Dangerous Construction Materials

Construction has always been recognised as a high-risk industry; although it accounts for only around 5% of all employees in Britain, it accounts for 27% of all fatal injuries at work and 10% of all major injuries, according to figures from the HSE available at http://www.hse.gov.uk/Statistics/industry/construction/construction.pdf.

Whilst many of these injuries and accidents are the results of falls or other accidents, construction workers also face the fact of occupational illnesses from the materials that they work with. These are the materials that you need to be aware of.


Asbestos1USGOVAsbestos is a natural mineral which has been used for centuries because of its fire-retardant properties. However, it is also extremely dangerous, because the microscopic fibres that it’s comprised of are easily inhaled; once inhaled they cause irreparable damage to the lungs and can lead to lung cancer, mesothelioma and other diseases. According to the experts at the Asbestos Advice Helpline (www.asbestosadvicehelpline.com) 1% of all men over 40 in the UK have been affected in some way. The use of asbestos was banned in the UK in 1999, but it is still present in many buildings which were built before then, leading to complications with demolition and extension work.


Highway road workers use high power sawsLike asbestos, silica dust can be very harmful if inhaled. Silica is found in a wide range of construction materials, including many forms of rock such as granite, sandstone and marble. Cutting, grinding, drilling or otherwise working with any material which contains silica can produce silica dust, and over time the inhalation of silica dust can lead to silicosis. With both silica dust and asbestos, it is possible to reduce the risk by using an FFP3 respirator mask, which you can get from specialist suppliers like www.protectivemasksdirect.co.uk.

Coal Tar

A by-product of the coal gas manufacturing process, coal tar was commonly used as a binding agent in the construction of roads and asphalt surfaces prior to the 1980s. Because it can contain carcinogenic material including benzo(a)pyrene and other polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbines, any work that requires digging up such material is regulated. Tests must be conducted beforehand to assess it in order to see whether it would fall under the auspices of the Hazardous Waste Regulations, and whether it can be re-used or has to be sent to a specially designated landfill site.

These three examples are responsible for the majority of illnesses, but other materials used in construction can be equally dangerous. It’s important for any construction worker to be educated about the risks that surround them so that they can take the right precautions and avoid contracting workplace illnesses from the hazardous materials they come into contact with.

Materials and Surface Finishing

Surface finishing plays a number of key roles whenever it is used, and most material constructions are not considered to be ‘complete’ without some form of surface finishing coming into play. Surface finishing usually serves a dual purpose; it improves the aesthetics of a material, and it also protects that material from various environmental hazards. Most materials benefit from surface finishing in some shape or form, but wood, plastic and metal are perhaps the most notable examples.

Wood Finishing


Before wood can be finished properly, it usually needs to be sanded to a much smoother texture, otherwise whatever finish you apply will simply highlight the imperfections. This process might require you to begin with a powered finishing machine from a supplier like Finaids, and then end with a fine grain sandpaper; essentially you work through your options to achieve the best finish.

Once this process is accomplished there are a variety of techniques that can then be used. Wood paints are obviously one of the first and foremost, but there are obviously many others like varnishes, lacquers, oils, stains and sealers. The finishes can be used to infuse wooden surfaces with a matt, satin or gloss aesthetic, colour it completely or protect it from risks like fire, moisture or pest damages, and the exact one you use will depend on the goal you have in mind.

Plastic finishing


Comparatively, plastics require less finishing than woods, as they are manufactured with an already high-standard of surface finish. For example, an injection moulding machine produces products that already have polished finishes or even textures in their designs, but some plastics still require polishing or protecting to keep their finish.

If this is the case, the process requires that the plastic should be sanded with progressively finer grades of abrasive paper; however, metal polish and buffing wheels are also not uncommon. These are by no means the only methods that can be used though, as techniques such as flame polishing are available from specialised services like Sentinel Plastics, and can be used to give plastic an almost ‘glass-like’ appearance, so it is a very flexible material in terms of finishes.

Metal finishing


The finishing processes for metals are perhaps the most complex out of all these three materials. Because irons and steels rust, coating in grease, oil, paint or even plastic is absolutely vital, or the metal will degrade at a frightening rate. However, metal finishes are about far more than just achieving a better appearance through buffing and brushing, or even protecting the material from rust, as a lot of other properties can be attained.

Metal plating can be used upon many materials, including other metals, and it can serve to improve durability, withstand corrosion and reduce friction (among other things). Similarly, sand or bead blasting might be called upon to yield an extremely clean texture, powder coating can be called upon to fashion a textured surface, whilst hot blackening creates a surface that resists abrasion. Quite simply, if you can think of a property, the chances are that some form of metal finishing process can be used to achieve it.

Materials are, of course, the backbone of industrial activity, but without surface finishing treatments and the like they would never excel to the same degree that we expect them to in modern times. Effective surface finishing can make or break a project or product, so never make the mistake of neglecting it.

DIY or Get a Bloke In?

We all like to turn our hand to a little DIY from time to time, there’s a great feeling of accomplishment when you step back and admire your handiwork, thinking to yourself ‘Yes! It was I, who put up those shelves’. However, there are times when you may find yourself saying ‘Why did I think I could do this myself?’, as you survey the devastation wrought upon your own beloved home after your ham-fisted attempts to ‘remodel’.


Sometimes you need to know when you’re punching above your weight, swallow your pride and enlist the help of a qualified professional.

Blocked Drains

If the sink isn’t draining, then the problem may be relatively easy to solve. Maybe there’s some grease stuck in the u-bend, no problem! You can simply lay down an old towel, get under the sink, unscrew the collar of the pipe and clear the blockage manually. Maybe even pouring some caustic soda down the plug hole will do the trick!

We’d say definitely give a blocked drain the DIY treatment. However, bear in mind it could be the symptom of a much more serious problem; what if the waste pipes are damaged, what if leaking drains are causing subsidence? Then you might be in over your depth, time to get the professionals in. Try the people at www.drain-inspections.com

Fitting Gas Appliances

Do not try and DIY this one, please. It might seem easy; how hard can it be to hook the cooker up to a gas pipe and turn the tap. Much more difficult that you’d anticipate, and there’s a million other things to consider that you will not have thought of, unless you’re a fully qualified and registered gas fitter of course?

Gas Explosion

We reiterate, don’t try to DIY anything involving the mains gas supply, the consequences could be fatal. Hire a properly Gas Safe Registered Engineer, you can find a local specialist here www.gassaferegister.co.uk

Painting & Decorating

Well surely this one is a doddle and completely safe. It’s certainly quite safe unless you’re planning on drinking the paint or are especially clumsy up a ladder, but whether it’s easy or not depends entirely on how skilled you are. Not everyone is creative and a dab hand with a paintbrush, but we’d definitely say that decorating your own home is worth an attempt!

Wonderful Painting

If you doubt your abilities then go for a simple colour scheme, with solid colours. Work methodically, carefully masking off the areas you don’t want to paint and use a roller to avoid brush marks and apply an even coat of paint. You shouldn’t have too much trouble with this. Hanging wall paper on the other hand can be quite a tricky endeavour.

We say try your best with decorating, don’t rush it and you should get a good result. However, if it looks terrible after you’ve given it your all, then pick up the phone and get the professionals in. A good starting point for locating tradesmen in your area is www.ratedpeople.com

The secret to success with DIY is to know your own capabilities and limits, plus knowing when to admit defeat and get help from somebody who really knows what they’re doing. There’s no shame in getting a professional in to help you with something you don’t fully understand, you wouldn’t attempt surgery on yourself… Would you?


Stay Safe when Welding at Home

When most people think of the word DIY, it’s probably putting up a set of shelves that springs to mind, not welding. However, there’s no reason why you cannot try your hand at welding at home, but be aware that it is potentially very dangerous, and as such appropriate safety precautions must be taken.

MIG welding (metal inert gas welding) is a commonly used technique for fusing together two pieces of metal. An electrical arc generated by a welding rod reaches extremely high temperatures and is used to create the welds.


Industrial welders would typically use specialised welding power supplies and separate arc welding rods, but for the DIY user or enthusiast there are self-contained MIG welding units available for a reasonable price. However, the same safety procedures apply to these home use devices.

Specialist MIG welding gas is also utilised, shielding the molten pool of the weld from the oxidising effects of the atmosphere, resulting in a cleaner and more durable weld. The gas used can also alter the nature of the arc itself.

Take Precautions

If you’re going to be using a MIG or arc welder then you will need a welding helmet to shield your eyes from the incredibly bright light of the arc, which can easily burn your retinas, plus to protect your face from flying sparks and slag from the metal.

Welding helmets are widely available and most modern helmets are equipped with auto-darkening glass filters, meaning the viewing window will tint as soon as the arc is generated, leaving the welder’s hands free.

Welding Sheild

3M welding shields are well known for their quality and reliability.

Adequate Protection is Vital

A protective leather welding apron, thick insulated leather gloves with coverage to the elbow and heavy boots with insulating soles are also vital for the welder. The heavy leather will protect the user from burning sparks, whilst also reducing the impact of a shock should you accidently come into contact with the electrode.

Prepare Your Working Station

Ensure that the area where you’ll be working is clean, tidy and free of flammable materials, as the heat and sparks generated by a welding arc pose a serious risk of fire. It’s also important to carry out your work on an appropriate bench; a steel welding bench is preferable and a wooden table, no matter how sturdy, is certainly not recommended. Have a fire extinguisher ready to hand.

Also, a circuit breaker between your welding unit and the mains is advisable.

We hope that you’ve now garnered an insight into the safe conduct required when using welding equipment at home. There is a great deal of highly detailed information at www.mig-welding.co.uk, an extremely useful resource for those who are interested in become competent MIG welders.

Tents, Yurts and Prefabs: A History of Temporary Buildings

Throughout human history, one of the most basic considerations has always been the need for shelter. Early tribes led a nomadic lifestyle, as hunter-gatherers, following prey animals wherever they roamed. This meant that their shelter had to be temporary in nature; something that could easily be erected when needed and taken down when it was time to move on. Even today, when most of us lead far more settled lives and permanent buildings are the norm, there is still a need and a use for temporary buildings throughout the world.

800px-Saami_Family_1900The earliest kinds of temporary shelter were, naturally, made from the materials that our hunter-gatherer ancestors had to hand. This generally meant animal hides and wooden poles, which could be gathered from nearby trees. From these, it was relatively easy to make tents, and many cultures throughout the world have different and often unique forms. The Saami people of Scandinavia built lavvu, the reindeer herders of Siberia built chum, and native tribes of the Great Plains in Canada and America built tipi. Modern tents such as those made by Vango use modern, waterproof materials rather than animal hides, and have replaced the wooden poles with lightweight, durable alloy poles, but they still often use the same basic principles.

Igloo_in_Alert,_NunavutIn other parts of the world, different materials might be used to make temporary shelters. The Inuit, for example, often used the most abundant material in their Arctic territory to make snow houses. Whilst the Inuit word iglu refers to a house or home built from any material, to outsiders it has come to refer almost exclusively to these snow houses. Small igloos were often built as temporary shelters for one or two nights, whilst larger ones might be built for semi-permanent residences.

YurtAs tribes began to settle in one place for longer, shelters began to be used for longer periods. More durable forms began to be used; for example, the goahti of the Saami, which was often constructed larger than a lavvu and which, because of the large size of the curved poles used, was not so easily transportable.

The yurts of Central Asia are also of this type; designed to be portable yet durable, they can be put up in just a couple of hours yet are sturdy enough to be occupied on a long-term basis. Their use was recorded in ancient times by Herodotus, but they are still in use today – with yurt-type structures often used for “glamping” holidays.

800px-Prefab_20060625In modern times, although we have plenty of choice when it comes to permanent dwellings, temporary buildings are often used in circumstances where a building is needed quickly. This was quite notably the case in England after the Second World War, when affordable housing needed to be built on a large scale to accommodate the families made homeless by the Blitz. Many of these “prefabs” were made from metal, such as aluminium, in four panels which could be quickly and easily transported by lorry to anywhere in the country. Although they were designed to last only five to ten years – the intention being to replace them quite quickly with permanent homes – many were in use for much longer than this, with some still inhabited today.

The portacabin which we are all familiar with today has been in use since the 1960s, often used on construction sites and to provide emergency office space, pop-up shops, information offices and temporary classrooms. This is not a need which has ever gone away, of course, and today companies like Excel Modular offer a range of different portable and modular buildings to suit a wide range of uses.

Cardboard_Cathedral_way_up_highOf course, temporary buildings are not solely used for dwellings and small buildings; many famous buildings and large structures have been designed to be temporary. Many of the venues used for London’s 2012 Olympic Games were temporary, and following the Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand a cardboard cathedral was constructed, providing a stunning yet temporary place of worship until a permanent one can be completed.

With tents, yurts, portable buildings and even cardboard constructions in use around the world today, it seems clear that the story of temporary buildings is far from over!

The Building Stones of Britain

Britain is a beautiful and diverse island with a variety of natural materials that make strong, durable and attractive building materials. From limestone to sandstone, granite to slate, there are a range of British stones that can be found today in any truly British building, and many of them are still available for use in modern construction.




St Paul’s Cathedral in London is one of the best examples of Portland stone; a white limestone which is quarried on the Isle of Portland just off the Dorset coast. While it seems quite likely that Portland stone has been used since Roman times, its use became popular in the 14th Century, when St Paul’s, the Palace of Westminster, the Tower of London and the first stone London Bridge all made use of it. The appeal of Portland stone is that it balances durability with ease of use – it is strong enough to resist weathering but also allows for easy cutting and carving by stonemasons. It is still quarried to this day, and used around the world, including in the new BBC Broadcasting House in London.




Many towns and cities throughout Britain have made use of sandstone; in Edinburgh, it is particularly noticeable. The castle, Holyrood Palace, and many of the townhouses in both the Old Town and the New Town were built from sandstone taken from the Craigleath Quarry. Now closed and infilled, a retail park stands on the former quarry site; however it still offers a fascinating insight into the area’s geology. While Craigleath has closed, many other quarries throughout Britain still offer sandstone, including the St Bees quarry in Cumbria, which produces a distinctive red sandstone that is popular in walling, masonry and more.




Granite may be the most ubiquitous stone in British building; from iconic landmarks like Tower Bridge (built using Cheesewring granite from Cornwall), to banks and town halls up and down the country, it has been used for centuries. Granite from Cornwall, Cumbria, Leicestershire and Scotland has seen widespread use; Aberdeen’s buildings used granite so extensively that it’s often been called the Granite City. Today, most granite used in the UK is imported, although there are still a few quarries left in the UK.




Slate has long been used in Britain as a roofing material; because slate has two lines along it which can easily be broken (the cleavage and the grain) it is easy to split into thin sheets, which in turn can be made into roofing tiles. It also has a very low water absorption index, which makes it resistant to frost damage – perfect for cold British winters. Cornwall, Wales and Cumbria are all well-known slate producing districts, each producing different shades of slate. St Oswald’s Chambers in Chester, the Grade II listed building shown above, uses Westmorland green slate in its roof; this type of slate is particularly popular, and still available today through reclaimed slate merchants.

Whether you choose to use new stone from a British quarry or source reclaimed materials for an authentic period look, using British stone building materials is an ecologically friendly alternative to importing from around the world. With so many varied and attractive stones available here on our little island, why look elsewhere?

‘Building’ on Economic Success

Growth figures in the UK are, at long last, beginning to show a sustained and progressive upturn, and it certainly seems as though the UK economy is regaining strength. Recent financial figures suggest that the stabilisation of the economy has helped in allowing us to avoid a triple dip recession. This is good news for all industries, spending is on the up and with this will bring further stimulation for the economy, as the excess spending leads to more jobs. A huge 1.7% drop in unemployment was recently announced too, meaning that over 160,000 more people are in work than they were in 2012, with an increased workforce and demand heralding economically stable times.

brick layingOne sector that has seen significant growth is the construction industry, and the statistics for last year show that there were increases in both new work (5.1%) and repairs (5.6%); all pointing to a positive economic outlook. The increased demand for houses has seen building of new houses hit a five year high in 2013, with over 64,000 new builds in the UK.

The increase in new builds has even begun to outstrip the supply of the vital materials that are needed to build new homes. One material for which the demand is incredibly high is bricks. During the recession many brick-works were closed due to lack of demand, so this renewed demand has put strain on those that remain. BBC news  reported today that the Claughton brickwork has been re-opened due to the high demand, and is helping to ensure that there is no let up in the rate at which new houses are being built.

Brick suppliers are reporting a marked increase in demand, and there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel at long last for the British economy. This increase in building work is not only important for the construction, but allows all other types of business to develop quickly and expand to take full advantage of the recent growth too.

Other industries that provide vital operational construction equipment to the industry have seen the recession slump turn around, and business is positively booming. With the growth being manifested so strongly in a sector that is so instrumental to success, it is a sure sign that the worm may finally have turned for the UK.

growth forecastMany will still be sceptical at this growth and say that the figures are stated only to prompt a little good morale. This scepticism is misplaced though, as the growth has been steady and consistent throughout the last two years. Recent growth forecasts reasonably predict further growth in 2014, and a rate of 2.2% has been predicted by the IMF.

All this positive economic news has done wonders for the British morale, and people are finally able to feel the end of the recession. The times have undoubtedly been tough throughout the recession but, as ever, Britain’s steely resolve and excellent work ethic have seen us emerge as a more cautious but equally formidable financial power.

Tips for Durable and Cost Effective Workshop Construction Materials: A Tradesman’s Guide

Due to the current economic situation, the UK population has become tighter when it comes to parting with their money. This situation has led to a negative snowball effect on mainly manual labouring industries such as carpentry and roofing. Most tradesmen are taking drastic measures to cut costs such as office rent since they reduce profits due to an increase in monthly overhead costs. Building your own workshop could be the answer, as not only does it save you costs in the long run, but there is also the flexibility of designing the building to suit your tasks. Building materials are available in abundance differing in durability and cost.


When seeking for durability and cost effective roofing materials, metal has been renowned for possession of both characteristics. Metal roofing has a proven performance expectation of over 50 years, which makes it a top quality long term investment. Besides having such long performance expectancy, metal is a lightweight product therefore it will help preserve the structural life of the building. Bushbury Cladding offers a wide range of metal and steel roofing materials. These are available in various finishes and styles to match the exact look you want for your building.


Glazing durability is a tricky subject as glass is a very fragile part of the building. Unpredictable breakages could easily result due to various reasons such as an accidental strike. However, companies such as Westgate Solar Control  produce solar film coatings which can be applied internally or externally to glass to increase durability. Solar coatings reinforce the glass reducing liability to breakage saving the owner from long term replacement costs.


Having been used for thousands of years, wood is one of the most well-known forms of materials in building properties. The material’s durability is the main reason for its popularity with the top quality timber lasting for more than 25 years. For great cost effective deals on wooden construction material, Champion Timber is one of the ‘go-to’ firms. A tradesman’s workshop would also certainly benefit from the eco-friendly and great insulation qualities of the material.

Although there will be initial worries regarding costs in building a workshop, the money saved in the long run will certainly be worth it. The advantages will be noticed especially when operating under economic pressures such as a low cost budget. Durable, yet cost effective materials would be any workshop builder’s best friend in such times.

The Beauty and Uses of Limestone

CaptureLimestone is a common sedimentary rock found throughout the world – it makes up around 10% of all sedimentary rocks. Most people, however, are unaware of just how many uses limestone is put to, and how much they use it on a day to day basis.

In nature, it can form striking landscapes like the Burren, which is one of Ireland’s national parks. It’s what is called a karst landscape, where water has eroded the limestone over thousands and millions of years to create a pattern of stone blocks, called clints, with cracks between which are called grikes. It also creates caves, such as Aillwee Cave which is a major tourist attraction of the area – click here for their site. Such landscapes inspired the poet W.H. Auden to write one of his best works – click here to read “In Praise of Limestone”.

It has been used in architecture for centuries – including in some of the most famous landmarks in the world, the pyramids of Egypt. Click here to read a Wikipedia article about how they were constructed. Its use was popular because it was readily available, relatively easy to cut into blocks and carve, and long-lasting. It was not just ancient people who used it – medieval castles and churches in Europe are commonly built from limestone, and today it is often used as a facing on skyscrapers. It’s also now often used in kitchens and bathrooms- click here for a range of limestone tiles on the Tile Hub website.

However, it also has a range of uses outside architecture and home décor. For example, did you know that there’s likely to be limestone in your toothpaste? It’s ground down into a fine powder, called calcium carbonate, and used as a mild abrasive to help take the stains off. Click here for more information on calcium carbonate from HowStuffWorks.

You are also quite likely to have consumed limestone on a regular basis. As calcium carbonate, it’s designated a food additive under the number E170, which is frequently found in bread, biscuits, cereals and more. Click here to read about E170 on the UK Food Guide.

It’s also used in quicklime, cement and mortar; for aggregate used in road-building; as a soil conditioner to neutralise acidic soils; as a reagent to reduce pollution from fossil-fuel power plants; in making some kinds of glass; in paper, plastics, paint and other materials; to suppress methane explosions in coal mines; to prevent corrosion of water pipes; in blast furnaces to remove impurities from iron and as a material for sculptors. With so many uses, and with such natural beauty, limestone is a lovely and incredibly useful stone – and one we probably couldn’t do without.

Farm Construction & Keeping Cattle

Keeping cattle needs a lot of planning and careful consideration. As well as deciding what breed of cow you want to keep you need to make sure you have the correct equipment. The equipment that you need will vary, it will depend on if you’re buying cattle for dairy or for consumption. For dairy, you’ll need a dairy house full of milking equipment, whereas for consumption you’ll need a beef house – both requiring completely different equipment. Here are a few general factors you’ll need to consider when constructing a cattle farm.

Protect your Livestock

Once large section of land has been purchased, you need to make sure you have adequate fencing surrounding it in order to keep the cows safely in and intruders out. Heavy wooden fences look fantastic, they are incredibly sturdy and durable. Visit Country Wide for more information on the types of fences available for cattle farming. You need to carefully plan where each building is and utilise all of the available space – wasted space is useless on a farm.

wire fence

Keeping Livestock Fed

As a livestock farmer you must understand the importance of keeping your livestock happy and healthy throughout the winter months. Winter can be hard on animals, especially when it comes to winter feeding.

In order to keep farm animals healthily fed over it is important to have a large stock of silage. Silage is a form of conserved grass this is used when grass is not in abundance. Cattle and sheep often live off this during the cold winter month.  In order to make silage, a silage clamp needs to be installed on the farm. A silage clamp allows silage to be naturally produced under acidic conditions. For more information on modern silage clamps visit RE Buildings a leading provider in agricultural buildings and equipment.

cow feed


Making sure your livestock have access to a clean and adequate water supply is also essential for ensuring their welfare, whether they’re housed inside or out. When it comes to providing a water source for your cows there are a number of options available, such as water tanks and troughs. A great way to increase sustainability on your farm is to also consider using rainwater tanks; these are available from companies such as Purewater Storage and can allow you to harvest rainwater for use on your farm.

water tank

Know the Law

In order to build a successful cattle farm ensure that you have researched the appropriate health & safety laws, purchased the right equipment and utilised all of your space effectively.  Go to the Health and Safety Executive for information and legal legislation in regards to keeping cattle. Ensure that you purchase high quality buildings that will endure the tests of time, farming is an expensive business and you don’t want to waste money on avoidable repairs.