Category Archives: Home and Family

The perfect sun rooms

Within certain parameters it is possible to spend almost as much or as little on your conservatory as you want. It entirely depends on your budget, the look and specifications you are going for and the size that you would like. The options are almost endless and the extras you can add can push up the price significantly – even after the initial build is done. So getting to the average conservatory price is tricky, but it is certainly possible to estimate based on your particular needs.

 

Low budget conservatory

If you don’t have much money to spend and are handy with a drill and spade you can buy an off the shelf conservatory for around £2,500 from any one of the larger High Street DIY stores. This does not include the ground works which will involve digging out foundations and preparing a concrete base. You should allow a few hundred more to do this. But to get you to a basic stage you could certainly have your conservatory in place for less than £4,000.

 

Standard conservatories

Most companies will quote around £6,000 to £10,000 for a standard conservatory that fits into their bulk window size ranges. If you can keep it under the right size to avoid planning permission these types of conservatories can go up quickly. If you choose to have a brick dwarf wall built, the price will be at the upper end of this range, while full glass will be cheaper.

 

High end conservatory

If price is no object, you can easily spend £20,000 + on a large and detailed conservatory for your home. You can opt for a full timber framed building with beams and wooden sash type windows or you might want one that is structured in such as way as it needs many different made to measure windows. These look amazing and it really is possible to see where the money has been spent. At this end of the market you are getting an additional room to your home, rather than an extension that may not be suitable for year round use.

 

The extras

While you may be able to afford the building and construction of your conservatory, it is worth noting that the costs don’t stop there. You are likely to need most if not all of the following additional extras:

  • Flooring – wood, tiles or even carpeting
  • Heating – radiators involving extra plumbing work or underfloor heating
  • Electrics – this needs to be done professionally
  • Furniture – a conservatory needs to be carefully furnished with items that do not mind the changes in temperature

Pretty house with double glazing

Double glazing has been a feature of our homes for more than 40 years now and it is pretty rare to see a home that doesn’t already have it. But there are some and they may have decided to keep their single glazing for very good reasons. Perhaps they:

  • Live in a conservation area and must have expensive double glazing units such as sashes that they can’t afford. Many homes in conservation areas are more than 100 years old and will have sash type windows. These would need to be replaced like for like and this can be more expensive.
  • Work hard to maintain the wood, paint it every year and regularly treat it so their windows are in good shape. Wooden windows need regular maintenance and should be filled, sanded and painted at least every few years. If the wood starts to rot, your window panes could simply fall out.
  • Live in a listed home and simply are not allowed to change the windows. Some properties are not allowed to have double glazing units, but could have replacement wooden units that would be better. You would need to check with your planning officer.
  • They cannot afford to spend money on new double glazing. Some councils will help with new windows and some manufacturers and installer offer payment schemes or special deals to make it easier.
  • They live in a flat and need to wait until the council or the leaseholders agree to getting new windows. This can be a long process but even the tallest buildings can have new windows installed.
  • They like the look of the single glazing. Some old style windows do look better especially if they have been painted more interesting colours. It is true that white can look boring – but there are many different UPVC window colours now available.
  • They just don’t like double glazing because they fear it might condensate or cause damp issues. These issues are almost always because the double glazing unit is poor quality. If you buy well it shouldn’t be a problem.

Are you looking for a new front door

Your 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.

Combi boilers is need on you home

If your home doesn’t already have a combi boiler, you may have considered replacing your current boiler for one – especially if you have heard good things about them. But do you really understand the full benefits? Here is the definitive list of reasons to buy a combi-boiler.

 

No need to store hot water

A combi boiler eliminates the need to have any storage of hot water and so you can get rid of that hot water tank that is taking up space in your loft or hallway cupboard. This can free up the space for other things. Pipework and cold water storage is also minimised.

 

Small unit

A combi boiler is usually a smaller and more compact unit so it can easily fit inside your kitchen cupboards. This more streamlined look makes it a more attractive option for smaller kitchens.

 

Incredibly efficient

A combi boiler is highly efficient – you are only heating water as and when you need it, so this will save you money in the long run. Combi-boilers are usually A-rated and will therefore offer huge monetary savings compared to any boiler than is more than 10 years old. It is estimated you could save up to £300 per year by replacing your old boiler with a combi boiler.

 

No more cold showers

Because the water is heated as it is used, it isn’t affected by other factors such as the water being used up previously. Combi boilers will also often have thermostats included that will keep the water at the temperature you choose. The water pressure is usually very stable due to the water coming directly from the mains feed however if you have a number of bathrooms the pressure may drop if they are being used all at once.

 

Cheaper to install

Because of the simplicity of a combi boiler system, there is less work to do to install one. In particular the pipework and tank system is very simple. However you will need to remove or disable the old system and tanks. The ongoing costs are likely to be less too as there are fewer parts to keep an eye on or to go wrong.

Double glazing for your home is great ideas

There are so many reasons to get double glazing: the improvement in energy efficiency, the better looking home, the lowered maintenance and improved home value. But some homeowners are still a little reluctant to take the plunge and invest in double glazing perhaps because of the myths that they may have heard. If you have been put off buying double glazing, take a look at the following and see if we can put your mind at rest.

 

You need planning permission

The only time you will need to get planning permission for double glazing is if your home is listed or you live in a conservation area. In this case you should speak to planning officers, but an actual planning application may still not be necessary. You should also speak to the leaseholder if you live in a flat.

 

White UPVC windows go yellow eventually

The new style of UPVC windows use much better technology than the older ones and therefore are designed to retain their colour. This high quality material will stay white (as long as you keep them clean!)

 

Double glazed windows are more easily broken into

Some double glazed units are built with the beading on the outside allowing would-be burglars to pop out the window and enter your home. All you need to do to avoid this is to choose windows that have indoor beading. Most modern windows are built this way now.

 

Secondary glazing is just as good

Studies have shown that secondary glazing is not as efficient as double glazing. It will work to keep your home warmer but is prone to condensation and other issues.

 

It is impossible to find decent double glazed sash windows

These days there are specialist manufacturers who are making excellent double glazed sash window units. These look almost the same as the real thing and will allow you to keep your Victorian or Georgian home toasty warm. You may pay a little more, but they are worth it.

 

Double glazing windows will just condensate

You can expect to get condensation on most windows in the winter time but with double glazed units there is often a trickle vent included and this allows a small amount of air to enter reducing condensation to almost none. You may eventually find condensation inside the window between the panes. This is easily fixed by replacing the window pane. This only happens after many years.

As you can see there are a number of misconceptions going around when it comes to double glazing. But most of them really are nothing to worry about. If you have any further concerns just talk to a double glazing expert and they will be able to set you straight.

The reason of home improvements can be so expensive

But they are much cheaper than moving house. With estate agents charging anywhere from 1% to 5% of the sale price of your home and stamp duty a huge chunk of money, the cost of moving house can easily reach above £10,000. For that you can have a small house extension, a new kitchen and bathroom or a new conservatory or garden room. Even if you need to add to your mortgage, at today’s interest rates the cost is very low.

 

The planning process is so long

But planning permission is not always needed. In the vast majority of cases you won’t need to apply for planning permission at all. As long as your extension, loft conversion or conservatory is within permitted development for your area then you can carry on without telling anyone (except for building control). The rules may be different if your home is listed or in a conservation area so always do your homework, but for that extra space you need the process could be very simple. If you do need planning most councils will approve within 12 weeks, so not a huge amount of time to wait.

 

There are so many cowboy builders out there

But there are many who are not. Don’t be frightened by the stories you see on TV – most builders are doing good work and have excellent reputations. It is up to you to take the right steps to find the right builder for your job. That means taking the quotation stage seriously and doing your homework on the builder – including visiting their clients and following up recommendations. If possible talk to neighbours and friends who have had work done to find out who they used.

 

Building work takes so long and is really messy

But a good builder will minimise this for you. The building process can be time consuming if it is done correctly, so be reassured that no shortcuts are taken if it seems to be going on longer than you thought. Also, get a timetable from your builder of how long they expect it to last. They should also be able to tell you to what extent you will be affected in terms of mess and access to your kitchen, bathroom and if electricity or water will be turned off. If you know in advance, it is much easier to deal with.

Consultation Scheme

The vast majority of conservatories and small extensions built these days will not require planning permission due to the permitted development rules. However those that are larger than average will need to go through the planning permission process. To give a little more breathing space to builders and homeowners the government has introduced the Neighbour Consultation Scheme in a bid to allow larger extensions without the need for planning.

The Neighbour Consultation Scheme was introduced as a sort of interim measure for rear extensions to be built that are larger than those currently allowed under permitted development, but without homeowners needing to get full planning permission. It is in place for a period of six years only from 2013 and work must be completed by 30 May 2019.

Size restrictions

The current permitted development rules state that rear extensions can be up to 4m – but these new rules have doubled that to 8m for detached houses and from 3 to 6m for terraces and semi detached buildings. Obviously this applies to homes where no extensions have previously been built.

The maximum height is 4m and maximum eaves height must be a maximum of 3m if the construction is within 2m of the property boundary.

Other restrictions

There are already a number of restrictions in place under permitted development and your extension will need to comply with those too.

  • Your extension cannot cover more than half the land surrounding the house when it was built. Remember that this includes any extensions or additions added since it was built
  • The materials used should be similar to those used in the existing house – or in the case of conservatories, it should be sympathetic
  • No verandas, platforms or balconies are allowed – you will need separate planning permission for these
  • No chimneys, flues soil pipes or antennae are allowed on the building
  • Your home should not be in a conservation area or be listed – these homes will need planning permission

The Neighbour Consultation Scheme Process

If you choose to have one of these larger than average extensions built and you want to avoid full planning permission, you must follow the recommendations regarding neighbour consultation. This process is quite detailed but is less onerous than the planning process which can be lengthy and expensive.

The caused internal damp problems

When you had your cavity wall insulation installed, you probably were excited about all the benefits. After all, the Energy Saving Trust suggests that you could save as much as £275 a year on your energy bills from having this type of work carried out. But has it become a nightmare for you because of damp issues? If so, you are probably wondering what on earth you can do to correct the problem. Millions of people are discovering that the insulation they had installed (often free of charge under government schemes), in the hope of reducing energy costs, are actually now having the exact opposite effect, causing damp and mould problems.

 

How can wall cavity insulation cause damp?

First of all, it’s worth noting that not all damp problems are caused by faulty cavity wall insulation, and equally not all cavity wall problems will end up causing you issues with damp. Despite the fact that most people’s cavity wall insulation will continue to provide them with energy and efficiency savings over it’s lifetime, unfortunately some installations can result in serious damp problems.

Cavity wall insulation is designed to do one thing; to insulate the cavity in your wall. Insulation material is pumped into the cavity between the outer brick of your house, and the inner brickwork. The type of material used for the insulation does vary, but essentially it serves the same purpose – which is to increase the insulation of your cavity – therefore reducing the transfer of energy between the inside and outside of your home. For the insulation to function effectively, the cavity must remain dry. If the material used to insulate your wall does get wet, then this can transfer moisture to your inner walls, causing mould and damp problems.

If you have cavity wall insulation but are not currently experiencing damp problems, then it is wise to try to protect your walls against the ingress of water, which could result in damp problems. One of the most common reasons for cavity wall insulation to fail, is simply due to outer brickwork being in poor condition. If you live in a particularly wet or windy area (for example on an exposed coastline), you should consider that you may need to ensure that your wall is regularly maintained, repairing any lose grouting or badly eroded bricks before they cause bigger problems.

 

What can I do?

If your home is affected by damp following the installation of wall cavity insulation then the only solution is to have the wet insulation removed or extracted. This is a job that needs to be carried out by a qualified and experienced contractor and can be costly. Your contractor will open the holes in your outer wall that were in place for the installation and use a vacuum pump to suck out the insulation. They may also need to use high pressure hoses to dislodge it. If you have solid wall insulation the process will be more costly as parts of the wall may need to be removed.

Your contractor will be able to tell you if you should consider having the insulation re-installed. If your walls are correctly repaired, then this might be suitable but you should be fully convinced that your home is not at risk of further damp issues. The Telegraph have recently reported on an increased volume of cases of wall insulation going bad, and we echo their concerns that there may be many more houses that will require their insulation to be removed.

 

How will I pay for the removal?

This is a tricky one and no clear answers seem to be available at the moment. You may feel that your guarantee will mean that the company that did the installation is liable, this isn’t always the case – but it should certainly be your first port of call. If you went through your energy supplier, you could also contact them for advice.

There is another organisation that may be able to help, if you aren’t getting anywhere with your installer – that’s the Cavity Installation Guarantee Agency (CIGA). If your Cavity Wall Insulation was guaranteed by CIGA (if it is then you would have been given a certificate by your installer at the time of installation, or from the previous owner if you have purchased the house with insulation in place), then their website states that they may be able to cover the cost of removal if the insulation has failed within the 25 year guarantee period. CIGA state that your installer must be notified of any problems as soon as possible, and that CIGA may then be contacted if the matter is not resolved satisfactorily within 2 months.

If neither your installer or CIGA can help, then your last report may be to contact your home insurer, as this type of damage may be covered under your buildings insurance. This is especially the case if the insulation has been affected by flooding or unusually poor weather.

The rules set out by your Council

Will I need planning permission?

In almost all cases the answer to this is yes because extension work carried out on a flat does not come under Permitted Development. Permitted development essentially states that work carried out on a house that extends it by a set amount does not require Planning Permission. But when it comes to flats the rules are different and planning is almost always needed.

This is especially the case if your flat is part of a listed building or is in a conservation area. In fact if you start work on a building that has special historical character without permission you could be committing a criminal offence. So checking with your planning office is essential before you do anything.

Why do I need Planning Permission?

The main reasons for flat extensions needing planning permission is the fact that your neighbours will inevitably be affected, due to their proximity to your property. Not only will the your property and the extension impact on their property, but the work being carried out will affect their day to day living. Noise, mess, parking issues and people in and out of the building throughout the day will be bothersome to them – so they need the chance to understand what is happening.

The building structure and look will also be affected – possibly impacting on their own property value. This is a very valid concern for your neighbours and one that may require you to compensate.

Building Regulations

Any extension built on a flat will also need Building Regulations approval. This regulatory service ensures that the work carried out meets government requirements on buildings of this type. The Buildings Inspector will attend the site at regular intervals throughout the project to check on work and ensure that all work is carried out to the right specifications.

The following categories will be taken into account when it comes to your extension planning application and regulations.

Doors and windows

Your doors and windows may need to look the same as others in the building and will need to meet the energy conservation levels required by your Council. Planning permission for doors and windows will be required if the building has special characteristics.

Drainage

If you share drainage with your neighbours you should always clarify ownership before you start any work.

Electrics

Usually this is not a planning concern – but you should check if you live in a listed building. However if electric work forms part of your extension you should include it in your planning application.

Walls/floors

Those in listed buildings or in conservation areas should seek advice before doing any work. This is especially the case if cladding is going to be used. In other cases Planning Permission is not needed for this type of work. The levels of insulation and soundproofing will also need to be checked.

Roofs

If your extension is affecting any part of the roof you may need to apply for Planning Permission related to that change.

The Party Wall Act

If your new extension is likely to have any impact on the internal or external wall or floor of any other flat or maisonette in the building you will need to advise your neighbour of the work. Work on foundations in flats or maisonettes is also subject to this Act. The Party Wall Act 1996 was brought in to reduce the number of disputes occurring between neighbours when work is carried out and it lays down the requirements of the builder and homeowner regarding party walls.

  • You must give the neighbour notice of the work
  • They have the opportunity to object or ask for changes

The Act lays out all the rules that must be adhered to when working on a party wall and the circumstances where a neighbour can object or even ask for work to be restricted or stopped.

Planning permission for a garden wall

When you decide to build an extension on your home there’s a very good chance that there may be additional garden landscaping work that will need to be completed, to fit in with the change of shape. In particular you will want to erect a fence or wall between your home and your neighbours that will accommodate the new addition. In most cases planning permission won’t be required, but there are some circumstances where you should double check with your council.

You may/will need Planning Permission if:

Your fence, gate or wall will be more than 1 metre high and is next to the road or footpath.
Your fence is over 2 metres high and is erected anywhere on your property.
Your deeds suggest that you are not allowed to erect fences, gates or walls on your property.
You live in a listed house or in a conservation area.
The fence, wall or gate shares a boundary with any other property that happens to be listed.

What if i just want to remove a fence or wall?

Planning Permission is not needed for the removal of walls or fences or for when you are replacing those that are already there. But you must not replace them with anything higher. However if you live in a conservation area you may need permission to alter the look of your fence or gate.

Bushes or hedges?

Usually Planning Permission will not be needed for hedges unless your deeds include a covenant that restricts them. This might be the case if they were to restrict the sightlines of drivers or pedestrians.

Building regulations

While needing Planning Permission is rare for gates, walls and fences, you may need building regulations approval. In particular this applies to the Party Wall Act which states that shared fences and walls should come under its remit. Additionally your walls or fence should be suitable for its purposes and correctly constructed to prevent collapse. Buildings regulations officers will want to check masonry walls to ensure they will not pose harm to the public (or to yourself!).

While this may seem like more red tape when it comes to building an extension, getting the look of nearby walls and fences right will ensure that the overall look and feel of your new home will be exactly as you had dreamed.