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blog posts for March 2014

Conservatories Vs Extensions - Which One is Best for Your Home?

Once kids come along it won't be long before your home begins to feel cramped. You will long for somewhere out of the way to store baby and toddler detritus, and as the kids grow older, an extra room can be a place for them to play computer games and do homework. One answer to the perennial problem of space (or lack thereof) is to move to a larger property, but this is an expensive solution and there is no guarantee you will find a larger house within your budget. You may also be reluctant to move when your current home is near the kids' school and other important amenities. Extending the downstairs is one way of adding extra living space, but should you go for a conservatory or splash out on a full-blown extension?


There is a cost difference between a conservatory and an extension. Generally speaking, a conservatory will be the cheaper option although this does depend on what specification you go for. However, conservatories are more expensive than they used to be because they now have to be better insulated, so if you go for a top quality installation, you could end up paying more than you would for a small single storey extension with a window and door.


Extensions are built to last, so as long as the builder does a good job, it should last as long as the rest of the house. Conservatories are different. Most of them start to look a bit scruffy after a few years and after 20 years you will probably need a new one. 


The biggest disadvantage of conservatories is that they are too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter, even with blinds fitted. It is possible to enjoy use of a conservatory all year round, but you need to install an effective form of heating and avoid building it in a south facing location. Underfloor heating and Adige vertical radiators will help, as will a wood burner, but you will almost certainly get more use out of a brick built extension.

Adding Value

Conservatories and extensions both add value to a home, but how big a price tag will depend on a multitude of factors. A large bespoke conservatory in keeping with the style of the home will be a major selling point, as will a well thought out extension, but if the workmanship is shoddy or the structure has seen better days, you won't gain anything when you come to sell. The same applies if you have sacrificed most of your garden in the process.


One area where a conservatory trumps an extension hands down is light. By their very nature a conservatory allows lots of natural light into the space. You won't have the same effect with an extension because building regulations restrict the number of windows and doors you can have.


Another area where conservatories win is the view. Acres of glass in a conservatory means you can enjoy full panoramic views of your garden, whereas even with French windows or a patio door in an extension, the effect is not the same. Of course if your garden is a weed infested doggy toilet then you probably won't be too concerned about enjoying the vista, in which case an extension could be a better bet.

Ultimately, whether you go for a conservatory or have an extension built will come down to personal preference. There is no right or wrong and if you don't plan on staying in the property for more than five years, you don't need to worry about the structure falling down. But whatever you decide upon, make sure you obtain several quotes and always use a reputable contractor.

Help! My Boiler Isn't Working!

There are very few things more annoying in life than a broken down central heating boiler. Boilers invariably break down at the most inconvenient time—typically when the temperature outside is below zero and your bank account is running on empty. But before you call out a heating engineer, there are a few things you should check.

No Fuel

Mains gas boilers don’t run out of fuel because the gas supply is continuous (unless you have been cut off for any reason), but if you have an oil or LPG boiler, check that you still have fuel in the tank.

Water Pressure is Too Low

If the water pressure inside the boiler falls below a certain level, the boiler will stop working. This can happen for many reasons, but recent plumbing work is a common cause of low water pressure. For example, if you have removed a radiator from the system or you had a leak, you should always top up the water pressure inside the boiler. A failure to do so will cause the boiler to lock out. A noisy boiler is an early warning sign of low water pressure, so be alert.

Boiler Lock-Out

Is the boiler lock out light on? If in doubt about what you are looking at, check the manual, but if the lock out light is on, press the reset button to get the boiler going again. All being well the boiler should resume normal service without any problem, but if it keeps locking out you need to call a heating engineer to identify what the underlying problem is.

Pilot Light

Gas boilers have a pilot light, so check whether this is lit. If it isn’t, try re-lighting it.  Sometimes a strong draft can blow the pilot light out, but should the problem recur, you have a more serious problem to contend with.

Check the Power

It may sound obvious, but is there any power to the boiler? Check to see if there are lights on and if there is no sign of life, try replacing the main fuse.

Dodgy Thermostat

The room thermostat is supposed to tell the boiler when to come on. If your boiler has failed to fire up even though it would normally be on at this time, check the thermostat control panel. If it is a wireless unit, try replacing the batteries, and if all else fails, press the re-set button.

Frozen Condensate Pipe

This is a problem associated with exceptionally cold weather. A condensate pipe removes waste water from the boiler, usually into an outside drain. Unfortunately, condensate pipes are prone to freezing when the temperature drops too low. When the pipe freezes it creates a blockage and water backs up inside the boiler, triggering a lock down. The condensate pipe will need to be thawed out, but this must be done very carefully. Use warm water or a heat pad to gently thaw out the pipe, and if in doubt, call a qualified heating engineer.

Call the Engineer

Boilers are tricky things and there are many things that can go wrong with them. Once you have checked all the obvious things and the boiler still isn’t working, it is time to call out an engineer. Hopefully you have a maintenance contract and the visit won’t cost you a thing, but if you don’t, make sure you know exactly what the call-out charge is so you don’t have any nasty surprises later.

Regular Servicing

One way to prevent boiler breakdowns is to have an annual service. Regular servicing will help to prevent minor problems from snowballing into major issues, as well as make sure your boiler is safe to use.

Can a Wet Room Add Value to Your Home?

Wet rooms are becoming increasingly popular in modern UK homes, although they have been common on the continent for many years. The beauty of a wet room is that it is uncluttered and streamlined, which for many people is their idea of a perfect bathroom. But although you may love the idea of replacing your Victoriana bathroom with an ultra stylish wet room, will it add value or would you be better spending your money on a traditional bathroom instead?

How do Wet Rooms Work?

Wet rooms don’t have shower screens—the entire room is one giant shower and instead of a conventional shower tray, the gradient of the floor is altered to allow water to drain away. For obvious reasons the room has to be completely waterproof, so the floor and walls need to be clad in waterproof materials—a waterproof membrane would normally be used before the wall is tiled. Of course you wouldn’t just have a shower in a wet room; it is normal to have a sink and toilet installed, too. You would also need to include some form of heating. Underfloor heating is a popular choice, but central heating designer towel radiators are another option.

Will a Wet Room Add Value?

Installing a wet room will definitely give your home the extra ‘wow’ factor when the time comes to sell. It will also add value as long as the wet room is properly installed. However, this is only the case if you add a wet room as an en suite or second shower room. Replacing the main family bathroom with a super modern wet room could seriously backfire on you if you later choose to sell your property. Most buyers want at least one traditional bathroom in a home, particularly if they have children, so think twice before getting rid of the bath.

Advantages of a Wet Room

  • Easy to clean – There are far fewer surfaces in a wet room, which makes the job of cleaning it a lot easier.
  • Mobility – Wet rooms are perfect for people with mobility issues. Wheelchair users or anyone who struggles to step into a shower cubicle or bath will find a wet room less of a challenge, although you will need to install non-slip flooring.
  • Perfect for small or odd-shaped rooms – Baths take up a lot of room, so if you are building a small en suite or your bathroom in a non-standard shape, a wet room will be a space saver.

Disadvantages of a Wet Room

  • Leaks - The biggest problem with a wet room is that if there are any deficiencies in the installation, you are in big trouble. Even the smallest of leaks can cause major damage, so if you have a wet room that isn’t 100% waterproof, it won’t be long before the adjacent walls and rooms below are showing signs of water damage. For this reason alone, make sure you hire a reputable and experienced contractor to carry out the work should you decide to have a wet room installed.
  • Water, water everywhere – The problem with a wet room is that it can be difficult to keep things dry.

Other Considerations when Planning a Wet Room

Think very carefully about what goes where when planning a wet room. It is all very well having the toilet near the shower area, but what happens when your toilet roll turns into a pile of mush every time someone has a shower? Mushy toilet roll won’t be able to do the job for which it was intended, so you better factor in a bidet, or things could get a tad messy.

Visit our blog for more practical advice and tips on bathroom remodelling and heated towel rails.

How to Remove a Radiator for Decorating Purposes

Radiators can be a pain when the time comes to redecorate a room. Painting behind the radiator is not too difficult, but if the wall has been papered and you want to remove the old paper to either paint or repaper, the radiator is likely to be very much in the way. Most designer towel radiators have simple and easy to remove wall fixing brackets. Removing these will make your life a lot easier and if you are reasonably skilled on the DIY front, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to do the job yourself.

The Right Tools for the Job

  • Dust sheet to protect the floor
  • Adjustable spanner
  • Radiator key
  • Screwdrivers
  • Adjustable wrench

Steps for Removing a Radiator

  1. A radiator has two valves and both need to be sorted before it can be removed. First, make sure you turn the on/off valve (or thermostatic valve if you have one) into the ‘off’ position. Next, using an adjustable wrench, remove the cap from the other ‘lockshield’ valve at the opposite end of the radiator and turn it clockwise to close off the water supply.
  2. To disconnect the on/off valve from the radiator inlet pipe, use an adjustable wrench to hold the valve on the vertical pipe whilst using another wrench to loosen the nut on the valve that connects the radiator to the pipe. You will need to place a bowl under the valve to collect liquid. Using a radiator key, open up the ‘bleed’ valve to break the air lock and release the water from inside the radiator.
  3. Use the same technique to release the radiator from the lockshield valve. Once the radiator has been disconnected from both valves and any remaining water has been drained, it can be lifted from the wall brackets. Don’t forget to close the bleed valve at the top of the radiator.
  4. Place the radiator on dust sheets or old towels to protect the floor just in case any more dirty water leaks out.

Decorating Behind the Radiator

Once the radiator has been removed, you are free to remove old wallpaper and paint the wall. You may wish to remove the wall brackets. However, if you do remove them, make sure you replace them in exactly the same place (unless you are moving the radiator to a new location).

Replacing the Radiator

Radiators are heavy, so you might need an assistant to help you lift the radiator back into position on its wall brackets. In order to prevent any annoying leaks, before connecting the valves back up again, wrap some plumber’s tape (PTFE tape) around the radiator adapter screw heads. Once the radiator is in place, tighten up the nuts holding the valves at each end. Be careful not to over-tighten them as this can lead to leaks. Open the on/off valve and bleed valve, then wait for the radiator to fill up with water. Next, open the lockshield valve at the other end and make sure both joints are not leaking. If they are, tighten them up slightly. Lastly, turn the central heating back on and make sure everything is working correctly before topping up the water pressure in the boiler again (if necessary).

Keep Heating Bills Under Control by Making Your Home More Energy Efficient

Heating bills are a significant drain on most people’s household budgets. Of course it is possible to live without central heating, but it isn’t easy, especially during the cold winter months. If you have young children or elderly relatives living in your home, the cold can even be dangerous, so instead of trying to save money by switching the heating off, make your home more energy efficient instead.

Loft Insulation

Heat rises, so if you have zero or insufficient loft insulation in place, a large percentage of heat generated by your central heating will disappear through the roof of your home. This is great if you are comfortable heating the neighbourhood, but not so great if you want to save money on your heating bill. To improve things, check how much loft insulation you have. The Energy Saving Trust recommends a minimum of 270mm mineral wool loft insulation, so if you have less, top it up.

Cavity Wall Insulation

Homes also lose a lot of heat through un-insulated walls. New homes typically have cavity walls whereas older homes are more likely to have solid walls. But either way, it is possible to insulate the walls and reduce heat loss, so make sure you check the status of your walls.

Fix Draughty Windows and Doors

Doors and windows are another primary area of heat loss in the home. New double-glazed windows are very energy efficient, but if you have older timber windows, they are probably draughty and not very energy efficient. Replacing old windows with nice new ones is the ideal solution, but sadly this is a costly route to take. A cheaper option is to fit plastic film over your windows and repair any holes or gaps around the edge of the frames. In the case of ill-fitting doors, fit draught excluder strips around the edges and along the bottom, or install a heavy curtain to block draughts.

Regular Boiler Service

Ideally a boiler should be serviced every year, particularly if it is an older one. Regular servicing will help to ensure your boiler is running efficiently and reduce the likelihood of parts wearing out. If your boiler is very old, you will be able to save money by installing a new energy efficient one. You may even be eligible for a grant to do this.

Bleed Radiators

Over time air and gases can build up inside radiator circuits. These manifest as cold spots in certain radiators, so no matter how high you turn up your heating, the affected room never feels particularly hot. The best way to prevent this from happening is to bleed your radiators. Try and do this once per year.

Turn Down the Thermostat a Degree

Turning down the room thermostat a notch will make a big difference to your heating bills. Setting the thermostat to a balmy 26 degrees may make your home feel like sunny Spain, but instead of lounging around in a t-shirt and shorts whilst complaining about the price of gas, try putting a few more layers on and setting the room thermostat to 19 degrees instead. Your bank account will thank you.