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5 TOP TIPS GUIDE

Sometimes, you won't need to hire us and can complete common home projects yourself as a Do It Yourself project.  This guide tells you how...


Here's our handy 5 Top Tips Guide for a variety of DIY projects.  We're always happy to give help & advice - just drop us a message and we'll advise you as best we can.  Brew a cuppa and have a read!

A septic tank, or sewage treatment plant, is installed for any property where there is no access to a main sewer system. The septic system is a critical part of your infrastructure, it is essential that it is built & installed correctly to ensure trouble free long-term use and operation.


1. Septic System Design
With any project, it is always important to have a basic design to work from. This means when you start work on site you have a clear plan of action. A septic system comprises two main elements. The tank and the percolation area or discharge area.

2. Choosing the right septic tank
Choosing the right septic tank or sewage treatment plant is a crucial step in the process. At this stage, you will already have decided whether you will be installing a soak-a-way or percolation area, or having a direct discharge.

3. Installation
When installing your septic tank, or wastewater treatment system, there are two options. The first is to complete the full or part installation works yourself. If you are any way unsure about doing a septic tank upgrade or new system installation yourself, then you should talk to us.

4. Ventilation
Good ventilation is often something that is overlooked when installing a septic tank, or sewage treatment plant. Bad ventilation can lead to odour issues onsite. It is very important that the ends of percolation trenches are vented, and there is either a vent on the wastewater treatment plant or that there is a soil vent stack at the house.

5. Maintenance & Operation Access
When installing your sewage treatment plant, consideration should be given to future maintenance. Any lids on the tank should not be covered over with soil. Access will be needed in the future for septic tank emptying and for inspection and checks that the system is running properly. 
The tank should be within 30m of a roadway, as septic tank emptying trucks generally only have 30m long hoses for emptying tanks. If a tank is over 30m from a driveway your septic tank emptying costs may increase.

The French drain is a simple, yet very versatile construction which can be used to drain run-off & standing water from problem areas in your garden or basement areas. The process is fairly simple; it just requires a little preparation and planning, the right tools, materials and know-how.


1. Look at underground safety. Before building a French drain in a specific area, you must locate all underground cables, pipes or other installations that could make digging dangerous in that particular spot.  Other things you must take into account: the source of the water you will be draining, the greatest amount of flow you can expect to get, and if it is a hazardous or contaminated source.


2. Check.  Check.  And check again. You will also need to establish whether or not your French drain would cause hardship for neighbours in terms of groundwater runoff. Running excess water onto someone else's land could lead to issues. Ideally the French drain should runoff in a relatively unused section of land, away from any buildings, into sandy soil which allows water to pass through easily.


3. Find a downhill slope. In order to work well, your French drain needs to be constructed on a slight downhill grade. This allows water to drain away from the problem area through the force of gravity.  If no natural downward slope exists, you can create a slope by digging progressively deeper as you work your way along the trench.


4. Gather your tools and materials. You'll need to stock up on a few basic tools and materials. You will need: A roll of water-permeable landscape fabric, A perforated plastic drain, Washed drainage gravel, digging tools or call in diggers4hire.com to dig your trench.


5. Dig the trench. Digging the trench is the least complicated step in building a French drain. The width and depth of the drain you dig will depend on the severity of the drainage problem and the digging tool you're using.  However, most standard French drains are approximately 6" wide and 18" to 24" deep.  Periodically check the depth of the trench as you dig, to ensure it is consistently sloping downwards.


6. Line the trench with landscape fabric. Once you have finished digging the trench, you will need to line it with the water-permeable landscape fabric.


7. Add the gravel. Shovel approximately 2 or 3 inches (5.1 or 7.6 cm) of gravel along the bottom of the trench, on top of the landscaping fabric.


8. Lay the pipe. Place the perforated drain pipe into the trench, on top of the gravel. Make sure the drain holes are facing down, as this will ensure the greatest drainage.


9. Cover the pipe. Shovel more gravel over the pipe, until there is 3 to 5 inches (7.6 to 12.7 cm) between the gravel and the top of the trench.


10. Fill in the trench. Fill in the rest of the trench with the displaced soil. At this point you can finish the trench in whatever way you like: You can lay soil on top, reseed with grass or even cover with a layer of large, decorative stones.

Building a gravel road takes planning, preparation and the use of specialised grading and compacting equipment. Ideally, you want a smooth, uniform surface that can handle traffic flow, heavy loads and heavy weather without breaking up or dipping.


Whether you're planning to build a short stretch of road on a smallholding or a network of gravel roads covering a large area, you have to get the basics right if you want the road to last. Follow these basic rules of gravel road construction and you’ll be on the right track.


1. Assess road use: Before you start the construction process, it’s important to consider the types of vehicles that will be using the road. This will help determine the ideal path and width of the road, as well as the required depth of the base material.


2. Get the right machinery and operator: If you want to build a road with a long service life, it's obvious you need the right machinery. Also, all heavy equipment is safer and more effective when properly managed. What may be less obvious is the value of hiring an experienced machine operator.


3. Use suitable materials: You want a dry and stable base, so soils with high clay content or moisture are not suitable. The road top should have the best quality gravel consisting of a combination of fractured stone, sand and fine particles with a binding characteristic to form a firm surface.


4. Compact soils properly: Along with grading, soil compaction is the most important process in gravel road construction. It reduces the volume of water and air in the soil, creating a harder, denser, and more durable surface. A well compacted soil can more easily resist the stresses created by traffic flow and harsh Bulgarian winter weather conditions.


5. Build a solid base: A good road is built on a stabilised base. You can then compact the soil to create a firm foundation that will not collapse under the weight of traffic.


6. Construct in layers: The best gravel roads are constructed upwards in layers from a stable base. If you start with a poor base, the entire road is compromised, and no amount of top dressing or grading will rescue the situation.


7. Design for the worst-case scenario: Be sure to design and build your road with the heaviest vehicles, highest traffic volumes and worst weather conditions in mind. A clear line of sight is especially important in misty and high rainfall areas.


8. Proper drainage: Good drainage is absolutely vital. A road with proper drainage will last longer and require less maintenance. A properly shaped crown and shoulder, ditches, culverts and drains are all responsible for channelling water away from the road surface.


9. Maintain regularly: Maintenance in the form of regular grading keeps a gravel road in good, drivable condition, ensuring safety and allowing for efficient transportation. 


Build strong, crack-free concrete pathways and slabs with these 10 Top Tips. 

Tips include forming edges, levelling, smoothing, curing 

and other vital steps in creating a first-rate concrete pour


  • Over build your frame! Every builder has a horror story about forms that bulged or even collapsed under the force of wet concrete. To avoid a horror story of your own, build strong forms. Use 1-1/2-in.-thick boards (2x4s, 2x6s, etc.) except on curves. If you’re using 2x4s or 2x6s, place stakes no more than 3 ft. apart.
  • Form curves with hardboard: Hardboard siding is great stuff for forming curves because it’s flexible and cheap. Hardboard needs extra reinforcement to prevent bulging against the force of the concrete.
  • Keep stakes below the frame tops: Stakes that project above forms create a hurdle for your screed board—and screeding concrete is hard enough without obstacles. So before you pour, take five minutes to cut off any protruding stakes.
  • Put down a firm base: A firm, well-drained base is the key to crack-free concrete. The best plan for a solid base usually includes compacted soil followed by several inches of a base material such as gravel.
  • Plunge out the bubbles! When you pour concrete, air pockets get trapped against forms, leaving voids in vertical surfaces. To prevent this, just grab a 2×4 and “plunge” all along the forms. Then go all along the forms with a hammer, tapping the sides.
  • Avoid too much water! When you have concrete delivered, the first words out of the driver’s mouth may be “Should I add some water?” Unless the concrete is too dry to flow down the chute, your answer should be “No, thanks.”
  • Don’t delay floating! After screeding concrete, the next step is to “float” it. Floating forces the stones in the mix down and pulls the cement “cream” to the surface so you can trowel or broom the surface later without snagging chunks of gravel. If you wait too long and the concrete begins to stiffen, drawing the cream up is difficult or impossible.
  • Cut deep control joints! The grooves in concrete are called “control joints” because they control cracking. Concrete shrinks as it dries, so cracks have to happen somewhere. Control joints create straight breaks rather than an ugly spiderweb pattern.
  • Finish with a broom: A smooth, steel trowel finish is too slippery for outdoor concrete pathways. Instead, drag a broom over the concrete. You’ll get a nonslip texture and hide imperfections left by floating or troweling. You can use a plain old push broom, but a special concrete broom cuts finer lines. 
  • Slow the curing! Water is essential for the chemical process that makes concrete harden—the longer concrete stays damp, the harder and stronger it gets. One way to slow down drying is to cover concrete with 4mm plastic sheeting. When concrete is hard enough so you can’t make an impression with your finger, gently spread the plastic. Stretch it out to eliminate wrinkles and weigh down the edges to seal in moisture.

WATER PIPES - WINTER CHECKLIST!

Winter is coming and so is the risk of frozen pipes. 

As soon as temperatures drop into the freezing zone, the following 12 tips will help you avoid unpleasant surprises that may come from broken water pipes in your property. 

Winters can be harsh on household plumbing so don’t forget to protect your water meter and pipes from freezing temperatures. Those located on outside walls, in basements or in crawl spaces, are particularly vulnerable to the cold. They can easily freeze and break during cold spells and lead to costly repairs.
Please follow these important steps to help prevent expensive problems later.

Start Outdoors

  • Disconnect and drain the garden hose connection. This will help prevent outside faucets and pipes from freezing, leaking or breaking.
  • Close outside vents, crawl spaces and doors so cold air doesn’t seep inside.
  • Repair broken windows and seal cracks in the walls.
  • Insulate! Insulate! Insulate!
  • Wrap water lines and meters in commercial grade insulation material.
  • Wrap pipes subject to cold or freezing in heat tape available from most DIY stores. It must be kept plugged in all winter.

Locate The Shut-off Valves

  • Make sure the valves on either side of the water meter are working properly.
  • Place a tag on the main shut-off valve. Make sure everyone in the house knows where it is and how to operate it in an emergency.

Check The Heat

  • If you’re going away, keep a minimum amount of heat on in the house. This will help protect the pipes when the temperature drops.
  • If you plan to turn the heat off, drain all the water from the pipes, toilets and water heater. Turn off the power source to the water heater.

More Tips For Freezing Weather

  • Check the meter periodically to see if there is damage.
  • If a sink is located against an outside wall, open the cabinet doors overnight to allow warm air to reach water pipes.
  • If you have had problems with frozen pipes in the past, keep a trickle of water running from the highest faucet in your house. During extremely cold periods, this trickle should be the size of a pencil point. You will be billed for the water used but this procedure may help prevent more costly plumbing repairs resulting from broken pipes.

Thawing Frozen Pipes

Partial water service indicates that a pipe is frozen somewhere in the house. A complete lack of water service can be the result of a frozen water meter or a frozen pipe leading from the water main in the street to the house. A meter or water pipe that feels extremely cold is most likely frozen. It’s important to clear frozen blockages as soon as possible to minimise the danger of pipes bursting in some inaccessible spot. The resulting leak could cause serious and costly damage.

Follow the important steps outlined below to help thaw frozen pipes. In some instances, it may be best to call a professional plumber.

Indoors

If a water pipe has frozen and burst, turn off the water at the main shut-off valve in the house.

  • Open a near by faucet slightly so the pipe can drain as it thaws
  • Thaw pipes and meters by applying hot air from a hair dryer, electric heater or by using a heating pad. 
  • DO NOT us a blow torch with an open flame!
  • Do not use electrical appliances in areas of standing water because you could be electrocuted.
  • Never use hot water or a blowtorch on a frozen pipe or water meter.
  • Frozen underground pipes running into the house may require the application of electric current or other thawing devices. It’s best practise to get a professional plumber to address this problem.
  • If frozen underground lines outside the house are an annual problem, consider lowering them in the spring to a point below the frost line.