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Thursday, 30 December 2010

A Plumbing Legend from America.

Here's me {on the right} enjoying a shandy in the famous Grapes pub, Matthew St, Liverpool, with the legendary American Plumber Merlin Jacobsen from Utah. Merlin was over on holiday with my great friend Andy {behind me in picture}who like me is an ex ICI apprentice and now plys his trade in America. Merlin was shocked when I showed him all the certification cards I carry in my wallet.
"You need all these just to work here?" he asked scratching his head in amazement. He was even more shocked when I told him how much we charge per hour. He was surprised how anyone could even live on that! I then went on to tell him about some of the further legislation that hinders us leaving him wondering how anyone even manages to make a living in this country. He'd left behind several feet of snow in Park City, Utah which hadn't really caused any problems. He landed here to find a couple of inches of snow had brought our country to a standstill........
Have a safe journey home boys and I look forward to when we meet again.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Plume Management Kit

This is at a guest house in Blackpool where we fitted out the new boiler room & system controls. The standard flue termination from this Vaillant 'Eco-tec Plus' system boiler fully conformed, but we noticed that in certain weather conditions the plume of flue gases were drifting over the neighbouring boundary. The plume management kit shown in the pictures solved this problem by taking the flue outlet to a higher level. Most of the boiler manufacturers make these kits and they can be fitted retrospectively on many modern boilers. We are happy to advise on any flue issues.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Inside The Worcester Bosch 'Greenstar' 30CDi

We installed this boiler earlier this week as a replacement for an 20 + year old Myson 'Midas' combination boiler. It is a Worcester Bosch Greenstar 30CDi. It looks much more interesting with the cover off! We have probably installed more Worcester boilers than any other brand over the years. It's amazing to see how they have evolved and improved. Whilst it probably looks rather complicated inside to the untrained eye we are very familiar with them and know them inside out.
We upgraded the system controls on this installation to current standards. Our customer should now notice a marked reduction in his gas bill.
This customer was a second generation referral. A couple of years back our accountant referred us to his brother in law who we done a similar job for. We recently carried out the annual service for him and he mentioned he'd passed our number onto a work colleague which resulted in this job. Hopefully he too will now recommend us and continue the word of mouth cycle.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Those Little Finishing Touches.

The first picture shows the hole left in a wall after an old balanced flue boiler has been removed and replaced by a modern fanned flue boiler. To anyone not in the trade a balanced flue was a rather large, unsightly metal box usually around 12" square or more. We've fitted a new boiler with a fanned flue, now popping out of the middle of the hole and bricked up the inner leaf using thermalite block.

There's been some interesting {well to me anyway} correspondence and pictures in the 'Gas Safe' trade magazine about the unsightly way such flue holes are often made good. Perhaps 'made bad' would be a better term as everyday I see some shockers when just simply driving around. Many don't even get patched up at all!

To me it's all about having pride in your work. We cut out any half bricks and clean away any old mortar. It's then simply a matter of sourcing a few matching face bricks to complete matters as shown in the second picture.

These bricks are 73mm pre war commons and it cost a couple of quid from our local builders merchants for eight of them to match in, leaving a nice finish. The whole task took about an hour.

Monday, 5 July 2010

If You Think Hiring A Professional Plumber Is Expensive Then You Should Try Hiring An Amateur One!

Here’s another shocker from one of our supposed competitors. I apologise for the quality of the picture which was taken using my Blackberry. It’s in the social housing sector and I came across it whilst on a repair call. A new boiler had recently been installed and the flue, where it passes through the wall had been sealed {?} up using the paper wall template from the installation instructions. I know we have to recycle waste paper but this was stretching it a bit far! I suppose it makes a change from filler foam. The offending company has since been back to seal this hole up properly with mortar.
This is what happens when the cheapest bid is taken. We have never claimed to be the cheapest nor sought to compete with those who do, as it merely devalues your brand & reputation. What we can assure our valued customers is that our workmanship is always to the highest standards and that includes all making good too.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Traditional Plumbing Skills; Lead Work

The first picture is a 'before' shot and shows a flat lead covering on a bay. There were two rolled joints which were badly positioned, the flashing where the bay meets the brickwork was poor and to make it all look worse it had been painted black.
Not many of the new generation of Plumbers can do lead work. Much of it has been claimed by roofers. A large part of my training consisted of working with lead. In those days if it was lead then it was Plumbers work whether it was pipes or roof flashings.
I dusted all my old tools off and the other two pictures show the finished result. The actual canopy was specially made from GRP to imitate lead. The cost to do this job all in lead was not viable. The flashings however all in code 4 lead. These days the flashings are pointed into the brickwork using a special grey, flexible sealant which is much better than mortar. Special stainless steel spring clips hold it in and again are much better that the old lead wedges. Finally it is all polished with patination oil which stops any staining.
The middle picture has been used in the new City & Guilds NVQ, level 2 Plumbing text book {page 23}. It was a pleasant surprise when the publishers / compilers asked to use it. It's nice to know that the Plumbing industry is keeping hold of lead work.
Only this weekend {24/06/2012} I was called to a "Water coming through my ceiling" leak. I correctly predicted over the phone that it was almost certainly a roof leak as we'd had a night of torrential rain. It actually turned out to be a lead valley at the intersection of two parts of the roof. Luckily it was a relatively easy repair.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

"My Hot Water isn't very hot"...........

We get regular calls from householders complaining that they aren't getting sufficiently hot water from their combi boiler. This can be caused by several single factors or a combination of them all. It maybe an undersized gas supply to the boiler. It could be a budget / DIY store boiler {I won't name them} which  are cheap to buy but have very poor hot water flow rates to start with. The boiler itself could be undersized for the hot water demands placed upon it. Many boilers were 'found out' over the past two severe winters as the incoming cold water supplies from our resevoirs were colder than they have ever been in recent times. In many cases it was coming in to properties at just 2 - 3 degrees C. Even after the combination boiler had raised the water the standard 35 degrees C it just wasn't hot enough for showering or bathing in winter time. One of the most common causes of poor hot water performance in combination boilers is a scaled or sludged up water x water plate heat exchanger. The picture shows a cross section of one which I cut open out of interest after we had replaced it. The heating waterways were full of sludge and the domestic hot water ways were showing signs of limescale formation. After flushing this system out and replacing the water x water heat exchanger we have treated it with corrosion proofing inhibitor to protect the heating side. A limescale filter has been installed on the incoming mains cold water service to help combat limescale formation on the hot water side. Sometimes in less severe cases chemical treatment can cure the problem without the expense of swapping the heat exchanger. In this case it failed. The best cure of all is prevention by treating new systems correctly, installing limescale filters as standard and ensuring old system which new boilers are fitted to are properly flushed out & cleansed. Lastly and perhaps most importantly; don't buy cheap DIY store boilers. Whilst you may save a few pounds on the initial purchase, the life time cost {over priced parts and unreliability}of these poor quality appliances far exceeds that of the good quality brands. We are always happy to advise on on any hot water issues you maybe experiencing.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Sinks, Cookers & Kitchens

Here's a couple of pictures of a kitchen installation we have recently finished. Many years ago we were regularly asked to fit kitchen as much of the technical work involved is plumbing & and; gas related. After all the fitting of the actual units {most of which now come ready assembled} is well within the capabilities of a good DIYer. These days we have so called specialist kitchen fitters who are usually joiners who can connect a sink up with flexi hoses! This installation involved plumbing, joinery, electrics, plastering and tiling work; all of which we can take care of.

Housing Trust Partnering Contract

Here's the combustion getting set on another high efficiency boiler installation. This solved an ongoing problem for one of our long standing clients.

The problem – Some housing trust properties of about 15 years of age fitted with standard efficiency boilers. The systems have never been wired up correctly as the pumps and a permanent live supply should have been connected directly to the boilers. This has made overheat lock outs an ongoing problem. The systems also suffer from too little static head due to the cold feed and vent pipe arrangement in the airing cupboard. This results in air being drawn into the system causing corrosion, system noise, sludge, and short life for the pumps.
The solution – Drain off and chemically flush out the systems. Supply & fit new band A high efficiency boilers, heat only modern equivalents. We chose the Glow-worm ‘Flexicom’ 12hx as they have a rear flue option and suited the client’s budget for this scheme. We also fitted new system controls by Honeywell. The systems were rewired correctly to Honeywell Y-plan scheme with permanent live supply to boiler and the pump wired directly to boiler. The pipework in airing cupboard was also rectified to stop air ingress.
The result is cheaper fuel bills for the tenant and less breakdowns for the client.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Commercial Gas Escape Job

This was an one interesting from the start of the year when the country was in the grip of the coldest winter for a long time. A commercial customer of ours had rang their gas supplier as they had smelt gas. The supplier turned up as they do and simply shut off the supply advising the customer to contact a 'Gas Safe' engineer. Anything after the meter is not the concern of the supplier. Luckily the customer called us and we were able to trace the escape to a section of underground pipework. We were able to isolate this section and get the gas back on to the main building & offices. The underground run of pipe supplied an out building / workshop at the rear of the site. The pipe run was just short of 50mts and had originally been installed directly in the ground without a protective duct. Groundwork contractors excavated a trench and we installed a 100mm protective duct. Within the duct we ran stainless steel flexible 'Trac Pipe' which is coated with yellow protective plastic. It comes on a roll {see picture} and as the manufacturers had discussed with us was perfect for this job. We were able to get everything in within a day to allow immediate back filling. The following day we tested, purged and reinstated supplies. I was impressed with this product which whilst widely used in USA is fairly new to this country.

Friday, 15 January 2010


11/01/10 - A 15mm copper pipe which burst after being frozen in the recent cold weather. It was in a hotel we look after and was the hot water supply to a bar sink. It was routed through an unheated lean to/out building and should really have been insulated. Luckily it was fitted with a service valve so the staff were able to isolate it before it done any real damage.
When I first started out in business in 1984 burst pipe jobs were fairly common throughout the winter months. They were the typical 'Emergency' job associated with plumbing. Our winters were colder then, than in recent years and many properties didn't have central heating.
Today almost all homes have central heating and this coupled with the milder winters {until this present one} means burst pipes aren't as common. These days a central heating boiler which has broken down seems to be the new 'Emergency' though I haven't quite figured out why this is so yet? I guess that our society is becoming weaker and softer.