Recycle or cough up

The Government has announced a massive hike in landfill tax and the building industry is up in arms. This is a charter for fly-tipping if ever there was one. Skip companies are saying that this will kill their business and they are planning to disrupt Jubilee celebrations and then the Olympics. They obviously fear for their livelihoods but I wouldn’t …

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Rustic appeal

I came across this building up at Snape Maltings on the Suffolk coast. The original building was almost gone and the new owners could have taken it apart bit by bit and rebuilt it with lime mortar importing used bricks to make up the considerable deficiency. …there’s a touch of Antony Gormley’s Angel of The North in letting the metal …

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Condensation culture

Condensing boilers have undoubtedly become more reliable over the last few years but the last couple of winters saw thousands of householders caught out by frozen condensate. Manufacturers offer clear guidelines for avoiding freezing but not every job offers the opportunity to do things by the book and terminate the condensate inside the building. If the pipe runs to an …

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Building site from hell

I am currently working on the building site from hell. It was a job I took on against my better judgment. When I was pricing it alarm bells were ringing in my head because there was a new spec and drawing almost every day. The job itself isn’t actually that bad; it’s a complete re-plumb on a large central London …

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Fault finding; a plumber’s tale

The golden rule that I have followed through years of fault finding is ‘never assume and never jump to conclusions’. OK that is two golden rules but the basic message is never say you know something until you prove it. This has stood me in good stead where other tradesmen have come and gone from a job missing one small …

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Carbon monoxide poisoning

I have just read that the number of carbon monoxide poisoning incidents has increased over last year. The reason isn’t entirely clear but I will offer two suggestions. Firstly, the exceptionally cold winter. Nearly all carbon monoxide poisoning is from open-flued appliances such as gas fires. These require a through flow of fresh air from outside. Natural ventilation which may …

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Precious Metal

Have you noticed any increase in the number of scrap men doing the rounds? I certainly have, not least because the scrap I had set aside recently on one of my jobs walked off after just ten minutes. Two hours later I had another visit from someone who was similarly interested but this time he didn’t particularly care whether the …

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Cracking up: The Trouble with Aircrete Blocks

Aircrete blocks

If you have been drawn to this blog by the title alone I will save you wasting further time by saying from the outset that I am talking about buildings here and not a mental breakdown, though that can never be ruled out in the building game. Certainly the owner of the house in this story needs an extraordinary degree …

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The Unequal Tax Laws Fuelling the Black Economy

year for bricks

I have just heard an item on BBC Radio 4 about the huge increase in the cost of raw materials for the building industry. Bricks and concrete products are reportedly up 20%. While average inflation, according to the retail price index, shows a 2 or 3% rise the cost of ‘trade’ inflation could be much higher. The trouble is that …

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