Top Tips for Home Improvement

Decorating – should I do it all myself?

Decorating your home is a task that all homeowners are faced with at some point. Whether you choose to do it every year, or every twenty years, the major question many of us ask ourselves is – should I just go and do it all myself and save a few pennies? Find out whether to do it yourself or hire a professional tradesman.

It’s easy to assume that heading down to the local DIY store, and buying a few pots of paint, some new paintbrushes, and some masking tape is all that you need for a good finish. It’s not always the case though – especially if you are not an experienced campaigner.

Decorating the Room

Weigh up all the options. Are you doing this before you sell your house? In which case, investing in an outside decorator can be well worthwhile, and pay off in a big way. Or, is it just a re-touching of the paintwork in the Kitchen, in which case doing it yourself may be a perfectly acceptable solution.

The key is to understand your own limitations and be realistic. Don’t simply assume you can do it all yourself – chances are that often this is not the case (a fact that applies to a raft of home improvement projects). Fixing a bad job, can cost twice as much in total than it would have to simply employ an expert to do it in the first place!

Avoiding cowboy builders….

We’ve all heard the horror stories haven’t we? A builder promises a knock-down price for your home improvement job, only to find out that the quality of the finished product either leaves a serious amount to be desired, needs further repair work itself, or even worse isn’t finished at all!

You don’t need any particular qualifications to become a builder, so the market is open, perhaps more so than in other areas, to these types of rogue tradesmen. Whilst they are few and far between generally, they have unfortunately given a bad name to the industry in some corners. Whilst there is no doubt that the quality of service can and does vary across the country, there are plenty of ways to protect yourself as a consumer.

Poor workmanship on roof

Always check the following things when choosing your builder:

Do they look professional – it might sound obvious but if they look dodgy, there’s a good chance they are! Shabby looking, unbranded vehicles are also often not a good sign.

Are they in a hurry to offer a knock-down price? Has he got some spare material that’s left over from a previous job which means he can give you a knock-down price? If so, smell a rat.

Do they want large amounts (or even the full amount) of the agreed price in cash up-front? Good builders will not do this (only ever asking for a small up-front contribution to start-up materials)

There are also a large number of schemes to which tradesmen can sign-up, and it’s a good idea to check for proof of membership to any of these. That said, it’s not a pre-requisite to finding a good builder, and plenty operate outside of these schemes. A good example would be the ‘Trustmark’ scheme.

In the absence of sound recommendations from friends and family, always be sure to get multiple quotes based on fully drawn up project specifications and check all of the points mentioned above. There are a huge number of quality builders out there in the UK so don’t let your home improvement project needlessly suffer by working with a bad one!

Landscape your garden and boost the value of your home!

Landscape Gardening

It’s easy to forget that a well maintained garden, and one which looks attractive, not only improves quality of life, but can have a hugely beneficial impact on the value of your home too! It’s a common mis-conception that landscaping your garden involves huge investment and upheaval – but that does not have to be the case.

Simple changes, such as creating new flower beds, using trellises or paving a patio area can make all the difference to the appeal of any out-door space that you may have available. The rewards for any investment you do make are more than likely of offset the cost of the work many many times over. It’s one of the soundest investments you can make in your home.

That said, it’s important you don’t rush into anything and fully consider all the options available, and of course the cost of doing the work. Be sure to get quotes from a few sources and only use reputable companies. Don’t always be tempted to choose the cheapest option – it’s important to examine all aspects of the companies you receive quotes from. Always be sure to get references where you can and also check for any affiliations with key industry bodies.

Here at HomeImprovementAdvice.co.uk we only work with contractors that are fully approved and qualified. Using our fast quote form will get you access to several quotes in an instant.

How to find the best value double glazing company

The Double Glazing market is simply huge. There are a vast number of companies out there offering a variety of deals, special offers and varying specifications. Navigating your way through it can be daunting to say the least – especially for someone with little to no experience in the field.

The first thing to decide is exactly what you want for your property. Whether it’s windows, doors or a conservatory, it’s important that you keep the look of the installation consistent with the existing property. An inappropriate double glazing installation can certainly do more harm than good, so the message is to do your research and be fully informed before you start shopping around.

Secondly, it’s a good idea to choose a FENSA registered installer. FENSA registered installers offer financial guarantees, and ensure full building regulation compliance too, giving you much needed peace of mind.

Finally, be sure to compare quotes from different installers. Prices can vary enormously so it’s always a good idea to shop around. Savings of up to 70% have been seen, simply by choosing a smaller local firm than one of the larger national brand. Invariably time spent on shopping for a cheaper deal is time well spent!

Reduce the cost of home improvements by utilising government backed grants!

If you are a UK homeowner, there’s a very good chance that you’ll be entitled to financial assistance with your home improvement project, particularly if it’s energy efficiency related. Loft and cavity wall insulation grant finding is one of the best pulicised initiatives in this area. With grants of up to 100% of the cost available depending on personal circumstances, the funding represents an excellent opportunity to reduce energy bills as well as boost the value of your home.

Solar panels are another that have received a lot of attention recently. The Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) scheme offers homeowners the opportuntiy to sell all the electricity they produce back to the grid at a fixed rate, offfering homeowners an attractive investment opportunity, whilst once again also saving on electricity expenditure.

Financial assistance isn’t just related to energy efficiency-related home improvements though. If you are on a low income, or diabled, Home Improvement Agencies (HIAs) all accross the country (not for profit organisations) can offer assistance. There are also charities which may be able to assist with basic home improvements including vital security upgrades whihc can help to provide much needed peace of mind for many. Finally, local housing associations can provide assistance to those living in rented accomodation.

The message to anyone looking to start a home improvement project is to understand what levels of financial assistance is available from a variety of sources, and be sure to check out as many of them as possible before you commit to start.

When it comes to planning your extension, start with….. well, planning!

Extension

Before you go in all guns blazing with your home improvement project, be sure to call in to your local planning department before you do anything. Whilst they won’t be able to tell you whether your application will definitely be accepted, for many cases they will at least be able to advise if it’s a non-starter.

My advice would be to submit an outline application. This way you can avoid the costly expense of an architect, and be confident of whether your application will be accepted or not before committing to the expense of skilled expertise in drawing up designs.

How do I submit my return?

Complete all the relevant application forms, and be sure to supply all supporting documentary evidence. Plans and drawings of the proposals will certainly be required at this stage. Failing to supply the right information will only delay things so it pays to be scrupulous.

Who can see my application?

It will be visible to any interested member of the general public via the planning register – and they can object too if they feel strongly against your proposals. This is not uncommon!

Fear not though, your application will not be judged purely on the opinion of others. Factors such as access restrictions and the creation of potential eyesores will be of equal if not greater importance. The planning department, backed by the planning committee will have the final say.

How long does it take and what if I am refused?

8 weeks is the standard time frame, and you should be informed if there is likely to be any delay. If you are ultimately refused, your best bet is to contact the planning department directly. Generally you will be permitted a further free application after 12 months in any case.

For more information on planning and what to look out for, see our planning section.

Getting your extension right

Extending your home can add considerable value if done correctly. If done badly it can just as easily cost you money. So what are the key pitfalls that we should all be looking out for?

  1. Get multiple quotes. Always be sure to shop around for multiple quotes and don’t always settle for the cheapest…. a poor quality job can often cost you far more than you save.
  2. Single vs multi-storey? Planning permission for a single story development may well be more attainable than for a double storey extension. Moreover, selling your home with planning permission for a second storey may well achieve a higher price than building it yourself. Think clearly about what you are trying to achieve, and don’t assume building will yield the best return. 
  3. Is it in keeping with the rest of the property? Ensure brick types, tiling and colours are as consistent as they possibly can be. If it’s an old property, avoid the temptation to go too modern – and vice versa.
  4. Understand all the regulations. Make sure you follow correct procedure too. You will obviously need planning permission (generally minimising disruption will help there) and need to comply with all current building regulations.

To get a quote for your extension use our free, no-obligation service. Our extensive guides on planning permission and other useful information will help your extension turn out just as you planned!

Should I borrow to improve my home?

If you are looking to make a financial return from property, the look no further than your existing home as a sound starting point. With mortgage applications still being declined in huge numbers it’s never been a better time to look for a return out of your existing property.

Increasing the value of your home, whether it be through a loft conversion, home refurbishment or simply double glazing for example, can be an excellent financial investment. Home improvement loans provide an accessible source of credit, and returns can be excellent. Lower interest rates, longer repayment periods make home improvement loans an appealing option for many.

As always, our advice is to make sure you understand which provider can offer you the best terms for your individual needs, and also that you understand those terms and conditions fully. See our home improvement loan section for more detailed advice and information. You can also get a completely free no-obligation quote with us. Our service compares the whole market and is absolutely free to use!

Insulate whilst grants are still available

Expenditure on energy costs is one of the heaviest burdens facing homeowners today. Energy costs are set to soar over the next 10 years as government renewables obligations and rising wholesale costs start to bite.

It’s really not all doom and gloom though, and the government is doing its bit to help homeowners to mitigate sharp increases in cost. Grants are available as part of the government’s Carbon Emissions Reductions (CERT) targets and will help to cover up to 100% of the cost of cavity wall and loft insulation, depening on individual circumstances.

With free help available, but limited availability on funding (it is set to cease completely by 2015), then there is no reason to delay. Get a free, no obligation quote for installing cavity wall or loft insulation today whilst funding lasts!

Welcome

Welcome to HomeImprovementAdvice.co.uk where we’re working feverishly to help provide you with all the top tips and advice you need for improving your home and garden. We’ll be regularly adding more content and links to other great sources of information, so check back regularly.

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We Love Decorating!

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