Hard to Reach Windows Can Still Have Shutters

As soon as my husband and I saw the house we now live in, we knew that we wanted it. We had been looking at houses for a few months, and we just could not find one that met every one of our criteria until this one. One of my favorite parts is the entryway, because it is two stories high. The stairs do not start until several yards in, and it is just gorgeous. It has a very high window above the door, and I knew that I was going to get orange county blinds for it.

Actually, after looking at the house, I knew that I was going to redo all of the window treatments, since what was there was sold with the house.

How to repair your home

download-45The property market is a tough nut to crack. If it was a nut, it would be some kind of Fort Knox-cashew lined with aluminium and a thousand security keys before you could reach its crunchy centre.

Before you can even bite into this metaphorical cashew there are hundreds of rules to learn and specific times to digest – and chances are you’ll end up biting off a lot less than you intended.

That’s the property market in a nutshell (and a clumsy analogy at that), but solutions exist that can make the process a lot more bearable.

More often than not, increasing your property’s market value is about investment, investment and investment. The main focus of your investment? Fixing up your property to make it look spiffy. There are plenty of low-cost DIY tips you can try, but today we’re going to focus on the larger purchases that will send your property’s value into the stratosphere.

But before you whip out your hammer and nails, we’d recommend you look over all commercial property information and private property information via a few high-quality websites. While trudging through documents and statistics might seem like hard work, it’ll be worth it for aneffective lay of the land before you begin.

Attic space

An unconverted attic is little more than a creepy empty space, all mouldy cardboard boxes, lanky spiders and crusty cobwebs. But, according to the Telegraph, if you spent £20,000 on a loft conversion you’ll increase your property value by up to £40,000.

This can be a lengthy process (configuring electrics and laying flooring will be where you concentrate most of your time), but won’t require planning permission (unless you live in a listed building).

Extend

An extra room is just what the housing market ordered, and viewers will be even more impressed if you’ve got a conservatory or orangery attached to your home. When deciding on the design of your extension, make sure you keep it confluent with the rest of your home. The last thing a prospective buyer wants is a room that sticks out like a sore thumb.

Planning permission could be the stumbling block to an extension, so check with your local council before you get started.

Bring the heat

Everyone wants central heating in their home – and they’re willing to pay an extra £5,000 for a house containing it. Be sure your heating doesn’t intrude on the useable space too much. All radiators should be discreet and away from windows.

The car’s not the star

You might think that a garage is always a plus for any home, yet around 90 per cent of them don’t contain cars. To boost your house value further, convert your unused garage into an extra room. If you want to figure how much value you’ve added to your home, multiply the square footage owned by the local price per square foot.

Best ideas for your door

download-46Your front door is the first impression that you get to make when someone visits your home, which means that many of us want to choose the most attractive door possible, to cast your house in the best light. Should you however be basing your choice on how the door looks, rather than how it performs? The short answer is no, because choosing a front door purely on looks, might be something you regret in the long term when it fails to meet it’s functional requirements. We’ve put together some guidelines below on how to buy buy the best exterior doors for your home, to help you to choose a door that will meet your practical as well as aesthetic needs.

Material

This factor is probably the most important of all considerations when buying your new door. While a solid wood door may look lovely you should be aware that if it gets wet, it is at risk of swelling and then subsequently shrinking as it dries out. A well designed and professionally fitted door will need to be carefully installed to ensure that the gap between your door and it’s frame is a consistent size, ensuring a snug but not tight fit between the door and the door frame. The constant expansion and contraction of a wooden door, that can be caused by it getting wet, will mean that it the door is more likely to become stuck on the frame, or to develop gaps which will let in air.

With the above in mind, our advice would be to only install a solid wood door in areas that are very much under cover, so that they won’t get excessively wet, or cold. If your door isn’t covered, then an alternative to a real solid wooden door, would be to go for a composite door which will have fewer of the issues that can be caused by damp and cold. A composite door will still look great, however it will need very little maintenance, unlike wood. A UPVC door will suffer even less than a composite door from issues surrounding damp, however they can be unattractive, with none of the rustic appeal of a wooden door.

Glazing

Do you want your door to have any glass? This is the next consideration to bear in mind when selecting a new door. You should be aware that any glazing will inevitably mean that you more draughts around the door, however glazing can be very practical for seeing who is outside and importantly for letting in light. You may prefer to have double glazed windows to each side of the door and a peephole instead. This is certainly down to preference as the best doors are still very secure even with glazing. A good compromise between the translucent benefits of clear glass, and the privacy aspect of a non-glazed finish, can be to install frosted glass that will still let light in, but won’t allow anyone to see into your home.

Security

No matter what type of door you choose you need to ensure that it has excellent security features. That means installing a good lock (even a double lock if necessary) or choosing a door that comes with the best lock you can afford. Some of these will have bolts that are at the top and bottom and some will have self locking mechanisms. Be aware that some doors can be manipulated through the letterbox to be opened from the outside unless you double lock them. Not only will a high quality lock give you peace of mind that your home is secure – having locks that reach a high standard can even save you money on your home insurance premiums. Generally a five lever mortice deadlock conforming to BS 3621 will be the minimum standard required to get a discount on your home insurance premium.

Colour

The colour that you choose for your door is of course down to personal preference. You can choose almost any colour for your door regardless of the style or material you choose, however one advantage of going for a wooden door is the fact you can repaint it any time you like, without having to replace the door. Many of the plastic or composite doors are made in white which is a very safe option, but for an attractive look to the front of your home, try a colour such as green or red. Your front door is highly visible, and therefore an important centrepiece when it comes to defining the style of your home. In summary, don’t go for the best quality door possible that will suit your needs – choose well and it should last as long as your home does.

Wall materials that you really need

download-47The building of an extension is certainly going to alter the way that you home looks and part of that process is adding external walls that work with the existing structure, but also possibly changing the existing wall cladding to give a more attractive overall look. In most cases your exterior walls will be exempt from planning permission, but there are cases where planning will be required.

  • If you live in a listed building or in a conservation area you will almost certainly need planning permission
  • If you want to clad your new or existing walls with stone, pebble dash, render, tiles or plastic and you live in an area of outstanding beauty or a national park you will need to apply
  • In all other cases you still need to ensure the cladding or wall covering you choose must be in keeping with the existing style

Building regulations

Changing the look of the outside walls of your home may not always need building regulations approval – but the addition of new external walls as part of your extension probably will. Building regulations use a set of rules to determine if approval is required:

  • If more than 25 percent of the exterior walls are re-built, re-rendered, re-clad or re-plastered then evidence of correct insulation will need to be supplied to building regulations inspectors
  • If new external wall cavity insulation is inserted into walls you may need them to assess this
  • Generally your new walls should be built using the cavity wall system as this provides a better thermal load. Buildings regulations will be checking for this. Solid walls will need special insulation to make them passable
  • Wall loads are also incredibly important and will be checked. If your new walls are holding up upper stories or the roof they need to comply with loading rules and possibly having lintels installed
  • Weather resistance rules and thermal resistance rules are also taken into account
  • Your walls need to meet fire protection rules also and existing walls may need to be upgraded as part of the work to ensure compliance

As you can see, building or improving external walls is a complicated process and while you may not need planning permission for the work, the building regulations rules are onerous. This is one that is best left to your builder.

Home loans

Unless you are very lucky, the chances are you’ll have to borrow money one way or another to fund your extension. The good news is there are a number of ways you can do it.

Additional mortgage

 

It is possible to get an additional mortgage that allows you to borrow money for your extension. You could increase your current mortgage or borrow against the equity in your home (if you have any).

This gives you some flexibility in the payments. For example you can borrow a larger amount over a longer period of time, making it more affordable to pay back. One example would be to borrow £40,000 over 32 years. This would result in an additional monthly payment of about £150 on your mortgage.

The downside is that it can take a long time to secure the necessary funds. Furthermore, if you don’t have equity in your home, are in arrears or have bad credit, you may not be accepted for another mortgage.

However on the good side you can shop around for a good deal on mortgage payments. Rates at present are very low but they are not likely to stay that way forever. However even if they do rise you are likely to get a lower rate than you could on the next option.

Bank or building society loan

 

You could also consider getting a loan from a bank or building society. This doesn’t have to be the one you already have an account with, although it may be easier to get a loan if you are already a customer. Indeed, you may even find you can be ‘pre-approved’ for a certain amount of money.

You can get a secured loan, which is secured on your property, or an unsecured one that has no collateral to back it up. Unsecured loans are not as easy to get, and they are not usually available for larger sums of money. The biggest sum you could borrow is usually about £25,000. Thus it won’t be any good unless your extension is going to be on the small side, or you have some funds available from another source to add to it.

Secured loans can be easier to qualify for if you can put your property up as collateral against the loan. You might also have longer to pay back the money. This means you can budget for your extension more easily than you may think.

Credit cards

 

You may not have thought about borrowing money using a credit card. However, it is worth considering. There are pros and cons to this route, so evaluate it carefully before choosing this option.

Usually you get up to two months’ free interest when you make a purchase on a credit card. However there are deals on new credit cards that offer a longer 0% interest purchase period. At the time of writing the top cards were offering 0% interest on purchases for up to 25 months. However once this period ends you could find yourself paying around 18% to 19% in interest charges – and sometimes more.

If you can afford to pay the money back in the short term, this type of borrowing may work out cheaper than borrowing over a longer period of time. Borrowing via a mortgage or other loan over 30 years will most likely cost more overall. However as with an unsecured loan, you may not be able to borrow the full cost of your extension in this manner. The available balance you will be granted on a credit card will depend on your credit history and the provider you apply to. It may only be a fraction of the amount you need.

Which method (or methods) will work for you?

As you can see it is a good idea to consider every option available to you when it comes to borrowing money to build an extension. Adding an extension may add value to your property, but you still have to find the cash to pay for it to begin with.

Remember also that you can use more than one source of money if you wish. For example, let’s say your extension is going to cost £40,000. You could get a second mortgage for the whole amount, or you could use £10,000 in savings and reduce your mortgage to £30,000. On the other hand a smaller extension might cost £25,000. You could opt for £8,000 to be paid using a 0% interest credit card (paying off the balance within the terms stated) and get a £17,000 personal loan to cover the rest.

Alarm System Cost

If you have ever considered getting an alarm system installed at home, the issue of cost will have been high on your list of priorities. Just how expensive are these systems to install?

We’ll have a look at costing here, as well as weighing up the benefits of installing a system of this kind.

Why have a home alarm system?

A home alarm has a dual benefit. Firstly, it acts as a visible deterrent to burglars. If they see a property with an alarm, they’re likely to avoid it and go in search of one without an alarm. Secondly, if a burglar triggers an alarm they will likely scarper before entering the property. Neighbours will be alerted, and if you have a monitored alarm system, the company that provides the monitoring service will be called out to your property.

The biggest benefit of having a home alarm is the peace of mind you’ll get from it. You’ll feel more secure, whether you are at home or not. Even if you are on holiday, a monitored system will help keep your home safe.

Costs vs benefits

Let’s take a look at how much you might pay for a system to be installed. Obviously it depends on the complexity of the system, but you could get a system for as little as £99. That covers the installation of an alarm from a leading provider in the business. However there are lots of different companies that provide services like this, so it is wise to consider all the options. You may find a local company that is cheaper. Research has revealed prices starting from £69 for installation, with prices reaching around £200 with some companies.

Obviously the main benefit, as we’ve already noted, is peace-of-mind. Even if you get the most basic bells-only alarm that doesn’t actually contact anyone when it is triggered, it will hopefully scare any potential burglars away.

You also have to think about whether you want just a basic alarm with a bell that sounds when someone tries to enter the house, or whether you want something more involved. Keyholder monitoring is a good idea, for example. It means you and whoever else you nominate as a keyholder will be alerted should the alarm ever be triggered. This typically incurs a monthly fee that could work out to anything from around £70 to £170 or more per year.

Home More Secure

As much as it is important that your home looks as stylish as you want and is designed to your taste, it is imperative that you feel safe in your home and ensure that you take steps to make sure you feel comfortable and secure. Often if you have a conservatory or another extension to your home you may want to make extra changes to your home to make you feel more protected. There a number of reasons for this and here are a few tips to help you along the way.

Replace Your Doors With Composite Doors

Composite doors provide high quality protection for your home as well as giving an attractive welcome. They have a number of properties that will increase the security of your home; not only do they stay stable during heat changes of the seasons, but they are made from a variety of materials ensuring that they have the necessary reinforcements.

Composite doors have an ultra secure multipoint locking system, meaning the door is protected from any possible vulnerabilities all along the frame. Doors of other kinds may require expensive reinforcing to provide the same level of protection as composite doors.

Install uPVC Windows

Having u-PVC windows installed in your home would add extra security as they are designed to provide rigidity and strength. These types of windows allow for high performance handles, hinges and locking mechanisms to be installed, automatically increasing the level of security in your home.

Choose Bi-Folding Doors

Not only are bi-folding doors ideal for creating versatility in your home, they are a great choice if you are wanting to ensure that the doors at the back of your house are secure. When bi-folding doors are shut, they are designed to interlock and create a solid walling system that will no doubt be difficult to break through.

Keep Your Keys Out Of Sight

Of course there are other tips in increasing the security of your house that do not require such big changes. There are a number of things you can do when you are leaving the house. One of the biggest to keep any keys out of sight of the windows. Often burglars will break into a home in order to steal car keys and so it is better for your safety if they are hidden.

How to find the cheapest of home improvement

We all know that the cost of making changes to your home can be expensive and in some cases it means that we live with a house that really doesn’t suit our style aspirations. But what if we told you that you could make some huge home improvements for less than £20? You might think that it involves some dodgy DIY and craft glue – but cheap changes can also look professional and be easy to achieve.

1. Simple furniture rearranging

They say a change is as good as a rest and in this case it is also absolutely free. Simply reassessing the furniture you have around your home and repurposing or changing the layout can improve the way your home looks and for no money at all. Consider moving an armchair to a bedroom, using bookshelves as dividing walls and swapping your living room for the dining room.

2. Houseplants

Plants can lend a room an air of peace and calm – and they have the added benefit of cleaning the air. Simple houseplants can cost from just a few pounds and if you wish you can get cuttings from friends and family and grow them yourself. Within a few months they will be large enough to make a real impact. Group them together in one area of the house to get a green and outdoor feel.

3. Make the most of freebies

Must DIY stores will allow you to take good-sized samples of wallpaper home for free. Fabric stores will offer samples or off-cuts at very cheap prices. Source some frames either from cheaper shops or from charity shops and frame the samples as interesting wall art. If you are handy with a hammer, you could make a wooden frame and stretch fabric across it. While you are looking into free stuff, don’t forget Freecycle where you can find items that people are willing to give away.

4. Painting

it is surprising how much paint you can get for less than £20 or you can get it for free if you are in special need from community paint supply organisations. You can use paint to brighten up walls, repaint kitchen cabinets, repurpose old furniture or even make floorboards and doors look brighter and more cheerful. Nothing beats a new paint job for improving the look and feel of your home.

5. Learn a new craft

You can learn almost anything on YouTube these days and many of these types of crafts are ideal for adding improvements to your home. Try crochet, knitting or sewing to add cheap homemade soft furnishings to your home or upholstering or rug making to make further impact. You can even learn how to replaster a wall, lay tiles or replace doors. Then all you need to do is source the materials from places like Ebay and you can bag a real bargain that will put your new skills to good use.

Kitchen trends that you will be like

With the New Year fully underway and the traditional repainting and freshening up season upon us, now is the time to start thinking about the direction to take your kitchen in terms of colour and style. We may not change our kitchens very often, so it makes good sense to choose a style that will work for many years ahead, or one that can be updated easily. The following trends have been highlighted as being hot for this coming year and will put you one step ahead of the rest.

Keep it soft and muted

While the white kitchen will always be popular, those of us who prefer to avoid brighter colours should now consider more muted shades. These include soft charcoals, greys and pale blues, greens and even pinks. The latest thing in this range are the tinted whites with hints of icy blue or soft greens. Put these against lighter natural wood worktops and floors and you have a kitchen look that is calming and perfect for adding light to even the darkest space.

Get high tech

The kitchen is not only the hub of the home, it is also the place where we do homework, watch the TV, go on our laptop and expect all the modern appliances and conveniences. So it is essential that you consider the future when you are designing your kitchen. Remember the charging points, the spaces for TV screens and the extra space for designer coffee machines and steam ovens. Don’t skimp now, because in a few years these things will be standard.

Guess what? The 80’s are back!

Remember the days when everything was glitzy and glamorous and big shoulders were all the rage? Well some of that elegance is making a comeback. Think mirrored tiles, brass fittings and high gloss everywhere. But give it a 21st century reboot by adding in natural materials such as wood to soften the look and bring it up to date. Metallics are also making a comeback as a part of this 80’s thing. So brass taps, pendant lights and kitchen door handles will complete the look.

Keep it simple

Plain kitchens are still very popular and especially when it comes to the kitchen cupboards. Even more traditional kitchens are stepping away from the fussy mouldings and over the top detailing. Just a high quality, plain slab fronted kitchen cabinet will work perfectly and can be easily updated with accessories as you wish. Every year you can get a new look and not need to replace your kitchen doors – that is the joy of plainer, clean lines.

So these are few ideas to get you going. But of course, we have a 100 years of fitted kitchens to draw on for inspiration so take the ideas that you like from previous decades and see what you can make work in your own home.

Underfloor Heating Cost

If you’re thinking about adding underfloor heating to a new part of your home such as a conservatory or extension, you’ll want to look into costs before you do so.

Here we take a look at costing and also the benefits of installing such a system.

What are the advantages of underfloor heating?

There are plenty of perks to having this form of heating. Comfort has to be one of the key ones. No more walking on cold floors – instead you can walk barefoot through your extension in winter and still have warm feet.

Additionally, they can help you save on your heating bills. The amount of radiant heat offered by underfloor heating makes it more pleasant to have than radiators. Since the pipes for the heating are usually set into the screed under the floor, it takes far longer for them to cool down once the system is switched off too. This is beneficial because you’ll still be able to benefit from the heat coming through the floor.

It is also less common to experience problems or leaks with a properly-installed system. This compares favourably to the prospect of a leaking radiator that might end up ruining your floor.

Cost per m2 to install

If you are looking to install underfloor heating in an existing property, the cost can be prohibitive. The system is much easier and cheaper to install in a new build, because it can be put in as the floors are going down.

Additionally there are two systems to choose from – electric underfloor heating, which is cheaper, and water underfloor heating. The latter is better but more expensive. Your boiler will pump water through the pipes and heat the floor and the room itself over time. Conversely, electric systems only heat the floor and are not ideal for a proper heating solution.

As for costs, they vary depending on who you go to. We’ve found quotes starting from around £14 per square metre for electric underfloor heating. You will pay more to have someone install it for you. This doesn’t include the cost of any insulation you might need.

Conversely, water-based systems will cost more. You can expect to pay upwards of £36 m2 here, and as much as £48 m2. Your actual cost will therefore depend on the complexity of your requirements, the size of your room/home and the company you choose to fit whatever system you want to add. Remember though, if you want proper heating for the room, choose the water-based system and not the electric one.

The Greatest of Household

Surely it is a contradiction in terms – minimalism and a busy house. If you have kids, hobbies, relatives and friends popping in and all the traps of a busy life then you just have to wait for minimalism until your life is calmer. Well, with the right attitude it really is possible to achieve minimalism in even the busiest of household and it is easier than you might think.

Minimalism with kids

Kids have a lot of stuff…they seem to be born with it. Toys, books, nursery equipment, car seats, prams and endless supplies of clothes and odd socks. Despite this mountain of gear, you can have an ordered house.

Keep everything in its place by buying and using toy crates, lidded boxes, large cupboards and shelves. Wherever possible make sure there are doors and lids on everything so the contents cannot be seen. A pile of attractive wooden boxes could be hiding all kinds of chaos.

Make use of the garage or shed for things like prams and car seats and other baby paraphernalia.

Kids rooms should be their domain. Encourage children to keep their things in their rooms and just close the door on it. That’s a simple approach that really works.

Minimalism when you work long hours

Strangely, the less time you spend in your home to more stuff seems to find its way onto your surfaces. Because you are tired and feel disorganised you will tend to just leave things where they land. But a simple ten minute clean up each morning before you leave the house can fix that. You know you will return to a perfect home and you will be inspired to keep it that way.

Or make the most of the income you are earning to hire a cleaner…

Minimalism when you have lots of visitors

If your home is minimalist even the thought of people coming and spreading their stuff around could fill you with fear. But you can entertain without stress by being organised. Have a specific place for coats and bags that is behind a door, supply your guests with comfy slippers so their shoes don’t mess up your carpet and have a guest supply of extras that you only bring out when they arrive. This will include towels, bedding, extra crockery and glasses and these can all be put away when not needed so you don’t take up extra space.

Whatever you do not make your life smaller just because you want to be minimalist. Fill it with people and things to do, just be organised about it. Think storage and space and you will be heading in the right direction.

Suitale home for your home

If you’re a lover of wide open spaces or simply love natural light, then bi-fold doors can open up a huge array of possibilities for your home. A relatively recent addition to the world of doors and windows, this very modern alternative to traditional French or patio doors solves an age-old puzzle – how to bring more light and space into a home without resorting to expensive building work or costly extensions.

To bi or not to bi?

So you’ve fallen for the beauty and functionality of bi-fold. Well, you won’t be the first. They’re taking pride of place in more and more homes across the land and becoming a talking point in style magazines and a priority on interior designers’ lists of must-haves. But although bi-fold doors offer bright benefits in terms of looks and versatility, are they a sensible addition for your home? Here’s a quick round up of all the issues to help you decide…

Does the style suit?

With their clean, smooth lines and larger, taller glass panels, bi-fold doors naturally lend themselves to modern houses and new builds. Indeed, their many configuration options and ease of installation (including corners) mean they feature on the blueprints of many new developments and bespoke commissions.

But when it comes to older homes they’re surprisingly versatile too. Their modern lines provide a pleasing counterpoint to the aesthetics of Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian properties. Plus, panel and frame widths, colours and finishes can be cleverly designed to complement frame styles on a home’s existing doors and windows.

A word about using bi-fold doors on older properties in conservation areas, though. All councils have different regulations when it comes to conservation, so your first port of call should be your council Planning Department. They can advise you on what’s acceptable in terms bi-fold frame colours and finishes, site lines and so forth, saving a you a good deal of expense and heartache later on

Sizing up the possibilities

Next, the small matter of size. The popular appeal of the bi-fold look is the archetypal ‘glass wall’ stretching across the entire back width of the house. With most systems spanning apertures of up to 6 metres, there’s usually no problem in achieving that beyond ensuring that the lintels over the opening are adequate to support the structure above.

Don’t discount the bi-fold option if you don’t have the space for such a ‘grand design’ gesture, however. Most smaller properties, given a little thought, will be able to accommodate bi-fold doors, and the advantages of all that additional light and space make just as big a difference to a standard terrace house as they do to a larger property. In some ways, an even bigger one.

To explore how flexible bi-fold doors can be for smaller properties, we asked Michelle Bestwick-Walters, Technical Office Manager at Eurocell, how the company approaches requests for smaller configurations of their Aspect bi-fold system. She told us:

“The way Aspect is engineered, it can be used to create openings right down to window size, but generally the smallest bi-fold system we get asked for is a two pane version that measures 185 cm – that’s about 6 feet from outer frame to outer frame. The minimum width per frame we recommend is 60cms, but we can make them as narrow as 30cm if the job warrants it.”

Even if you’re simply replacing older doors windows without changing the width or height, bi-fold is still very much a viable option. But remember, you’ll still need to check this is up to building regulatory standards, so ask a builder or your local building officer to give it the thumbs up before installing your new bi-folds.