Friday, 27 June 2008

My Day Out with the Ladder.

In case you don't know, all our handymen travel around London on either motorbikes or push bikes. One of the few drawbacks of these modes of transport is that we cannot carry step-ladders with us. This is not normally a problem as most customers have a step ladder or sturdy chair we can stand on if a bit of extra height is required.

This however was not the case for one of our customers who had just moved in to a flat in W2. Unfortunately she did not have a step ladder or much furniture yet and wanted us to install some curtain rails and replace a faulty lighting transformer.

So yesterday morning I set out from SW12 on my push bike with a trailer loaded with a 4 rung folding step ladder. Traveling through Clapham Common, over Chelsea bridge and across Hyde Park I arrived at the customers house at 9am as the Handyman Nick was just arriving.

I spent the day following Nick from job to job and even assisted in assembling some furniture at his last job of the day. After which I headed home, following the same route back through Hyde Park.

All in it was a 2 hour round trip and about 2000 calories of energy to get the ladder to W2. But I loved it.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008


We have recently set up a Silver Saints Youtube chanel which will feature how 2 videos of our london handymen carrying out some of the more common jobs we take on.

We have posted our first video on how to hang a flat screen TV and aim to post a new video each week. Look out for next weeks video on changing sash cords.

Visit our chanel to view our most recent video - How to hang a flat screen TV.

Silver Saints - Londons premier handyman service.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Last Minute Cancellations

We have a fairly liberal cancellation policy. A customer can cancel their job at anytime before we actually turn up at the door without attracting a charge. Although we do get last minute cancellations and they are always disappointing, the fact that our average job is only 90 minutes long, means that it normally is not the end of the world. We can usually reshuffle our schedule in order to keep the handyman busy.

But yesterday we had a customer cancel a large wall-papering job, that was due to last two days, the evening before the work was due to commence. It was too late in the day for us to do anything about the handyman's schedule and as a consequence he had a very unproductive day.

We have always shied away from jobs lasting more than four hours, mainly because they are normally complex, hard to be competitive on pricing and are generally a greater credit risk. This particular customer was desperate to get the work done and had already given us credit card details for payment so we were happy to take on the work. But in the end we had our figures burnt and it has given us yet another reason to stick to the small jobs that we do so well.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Tap Repairs, Tap Valves and Tap Spares

One of the jobs we have become experts on over the years is curing problems with household taps. Identifying makes and models from emailed photos, sourcing specific valves, ceramic cartridges, handles, diverters and indices has become somewhat of an obsession amongst the Silver Saints Operations Team.

I had a particularly satisfying enquiry this morning. A lady had picked up one of our business cards at her local South West London coffee shop and given us a call about her leaking bath taps. She obviously did have some DIY knowledge as she explained that the tap internals would need to be changed as the problem with the valve felt a little more than just a worn washer.

I asked her to email me a picture of the taps. Which she did.
Within a half-hour we had identified the make and model of the taps and ordered the replacement parts. I'd be very surprised if any other London handyman service or Plumbing service had the same knowledge or resources to identify and source parts from a picture of a 10-15 year old bath tap. But we do it half a dozen times a week.

It must be said, we don't always find the parts needed. Sometimes we just don't have enough clues from the taps themselves to identify the manufacturers and sometimes they are just cheap no-name taps imported from China and sold online (so parts are not available). But at least a customer can be confident that if we suggest fitting a new tap, the parts really are impossible to find.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Upgrading Electric Showers

Many Londoners have a love hate relationship with electric showers. Landlords and property developers love them, because the allow an additional shower at relatively low cost. While tenants hate them, because of their mediocre performance (especially in Winter).

Electric showers are fed cold water directly from the mains. The shower then 'instantaneously' heats the the incoming water to the desired temperature set by the user. In fact what is happening is the shower slows the flow of water down to give it enough time to heat the cold water. That is why in winter, when the incoming mains water is very cold, all you get is a trickle from the shower head.

The more powerful the rating of the shower (7.5Kw, 8.5 Kw, 9.5Kw or 10.5 Kw) the quicker it can heat up the water and the less it has to slow the flow down.

A lot of people have picked up on this fact and have opted to upgrade their poorly performing 7.5KW showers with a more powerful 10.5KW shower. Unfortunately, DIYers don't always understand the electrical implications of changing the rating of an electrical appliance to the rest of their wiring and protective devices (fuses, miniature circuit breakers). Simply, the amount of current that a cable can carry without overheating is limited mainly by the cross sectional area of the cable. Fuses and MCB are in place to protect the cable from overheating and therefore are rated to blow or trip before the electrical current gets to the cables failure current.

A 7,5 KW shower will draw a maximum current of 30Amps - 32 Amps. An installer would thus get away with a using a 32amp MCB and a 6 mm2 cable. A 10.5Kw shower would draw a maximum of 40-43 Amps and therefore would require a cable thickness of at least 10 mm2 which should be protected by a 45amp MCB. So if a person wishes to install a 10.5KW shower in place of a 7.5KW shower they should be confident that the electrical supply is capable of coping with such a change.

With a bit of domestic electrical knowledge and plumbing knowledge, upgrading an electric shower is a straight forward job. But without knowing what one is doing it can lead to a dangerous situation, mainly a fire risk.

So my advice is if you are adamant on doing the work yourself, get a competent person to check your electrics for you. Otherwise hire a professional handyman to do the whole install for you.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Sash Window Repair - Handyman London

One of the more specialist job Silver Saints London Handyman Service undertakes is the replacing of broken sash cord or sash spiral balances. As we head into summer and the temperature rises many people are opening their sash windows again after the long winter. Only to realise that the sash windows won't stay up, this is normally due to one of two things. The sash cord has broken and so the window is no longer attached to the weight or the window has been re-glazed with a thicker glass than it was first installed with and the weights are no longer heavy enough to keep the sash from sliding closed under its own weight. Both these are problems our handymen can fix.

Arriving in London six years ago from South Africa, sash windows were very new to me. In fact the only example of a sash window I had seen before was in old colonial hotels which are still scattered around South Africa. But sash windows have been around for a very long time and their popularity today is probably as high as it has ever been. In a recent search for a particular nylon sash cord I came across a specialist Sash Window design company that had an extensive history of the sash window.

The origins of the vertical sliding sash window are still subject to speculation and debate, but it would appear that the design probably derived from the much simpler horizontal sliding sash commonly known as the 'Yorkshire Sash'.

For many years it was believed that the vertical design had originated in Holland, during the later part of the Seventeenth Century. Others claimed it to be of French origin, as the word 'sash' is derived from the French word 'chassis' , meaning frame. However the French sash had not yet developed counter-balancing and the sliding sash frame was held in place by a swivel block.

The earliest recorded account may be that of W.Horman who in his 1589 'Vulgaria' wrote-"Glasen wyndowis let in the lyght.....I have many prety wyndowes shette with levys goynge up and down".

Certainly toward the end of the Seventeenth Century, sash windows were apparent in England examples include Chatsworth House (c1676 - 1680), Kensington Palace and Hampton Court Palace. Sir Christopher Wrens master joiner, Thomas Kinward, recorded possibly the earliest specification of a fully developed sash window, whilst working at Whitehall Palace. With the royal patronage and adoption by Wren, wooden sash windows soon became a fashionable status symbol across Britain and the Colonies.

Many earlier casement windows were replaced and sliding sash windows were used almost exclusively in new buildings, from royal palaces to simple cottages the sash ruled supreme and remained popular until the earlier part of this century.The sash offered many advantages, including being better suited to the wet British climate, as it can be closed down to a narrow gap, allowing for good ventilation whilst reducing the chance of rain entering. Being contained within the box, the sashes are less susceptible to distortion and rot than a hinged casement adding greatly to their life span. Aesthetically the sash is constructed from delicate sections of wood, with large areas of glass that add a certain grace, even when open they do not detract from the facade, as an open casement does.

Georgian architecture embraced sash windows wholeheartedly, improving the design from a single moving sash, with the top being fixed, to the more familiar system of two moveable sashes. Oak was the common timber used for construction, with thick glazing bars to hold the small, valuable crown glass panes, made by blowing. The 'bulls eye' formed at the centre by this manufacturing technique was commonly used at the rear of buildings. As glass manufacture improved larger panes started to appear and the ‘classic’ Georgian design consisting of six over six panes, with narrow glazing bars became the norm.

For the Victorians, box sash windows were a central focus to the character of their buildings, inside and out they lavished ornamentation and decoration on their homes. Curved horns, multi-arched heads, intricate mouldings, leaded lights and latticework started to appear in the sashes, which were often grouped into impressive bays and offset with ornate stone reveals. Graduating the size of windows from the ground upwards not only improved the perspective but also increased the amount of light to the lower rooms.

By the turn of the century the sash was the most widely used window, but since the first world war their popularity has been in decline. This decline is probanly due to the labour costs involved in their manufacture when compared to the easily mass produced wooden or metal casement window.

Given the advances in glass manufacturing and the increased efficiency of sash windows I think sash window will be around for a very long time still.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

London Removal Companies Should Use More London Handymen.

Our handymen have been doing a lot of work for one particular London removal company lately. The typical jobs they ask us to do include: removing a sash window to allow access, taking down or putting up light fittings, dismantling & reassembling furniture, disconnecting dishwashers/washing machines, touching up scuff marks on walls and of course hanging pictures, paintings and mirrors.

I personally have never used a removals company, even though I've moved properties four times in the last five years. I've always opted for hiring a van and employing the help of a few friends, for a reasonable rate of a couple of beers. The only down side to this arrangement is that you will probably be called on to volunteer your own services when each of your mates move!

A quick search for removals companies in London returns pages and pages of competing companies, most offering an online quoting service. This suggests to me that it must be a fiercely competitive market. Having relationships with complimentary services must only be of benefit to a removals firm looking to get their muddy foot in the door. Moving is a traumatic experience for a lot of people and the idea of having the removals company manage every part of the move, including arranging a handyman to take things down or apart one side or put things up or together the other side must be a very attractive proposition to a potential customer.

The truth is all the removals company needs to do is pass their customers details on to us with a list of the work that needs doing at each property, we manage the whole process directly with their customer ourselves. It couldn't be a simpler service for them to offer as part of the moving package.

We hope to get a lot more work from removals firms as they struggle to out do their competitors in what promises to be a tough time ahead for any business relying on a booming property market.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Rat and Mouse Proofing - (Grey Handyman London)

Job described as 'Change washing machine connection'; arrived at the customer's address, a converted church hall; customer took me through a labrynth to reach his laundry room, on the way describing how his cleaner thought rats had chewed through the outlet duct from the tumble drier. As we neared the laundry room the smell started to hit us - seemed like an animal smell, and very strong.

In the laundry room, the tumble drier was stacked on a washing machine and the extract duct - a flexible plastic pipe - led through a couple of partitions then along a one of three shelves about 3 metres long. The shelves were stacked mainly with laundered towels and sheets, all in plastic bags. On the duct shelf some of these packages showed signs of rat droppings and damage caused by rats chewing them.

The customer said that he wanted the duct replaced with a metal one, and the area cleared out.So I started moving the laundry packages off the shelves and separating them into undamaged and damaged piles. Then - yuch, I found the body! A large rat, well decomposed, with maggots crawling over it, laying on the severely damaged duct under laundry packages.

It had obviously been living in the area (I later found the nest in the wall cavity where the duct led outside) and had died from the poison put down by the customer. The rat's body joined the pile of damaged (and badly contaminated) laundry in a couple of rubbish bags which ended up in the bins outside. The customer's vacuum cleaner then had a work out cleaning the remaining debris from the shelves, wall cavity and floor, before a new aluminium duct could be installed.

End result - cleaned out laundry area; new rat-proof duct but...still a very strong smell! I wonder how long it will take to disperse?