The five most common reasons given for damaging a baths

I was talking to someone recently who told me that approximately 25% of baths get damaged between leaving the factory and being installed. This struck me as a staggering number and got me thinking about the changes that have taken place over the last 40 years to bring this about.

The traditional, robust cast iron bath with a heavy enamel coating has been replaced by pressed steel with a thin enamel coating or fibre glass backing a gel set “plastic”. Modern baths are lower cost to produce and ship, but are nowhere near as robust and are much more prone to damage.

The less robust nature of modern baths leads to calls from plumbers, homeowners, letting agents, and hotels asking us to repair chips. The top 5 reasons given are as follows.

1  A plumber (or a DIY enthusiast) drops a tool into the bath during installation. Predictable, but a regular occurrence.

2  The shower head is dropped into the bath. Some of the bigger, heavy shower heads do significant damage to the enamel when dropped onto the surface. One customer in particular couldn’t work out why the tap end of the bath was heavily chipped and there was no damage elsewhere on the bath. Bath time for her kids generally included play time with the shower head – a lot of fun, but not without consequences.

3  A heavy plug is dropped into the bath causing a chip to be removed. Another predictable occurrence.

4  The bathroom is often a safe haven from the rigours of the outside world. Relax with a touch of luxury, until you knock over a vase or ornament.

5  Movable shower screens are broken and fall into the bath. This final reason is less avoidable than the previous reasons.

Of course I left out another common reason in larger households – someone else did it, but no one owns up.

What’s the whole point of this? Enjoy your bathroom, but with a bit of thought you may avoid the

 

pain of paying for a repair.


Relative costs of replacement versus repair of worktops and sanitary ware

Customers have sometimes been surprised by the cost of repairing fixtures and fittings compared to the low cost of buying replacement. Laminated worktops and sanitary ware are cheap to buy. This clearly isn’t the case for granite worktops, marble fireplaces, wooden flooring, composite doors, window frames etc, where the cost of replacement is acknowledged to be high.

Whereas 50 years ago, a bath would be made from cast iron, and have a very thick enamel coating, nowadays they are either made from pressed steel with a thin coating of enamel, or are acrylic backed by fibre glass. Laminated worktops are made from cheap particleboard. Mass production, finding ways to minimise the raw material content, has become the name of the game to reduce the purchase price.

The cost for the homeowner in replacing a laminate worktop or a bath today is predominantly in the installation cost.

For a repair or resurfacing a technician will visit your property, mend/resurface the damaged fixture within the same day and leave. The main costs are labour, materials and transport,.

For replacement the operation is more complex. Using baths as an example, the old bath needs to be removed and taken for landfill. The new bath’s installation will require plumbing skills with the taps and waste pipes either being re-installed or replaced. The fitting of the bath may give rise to challenges around the tiling and the flooring due to different dimensions. Estimates vary, but it is not unusual for the cost of repair to be 10-15% of the true cost of replacement, and 30% for resurfacing.

The bottom line is that  if you can do your own plumbing, tiling, flooring etc, the replacement route may financially make sense. If not, you may want to consider repair or resurfacing.


How to mend a damaged laminate worktop

While granite is becoming increasingly popular, the vast majority of work tops and vanity units in the home are made from laminate. They are cheap to buy, (but cost a lot more to replace; especially when hobs and sinks are built into them).

The core of a laminated worktop is made from particleboard. Encased with a laminate finish, the worktop should be reasonably hard wearing, provided the laminate surface remains intact and the particleboard below is not exposed to water. However, if water is allowed to penetrate into the core, the worktop will start to degrade relatively quickly.

Chips, scratches, heat staining by hot cups can be repaired by a skilled technician. If water has got into the surface it must be allowed to dry out first, and the damaged particleboard dug out back to solid parts of the core. The dug out area is then filled. We like to colour match the filler to the predominate colour of laminate surface. Once the filler is cured, it is gently sanded back so that the repair is flush to the original finish. Next, colours are prepared to match the rest of the pattern and start to re-create it on the repaired area. Patience is required to ensure that the colours blend in to the surface. This is allowed to dry and then a lacquer coat is applied to protect the repair. The surface is then ready for use within a couple of hours of the lacquer being applied. This can be achieved for a wide range of laminate surfaces whether they are flecked, marble, or wood grain patterns.

In summary, while some people may prefer to replace a damaged worktop, in spite of the greater overall cost, homeowners should be aware that a viable alternative exists.


Repairing cracked tiles around the home

Cracked tiles can often best be dealt with by replacing them with new ones of the same pattern. This will generally be the cheapest and simplest method for getting your tile wall back up to scratch.

However, this isn’t always simple or even possible. Sometimes the tile is no longer in print; other times the location of the tile makes its removal and replacement difficult. Tiles – and not just ceramic ones – can be repaired, and if done properly by a skilled practitioner, the results can be very impressive.

We’ve recently completed some repair work at a hotel where the tiles were out of print, and there were large cracks in a number of  tile walls. The management was concerned that guests may cut themselves on the sharp edges, as well as the fact that the damage created a poor impression of the hotel’s facilities.

Our first concern was to make sure the cracks were stabilised and that they wouldn’t continue to grow any longer. In this case, we did this by using a dremel to drill small ends at either end of the cracks. The cracks were then widened so that filler could be applied successfully, allowed to cure, and then sanded back. Our colour matching skills were then employed to re-create the base colour of the tiles using with specialist resin and colour pigments. After using a bonder to act as an anchor for the new finish, we applied the base colour with an airbrush and allowed it to cure. We then re-created the detail of the pattern using fine art brushes and applied a lacquer to protect the new surface.

The end result was a tiled bathroom with no sign of damaged tiles. The repair was undetectable to guests who didn’t know that the tiles had previously been cracked. I’ll be loading onto the website before and after shots shortly.


Repairing granite work tops

When you have spent thousands of pounds on natural stone work tops, the prospect of having to replace them when they become damaged is difficult to contemplate. Replacement is exceptionally costly, and disruptive. Tiling, hobs and sinks may all affected adding to the cost, the mess and the time your kitchen may be out of action.

Repairs to granite work tops can be carried out to a very high quality provided the repairer has a true understanding of colour and how to apply this knowledge to a product such as natural stone. When carried out properly, the repair should not be detectable to someone who is unaware that the surface had been damaged. To achieve this standard of repair requires a mixture of skill, patient application and the right equipment and materials. A skillfully administered repair will not compromise the appearance of your work top, and save a small fortune compared to replacement. The repair might be completed in a couple of hours!

We recently worked on a chipped granite work top. The challenge with the work top was to achieve a depth to the finish. It is the equivalent of looking at something in 3-D as opposed to in 2-D. When a repair is opaque, with the colour appearing to be “sitting” on the top of the surface, it is obvious as it will clash with the general appearance of the rest of the stone. A degree of transparency needs to be built into the repair to provide the required appearance of depth. When this is done well, the repair can be blended into the surrounding stone.

In the end it requires the use of the correct materials and the ability of the repair technician to determine how to apply these materials. Manufacturers such as Konig UK in Leamington are suppliers of specialist materials to repair granite and other natural stones, and might be helpful in pointing you in the direction of a repair company that can carry out the work to a high standard.

Whatever choice you make, be assured that the technology now exists to ensure that damage to natural stones can be repaired so that the damaged area is undetectable. All it requires is marrying up the technology with a skilled technician to apply it.


Repair a bath yourself or have it done professionally?

I had a long conversation with a potential customer, who was baulking at the idea of paying for us to repair a chipped bath. He had found out that DIY repair kits were available on the market. Why should I pay you, when I can do it myself was the fair question posed?

Now I accept that I have a certain bias as someone who makes a living out of repairing a wide range of surfaces, but what are the benefits of DIY versus getting a professional to do the work?

The major benefit of DIY repairs is financial. Kits can be bought for about £35. They will give you instructions on how to repair the bath using the kit, and away you go. If price is the be all and end all, then that’s the way you should go.

However, if the appearance of the bath and the durability of the repair are important factors, then think again. If you believe that with a DIY kit, the damaged area is going to miraculously disappear, then you are going to be sorely disappointed. Ask yourself why people don’t repair the damage to the bodywork of their car. The answer put simply is that the repair will be obvious to all that see it. The same applies to sanitary ware. However, if you are determined to use a kit, I should advise you to take your time when sanding the filling. Quick sanding, with heavy pressure applied to the sandpaper, will cause an uneven repair with obvious indentations. Be patient.

A professional knows the importance of being patient in carrying out repairs. He will know how to clean and prepare the damaged area, to fill and sand the repair so that you cannot feel the join or notice any unevenness in the surface, and most crucially will have the tools and ability to match the colour of the existing finish. He should also use specialist equipment so that he can spray a new finish onto the repair so that it blends in. The final repair, when carried out properly, should be of a quality that someone who did not know the surface had been damaged, would not detect the repair.

In the end, the call is yours. A DIY approach is certainly an option, but it isn’t without its challenges. If you are not certain in your skills, it will probably be cheaper in the long term to call in a professional now.