It’s that time of year again. The cold weather is officially here. As the temperature continues to drop, our DIYers will start thinking about those RMI tasks before the arrival of harsher weather. So, what advice can merchants be offering to customers to support this?
Now’s the time to check fence posts before the arrival of the inevitable gales. And checking the stability of any fencing sooner rather than later is a simple way for your customers to avoid a whole lot of extra work and cost come a bad spell of weather.
It’s good to suggest looking for any fence posts that need to be reset. Doing so is a simple task. Where needed, use a quick setting, no mix concrete product, such as Blue Circle Postcrete which can be used for fixing wooden, concrete or metal posts. As a general rule, around 25% of the post should be buried below ground. Then, simply fill one third of the hole with clean water and pour in the product evenly around the post until dry powder is visible on the surface. It will set in as little as 10 minutes. Job done!
Another simple job is looking out for any areas of brickwork where mortar is either missing or loose and crumbly. These areas should be repaired by raking out the joint and re-pointing with a suitable mortar. A general purpose mortar is normally suitable for most houses and pre-mixed, bagged products are readily available. One containing hydrated lime as well as cement (such as Blue Circle Quality Assured Mortar) is more cohesive and flexible and can accommodate slight movements in the brickwork.
It’s worth also suggesting that they keep an eye out too for any ‘efflorescence’ on exterior brickwork and walls. These are the white chalky marks left when water leaves behind salt deposits on the masonry surface or when lime migrates from cement. This can appear over several years and, again, repointing the mortar will help. Your customer should start by cleaning the face of brickwork with a mild acid or brick cleaner and then repoint with mortar such as Tarmac Blue Circle Quality Assured Mortar.
Pointing between patio slabs should also be checked this time of year. Pre-mixed bagged mortar is, again, suitable here. Just remind your customers that, in cold weather, cement and mortar will set and harden more slowly and so will require protection for the first day or so after placing.
Of course, the best advice would be to wait for temperatures above five degrees before doing these jobs. However, this isn’t always an option during the winter months when there is a risk of frost so it’s imperative that mortar is protected by an insulation quilt sandwiched between two sheets of polythene sheeting. It’s important to keep the mix above five degrees for 48 hours after the concrete has been placed to ensure adequate heat for normal cement hydration.
One essential check should be to review gutters and down-pipes for leakage – water leaking onto brickwork walls for prolonged periods of time can result in white staining or, in more extreme circumstances, cause the bricks to become saturated with water which can lead to the ‘blowing’ of the face off the brick if it freezes in winter. Prevention is always better than cure, so fixing the odd leak in a pipe is much simpler (and less costly) than repairing whole areas of brickwork.
Looking after tools
Finally, we all know that a good, sturdy tool can make or break a project, so it’s essential to take good care of tools during the winter. To keep them in tip top condition, make sure to remind your customers to keep them cleaned, lubricated and sharpened regularly. Not only will this keep tools in perfect working order, but it will also save having to buy new equipment and prevent the annoying job of chipping away at hardened dirt or mortar and removing rust come spring.
For further information on Tarmac Blue Circle, please visit https://tarmac-bluecircle.co.uk/.
Garry Gregory, is Packed Products Director at Tarmac