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.

Limestone

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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.

Sandstone

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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

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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

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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.

Roofing

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

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.

Timber

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.

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.

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.

How to beat the drop in Construction Output

Total construction output figures have dropped by almost 5% against the same period last year, continuing a trend of decline in the construction sector on the whole. The fall in output has been blamed on poor weather conditions during the second quarter combined with a subdued demand in the property market. Construction output and the strength of the construction industry is the second main component used when determining monthly GDP reports, meaning a decline in output will have negative effects on the economy. Have a look at www.theconstructionindex.co.uk/news/view/construction-output-falls-nearly-5-in-may for a more detailed breakdown of the construction industry within the UK and see how it affects GDP and the British economy. The best way of breaking out of this decline is to promote the continuation of house building and attempt to kick start the industry.

Since the construction industry is currently in a fragile state it is important to produce the finest homes for the lowest possible price. The best way to achieve this is by combining well thought through sustainable housing designs with top quality construction materials, sourced at a reasonable price. There are many first-rate property development companies offering unique designs certain to attract the attention of the market but be sure to stress your particular requirements and design specifications, ensuring your property will be constructed on time and on budget. By purchasing carefully you can make massive savings on expensive construction materials such as slate roofing. Quality slate can be expensive but some research can lead to much lower expenditure. Take a look at companies such as www.slate.uk.com for examples of quality slate from around the world and receive a quote for your construction project. By knowing the exact requirements of your construction venture you can cut the costs of waste materials and hence reduce overall costs.

The other major expenditure when it comes to construction is the cost of purchasing or renting expensive equipment and machinery. Depending on the nature of your construction project, this could include everything from cranes and loaders to generators and compactors. Buying used and second hand equipment can save substantial amounts of money when compared to frequent renting or purchasing of brand new machinery. Visit www.mascus.co.uk/construction for a better idea of the range of second hand products on offer and the savings you can generate. These sites tend to act as a middleman between the buyer and seller, attracting a great assortment of different sized, aged and construction machinery and equipment to meet your needs.

By adopting a progressive mentality of sustainable design while economising your outgoings, you can continue to thrive in a construction industry despite the fall in overall output and demand. Keeping one step ahead of the market when it comes to competitive prices, will guarantee a successful project and a profitable outcome.

Men of Steel

Historically, steel has been used for a variety of things, having proved ever versatile for any number of projects, items and uses. From spoons to houses you can find steel in just about everything, but where did it come from? And how did we capitalise on such a ubiquitous material? Well, our latest blog will hopefully uncover a few facts about steel you might not have known.

Then
Steel has actually been in use for around 4,000 years, having been used in Anatolia as discovered on an archaeological dig that unearthed a piece of ironware dating back to then. As the years advanced, so to did the use of steel, particularly in the theatre of war where it was used in the production of weapons and armour, most notably in the warring nation of Sparta. However, it was during the crusades that steel truly found its fame, the eponymous Damascus steel withstanding great pressure without breaking, whilst still retaining its edge. The legacy of steel was forged in war and can be documented with a visit to the Royal Armoury in Leeds (www.royalarmouries.org/visit-us/leeds), a fantastic day out for all the family that charts the history of the sword, amongst other things, and how the use of steel became a metonym for the ruling of the medieval world.

Now
As is often the case, the developments in the military eventually bled through into the domestic sphere, and the uses for steel widened greatly in the 19th century thanks to the Bessemer process. By blasting iron with oxygen, British metallurgist Sir Henry Bessemer realised that he could reduced the carbon content of steel to make it much more workable. Though made obsolete by basic oxygen steelmaking methods introduced in the 1950s, the Bessemer process was instrumental in making the results of steel production available to a wider market. The inherent strength of steel was therefore perfect for the building of structures, and to this day steel remains the most used material in construction. What’s more, its recyclability means that in 2006 enough steel was recycled from old cars to create 13.5million new ones, and that at the current rate, recycling steel saves enough energy to power approximately 18 million households for a whole year! Dedicated to all things steel, www.steelconstruction.info has become one of the leading resources for steel and steel construction, and also acts as a trade hub for industry professionals looking research steel, its uses, its limitations and so forth. The ubiquity of steel in construction has resulted in a culture of iron men and women born out the advancements of modernity and into the 21st century.

The Future
The future of steel is a bold and bright one. As stated, its recyclability is a major boon meaning that its role in days to come is helping to deliver a sustainable future. As further developments in ecological and environmental conservation and awareness flourish, steel will play a key role in wind power, as well as sustainable low energy transport. As newer, advanced steels are developed to help make cars and vehicles lighter, emissions are reduced and efficiency is increased, resulting in a cleaner future.  For buildings, steel will continue to be the material of choice, as lightweight steel construction provides low energy, better insulated buildings that require less construction time. Overall the future of steel is a bright one, and more can be read about it at www.worldsteel.org/publications/position-papers/Steel-s-contribution-to-a-low-carbon-future.html, containing excellent graphs and statistics that outline just how big of a role steel will play in the future.

Quartz Queries

Quartz is the second most abundant mineral in the world after feldspar, and its applications are exceedingly numerous when it comes to manufacturing and products. Though arguably most famous for watches, there is much more to quartz than mere timekeeping. Take a look at our blog to see just how ubiquitous quartz can be.

Watches
As mentioned, watches are perhaps the most famous incorporator of quartz. Since the 1980s and the augmentation and compacting of quartz via digital electronics, quartz timekeeping methods have become the world’s most widely used timekeeping technology, used in most watches, clocks and even computer equipment. A quartz watch will gain or lose approximately 15 seconds per month, or around 0.5 seconds a day, though many modern iterations often contain compensatory elements that attempt to resolve this problem, such as inhibition compensation or internal adjustment. For more information on maintaining your quartz watch in the face of timekeeping or other issues, check out www.vacheron-constantin.com/en/services/looking-after-your-watch-2/type_quartz for a handy and informative guide. As it is a relatively inexpensive material, quartz watches can be bought at very attractive prices, ranging from a few pounds well into the hundreds depending on the watch design. If you are thinking about buying a new quartz watch, you can pick up some great deals at www.watchshop.com/Quartz-Watches.html.

Home
Quartz is often used in bathroom tiles and kitchen worktops as the natural properties of the mineral lend it a marble-like feel with an added glisten under the surface. Its status as the second most abundant mineral on the planet gives it great variety in design, creating a multitude of different patterns and styles. Outlets like Tilemart specialise in supplying quartz tiles, so if you’re thinking about relaying your bathroom with quartz you should definitely check out www.tilemart.co.uk/quartz-tiles. Quartz’s inherent properties make it more than just an aesthetic choice for your bathroom too, as its non-porous qualities ensure that no water goes where it shouldn’t. In the kitchen, a quartz unit can really add an extra hygienic level to your design too, as food and liquid particles cannot be trapped under its impervious surface, nor can germs grow in such stone. Easy to clean and stunning in design, a quartz worktop is a fantastic kitchen investment, so if you’re looking at picking one up, head to www.granite-care.co.uk/quartz-worktops to begin your re-design.

Glass
Quartz sand is also a major ingredient in a lot of glass production. Specifically within the scientific and industrial markets, quartz glass production results in the creation of crucibles, tubing, optical glass and more. The specialised nature of the industry means that companies like www.h-baumbach.co.uk/ maintain quartz glass manufacturing as their sole focus, and you can see more examples of what they do in the video below, and take a look at www.heraeus-quarzglas.com/en/quarzglas/quarzglas_1/Quarzglas.aspx to get a better understanding on the benefits of working with quartz glass.

Quartz really does have many applications for everyday and industrial usage. This common mineral far exceeds its call of duty and performs admirably by adapting to a wide variety of required uses.

Fracking: Benefits and Disadvantages

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The UK has lifted its ban on fracking, which is the process used to recover gas and oil from shale rock. A pressurised mixture of water, sand and chemicals are shot at the rock to release the gas inside. Currently tests are being carried out to see how much shale gas we might have available to us. It is estimated in some cases that the amount of gas available could be substantial . In South Wales alone there could be £70 billion worth of reserves. So if this new venture could have us reaping the rewards of a coal and oil alternative, then how come there has been so much controversy over fracking? Well there are worries that that fracking could pollute drinking water, there have been some instances in America where carcinogenic chemicals have escaped and gotten into the water causing the water to ignite as it comes out of the tap. There is talk that the fracking process could cause tremors. During tests two tremors were felt in the blackpool area and caused the testing in that area to be suspended. Environmentalists are worried about the amount water during the process, nearly 4 million gallons are needed each time and in areas like the south east which already have water scarcity issues would struggle.

Those in the fracking industry of course have their version of things. Currently coal and oil is very expensive and if we had access to shale gas that would reduce market costs worldwide. Thanks to fracking America and Canada now have enough gas to last them 100 years. If Britain were to start the fracking process they would ensure that the boreholes made during the process would be properly sealed and that the cement used would have sound integrity and would not leak.

Though there are obvious short term benefits from the fracking process, but the long term consequences could be a 4-6 degree increase in the global temperature this century which could have disastrous consequences on the environment. But it is up to the UK government, will they priorities cost over the future of our planet? I guess we will find out.

Living in a Wooden Home

Living in an wooden house, you’re already well on your way to having an eco-friendly, healthy home. Wood is one of man’s favourite materials and for thousands of years we have built our properties this way. Because of the durability of wood, it has proved a popular material to use for quick projects that are long lasting.

Why is healthy to live in a wooden house?

Softwood used for building has resin remaining and becomes a positive impact on the respiratory tract. dust also doesn’t manage to settle as well in wooden homes, making clean up easier due to wood not having the same electrostatic properties as other building materials. Adding to this psychologists believe the warming colour of wood is beneficial to mood, state of mind and can even soothe the nervous system

What about heating?

Because of the absorption factor of wood, it keeps a natural humidity balance inside the house. Timber walls naturally suck the moisture out of the air and hold it in a framing of the whole structure, staying warmer for longer. If it is summer outside, chances are, the same temperature is felt inside the wooden house. The micro-climate of a wooden house allows the whole structure to breathe, causing less damp and mould issues than normal houses due to the natural ventilation. Log houses tend to warm up significantly quicker and cool down significantly slower than normal brick houses. Installing a log fire into a wooden cabin is a sure fire way to have ‘free’ heating, especially if the wood you burn you can accumulate for free too. They are a perfect solution for humid or warm climates as they can insulate in the winter and cool inside during the summer.

Choosing to live in a wooden house can not only be beneficial health wise, but can be cost effective. If you’re not paying for heating (if you install a log fire) and are just paying for water and gas/electric, it can cut the cost of your bills by 40%.

Not only are log/wooden houses aesthetically pleasing, they are a great unique selling point if you did ever want to sell and move on. Play on the special factors of the property, the eco friendly, the health benefits, the cost efficiency. But most who live in wooden houses/log cabins, will most likely stay put from falling in love with this kind of property. This couple from Morecambe, Lancashire have restored an old beach house on Morecambe Bay to a fantastic and unique Noah’s Ark style house that they have lived in for the past 6 years. The great thing about wooden houses/log cabins is that every single one is different in external look, internal layout and function. So you really do get a one of a kind property experience.