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blog posts for October 2014

When NOT to Try DIY

Home improvement programmes have become massively popular in recent years. Turn on the TV on any given day and you will be confronted with bright and breezy presenters telling you how to transform your home from an uninspiring box into a palace fit for an A list celebrity. And the best bit? Instead of paying a fortune to a builder or interior designer, if you follow the tips on screen, you can achieve some amazing results with a spot of DIY.

But is it really such a great idea to have a go at complex home improvement projects? Surely it would be better to pay someone else to do the work, even if it’s more expensive. Well, it depends. DIY is obviously going to be cheaper if you have the skills and tools available. It can also be more satisfying to do the job yourself and let you select a stunning designer bathroom radiator instead of a standard eco heated towel rail using your savings. However, there are times when you shouldn’t attempt DIY, so if you have a burning desire to have a go at home improvement, give it some serious thought before you pick up any power tools.

The Sharp End

When you don’t know one end of a tool from another, DIY is not a good idea. Power tools are lethal weapons in inexperienced hands. One false move and you could end up in casualty, so start small and work your way up to more complicated jobs.

A Complicated Project

Some DIY tasks are relatively simple. Most people can change a tap washer or put up a shelf without any major problems. You don’t need specialist skills or lots of tools to do simple jobs - some general knowledge will suffice. And even if you do get it wrong, the consequences won’t be too serious.

However, many DIY jobs are not simple and it is these that the amateur DIYer should stay well away from. Some tasks need specialist skills that only a qualified tradesman will have. For example, installing a new central heating boiler should not be attempted unless you are suitably qualified. Whilst a competent DIYer is more than capable of fitting a new radiator or replacing a shower, installing a boiler is a whole different ballgame, so don’t be tempted to ‘have a go’.

A Poor Track Record

If you have spent time in casualty as a result of severing something vital with a power tool, don’t even think about attempting any DIY task, no matter now simple it appears to be. There are some people who just can’t be trusted with a sharp tool, either because they are clumsy or just unskilled. If this sounds like you, pay someone else to do the work instead. Yes, it will be more expensive, but unless your spouse has a huge life insurance policy with your name on it, it is the safer option.

Building Regulations

There are many home improvements where the finished result has to adhere to building regulations. For an experienced builder or tradesman, this won’t be a problem, but if you are an amateur, you probably won’t have a clue about such things. To avoid falling foul of the local housing department, don’t be tempted to cut corners and save money by doing it ‘on the cheap’. Your house might not fall down, but a bad job will definitely cause issues when you want to sell at a later date.

DIY can be enormous fun. It can also be very rewarding as the sense of pride that comes with surveying a completed project is hard to beat. However, DIY is an expensive folly if you attempt a project well beyond your skill set, so never overestimate what you are capable of or you could end up with an expensive repair bill.

Garage Conversions: Good Idea or Terrible Mistake?

The garage is often the most underused space in our homes. Originally garages were intended for storing cars, but over the years garages attached to modern homes have shrunk to such an extent that a large percentage are too small for even compact cars. As a result, garages tend to become the dumping ground for a vast range of miscellaneous items: bicycles, gym equipment, gardening equipment, DIY junk, and anything else that doesn’t have a home, including spiders.

But there is another way. Garages can be converted into useful living spaces that enhance the rest of the property instead of becoming a graveyard for unwanted board games and half used tins of paint. Imagine how much more useful your garage would be if it was transformed into a study, kids’ play room, or even teenager’s annexe. So what do you need to consider before starting a garage conversion?

Change of Use Application

Simple garage conversions will only need a wall and window/door in place of the existing garage door. However, since a garage is not designed as a living space, in order to turn it into one, you will need to apply for Buildings Regulations approval since you are changing its use. You may also need to build extra foundations or add lintels to support the new structures.

Is Planning Permission Necessary?

Unless the existing structure is altered, planning permission won’t be necessary. However, if your home is a listed building or the garage is a stand-alone structure, planning permission may be needed from your local planning department, even if you are only making a few very minor alterations. As such, it is always sensible to check with the local planning officer before doing anything – and make sure you ask for written confirmation.

Building Regulations require that a room created from a garage must have adequate ventilation and an escape route in the event of a fire. Infill walls will also be subject to Building Regulations to ensure adequate foundations are in place. Once the conversion has been completed, the building inspector will come and inspect the work before he issues a certificate of completion. For this reason, it is a good idea to employ a reputable contractor rather than attempt to do the work yourself (unless you are suitably qualified of course). Without a certificate of completion, you will run into serious problems if you try and sell the property at a later date, as your buyer’s solicitor is likely to start asking difficult questions about the change of use of the garage. 

Create a Lovely Living Space

Before starting a garage conversion, think about what you want to do with the space. Where will access from the main house be? What about lighting, damp proofing and ventilation? At the very least the new space will require a window large enough to escape through. The new space will also need extra insulation, and if you want to sub-divide the space into two rooms, you will need to construct a new block or stud wall. Additional wiring and plumbing will also be required – can your central heating boiler cope with the extra load of a new vertical radiator (or two)?

Loss of Use

One important thing to consider when planning a garage conversion is that the creation of a new living space will entail the loss of a large storage space. Do you have somewhere else to keep your bicycles, DIY equipment and a whole host of other junk?

You should bear all of these things in mind before making a final decision. Although a garage conversion is always going to be cheaper than moving to a bigger property, don’t forget to factor in all of the less obvious costs such as a new central heating boiler, new flooring, plus a new shed for all of your items.

How to Design the Perfect Teenager’s Bathroom

There comes a point in every parent’s life when you dream of having a bathroom all to yourself. Instead of queuing up outside the bathroom every morning, feeling as if you are a tenant in your own home, you can relax and enjoy a pleasant soak in the bath or a leisurely shower. With teenagers in the house, such a happy scenario is out of the question. They take forever in the bathroom, doing what teenagers do best, which is personal grooming on an epic scale.

The best way to avoid losing access to the bathroom every morning (and evening) is to provide them with their very own bathroom. That way you can enjoy having a bathroom all to yourself and they can spend as much time as they like primping and preening in front of the bathroom mirror. So, what things should you include in a teenager’s bathroom?

Power Shower

Ideally install a shower in a teenager’s bathroom. They will want to have a bath or shower at least once per day, so it makes sense to provide a shower as it will save you money on your water bill if you are on a water meter. You may even wish to consider the possibility of a wet room.

Storage Space

Ample storage space is a must-have in any teenager’s bathroom. Most teenagers have vast collections of makeup, lotions and potions, all of which take up a lot of space. One bottle of shampoo and conditioner won’t be enough. They are more likely to have about fifty, plus matching bottles of conditioner, hair serum, and anything else they think will make them look cool.

Since the majority of their time will be spent staring into the bathroom mirror, it makes sense to have a fitted vanity unit rather than a standard sink. This will give them lots of room to store their bottles, spot creams and beauty accessories. A storage unit in the shower cubicle or above the bath is also a good idea as this will keep some of the clutter out of the shower tray and bath.

Mirror, Mirror

As we have already mentioned, teenagers do like to spend an inordinate amount of time gazing into the bathroom mirror. A large mirror with an inbuilt lighting – think movie star - vanity mirror would be the ideal bathroom accessory for an image conscious teenager. Providing adequate lighting should help to ensure they don’t overdo the fake tan or makeup.

A Laundry Basket

Most teenagers treat the floor as one big laundry basket. They assume that the laundry fairy is hovering nearby, ready to collect their dirty laundry and return it in a convenient pile, washed and ironed. One way to encourage your teenager to be a bit tidier is to provide them with a laundry basket. Do make sure it is large enough, though, as most of them use a clean towel virtually every day and bath towels soon fill a laundry basket up.

Funky Décor

It is a good idea to consult your teenager before deciding upon a decorative scheme. Just because you like pastel colours or plain white tiles, they might not be of the same mind. Take their tastes into consideration, but don’t allow them to talk you into something too outrageous. Just because they have seen an amazing bathroom on At Home with the Kardashians, it doesn’t mean that floor to ceiling marble is a great idea in their small bathroom. 

However you choose to design your teenager’s bathroom, make sure you provide them with lots of cleaning equipment and full instructions on how to clean a bath, shower and toilet. It will be a valuable lesson for them.