Monthly Archives: April 2012

Association of Certified Handyman Professionals

ACHP is the Association of Certified Handyman Professionals and not to be confused with ADHD which is Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

The ACHP operates in the USA and Canada and have expanded recently into the UK.

The UK Guild of Handymen believe anything that helps to make handymen more professional, trustworthy and accountable can only be a good thing. Accordingly, we make our online test (which handymen must pass to become a guild member) pretty tough. We know it’s tough because plenty of people fail and the ones who make the 70% pass mark often only scrape through. It’s designed to be tough in order to ensure only really good people who have versatile knowledge and experience will be admitted to the guild.

In our online test twenty questions are randomly picked from a pot of 60 or so in a time-limited test against the clock. This ensures people can’t spend time looking up the answers. And if they fail they must wait a week to retake the test. On a subsequent test they won’t get the same questions again and if an odd question does repeat they won’t know if last time around they got this question right or wrong.

Contrast this with the ACHP’s online test. All the questions are there to see from the start. There is no time limit. The question are so easy it is ridiculous …here is one of their questions:

A handyman should always carry _____________.

1) a rabbits foot for good luck
2) insurance
3) a comb
4) a baseball glove

In addition they use many American expressions like:
calling a tap a faucet.
referring to toilet flapper valves which are not used in the UK.
talking of mudding which appears to be a US term for the application of bonding plaster
referring to drywall instead of plasterboard
…and I doubt anyone in the UK has ever heard of a GFCI outlet (ground-fault circuit interrupter) which is hardly surprising because British electrician’s refer to ‘earth’ not ‘ground’

Please form your own opinion as to whether someone passing the ACHP test can really count as being ‘certified’ in any positive way to work in the UK.

Green Handymen

I don’t subscribe to man-made global warming. If you read the evidence from both sides of the argument it is highly improbable mankind is causing the world to warm up any more than cavemen caused the last ice age. The world gets warm and then the world gets cold again. Climate change is exactly that changes over time, back and forth in predictable cycles. And it’s nothing to do with carbon either which increases in the atmosphere as a RESULT of warmer times rather than being the cause of warmer times.

But regardless, we should all aim to reduce pollution, wasteful or unnecessary use of resources and try to be as ‘green’ as we possibly can. This is because the world only has a certain amount of resources and they have to last us forever—nobody is suddenly going to give us more copper than the world has.

There are many ways to reduce our impact on the planet’s scarce resources, such as using solar energy, insulating our homes efficiently, etc.

Recycling makes sense. I use things that are discarded on a job for another purpose if I can and I always recycle metal scraps. Also we should make good use of the things we have. And if we need to get rid of something try to see if somebody else might want it rather than sending it to landfill. Consider free-cycling the things you don’t need any more.

The current vogue of changing bathrooms on a whim or whenever people move into a new house is also not a good idea. A lot of energy and resources will go into making a bathroom suite, tiles, taps, etc and to throw this lot away after a relatively short period when it should last for many years is stupid.

While I don’t think much of paints that are water-based I accept that their manufacture and having low VOCs (volatile organic compounds) is much better for the environment. Apart from which VOCs are toxic and known to cause cancer, breathing disorders, kidney and liver failure, among other health problems.

Please comment with your views or suggestions.

Silicone valleys

The edges where baths and shower trays meet the wall and sundry crevices around enclosures can be the very devil to seal. If it is done properly at the beginning you should have no problems. But when a tell-tale damp patch appears on the ceiling of the level underneath you know you’ve got trouble. From experience it is not always obvious where the water is getting through.

Showers over the bath are a nightmare because water can get round the holes where the bath taps are fitted particularly if the taps are not located centrally in the generous sized hole provided. Also water likes to get around shower screens wherever possible. Children in showers is also a common cause water getting everywhere!

If your seal has failed the best thing is to start again by cutting away the old stuff rather than trying to add more sealant over the top of the old. Ensure the edges are dried properly before you reseal.

Sealant can often pull away if the bath settles which can happen over time but more often happens every time the bath is filled and occupied. For this reason always fill the bath with water before you seal around and leave it filled until the sealant has cured.

Dodgy tile grouting can also be to blame for water getting under a shower tray or bath.

And the quality of the silicone itself is extremely variable. Some sealants sold by DIY outlets isn’t silicone at all but a poor equivalent. Others are of low grade and can quickly become blackened by mould due to the damp.

A brand called Forever White I have found particularly good and long-lasting.

Also there is Everbuild Plumbers Gold which is an STPA polymer so not strictly silicone.  It’s actually not gold but comes in white or clear. While I don’t find it easy to smooth out because of it’s very sticky consistency, it produces a formidably waterproof and long-lasting seal that typically last five or six times longer than silicone and seems impervious to mould. With this stuff it is likely you’ll need masking tape in order to produce a neat edge to your seal but it is worth the extra aggrevation.

Trouble with doors

Life must be fairly easy for a door, it only has two things to do—it must open and it must shut.

However it is astonishing how much can go wrong.

Doors swell (due to atmospheric moisture), or settlement in the house or newly fitted carpets or successive layers of paint mean a door can stop fitting the frame or will cause it to scrape somewhere.

If this isn’t addressed as a matter of urgency then the door will strain against the hinges which can wear excessively, or perhaps be pulled from, or split their fixing point.

Painting hinges, or never oiling them, also causes strain with possible knock on effects.

Doors can be ‘hinge bound’ in a number of ways causing them not to shut properly. Doors can rub the door stop, be set with insufficient gap at the hinged edge, the hinges can be badly rebated or oversized screw heads can all create a springing open effect.

And then there are possible problems with the latch which can not align, or the gap be too large for it to engage in the keep, or the gap be so small that the knob or handle fails to withdraw the latch to open the door.

Another common problem with the lightweight pressed panel doors is failing to observe the ‘lock’ edge which is where a block of wood in constructed into the door. If you use this edge for the hinges then you’ll end up trying to fix handles into fresh air underneath the hardboard skin of the door.

Locks and levers

Common mortice lever locks are locks where the key has a number of stepped notches which, when the key is first turned, engage with a set of levers within the lock case. When all the levers are correctly raised the key can turn fully and operate the lock.

Many people don’t understand the importance of the number of levers and why insurers usually specify a 5-lever lock. For a lock to be accredited with BS3621:1998 standard, it is recognised as giving the maximum protection generally available to a premises. Many insurance companies recognise this and reduce their premiums accordingly, while others will provide cover only if such locks are fitted.

For a lock to be awarded BS3621:1998 it has to achieve the following criteria;
• At least 1000 different key patterns (differs) and 999 different locks must be made before any key pattern can be used again.
• There must be at least 5 moveable levers used. If fewer than 9 levers are fitted there must be additional anti-picking precautions incorporated (such as false notching).
• If a key can be used on both sides of a door, both sides must offer equal security.
• Handles and knobs must not operate the bolt when deadlocked.
• Deadlocking must be effective before the key can be removed.
• The bolt must project not less than 14mm when locked.
• Both sides of the lock body must be protected by anti-drilling plates.
• Vulnerable fixing screws on all parts of the lock, cylinder and staple must be concealed or inoperable when the door is locked.