Gavin Byram, national sales manager at Pendock, explains how you can conceal retrofit pipework easily and cost-effectively.
While it is desirable to make better use of existing properties by renovating, extending and converting them, retrofitting bathrooms and kitchens and updating heating and hot water systems can result in unsightly lengths of exposed pipework. Pre-formed, pre-finished pipe boxing is a straightforward way to conceal retrofit pipework, with minimal cutting involved, and no painting required – delivering consistent results and saving builders time and money on site.
Retrofitting bathrooms and kitchens, and updating heating and hot water systems in older buildings, can result in complicated, lengthy pipework runs. For example, while it makes practical and financial sense to keep original plumbing lines in bathrooms and kitchens, they might need to be altered or extended if rooms are reconfigured to create more space, or to become more accessible (perhaps if the building is being adapted for elderly or disabled occupants), or if they are moved to a different part of the building. Meanwhile, existing central heating pipework layouts can change if boilers are relocated to meet Building Regulations, or a different type of heating system is fitted.
In new build properties, pipework would, of course, be fitted within cavity spaces, but in older buildings it’s fitted along skirting boards, walls and ceilings. And, if left exposed, it can be unsightly. In certain environments, exposed pipework can also pose a safety hazard; according to Health & Safety Executive information on hot water and surfaces in health and social care, surfaces above 43°C can lead to serious injury.
Therefore, retrofit heating and plumbing pipework is often concealed. Builders with carpentry and joinery skills might fabricate their own solutions on site – cutting wood or MDF to size, fixing it around the pipework and priming and painting it – but this can be time-consuming. And, for those who are less experienced, the results aren’t always consistent.
An alternative is made-to-measure, pre-formed, pre-finished pipe boxing – a simple solution that enables builders to easily conceal lengths of pipework (and any cabling) and achieve an aesthetically pleasing, neat, uniform finish. Pre-formed products are simple to fit, with few components required; just batten, pre-formed profiles, screws, mastic sealant and, if required, external and internal corner pieces (eliminating the need to fabricate mitre joints). There’s minimal cutting involved, and no painting required. If pipework needs to be accessed in the future, pre-formed products can be easily removed and refitted and can also be fitted with access panels.
While the initial upfront cost of pre-formed solutions might seem more expensive than buying lengths of wood or MDF, when the time savings are considered (we estimate they take half the time to fit compared to onsite fabrication), along with the aesthetic benefits and consistency of fit and finish, pre-formed pipe boxing is cost-effective.
The regeneration of existing buildings – recently encouraged by the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission – can provide economic and environmental benefits, and we may soon see more derelict buildings being restored and refurbished. There are straightforward, time-saving solutions available to help mitigate the retrofit challenges builders might face – pre-formed pipe boxing being one example.