Professional Builder meets up with Pete Carter, a builder who has come up with a simple solution to a big problem.
A modern home is a complicated beast compared to the humble intentions with which humans first built their dwellings. No longer is shelter from the rain and protection from wild animals the sole requirements of a home – mourn that as you may. Call it the steady march of progress, but nowadays homes are expected to provide Wi-Fi, electricity and light to every room, ventilation, warmth, general comfort, pleasant surroundings, natural light, eco-credentials… the list goes on. Not unreasonable, of course, but it means the building process has risen to a crescendo of trades jostling over each other in a bid to finish their patch and move on, meanwhile keeping a stern eye on any other trades spoiling their hard work.
Enter Pete Carter, a builder with a bright idea that could help calm the frenzy, and even bring increased safety to it. With fingers both in the plastering and electricians’ pie, Pete is ideally placed to bridge the gap between the two. “Plasterers and electricians are traditionally at loggerheads with each other,” he tells me on a job he’s working on, “but I think my SocketandSwitch Bead and Spotlight Bead have the potential to bring them together in harmony.” It’s a bold claim for sure, but as Pete guides me through his bead, it starts to sound like, it could quite literally be the missing piece in the jigsaw.
“Basically, it’s a plastic plate,” Pete explains, “that sits in the hole that’s been cut for a downlight or a socket. There are two different plates, in fact. One circle, for the lights, one square for the sockets. You cut the opening and fix in the plate. You can then later cut out the inner portion of the plate, leaving the nice, straight bead around the edge.
“The current situation,” Pete continues, “is that the electrician puts his cables close to where the spotlight will be, clipping them to the closest joist. The 350-500mm of cable left dangling for each spotlight is at the mercy of each follow-on trade that comes in. Insulation gets put in over the cable. Plumbers, installers, everyone comes in and disturbs the position of your cable. The tacker comes in to put up the plasterboard and the way they lift the board to avoid pinching the cables usually means they end up in a different place to where the electrician needs them.”
Once the board is up, there is a divergence of opinion. Either the electrician comes in and starts sawing holes in the board straight away in order to locate his cables, or the plasterer comes in and applies his plaster onto a nice flat surface, producing a great finish, only for the electrician to come back and start making holes all over the place in a bid to find his cables. There are no prizes for guessing who most often gets their way, and it is the plasterer who is left to work his way around every hole in the ceiling with his trowel, which can be a laborious process on a big job. However, as any plasterer will tell you, it is still better than running your trowel over the holes and getting a nice dollop of plaster fall into your eye.
Luckily, this is where the Spotlight Bead comes in. The bead fits neatly into the hole cut by the electrician and, stapled firmly to the plasterboard so it doesn’t move, it provides a uniform edge for the plasterer to work to. So the plasterer simply plasters over the plate, which is designed to be the same thickness as the plaster and will therefore just about show through the plaster.
This allows the electrician to come back at a later stage, once the plastering, painting and various other trades have come and gone, and install their lights and sockets in peace. This is easy to do, with these beads, as they provide an outer ridge which can be easily cut with a hook blade. What’s more, the Spotlight Bead features a centre indent, which allows for a hole saw to easily cut out a perfectly centred hole.
It may not be the most complex idea in the world, but the most effective ones rarely are. In any case, anything that can bring some respite to the bickering tribes on site is surely worthy of the building trade’s version of the Nobel Peace Prize!