What I do
I concentrate mainly on Plumbing and Heating. "Heating" means gas: I'm Gas Safe (formerly CORGI) registered to work on domestic cookers, gas fires, water heaters and central heating boilers that run on natural gas. (I am also a member of the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering.)
The range of work I do includes:
- changing washers on, or replacing, taps on sinks, basins and baths,
- repairing or replacing cistern valves on tanks and WCs,
- replacing (or restoring) sinks, baths, WCs and basins,
- installing outside taps,
- fitting water filters and scale inhibitors,
- unblocking waste pipes and drains,
- installing showers,
- replacing immersion heaters and hot water cylinders,
- fitting Thermostatic Mixing Valves (TMVs) to baths, basins etc to make hot water temperature comfortable and prevent scalding,
- diagnosing problems on, and repairing, central heating systems and boilers,
- "powerflushing" central heating systems,
- fitting Thermostatic Radiator Valves (TRVs) to radiators,
- upgrading Central Heating controls, e.g. fitting Programmable Thermostats to systems,
- changing radiators and extending central heating systems,
- designing and installing under-floor heating,
- installing or replacing boilers,
- integrating wood-burning stoves with conventional heating systems,
- advising on and installing Heat Bank/Thermal Store systems for mains-pressure hot water,
- installing gas cookers and hobs,
- Landlords' Gas Safety inspections and certificates.
I'm also interested in out-of-the-ordinary projects (not all of which I claim particular expertise in) such as:
- air-source, ground-source (and maybe even river-source) heat pumps for heating (and possibly summer cooling) and hot water,
- thermal store/heat-bank based heating and hot water systems (including off-peak all-electric systems with radiators or underfloor heating and providing mains-pressure hot water),
- wet rooms,
- low energy buildings,
- rainwater harvesting, grey water recycling, reed beds and ponds.
Things I don't do include:
- installing whole new central heating systems (this usually involves too much work for me to do on my own in a reasonable timescale - though I am happy to help if someone else is supplying some labour for example hanging radiators, lifting and refitting floorboards)
- installing kitchens or bathrooms (though I will do the plumbing work if someone else is doing the tiling, carpentry, fitting units etc.)
- work on unvented hot water cylinders (e.g. "Megaflo" units). These require a particular qualification I do not have.
- work on oil-fired or LPG (bottled or "Calor" gas) systems. These also require qualifications I do not have.
- installing or working on:
- gas tumble dryers
- gas-fired warm-air central heating systems
- Agas, Rayburns and ranges of the type that provide hot water and even central heating: I can do Landlord's Gas Safety Inspections on installations including these appliances but I do not install them.
- flueless gas fires (the sort that don't go in a fireplace or have a flue through a wall to outside): I don't work on these even though I am qualified to do so as I have reservations about their safety and efficiency.
- installing solar water heating (there are usually better ways of improving energy consumption for the same amount of money).
- dealing with major blockages and other problems in main drains underground: I can sometimes clear blocked gullies and manholes but I don't have CCTV and high-pressure water jetting equipment etc which the specialist drain-cleaning firms have (see links for recommendations).
I am fully trained but no longer a member of a Competent Person Scheme for Electrical work. Although I can safely do electrical work connected to Plumbing and Heating jobs (e.g. fitting shower pumps, immersion heaters, central heating controls, dual-fuel cookers or gas hobs + electric ovens, etc.) there are situations where the regulations require that this work is notified to building control or done by an electrician (see links for recommendations).
In addition to the above I do various other 'handyman'-type jobs if the need arises. These may include small areas of tiling, some carpentry, painting and so on. Generally I only do this sort of work where it's related to plumbing jobs (e.g. making good when installing a shower or boiler) or for landlords where something needs doing at a property I'm doing plumbing/heating work at anyway.
I do domestic work: that's in people's houses. Sometimes I work in small shops, offices or schools. I don't work on building sites (except extensions to people's houses).
And I work for myself: I'm self-employed, a sole trader, a one-man band!
Where I work
I specialise in Plumbing and Heating rather than driving(!) so I generally work within urban Reading, preferably near the University area where I live. That's not just because it's environmentally unfriendly driving all over the place, but because if it takes me half an hour to get to a job that adds up to an hour out of my day during which I'm working but not getting paid for it. And if I have to go back to adjust a valve or tighten a joint that's weeping slightly or whatever ....