Using kitchen and bathroom pods is one means of ensuring minimum defects at a building’s handover, but for those choosing to fit-out such rooms in-situ, dealing with a variety of physical imperfections remains a financial and logistical burden. Repair specialist Plastic Surgeon’s Rob Mouser puts forward the case for repair as opposed to replacement.
The upsurge in off-site manufacturing, or Modern Methods of Construction to which it is commonly referred, has served to highlight what problematic elements kitchens and bathrooms can represent to the building process. The truth is, however, that whatever building methods are employed – offsite or traditional – the wet areas of a home (or other type of property) can present a multitude of headaches. Not least is the congestion of trades activities that have to be shoe-horned into what are normally the most restrictive of spaces.
The introduction of compulsory waste management plans for longer projects will be viewed by many companies as placing another logistical burden on an industry already being forced to address daunting legislative demands. Viewed from the other perspective, it can be seen as an opportunity for firms to make significant financial savings if the volume of waste going to landfill is cut, as demonstrated by statistical analysis carried out by Plastic Surgeon over a six month period. It found its operatives saved over 500 tonnes of material from kitchens and bathrooms from going to landfill. This figure includes 557 electrical appliances, 2,180 cupboards, 390 toilets, 2,631 baths and a staggering 4,838 wok surfaces.
In addition to such measures as segregation and the recycling of site waste, Rob contends that contractors should place far more emphasis on avoiding waste by addressing the inevitable damage issues that occur at all stages of the construction process; through transport, handling, installation and the often careless actions of subsequent trades.
Just as important is the training which employers should undertake before beginning work out in the field. It will enable them to identify the constituent materials of the different surfaces seen in kitchens and bathrooms. This, in turn, helps determine the correct method for returning the damaged area to a perfect condition with the same life expectancy as the original.
Rob explains: ”There is a perception amongst many people that modern materials such as stainless steel, corium and the ubiquitous laminate work surface are indestructible. Hardwearing they may be, but our experience shows that they all succumb to the rough treatment that is part and parcel of building work. In fact, some are not what they seem, with many kitchen work surfaces being a paper film rather than a rugged laminate.
“Whilst most kitchen and bathroom fitters will carry a basic repair kit with them, it generally just contains a few coloured waxes which they will use to try and obscure any damage; with varying degrees of success…”
In contrast, fine finishers can have a selection of more than 200 different fillers, pigments and polishing compounds at their disposal. The fillers are extremely hard and offer excellent adhesion to laminates, ceramics, enamels and other materials as well as taking colour very well. In repairing a surface such as natural timber or a marble counter for instance, the operative may apply a pigmented base to give background colour; then cut areas of that out again with a knife so that a different coloured filler can be introduced. In this way, the repair is built-up to match the surroundings.
Rob continues: “Sometimes though, damage such as a scratch in a stainless steel sink can simply be polished out. Recently, one of our bathroom installer clients had virtually completed a high spec contract, complete with a new suite, shower and wall tiling, when one of the builders put a cigarette down on the edge of the bath and left a burn. The remedy could have required a plumber, followed by a tiler and someone to run new mastic beads around a replacement bath, but our operative used the special polishing compounds to remove the discolouration completely.”
Other repair successes have seen entire corners of baths built back up when broken through careless handling, and operatives have even been able to repair holes below the water line depending on their exact location and the pressures to which they might be subjected
Rob also posed the question: “Why would anyone rip out and replace something like a shower tray or a sink when we can repair it quickly and cost-effectively?” The answer is that, thanks to Plastic Surgeon, fewer and fewer contractors are doing so.