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» Useful Tips & Advice

[Top»] Prevention is better than cure

Flat roofs, often seen on extensions, need regular checks, especially before winter sets in. Cracked felt, root or moss growth, rotten roof timbers and poor drainage are some of the problems that may occur. The majority of flat roof failures occur at the outlets, flashings, perimeters and gutters, so good workmanship in these areas are especially critical. Waterproofing the roof with a modern high performance membrane will reduce future problems.

Follow decision2day’s tips to help protect your home.

  • •Check the roof for any missing or damaged tiles or cracks in the roofing felt.
  • Check rainwater pipes and guttering for any damage and clear away any blockages. Replace damaged or rusted cast-iron guttering.
  • Make sure your drains are working properly and unblock them regularly.
  • Make sure you sort out the cracked brickwork and crumbling pointing.
  • Re-paint peeling external paintwork, especially on wooden doors or window frames. Replace those that are badly worn.
  • Always check your chimney stacks for cracks or signs of damage.
  • Check draught proofing around the letterbox, doors and windows.

[Top»] When things go wrong

When a building project starts to go wrong, its easy to point a finger at the tradesperson, but as in most arrangements, with a little help from both sides and a lot of communication, it is possible to resolve most disputes. Hopefully your project will run smoothly from start to finish, but its not the case, follow decision2day’s tips and advice.

Firstly, talk to the ‘main’ person. With builders in your home and amongst your family and possessions, it is inevitable that stress levels will be high. Even the best, cleanest builders are likely to irritate you at some point and the first port of call should be with the ‘main’ person. Complaining to the sub-contractor may only cause further confusion and could be unlikely to solve the problem.

Have a look at your contract, check all the details, make sure you have all the facts before you approach your contractor. If your dispute is over money, the Office of Fair Trading recommends only withholding payment for individual defects, not the whole job.

If you can’t resolve the matter with your tradesperson, there are a number of independent bodies that can help. Advice can be sought through or you can contact your local Trading Standards Office with details of your complaint. Both provide practical help and advice for consumers across the UK in handling complaints with tradespeople.

Wherever possible, try to resolve any dispute outside the Courts. Litigation can be a long and costly process, with no guarantee that you will win your case.

[Top»] Builders jargon explained

If you don’t know your cistern to your cornices, or your eaves to your plinths, our jargon buster can help!  Have a read on you may be able to teach them something.  Your tradesperson will certainly be impressed.  You will find more jargon busters in each trade category – why not have a look?

Architrave – Framework around a door or window
Arris - Sharp external angle - usually 90 degrees
Baluster - Alternative term for Banister
Barge Board - Wide board fitted on edge of tiles following the slope of the roof
Bead - Small convex moulding
Bib Tap - Tap fed by horizontal supply - as in a garden tap
Blown or Live - Plaster that has lost its bond with the wall
Bond - Arrangement of bricks to ensure stability of brickwork
Buttress or Pier - Thickening of wall to form a vertical projection to strengthen it
Cavity Wall - Usual construction for external walls comprising an inner and outer leaf with a space between for insulation
Cistern - Tank for storing water - usually located in the attic
Cleat - cable fixing for phone wire, etc
Coping - Protective finish to the top of a wall
Corbelling - Successive projecting courses of brickwork
Cove or Cornice - Moulding around room at junction of wall and ceiling
Dado Rail - Horizontal moulding part way up a wall
Deal - Term for piece of square-sawn softwood
Distemper - Wall paint made from water, pigment and glue (traditional)
Drip - Moulding or groove in overhanging member to prevent water creeping back
Eaves - Overhang of roof beyond wall below
Efflorescence - Unsightly powdery white salts brought to surface of brickwork
Flashing - Metal sheet used to deflect water at junction between roof and wall
Flat Arch - An arch that is almost completely horizontal
Flaunching - Cement mortar filler round the top of a chimney stack
Flue - Tube conveying smoke or fumes from fireplaces or appliances
Flush Door - Door with completely flat faces
Footlifter - Wedge used to lift boards for nailing to wall
Formation Level - The deep point in an excavation for a drive or path
Frog - Indent on bed face of a brick
Gauged Brickwork - Fine brickwork with very thin joints
Gable or Verge - Upper part of an outer wall at the end of a pitched roof
Glazing Bar - Thin bar shaped to receive pane of glass
Gravity Fed System - Central heating system that circulates water by gravity and water expansion
Header - The end face of a brick
Header Tank - Small open cistern (tank) that feeds water to central heating system
Herringbone - Zigzag pattern of brickwork
Hip - Line of adjoining sections of pitched roof at external angle of building
Hipped Roof - Pitched roof, the ends of which are also sloped
Hip Tile - Roof tile shaped to cover hip of roof
Jamb - The side of an opening in a wall for a door or window
Joist - Support for floor and ceiling
Knotting - Varnish to stabilise knots in wood
Lean-to Roof - Sloping roof supported along its highest part by a taller adjoining wall
Light - Subdivision of a window - fixed or opening. Opening light can be top or side hung
Lintel - Concrete or steel beam over opening to support wall above
Loose-Fill Insulation - loose material for insulating cavity walls and lofts
Mansard Roof - Form of pitched roof designed to provide more space for rooms
Megger - Test meter used by electricians
Mezzanine - Extra floor - possibly inserted between floor and ceiling of very tall room
Mitre - Angled joint (similar to joint in picture frame)
Module - Dimensional co-ordination of components
Muck - Brickie term for mortar
Mullion - Upright post in window
Newel - Vertical post at top and bottom of staircase
Nogging - Short wooden stiffeners inserted between joists
Nosing - Rounded edge of a stair tread projecting beyond the riser
Parapet - Low wall at the edge of a roof
Pebble Dash - Roughcast wall finish with stones bedded in rendered wall
Pilaster - Projecting part of a square column which is attached to wall
Pitch - Slope of roof - expressed as an angle or ratio
Plain tile - Rectangular "flat" roofing tile
Plaster - Applied wall finish
Plasterboard - Prefabricated sheets of plaster for walls and ceilings
Plinth - Projecting base to external walls
Purlin - Horizontal beam, part way up a rafter to prevent sagging
Rafters - Series of structural timbers rising from eaves to ridge to support pitched roof covering
Rail - Horizontal member in door or fence
Relieving Arch - An arch constructed above a lintel or beam to take weight of wall above
Render - External sand-cement coating for walls
Reveal - Vertical side of door or window opening
Ridge - Top of a pitched roof
Ring Main - Power circuit for sockets
Rise - Vertical distance between two adjacent stair treads
Riser - Upright part of a stair OR vertical water pipe from the mains
Roof Truss - Prefabricated structural timer framework to support roof
RSJ - Rolled steel joist
Sash - Framework for glass - in particular double-hung sliding sash window
Screed - Layer of fine concrete used to provide smooth surface prior to floor finish
Sarking Felt - Waterproof felt under roof tile battens
Second Fix - Items fitted following plastering - including joiner, cupboards and plumbing/electrical fittings
Sill - Bottom horizontal member of a door or window frame
Skim - Finishing coat of plaster
Skirting - Horizontal board at junction between floor and wall
Soffit - Visible underside of a projecting surface
Span - Horizontal distance covered by a beam or lintel etc.
Spoil - Material dug out during excavation
Stack - Vertical pipe carrying waste from sinks and toilets
Stocks - Hand or machine-made bricks made in a mould
Stretcher - The side face of a brick
String - Sloping board carrying the treads and risers of a staircase
Tarmac - Bitumen macadam coating aggregate for drive/path surfaces
Timber Frame - Type of house construction usually finished with brickwork outer skin
Tread - Horizontal part of a stair
TRV - Thermostatic radiator valve
Voussoir - Wedge-shaped brick used in arch construction
Wainscot - Wooden lining to the walls of a room (traditional)

[Top»] How to spot a rogue trader

Rogue traders are very much in the minority, but they do exist, so how can you protect yourself.  By following a few simple rules we will eliminate rogue traders.  You should always be suspicious if they,

  • Turn up on your doorstep, using one liners like, you have loose tiles on your roof or I have been doing work in the area and I have materials that I need to use up.
  • Evade giving you references or details of previous jobs
  • Offer you a 'cheap' deal for cash-in-hand.
  • Suggest you can avoid paying VAT for cash
  • Confuse you with jargon and complicated explanations
  • Insist that a written contract is not necessary
  • Say they can start tomorrow (a good builder is usually busy)
  • Can’t give you costings because 'things may change'
  • Laugh when you suggest showing them plans
  • Give you a surprisingly low quote
  • Assure you the details are their problem and you don't need to worry

Whatever you do, follow our simple guidelines for choosing and working with a good builder, ask for references and talk to previous customers. A good builder will provide you with credentials and references, so try to visit previous jobs similar to your own.

If the builder is a member of a trade association, check the membership criteria - and make sure they really are a member, rogue builders have been known to falsely claim membership.

Avoid dealing in cash.

If any problems arise whilst work is in progress, or you are unhappy about anything, talk to your builder right away.