If you live in a house built after 1945, you should probably read this

Have you ever noticed that some of the best writing comes from people who don’t claim to be writers. And yet they probably haven’t noticed how good they are.

They write well because they aren’t trying to come up with clever copy. They’re just getting their points over clearly so that customers know what to expect. They often write down exactly what they’d say on the phone or face to face and it hits the right note. It’s good for business to have a tone of voice that reflects who you are.

This week, we encountered Craig Marriott’s website www.shale-tests.co.uk.

Shale Determination Services


(Teesside and surrounding areas)

You might not have heard of shale heave. I hope you never encounter it, because if you do, it means you’ve got to get all your concrete floors – and all the shale foundations – dug up and replaced before you can sell your house.

But if it does happen to you – and you’re somewhere near Teesside – you probably need Craig. He drills holes in your floors, analyses the result and tells you what’s there.

Craig’s writing is straightforward, and when he uses technical and industry terms, he goes on to explain what they mean so we quickly understand and can join in.  And if you’re going to have to spend up to £20K on replacing your floors, believe me, you want to understand why you’re doing it.

So Craig’s website is “ A helpful guide to shale and in-fill tests in domestic properties.”

This is what he writes:

In this report, I have tried to answer all the most frequently asked questions at a basic level. If a more detailed explanation is required, just give me a ring and I will be more than happy to help.

And because of the natural tone of voice he uses, you know he means it.

Craig’s advice on dealing with builders:

If a builder gives a quote without wanting to see the report or knowing the depth of fill, alarm bells should start ringing; a builder needs to know the depth of the fill so he can work out what volumes need to be removed.

Here’s Craig’s background to the problem. At the end, just to be sure, he tells us what hardcore is.

The use of hardcore in house construction first became common in the immediate post-war period, when construction materials were in short supply. Solid floors, comprising a concrete floor slab over hardcore, largely superseded suspended timber floors that were typically used in the 1930s.

Also, waste materials, such as burnt colliery spoil and blast-furnace slag were promoted by government as being appropriate materials for use.

Unfortunately, little or no guidance on the selection and use of suitable materials was available in the early post-war years and there was some use of deleterious materials.

Hardcore, derived from many industrial by-products, was included in the construction of hundred of thousands of domestic properties from the 1940’s to around the late 1970’s / early 80’s.

The legacy has been a continuing occurrence of damage to floor slabs and abutting walls due to deleterious hardcore.

(Hardcore is a fill material used in building construction to raise ground levels and provide a dry, firm and level base on which to cast a concrete ground floor slab or ‘over-site’ concrete beneath suspended floors).

Did you know that? I didn’t know that until my mother’s floor expanded and cracked.
About the noise and dirt:

It is certainly noisy. You can imagine, we are chiselling through concrete, and that’s not quiet. The actual noise only lasts about 30 minutes generally, but it could be much longer (or shorter).

Messy? Well that is a subjective opinion. There is certainly a lot of dust kicked up (we are after all chiselling through concrete). But we do our utmost to contain it.
For example, we use an industrial vacuum cleaner, and the nozzle is pointed at the chisel tip while we are drilling through the concrete.
This way, over 95% of the dust is removed at source. However, we cannot guarantee there will be no dust whatsoever.

And here’s where you can tell that he’s had a lot of experience in the business:


“This house has stood for forty years with no problems. Surely if there was going to be a problem it would have shown itself by now”.

The answer is “not necessarily”.

Firstly, these reactions can be very slow, so you may not have noticed them yet. Also, the crystals that grow in the shale body and the reaction between sulphate and concrete all rely on one major factor:- the availability of water.

What it puts over is a feeling of reassurance, that Craig is the kind of person you can trust with your house keys, who won’t overcharge you or do work that’s not necessary, and that he’ll do his best not to mess your house up.

And if you need a shale test, that’s the kind of person you want to do business with. He’s coming round on Thursday.