned if they see plastic pipework, worrying about its quality and longevity.

However, modern plastic pipework is built to high specifications and can out-perform copper in many circumstances, both in terms of how it handles heat and pressure, and for how relatively simple it is to fit.

"Plastic pipe has pretty much taken over from copper, except for gas supply and pipework within a few metres of the boiler. The joints are pressure tested to well in excess of a domestic installation, somthing like 10 bar, or 100 psi.

"As long as they have been installed correctly and are well supported, they will be fine." - Aztec Bathrooms

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How do you fit underlay to a concrete floor?

If you have a concrete floor you want to cover with more comfortable flooring, such as carpet or laminate, you need to put down a layer of underlay first.

But whereas underlay is often stapled to wooden flooring, how can you attach it to a solid concrete base?

The answer is with adhesives. While some flooring fitters will use double-sided tape, the most common solution is with an adhesive spray, which can be applied to both the floor and the backing of the underlay to create a good bond.

"You can use spray contact adhesive. You spray the concrete and the underlay separately and then once they are both dry you can lay the underlay and press firmly for a second or two." - Tom Chapman Carpentry

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What should I do about asbestos in a ceiling?

Many people who have Artex ceilings are concerned about the levels of asbestos in them, and what they can do make them safe.

There are two options - one is to safely cover up the ceilings with a sealant and new plaster, while the other is to remove the Artex and any dangerous asbestos entirely.

Covering up the Artex is generally safe, but of course, the underlying problem will still be there, if you ever do any future works that could disrupt the ceiling and cause it to crack or flake.

Removing it entirely is the best option, with a specialist firm which deals with asbestos, however it can be a costly and time-consuming job.

"Artex ceilings are completely safe as long as they are not damaged (cracked or flaking). It is safe to plaster over if you'd prefer not to see the Artex.

"However, Asbestos would still show up as positive on a future survey as they would still take samples of the ceiling. If you'd prefer that your ceilings didn't contain asbestos then you would have to use a licensed asbestos removing company." - Big Red’s Building & Maintenance

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