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Signoff: David Taylor

CONSTRUCTION is, as you know, a highly regulated industry. You can't just wade in there, go bish-bash-bosh, job done, that'll be fifteen hundred quid thanks, mate. Of course, nobody bothered to tell the cowboys.

Strangely enough, even some really quite above-board operations offer cowboy services quite openly, relying on their customers' ignorance to get them past the door.

I had a glossy brochure through the post this week. It was from a company offering to cover my house in a sort of spray-on cling-film that would stop moisture getting in, except via all the usual routes, and would then hold it there so it could migrate into the living space and turn all my shoes green.

A lot of householders will be tempted by this offer (since it doesn't mention turning their shoes green) and I'm sure that, in some cases, they'll be pleased with the initial results. The brochure included several 'before and after' shots that even I found quite persuasive - I mean, they even tidy up your garden.

And if you live in a modern house with cavity walls - 1950s or later - and the outside's looking a bit tired, why not have this muck sprayed all over? The moisture probably won't get through to the inner leaf, though I'm not sure how your cavity wall ties will feel about it. The house probably only has a 60-year design life anyway.

But as this particular company is targeting a part of the world where a large proportion of the homes are a couple of hundred years old and have solid masonry walls, I fear many people are going to be paying good money to have their homes vandalised in the hope that they'll 'step off the maintenance merry-go-round forever'. Well it's true, after all. These products are usually totally resistant to any maintenance.

Thing is, you can't touch them for it. It's a legitimate business and there's no law against doing unspeakable things to old buildings if they're not listed (and round these parts, that's not much of an obstacle, either).

Oh, and don't worry about your shoes. This season, green's the new black.

SOMETHING else plopped on to my doormat this week. As I went to clear it up, I noticed the postman had delivered a bulky package which protruded tantalisingly from the letter box.

It turned out to be a copy of a scientific paper delivered to the Third World Congress on Adhesion and Related Phenomena in Beijing, by Dr Francois de Buyl, senior adhesion specialist with the Dow Corning Surface & Interface Solutions Centre at Seneffe, Belgium. He'd very kindly sent me a copy to review.

Dow Corning, you will recall, makes those really useful tubes of gooey stuff that builders like to squir t all over the place these days. Many tradesmen no longer bother fitting things together properly and securing them with nails or screws; they just pump a tubeful of Dow Corning's finest into the yawning gap and - that's right - bish-bashbosh, job done. Whatever happened to craftsmanship?

Well , anyway, back to Dr de Buyl's paper. 'The science that goes into these products is positively mindblowing, ' I thought to myself as I started to read the paper, entitled Benefits of Understanding Hydrolysis and Condensation Kinetics of G-Glycidoxypropyltr imethoxysilane for Controlling Adhesion.

'This information is fundamental to design the structure of the interphase, or inter-penetrated network, between dissimilar components in composite materials where GPS silane has already demonstrated its importance, ' said Dr de Buyl in his introduction.

I tried to read it all, but just a few pages in I got stuck.