Category Archives: Industry News

Dirty Tricks of the Tradesmen | The Australian

MOST tradies are honest, host Chris Hollins tells us, but a few “turn rogue”, as if they’re elite secret agents who stop following protocol.

That cloak-and-dagger theme is carried throughout the episode as Hollins ropes in Roger, an honest tradesman who agrees to carry out some of the more common tradesmen cons on people volunteered by their friends, to see if they fall for them. The presentation is absurd, but then every time I have my car serviced and the mechanic phones me to inform me of all the problems he’s found, there’s a gnawing sense of powerlessness because I have no idea whether what he says is reasonable or not. Beyond the silly hidden camera antics dragged out on shows such as this, there is some useful advice on hiring a tradesman and minimising the chances you’ll be ripped off. While some of it is obvious — get a quote before the start of the job, then get two more from other tradies — I must admit I’m guilty of not always taking these precautions. With this and other shows such as Cowboy Trap coming out of Britain, you have to wonder if they have more shonky tradies or they just like making shows about them. You’d have to pity the honest tradies who must be met with a constant sense of suspicion as a result.

via Dirty Tricks of the Tradesmen | The Australian.



Find a Tradesman | Our Golden Rules

These are our golden rules to help you find a tradesman that you can rely on and to help you get the job done.

If you follow these tips when choosing a tradesman you will maximise your chances of getting a quality job carried out.

1. Understand the job you want doing and have a clear brief on the work you require doing. Being clear in your requirements removes any misunderstandings. Understanding your job and having a clear brief saves lots of waisted time, including your own.

2. Obtain an appropriate number of written and detailed quotes. Generally 3 quotes is considered an acceptable number to get a broad range of prices. Check to see if the quote is prepared professionally and has all the tradesman’s contact details and so on.

3. Use our website to research the background and feedback from other customers on the tradesmen. This will allow you to see exactly how they have worked with other customers which is a very good indicator to how your job will be carried out.

4. Carry out additional due diligence on the tradesman. Are they members of any governing bodies, do they carry any client testimonials, do they have landline/email/website points of contact, do they have public liability insurance and so on. Check with your local trading standards to see if any complaints have been registered. All these items can be checked quite easily nowadays.

5. Select your tradesman based on all factors and not just price. As we tell all customers the price is only one factor and whilst important it should not be the sole deciding reason for selecting a tradesperson. Remember to let any unsuccessful people who have quoted know they have been unsuccessful also.

6. Always try and use a written contract which ensures their is no ambuiguity between tradesman and customer. This should include everything from timescales, payment terms and so on. If neccessary get the contract checked by an independant legal advisor before entering in to it. Understand your cancellation rights as a consumer also.

7. If their are any changes or extras to the work during the course of the job ensure they are put in writing and the time/payment costs incurred due to these changes are agreed by both parties.

If you are instructing a contractor to carry out work and they are not able to provide details of things you ask such as insurance documents or contracts then you should ask yourself the question why. Keeping open and easy communication always helps too when undertaking a project, if you spot something you are unhappy with you should mention it as soon as you notice it.

If you follow these useful tips when choosing a tradesman then this will minimise your chances of encountering poor workmanship.

If in doubt do not hesitate to contact us for free impartial advice.

via Latest Entries.

Guest Blog from providing helpful advice on the dangers and health risks of exposure to Asbestos.

Which Construction Jobs have the Highest Risk for Asbestos Exposure?

The construction industry has been one of the largest sources of asbestos exposure. Before regulations in the late 1970s limited the use of asbestos in construction material, more than 3,000 asbestos-containing products were made with asbestos.

Products like cement, paint, insulation, drywall and roofing materials all contained asbestos. Workers, who mixed, installed or removed these products likely asbestos.comexperienced exposure if they failed to wear protective gear. At the time, most workers were completely unaware that asbestos could cause serious diseases later in life.

As a result, many former construction workers have developed mesothelioma, lung cancer and asbestosis. These conditions are typically fatal and treatment options usually only relieve symptoms for a short period of time. The best way to fight an asbestos-related disease is to detect it early. With symptoms taking as much as 50 years to arise, former construction workers who handled asbestos should receive annual screenings to check for an asbestos-related disease.

Jobs at Risk

Although every job in the construction industry could have placed workers at risk for inhaling asbestos, certain tasks carried higher than average risks for exposure. Construction jobs that have historically been associated with high exposure rates include:

Roofers and Siding Installers – Roofing materials have been a big source for asbestos exposure because shingles and roofing felt were made with asbestos. The installation of a roof with asbestos products or the removal of one that was built with asbestos materials certainly could result in airborne asbestos fibers.

Siding installers also faced asbestos risk factors on a regular basis. During the housing boom in the 1960s and ‘70s, asbestos siding was a very popular material. Today’s construction workers should be careful when replacing old siding on a house.

Demolition Worker – Demolition work is one of the most at-risk jobs for asbestos exposure. Asbestos fibers become airborne after being disturbed and demolition work is certain to damage asbestos products if they’re present.

Insulation Installer – Asbestos insulation has possibly been responsible for more exposure occurrences than any other asbestos product. The material was used in attics, basements, walls, electrical boxes and anywhere else that required insulation. Asbestos naturally possesses insulating and fireproofing capabilities, so incorporating it into insulation materials made perfect sense.

Drywall Installer – Before the 1980s, drywall was often made with asbestos. The installation or removal of drywall has always been an occupation with higher than average exposure risks. If asbestos-containing drywall needed to be cut to fit into a specific space, asbestos fibers were likely released into the air.

Abatement Worker – Anyone who performs asbestos abatement is certainly at risk for exposure. Abatement workers are called in to physically remove asbestos-containing materials. If done improperly, exposure can easily occur.

Although most workers fully understand the risks involved and take all precautions to avoid inhaling asbestos, accidents can happen. Some companies hire employees unfamiliar with asbestos abatement practices and do not protect them with equipment. However, it is illegal to let uninformed workers perform asbestos abatement and all safety precautions must be taken. Today, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency strictly enforce safe asbestos procedures.

There are a number of additional construction jobs that place workers at risk on a daily basis, but the jobs mentioned above presented some of the highest risks. Those who performed these jobs for more than a few years naturally have a higher chance of developing an asbestos-related cancer. However, it should be noted that there is no safe level of exposure. If asbestos-containing materials are suspected, it’s best to assume asbestos is present and to take all safety precautions.

Bio: Jensen Whitmer has been writing for the Mesothelioma Center for more than three years and he has an interest in spreading awareness about the hazardous effects of asbestos exposure.

Penetrating damp caused by using cement on lime mortar beds | Preservation Expert

Hard cement pointing can destroy stone buildings within a few decades

It’s a sad irony that within 100 years of the introduction of cement and its complete dominance in new buildings, that the downside should be the destruction of buildings which have stood for hundreds of years; well before cement was invented.

Cement is a truly wonderful product, easy to use, forgiving and offering incredible strength it’s not surprising that it’s applied almost everywhere.

I mixed my first batch at work in my father’s damp proofing company in 1976, instructed by my favourite uncle; Derek.. “Three t’ one, lad, that’s it…. Just a squeeze of fairy liquid… lovely”

And so it has been for many lads joining the building trade in the 70’s. One shovel of the grey powder and three of the sand; usually bright yellow builder’s sand, adulterated with finer red sand of exactly the wrong sort for the job – but it was such a pleasure to use.

I know better now.

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For those that don’t I’ve written this short post to describe in simple terms why cement should be avoided when applying mortar to external surfaces, as either pointing or render and what to use instead. I am not a conservation specialist so here I am referring to ‘old’ buildings – not historic fabric which may need much more careful consideration and consultation with the local conservation officer.

By ‘old’ I mean any stone building, even if brand new (remember – stone is always old) and all brick buildings which are pre-war. There are arguments against cement even on new-build, but let’s leave that on one side for now and ask why it matters, particularly on older existing ones.

The above image shows destruction of stone on a building in Yorkshire. Look close and you can see that the pointing is standing proud of the stone edges and in effect the stone appears to have almost shrunk away from the pointing; leaving an undercut I could get my fingers in. Think about it; the chap who applied this pointing couldn’t have trowelled that mortar like that; this has happened since the pointing set; against the stone.

Is the cement corrosive or something? What’s happening?

Well, the first thing to remember is, we live in a wet country; it rains lots. These stones soak some of the rain up and have been since they were hewn from the quarry and put in this building. This getting wet and drying out, is all part of a natural cycle and is not that damaging to the stone. The lime mortar bed joints too, soak up this water, maybe even a bit quicker and they too let the moisture back out as the wind blows and the sun shines.

There are buildings like this which have stood for hundreds of years, with little sign of the sort of erosion seen above and then in the middle of the 20th century things changed.

The thing is, lime bed joints don’t last forever and the weather takes its toll. Eventually after decades the beds may be badly recessed and water can really get in and cause damage. The answer is re-pointing and many old buildings have been repointed several times with no ill effect; until a few decades ago when the well-meaning builders used the new stuff – cement. Unlike lime it sets fast, can be built up quickly – is less susceptible to frost damage and it retains water better in dry weather – rock hard too, so it lasts so much longer. No wonder the builders chose it – anyone would.

So, we have now repointed the old chapel with fancy cement mortar and even used it’s workability to produce a fancy ‘strap’ appearance as below (shudder…).

The next week it starts raining and once more the wall soaks up water. Through the stone mainly, because now the beds are sealed up with this dense cement. The wall gets pretty saturated and moisture gets behind the cement via the stone and the tiny cracks which form between hard and soft materials. Some of these cracks are too hard to see with the naked eye but they are there; cement is sometimes so hard that even the act of curing against a soft stone will cause the face of the stone to be pulled away by tension, induced as the cement imperceptibly shrinks.

Once the sun comes out drying begins, but now the cycle is altered.

Evaporation still happens in the stone, but the water in the bed joints, behind the cement is not wicked away and the beds stay moist for much longer. There are now some subtle additional things to consider; a wet wall is a cold wall because as water evaporates it uses energy. The wall is cold so overall there is less energy to drive evaporation and so the time needed to dry the wall in depth is much longer. Two things lead on from this; it is likely that the wall will be rained on again before complete drying has happened, leading to a wall which is wet for a much longer period. For much of the year it is now never truly dry.

Fast forward into winter and that’s when trouble starts. Night falls and ice forms in the surface of the stone, especially around the edges of it next to the bed-joint. Moisture is concentrated here because its pathway out of the wall is blocked by the bead of impenetrable cement, so it is slowly ‘wicked’ around the cement via the adjacent stone. To make matters worse the cement pointing has the strap detail, so it also offers handy little ledges for standing water to dally, allowing even more saturation of the stone.

When water freezes it expands; ice cubes are always bigger than when they were poured into trays as water. When this happens inside the stone the very structure of the material is burst apart, leaving the characteristic friable surface seen below – often accompanied by a pile of sand on a windowsill just below that.

The tiny cracks at the interface between stone and bed ices up and the expansion puts stress equally into the cement bed and the stone…. which is harder? It should of course be the stone, which was the case, before the lime bed was chased out and replaced with rock hard cement. Something has got to give.

There are other things going on too, but the big killer is the freeze thaw cycle, which may have been there before the cement was applied, but the new conditions have amplified the problem and accelerated it many times over.

The evidence is all over the place and is growing. I’ve seen many buildings where the general condition of the stone is excellent, apart from one area which was cement pointed say 40 to 60 years ago. That is a very short time indeed, especially when you think that actually all stone is millions of years old – why is it suddenly changing back to sand?

You know why now.

For all relevant external repairs I specify natural lime mortars. Occasionally we’re using moderately or weakly hydraulic types when it cannot be adequately protected and fat lime is too risky. This type of pointing won’t last forever – nothing can. But as it succumbs to the weather it will sacrifice itself for the good of the building, rather than selfishly hanging on like a parasite, whilst its host withers away.

For more information try SPAB (Society for the Preservation of Ancient buildings), who have a huge library of useful stuff and contacts galore on their web site. The use of lime is no longer just the preserve of specialist conservation companies, because frankly there are not enough of them to deal with the epidemic of damage which is in progress now. All builders and maintenance companies should, like I, have themselves and some key staff attend at least a basic ‘lime day’ of the type SPAB organise, so that those healthy stone and old brick buildings awaiting pointing, get the right material and don’t end up looking like those in the above images.

If your building is suffering already then the best solution is to remove the cement pointing and replace it with lime.  However, this is not always appropriate if the material is so hard that its very removal will cause damage.  In these cases and only with specialist advice and careful consideration, the use of a water repellent cream such as Storm Dry may help. This will at least reduce the absorption of rainwater so that less time is needed for evaporation and drying – and the freeze thaw cycle is shorter or negated altogether.

Dry Rot

via penetrating damp caused by using cement on lime mortar beds | Preservation Expert.

Unhappy customers head to Facebook and Twitter over call centres for better results | Mail Online

Savvy social media users are taking to Twitter and Facebook and shunning long call centre waiting times to get ‘VIP’ treatment in sorting out their problems.

Big brands such as BT, Aviva, Virgin Media and ASOS all have Twitter accounts dedicated to sorting out customer complaints.

And cunning customers know that by tweeting complaining about a company, or even ranting on its Facebook page they will secure an almost immediate response from firm’s desperate to nip bad publicity in the bud.

Social media power: Consumers are turning to more powerful forms of complaint by airing their views on Twitter and Facebook.

Companies are concerned about damaging their ‘digital reputation’ and are keen to sort customers problems quickly.

And more and more of us are getting the message that naming and shaming is a quick route to success. Some 65 per cent of consumers now believe that social media is a better way to communicate with companies than through call centres, according to the study by public relations agency Fishburn Hedges and Echo Research.

Its survey of 2,000 people found that more than a third of consumers have already interacted with companies through social media.

And 40 per cent of those surveyed believed that social media has improved customer service.

Eva Keogan, head of innovation at Fishburn Hedges, said: ‘Many people are currently enjoying the VIP treatment from brands on social media. As millions more catch on to this great route into traditional customer service channels, the challenge for brands will be maintaining the same level of service.’

Online customers are also often privy to exclusive offers – while sometimes a tactic to get some to spend more – there are often real discounts and opportunities to save money.

This is Money explored customers fighting back online in November 2009 when we highlighted how some consumers had been uploading videos to YouTube or writing blogs voicing their annoyance at the service from a particular brands.

Of course, we have also been no stranger to our readers using This is Money to fight back and know that not only do companies respond swiftly when we take on someone’s case, but also regularly monitor our reader comments and forums to spot people’s problems.

via Unhappy customers head to Facebook and Twitter over call centres for better results | Mail Online.


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