Some General Advice on Home Security

home security adviceBoring as it may be, if you own a home or commercial premises in the UK, you need to make sure it is secure at all times, from fitting an alarm to ensuring the locks are of good quality, I approached a locksmith based in Bolton, Locksmart Security for their advice on keeping my property secure, they were kind enough to email me the following advice:

  • Fit mortice locks (Kitemarked BS 3621) and/or bolts to all outside doors and locks to all downstairs or accessible windows.
  •  Have an approved security system installed. Ask the local Police and insurance carrier for assistance.
  •  Try to never leave valuable items like your TV, Hi-Fi, DVD player where thieves are able to see them.
  •  Mark possessions visibly and permanently with your post code and house number.
    Always keep a list of the Make, Model and serial number of the products and take photos of any valuables that cannot be marked, like jewellery. Give copies of the list to a trusted friend or relative.
  •  Ask at your local Police Station for advice on ways to get ‘postcoded property’ stickers you could put in your windows.
  •  Make sure that you have up-to-date contents and property insurance.
  •  Most thieves enter through a back door or window. Ensure it is challenging for them by locking all side and back gateways and incorporating trellis to the top of walls and fencing. Fit lights that come on in the evening to cover the sides and back of your home.
  • Put all your tools away so they cannot be used to break into your house and lock your garage area and shed with good security locks. If you need to keep your ladder out, put it on its side and lock it to a secure fixture with ‘close shackle’ padlock or heavy-duty chain.

So there you have it, some valuable advice from a well established locksmith in the North of England, Locksmart Security. Keep your home and valuables safe!

Interior vs Exterior Wal Insulation

diagram showing how much heat escapes from wallsInsulating your solid walls could trim your heating costs considerably, because solid walls let through double the heat as cavity walls do. Thankfully you can insulate them.

If your property was built before 1919, its external walls are most likely solid rather than cavity walls. Cavity walls are made from two layers with a small gap or ‘cavity’ between each layer. Solid walls have no gap, so they let more heat through.

An alternate way to tell is by measuring the width of the actual wall. Take a look at an external wall window or door and if the brick wall is lower than 260mm, then it’s probably a solid wall, while if it’s greater, it is probably a cavity wall.

If you live in a property which has a non-traditional construction like a concrete, steel or timber-framed building, the insulation methods will differ. Learn more from the National Insulation Association.

Solid wall insulation

Solid walls can be insulated – either internally or the outside. This is going to be more expensive than insulating a standard cavity wall, but the financial savings on your heating system bills will be bigger also.

one vs the otherInternal or external insulation?

Internal wall insulation is conducted by fitting fitting the walls with rigid insulation boards, or by creating a stud wall filled in with insulation material like mineral wool fibre.

Exterior wall insulation will involve fixing a layer of insulation material to the wall, then covering it with a particular form of render (plasterwork) or cladding. The finish for rendering can be smooth, textured, painted, tiled, panelled, pebble-dashed, or finished with brick slips.

There are pros and cons to the two according to Premier Plastering in Birmingham:

Internal wall insulation:

  •  Is typically less expensive to install than exterior wall insulation.
  •  Will slightly decrease the floor area of any rooms where it is applied (the thickness of the insulation is around 100mm)
  •  Is disruptive, but can be done room by room
  •  Needs skirting boards, door frames and external fittings to be taken off and reattached
  •  Can make it tough to fix heavy items to interior walls – although special fixings are available
  •  Needs any troubles with penetrating or rising damp to be fixed first.

External wall insulation:

  • Can be applied without disturbance to the household
  • Does not reduce the floor area of the house
  • Renews the appearance of external walls
  • Improves weatherproofing and sound resistance.
  •  Fills cracks and gaps in the brickwork, which will reduce draughts
  •  Increases the life of your walls by shielding the brickwork
  • Reduces condensation on internal walls and can alleviate problems with damp (but will not eliminate rising or penetration damp)
  •  Is best installed at the same time as external refurbishment work to reduce the cost
  •  May require planning permission – seek advice from your local council
  •  Requires good access to the external walls
  •  Is not recommended if the exterior walls are structurally unsound and can’t be repaired.

Advice on House Extensions

increase the value of your home with a house extensionHow to build a successful house extension…

Are you happy with where you live but would like that little extra space? Extending your property is the way forward! Every home is unique to the individuals who live in them so here are some tips about how to successfully extend your home.

10 – Get all approvals first

This is where the professionals come in…depending on the size, shape and scale of your new extension, you might need to submit an application for planning permission but don’t worry. As each local council is different there is no basic guideline for designing extensions which can only mean one thing; find a designer who’s pleased to go the extra mile and push the boundaries! You will notice that the majority of council websites offer a lot of information and design guides which are made available to make sure your local area is accented by architecture and not demolished so it’s not a system to be knocked!

Even if your extension doesn’t need Planning Permission it’ll need Building Regulations Approval which is there to impose construction standards all over the UK. Building regulations safeguard designs by making sure the buildings are built properly and inspections occur on the way which helps reduce unprofessional procurement and the dreaded ‘cowboy builder’ which is always a good thing!

For additional information on Planning Permission and Building Regulations visit –

9 – Talk to your neighbours

Get your neighbours on side! Sometimes it’s your neighbours that can make or break a planning application in the eyes of the council as an objection to your engagement is rarely a hassle-free challenge to get over. A simple chat with them can go a long way so show them what you’re planning and explain the design and provides reasons why this is your desire. It will definitely help them understand your proposal more and hopefully there’ll be minimal or no arguments.

extension budget8 – Set a budget

This might sound a simple step towards making your dream reality but it’s common to spend over our limits on even the smallest projects. The typical guideline is to allow for £1,000-£2,000 per square meter and then allow an extra 10-20 percent contingency fund. Even better practice would be to issue the designers drawings to Quantity Surveyor for them to produce an accurate cost.

Also keep in mind not only do you have the build budget, there will be the designer’s and consultants rates, government VAT and also local authorities fees for the applications as well. So, be realistic with your budget as to make your perfect dream home, it’s not all about the new build extension alone. Lots of factors collaboratively create a beautiful and functional space.

7- What is the aim of the extension?

A question the majority of people think they know the answer too, nonetheless there are usually more answers to this question than space and budget will grant so compromise is normally required or a really good designer who’ll work hard with you to achieve your dream extension! Whether you’re a young couple in the early stages of living together or a family of four whom have lived in the same home for a long time, for everybody inside of that home will need a different and varied outcome of the space/s. For one person it may be a quiet environment to return to following a hard day at the workplace and for the other it may be a social environment to host friends and have a good old natter. Therefore you should think about who will use this space, when it will be used and what it’ll be used for. Is it an additional bedroom you are looking for or are you craving a bigger, brighter kitchen/dining open plan living area?

6 – Look at the location and setting

Where your property is positioned is paramount to the design of your extension. The very best extensions out there are those sympathetic to their surroundings or across the spectrum those which contrast their surroundings. From a outlying village to a city suburb no one extension is identical so why don’t you use your surroundings as an opportunity to push the boundaries of construction technologies and compliment or contrast your impressive designs. Are you near a babbling brook? Loud train line? Woodlands wildlife? Busy urban street scene?

5 – Research different materials

Material choice is essential to the design of extensions as it is the material finishes that bring the structure alive. Whether you want your extension to stand out from the crowd or be a refined improvement, there’s a lot of options to choose between with lots of manufacturers and suppliers of the same product all who offer unique services, so make sure you research your options ahead of entering the minefield!

Timber cladding is a material choice which is becoming more frequently used so if you’re seeking a rustic feel to your extension give timber the thumbs up! If you would prefer a clean, sharp finish to a fashionable extension perhaps a mix of white render and grey slate would work well with large spans of glazing.

4 – Think outside the box

An extension can be up wards into the loft, outwards as an addition or downwards to a cellar thus no extension is the same so make yours stand out from the crowd and give it the wow factor! Maybe add some quirky details to the design which sets yours aside from the typical extension – whether it’s the shape of the extension or a hidden glazing panel where the new meets old. Make sure to keep on pushing them boundaries and proving why residential architecture is fascinating!

consider some landscaping3 – Landscaping

This, you might ask why it is in the top ten…but…a wonderful architecture designer will take into mind the surroundings and integrate it into the proposal because all things considered, we all love the outdoors! Architecture is complimented by nature so if you have a view use it, if not create one in your garden.

When showing your new extension to family and friends do you really want a worn out looking backyard or would you rather show off your home as an entirety and be proud to call it all yours?

2 – Choose the best builder

Selecting the best building firm is vital to building your dream as with the wrong one your dream will quickly turn into a nightmare! So make sure you research contractors long and hard, visit prior projects they’ve completed, complete a number of chats with them (as let’s face you must be able to work with them!) and take a look on websites for testimonials. Some local council panels have set up schemes in their boroughs to assist with this decision and developed directories for you with only the local builders who meet the high standards and are recommended by other people locally so research them! If your based in the North West and know anything about the BNI you’ll find a well known firm who go by the name KS Contractors, hugely popular throughout Merseyside and specialise in home extension building in Wirral as well as converting garages into liveable spaces .

1 – Finding the right Designer or Consultant!!

Right here is the most important area of all. If you would like stand above the crowd and have the very best extension on your street, choose a designer with a mountain of working experience in residential architecture.

You will go through a lot of designers’ websites browsing portfolios of past work but don’t forget to notice if the company have won any awards for their work. Awards indicate not only that they are experienced and creative at what they do but also there’re very respected in the industry too which is second to none for you as the consumer. Again, if your in the North West of England and need a place to start then you won’t there’s a popular firm of architects Wirral who go by the name Evolve, approved by both RIBA and ARB.


Extending your home can be hugely profitable and can make a big difference to your standard of living and with just a little insight and some valuable advice you will soon be well on your way to living the dream!


Energy Efficient Boilers Explained

combi boilers explainedCombi boilers, in short, blend the capability to provide hot water and central heating in one compact box. But before you dash out and begin googling your nearest Gas Safe registered installer, it might be a good idea to find out a bit more concerning advantages and disadvantages of a combi boiler, so please stay with me .

How do combi boilers work?

Kindly noted by A R Johnson Plumbing & Heating in Ormskirk the hot water is supplied via the cold water mains which goes through the boiler and is heated up on-demand, when I say “on demand” I mean if you want hot water you open up a tap, the boiler then heats the water before it reaches the tap outlet, after you have finished washing the dishes or taking a bath, you turn the tap off, which sends a signal to the boiler (by way of a flow switch) and the boiler stops heating the water.

The Central Heating works in much the same manner, the water is moved around the central heating circuit when you “call for heat” via a room stat/programmer, once the demanded temperature is hit the boiler turns off. All combi boilers are now condensing meaning that they cool-down the flue gases to create energy, which subsequently improves efficiency and lowers running costs , this process causes a build-up of condensation which is acidic, the condensate leaves the boiler via a plastic pipe and ends in a drain or waste material pipe (so keep in mind you need to site your new boiler near a drain).

New condensing combi boilers are fan flued, meaning that there is a fan which is used to suck the fumes in to the outside air via the flue, this procedure improves the safety of your product, as the boiler won’t “fire up” unless the fan is operating.

combi generally beats a system boiler hands downBenefits over a system boiler

A system boiler is a central heating boiler which uses a hot water storage tank to store hot water until the individual requires it, this is clearly costly, as contrary to a combi you’re heating the storage tank up regardless of whether your using the hot water or not, whilst with a combi its “on demand”, so the first benefit is its cheaper to operate.

The 2nd advantage is space, with a combi boiler you only have the boiler, and everything your system needs is contained inside the one box, so the tank, 3 way valve, tank pipe work, header tanks, and anything else connected with a system boiler can be taken out freeing up loads of space for storage in your house.

With a combi boiler often you will get an increase in pressure compared to your old gravity or fully pumped system (specially gravity fed) this may hinge however on your cold water pressure.

Disadvantages of a combi boiler

For the life of me I can only see just one disadvantage of a combi boiler, and that is the hot water flow rate. In a nutshell a combi is only able to produce between 10 and 16 litres of water each minute (depending on boiler size), so if you had 2 showers which were often used at the same time, then I would counsel against a combi, as one of the showers would run cold, as the boiler could not maintain the demand. If however you have just one shower or one bathroom then I would certainly propose a combi, even if you did have 2 showers/bathrooms providing you were happy to just have one in use at the same time, then a combi would still be the system I would recommend. A system boiler provides you with as much hot water as you need due to the capacity of the hot water tank.

NOTE: Some combi boilers do incorporate small storage tanks, which can combat this problem to a certain degree.

Hopefully this information has enhanced your combi boiler installation knowledge, and helps you make the correct decision. For more information speak to a local plumbing and heating engineer.

The Ins and Outs of Venetian Plaster

lovely venetian plastered wallIf you’ve ever had the pleasure of taking in some of the spectacular sights of Venice, you’ll be aware that it’s a city full of splendid design and old world splendor.

Once you’re there, all it requires is a gondola ride down one of the many city’s famed canals to enjoy the striking structures that can be found on just about every corner.

For this reason, it’s no surprise that even the special plaster which comes from this northern Italian city has the same incredible passion, magnificence, elegance and depth as the city itself.

What Exactly is Venetian Plaster?

So, exactly what is venetian plaster? The answer is in what it’s crafted from, how it’s applied and the finished effect.

Traditional Venetian Plaster, otherwise known as marble plaster, Italian plaster or polished plaster is made of lime putty and marble dust and gives a very polished finish to walls and ceilings, which can look like stunning marble itself. Because of this it’s oftentimes used effectively for decorative effect.

While it can be enhanced with acrylic resins, when it’s applied properly by an expert such as CES Coatings, the plaster by itself can give a rock hard, deeply textured and smooth marble-like finish which features a glossy, high sheen.

venetian plaster has been used for centuriesUsed for Centuries

Venetian Plaster has been used for centuries and although it was originally used for building purposes its main use is now to compliment the interior design of a building, whether it’s ” old world ” traditional, modern day design or even used in listed buildings for refurbishment.

It’s popular, not only for the striking and opulent effect it gives, but also for the reason that lime based venetian plaster is made with less harmful substances, rendering it hypoallergenic, together with mould and algae resistant, not forgetting the fact that venetian plaster can also manage moisture content.

A Fake Version of Marble You Ask?

Venetian Plaster has often be referred to as being a fake version of marble, but the truth is that the plaster itself comprises of natural materials which, when mixed, offer this impressive effect. It can come in a variety of levels of sheen, textures and colours but it can also be tinted or coloured to achieve an affect that can’t be established naturally. When applied properly, the finished effect is equally as striking and aesthetically pleasing as marble itself and the finish will greatly enhance the colour of the plaster supplying warmth to the wall surfaces.

Painting Exterior Woodwork

exterior painting adviceThe painting and maintenance of external woodwork is a project sometimes neglected or frequently put off, not because it is necessarily an expensive exercise but because it can be time-consuming and quite often involves working at height, which many people are uneasy with.

However, it’s one of those areas of home maintenance where a little time and money spent ahead of time can render huge savings in the long-term.

Where to Start with Exterior Painting?

To answer this question I turned to Keith Blenkinsop of Adstyle Decorators who I met a number of months back on one of the decorating forms I frequent, in short here’s what he had to say on the subject:

There’s every chance that you’re considering repainting the exterior woodwork as the present coatings are starting to fail or the timber itself is in a state of decay. Failing of finishes to external timber and damage to woodwork is usually caused by one or a combination of the following:


Fluctuations in moisture content causes expansion and shrinkage in timber, raising of the grain, dividing and distortion. A high moisture content in timber can cause paint films to lose adhesion and fail as well as cause timber to rot.

Fungal Attack

If the moisture content in wood remains over 22% for a prolonged time period then micro-organisms including fungal spores can emerge and lead to wet rot. It is essential that any new timber is treated with an appropriate preservative.

Ultra-violet Radiation

Sunlight can cause wood surfaces to weaken. Bare timber left exposed to sunlight over a duration of time will degrade and reduce its ability to hold a paint surface. Varnishes are likely to fail early since they do not filter out the radiation. Dark paint colours will also absorb more radiation and should be avoided in south-facing locations.

weather damaged window framePreparation

Existing paintwork in fair condition can be simply rubbed down with a top quality abrasive. Any paint that’s loose or in bad condition will need to be removed by either scraping or with a heat gun back to a firm edge. It isn’t needed to remove paint that’s in fine shape.

Wood that is weather damaged (usually grey in appearance) will need to be sanded back to a new surface if possible. Treat any bare wood with a practical preservative and leave to dry before priming.

Paint Systems

External paints are listed as solvent-borne (oil based) or water-borne (water based or ‘quick drying’). Oil based systems are usually based on a separate primer/undercoat and finish whilst water based systems are generally a coat-on-coat or ‘all in one solution’.

Concerning finish the oil based systems can give a high sheen or glossier finish but in terms of performance the low-sheen water based alternate options can perform better.


In 1984 the Building Research Establishment (BRE) executed several trials to ascertain the performance of exterior paint systems for outside timber. Surprisingly they found that water based paints systems performed far better over time than conventional oil based paints and low sheen finishes performed the best.

Paints called microporous, moisture permeable or breathable claim to allow water trapped in timber to leave as a vapour and so improve the performance of the paint systems. There is, however, little proof to suggest that ‘breathability’ is the big element at work. These systems do indeed work well but mainly because they have been created for external use with a balance of properties which include increased flexibility, adhesion and fungal resistance.

Which Paint To Choose For Exterior Woodwork?

The system you opt for will in most cases be determined by convenience and/or your budget. Water based paints are usually much easier to use and can be re-coated after a couple of hours. Oil based paints will deliver a traditional glossy finish but can be time-consuming and require more thorough preparation.

Premium branded paints, such as Dulux Weathershield, specially produced for exterior use will always perform best but can be costly compared to traditional alternatives. Having said that, it will often be a false economy to try to spend less on materials because even though the initial result can be identical it will commonly mean you have to repaint more frequently according to the chaps at Adstyle who recently completed an exterior painting project in Gateshead for a commercial property.

Extending And Converting vs Moving

Is it best to extend your home or move?

An expanding family places extra demands on living space and while your own two or three bedroom home may no longer suit your demands, selling and upsizing isn’t the only option.

extending vs movingThe case when it comes to bettering your current property

In the event you really like your home, your local area including your neighbours, remaining together with extending or altering the layout can be a cost-effective alternative to changing properties altogether.

It is usually a wise decision if you don’t have a great deal of equity in your property, rendering moving complicated.

As long as you possess the room, an extension will allow for you to obtain the larger family home you require for a fraction of the expense. And putting a new kitchen or bathroom in may help to breathe new life into your worn-out, aged property.

You just have to deal with the difficulty and disruption you will have while the work goes on.

The past few years have witnessed many UK homeowners deciding to remodel their current homes, as opposed to moving. It’s not just as basic as selling your house to pay for buying another. It is expensive to relocate. These are the unseen costs uncovered.

Conveyancing fees

A conveyancer works with the entire legal paperwork needed for buying or selling a property. They are paid to execute a regional search to learn if any fresh developments have been planned in and around your new area. Additionally, they are responsible for getting the title deed for your new home and making certain that the seller owns the property and can also legitimately sell.

You should expect to be charged £600 if you are selling a £100,000 priced home. The fees will likely be nearer to £800 on leasehold properties given that the conveyancer will be required to check out the lease.

Estate agents’ fees

Following assessing your house, an estate agent will appraise your property and also recommend an asking price to you. He or she will likely then expect you to sign an agreement which lists all of the stipulations required in the sale of your property. The sales approach features advertising your home in sites including their office window and local newspapers. In exchange for marketing your house followed by helping you to find a new house as a result of coordinating viewings, an estate agent normally takes something between 1.5% and 3% of your respective home’s price tag.

stamp duty costsStamp duty tax

Since March 2012, there’s no stamp duty relief to assist first time buyers. Stamp duty is the tax which you pay for the paperwork to swap a property’s ownership. A conveyancer will manage this process and it could be anywhere between one third and one half of your overall cost of moving. The number depends upon the asking price of your new house, but you should expect to spend between 1% and 7% of the total price. This means at the entry level, a property costing £125,000 costs £1,250 in stamp duty.

House contents removal

To safely move inside a 20 mile radius of your existing property, removal men may normally charge you £1,500. On average, it represents around 12% of the total relocating costs. Throughout each individual city, you will discover boroughs that will demand more than others. For example in London, Westminster removal organisations charge the most and Barking and Dagenham ask for the least. In the South West, it’s most expensive to move from Bath, whereas relocating from Plymouth will save you money.

the benefits of remodellingJust what are the benefits of remaining and remodelling?

Bettering your house as an alternative to trading it in for another can be a very shrewd investment. It’s less expensive to produce space than purchase it. A loft conversion can produce space and would likely contribute £60,000-£75,000 to value of a £500,000 property. At a cost of £30,000 – 50,000, at a minimum you would probably add £10,000 should you wish to sell up down the road.

An extension priced in between £30,000 and £50,000 might add the most value of all, boosting your selling price by £75,000 to £100,000. You’re developing a bigger living area with the building. Swapping out walls with bi-folding doors is another means for producing living space. Your initial cost is also less costly. Using these enhancements, you would feel as though you’re located in a brand-new home minus the cost of relocating.

Location Potential

Where are you presently located? Your city, town, or neighbourhood should really have an effect on your decision. In London, with space scarce and house values ever high, it’s going to oftimes be worth your while to further improve your home as opposed to moving. Perhaps even an expensive extension, along the lines of excavating beneath your home to establish a basement area from scratch, may cost you much less when compared with moving to a larger home in the capital city.

Finding a Contractor

If you are considering extending, remodelling or converting your home you will need to find a reliable, experienced and qualified contractor, sites such as which trusted traders, Check a Trade and the Federation of Master Builders are a great place to start your search.