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Restoring a Sandstone House to Its Former Glory

 

property-stonework-restorationThis spring, I decided it that it was finally time to do something about the rather dilapidated appearance of the exterior of my sandstone property in Edinburgh.

 

Having lived in it for nearly three decades, I must admit that I had become somewhat inured to the state of its exterior and was rather shocked when, on an unusually fine winter morning, I returned home from the local shop just as the sun struck the front of my property, highlighting the neglect it had suffered at my hands over the years. I must admit that it was mainly a feeling of shame that prompted me to take immediate action.

 

Making Difficult Choices

The very first thing I did, after making myself a coffee and settling into my favourite armchair, was to search online for local stonemasons. Having never had occasion to deal with exponents of this ancient craft before, it was with more than a little trepidation that I picked up the phone and called the first company that caught my eye. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself talking to an obviously knowledgeable but very down-to-earth chap who, after listening patiently to my tale of woe, suggested that he popped round to take a look at the damage. Having identified a number of stones that had suffered at the hands of Edinburgh’s sometimes harsh climate rather more than the others, he outlined three practical options that were open to me.

 

  1. Replacement of Complete Stones – This option involves exactly what you would expect: the replacement of individual stones with new ones of the same shape and size. According to the friendly stonemason who was looking at the front of my house with pursed lips, this option was the most permanent – a hundred years was the length of time mentioned! – but also the most expensive.

 

  1. Part Indenting – This option is cheaper than the above one because it only involves the replacement of part of a stone or stones. The affected part is removed and replaced with a piece that matches it as closely as possible. The new piece is held in place with a powerful adhesive.

 

  1. Lime-Based Mortar – The third, and cheapest, option that I was given was to repair the missing parts of stone in my walls with a lime-based mortar, which is coloured to match the surrounding stone. Although this option is not as permanent as stone replacement, it will last for quite a few years so, if you are working with a tight budget, it should not be dismissed out of hand.

 

As I was feeling rather guilty concerning my lack of care over the years and did not want to worry about repeating the process sometime in the future, I decided to go for the complete stone replacement which, although it was not cheap, transformed the exterior appearance of my property.

I was extremely pleased with the result and would definitely recommend spending a little extra for this option if you own a property like mine and would like to restore it to its former glory.

What I Learned from My Kitchen DIY Disaster

Throughout my life, I have always considered myself as quite the handyman; I am the kind of guy who loves nothing more than strapping on his tool belt at the weekend and putting up a few shelves or fitting a new cabinet, mirror and shaving light in the bathroom. However, when I decided to renovate the kitchen in my aging East Sussex semi without any outside help, I quickly realised my limitations!

Why I Will Be Hiring Professionals Next Time

kitchen

Putting up a few shelves or the odd cabinet is really not that difficult if you take your time and approach each job carefully. However, when you are faced with a major renovation project, common sense often goes out the window and you start to rush things and skip crucial preparation tasks. Some of my biggest mistakes are listed below.

 

1. Inaccurate Measurements – This was a rookie mistake and one that I cannot believe I actually made. Because I rushed the measuring process, I purchased cabinets with drawers that stuck out too far and now I can only open the drawers fully when the oven door is also fully open and laying horizontal. This might not sound like a huge problem but it is an annoyance that become more irritating with every passing day.

2. Sparks Flying – Whilst attempting to fit what I thought was a simple lighting fixture, I somehow shorted out the circuit to which it was being connected and in addition to the pretty display of sparks to which I was treated, I ended up with a mass of melted cables that had to be replaced by a professional electrician.

3. Floods, of Tears – I was literally in tears after my DIY plumbing efforts. Having decided to install a brand new dishwasher in my remodelled kitchen, I thought that extending the existing pipework in order to create a new cold water supply would be a doddle but I was mistaken. Several hours and several hundred litres of water later, my kitchen was a soggy mess and I was on the phone to an emergency plumber who worked for a local kitchen fitters in Hastings when he wasn’t helping out misguided DIY enthusiasts like me.

 

The moral of my story is this: unless you are a professional kitchen fitter with years of experience, I would advise against tackling major renovation projects in your home. Do yourself a favour and leave it to the professionals!

Gas Boilers Are Greener Than You Think

Gas Boilers Are Greener Than You Think

Environmental awareness seems to wax and wane with the changing fashions in the 21st century but in reality, initiatives to reduce the burning of fossil fuels should be taken seriously at all times, not treated like a fad and discarded when they are no longer ‘à la mode’. I have been trying to minimise my carbon footprint for the last decade or so and during that time I have made some interesting discoveries.

The Role of Gas Boilers: It’s Not All About Solar Power, Wind Turbines and Heat Transfer Pumps

When I first started getting serious about the environment and I was looking for ways to cut down on the amount of carbon I was producing through the energy I used at home, I concentrated on the more fashionable renewable energy technologies and completely overlooked the possibility of becoming more energy efficient with the equipment that I already had. However, once I had taken some time to thinks things over more slowly, I came to the following conclusions:

  • Effort Vs Reward – The expense of replacing an entire central heating system is not always justified by the reduction in carbon production that results from the change. Furthermore, the energy expended by the firm that carries out the installation of a renewable energy source system can be quite significant and should be taken into account before deciding what to do.
  • Cost Matters – Even though environmental concerns are undoubtedly important, you need to be realistic about what you can afford and how long it will take to recoup your initial investment in sustainable energy technology to heat your home. If you end up spending too much, you will never be able to justify the outlay in terms of the amount by which you reduce your carbon footprint.
  • Familiarity Doesn’t Always Breed Contempt – The single most important thing that I learned when researching energy efficient heating options for my home was that gas combi boilers, even though they obviously burn fossil fuels, can be more efficient than other, more environmentally friendly sounding alternatives. The fact that you may already be familiar with the operation of a gas unit only makes things easier: there is no readjustment period to go through while you learn all about a new fuel source and the technologies that have been developed to take advantage of it.

As I mentioned above, the singularly most important thing that I learned when researching eco-friendly domestic heating systems was that not all appliances that burned fossil fuels were inherently evil. The high efficiency rating of modern condensing boilers – up to 98% thermal efficiency in some cases, according to manufacturers’ claims – makes them a great choice for homeowners who would really like to do something about greenhouse gases and global warming but are not in a position to spend tens of thousands of pounds on more radical solutions.

In summary, renewable energy heating systems can be a great choice if you know what you’re doing but more efficient gas burners should not be ignored.

Choosing the Right Shop Fitters: What’s the Secret?

shop-fitters

There are thousands of shop fitting firms across the United Kingdom, many of who offer their services on a nationwide basis. This is good in one way, as it means that UK store owners have a great deal of choice when it comes to who they trust to refit their retail outlets but bad in another, because with so many firms from which to choose it can be very difficult to know which ones you really can trust and which are best avoided.

shop-fitters

So, what is the real secret to choosing the right shop fitters?

Below, we discover the key to making the right choice.

 

How to Evaluate Individual Shop Fitting Firms

The first thing that you need to do before you can start the evaluation process is to gather as much information as possible about each firm under consideration. If you can answer the following questions about each one, you will be off to a good start:

 

1.       What Areas of the UK Do They Cover? – The answer you are looking for here will depend on the size and location of your own business of course. Retailers with stores across the country may prefer to do business with one shop fitting firm that offers its services on a nationwide basis, such as Crown Display. If you only have one or two stores and they are in a particular part of the United Kingdom, there may be other criteria more important than nationwide coverage.

2.       How Fast Can They Deliver? – If you are looking for a supply only service, the amount of time that it takes for the shelving and fittings to be delivered to your premises will be a key factor to consider. Some firms may take up to a week to fill your orders whereas others offer a same-day service to many parts of the country.

3.       How Competitive Are Their Prices? – Fast delivery and good coverage are both important points to consider but price is going to be equally important to most retailers in the UK. If possible, try to deal only with companies that offer some form of price guarantee – again Crown Display score well in this department – so that you know you are getting good value for money.

4.       What Is Their Track Record Like? – This is of vital importance because a firm that has not been able to meet your high standards when working for other retail businesses is unlikely to be able to do so when working for you. Shop fitting specialists with verifiable testimonials from satisfied customers should be the only ones that get anywhere near your shortlist of suppliers and installers.

 

The secret, if it can be called that, to picking the right firm lies in the information gathering stage. You need to make sure that you have thought of every angle and considered all your requirements before you finally decide on one particular firm. If you get this stage right, any company that ticks all your boxes should be a safe bet.

Creating a Kitchen for a Cooking Enthusiast

You may or may not be surprised to learn that the majority of kitchen designs on the market today are not actually aimed at those homeowners who simply love to cook. Most of the standard layouts and furnishings on offer are geared toward families who, while they may want a kitchen that looks as if it means business, rarely actually do any serious cooking at home. As a keen amateur chef myself, I discovered this fact when renovating recently and wanted to share my experience with others who are interested in creating the perfect kitchen for cooking at home.

12282015_Grill

Tailored to Your Needs: Bespoke Kitchens in Leeds and Elsewhere

Living in the north of England as I do, I was naturally most interested in the designs and furnishings available locally. However, wherever you happen to live, you should be able to make use of my advice when putting together your dream chef’s kitchen.

 

  • Hire a Specialist – When I started thinking about the design of my new kitchen, I wasted many hours sketching layouts that would never have been practical had I attempted to build them in my own home. Unless you have years of free time in which you can learn all there is to know about the business, I highly recommend hiring a talented and experienced interior design team from the very start. If you can find a reputable firm that designs, manufactures and installs bespoke kitchens in Leeds or wherever you happen to live, so much the better.
  • Focus on Appliances and Worktops – In order to cook innovative dishes at home, you will need good quality appliances and plenty of surfaces on which you can prepare your ingredients. Ask your interior specialist to create a kitchen design around the appliances and work surfaces you need rather than choosing appliances and worktops that fit in with a preconceived notion of what your kitchen should look like.
  • Work with Your Designer – Instead of telling your specialist what you want and leaving him or her to get on with it, work with them at every stage of the design process. In this way, you can ensure that the final design includes everything you really want.

 

There is no magical key that will help you create the perfect kitchen in which to cook but if you bear in mind the functionality you require at all stages of the renovation process, success should be guaranteed.

An Introduction to Interior Decoration Basics

An Introduction to Interior Decoration Basics

Interior decoration is the art of ‘dressing’ a space. Typically the process begins with a theme or concept or can grow out of a single point of inspiration such as a recurring architectural motif. Most people think decorators spend the majority of their time ‘finding’ the right interior design but in fact they’ll often settle on an overall design fairly early on in the process and spend the rest of their time fitting out that design. While an interior decorator will often times suggest building out or adding certain features they are not architects and don’t generate floorplans or do construction themselves. 

How Do Decorators in Ealing Arrive at Their Designs 

Everyone is familiar with the results of good interior decorating but not everyone is aware of the process a decorator will go through to get their amazing results. In this post I’ll try and give you some idea how decorators get from point A to point B. 

  • Finding the spark – Before any aesthetic decisions can be made the decorator will need to know the extent of your decorating desires. For example, are you looking to resolve a new design to some furniture you’re particularly fond of or are you starting from bare walls? A piece of furniture will become the ‘single point of inspiration’ mentioned above. If you’re starting with bare walls then the decorator may start with a colour and build on that.
  • Finding the design – If your decorator has chosen to use a particular motif – say a fleur de lis in some vintage wallpaper in one of your rooms – as a point of inspiration that symbol, along with colours in the wallpaper, will provide the basis for a colour palette. It will also bring with it decorative associations both contemporary and historical. These associations will suggest other forms, colours and materials and before you know it a design will take shape.
  • Working within the budget – The decorator may want to run with the historical associations of the fleur de lis and create lush Louis XIV-style window treatments but your budget may not allow it. In which case the decorator will need to put their ingenuity to work finding a way to achieve the same resonance in a scaled back presentation. It’s challenges like this – finding ways of fitting out the design within the budget – that take the most time.
  • Bringing it all togetherSome companies will handle all aspects of the design and execution themselves. Other companies will handle some aspects of a redecoration project themselves and subcontract other aspects. And yet other companies handle only the concepting and leave the actual physical labour to various contractors they bring in.

Interior decorators come in different shapes, sizes and levels of expertise but they all arrive at their final decoration schemes via more or less the same process of finding a spark, determining general design parameters, finding a way to get the most from the design within the budget and executing the plan. Hope you found this information helpful.

Tips To Manage Your Home Improvement Project

Manage Your Home Improvement Project

Manage Your Home Improvement ProjectMy earlier article looked at the main things to consider before you start your project. But what do you do when work starts? What happens when deliveries are being made? Or when trades have started work? Or when walls are being plastered?

If you’re hiring a project manager to look after things, then your main job will be to work with them (and pay the bills, of course). They should make sure everything goes to plan – or tell you when it doesn’t. If you’re managing the home improvement project yourself, here are some tips to make sure work is completed on time and to your budget.

Check your plan

You should have at least an outline plan of the main project steps that shows ‘what happens when’. Just before the project starts, run through this with your builder and then keep an eye on progress. Is work on track or falling behind? A task finishing a couple of days late may not seem like a problem but it may have a domino effect on later jobs. Ask your builder if things are going to plan – if they’re not, ask why and what is being done to get things back on track.

Expect the unexpected

Projects can go ‘wrong’ for lots of reasons – from finding that electrical wiring needs updating or the wrong parts have been delivered to discovering a crack in a wall or that a cupboard doesn’t fit because of a wrong measurement. Opening up walls and floors will usually reveal shortcuts taken by previous builders – these might be bewildering and costly so you should be ready for some surprises. Allowing for some contingency time and budget should mean that these can all be managed and not affect your final project too much.

Keep an eye on quality

Have patio flags been laid in straight lines? Are tiles the exact ones you ordered? Are corners square? Do radiators work properly? Are wall surfaces smooth? Eventually, you’ll have to sign off on the project and maybe even at different stages, especially if these are linked to payments. You must check and tell your builder ASAP if you’re unhappy with something – otherwise it may soon be too late to fix. Don’t forget to check that, if needed, your local authority’s Building Control Department signs off on key stages of the work.

Watch your costs

You should know the estimated total cost before the project starts but this will probably increase as work takes place. Always talk about whether costs are on target as it’s often easy for builders to just ‘get on with it’ without telling you that costs may increase but this just makes for difficult decisions later on. Also, keep an eye on extra costs eating into your contingency fund.

Making changes

You’ll might make changes during the project (often called variations) and these may be everything from changing a set of taps to asking for an extra wall socket or they might be forced on you by unexpected problems. Whatever they are, always ask for a written quote for additional materials and labour (including any VAT). Make sure you ask what effect these changes will have on your overall project plan and budget.

Have you got the cash available?

Builders may need money at different stages throughout the project so don’t expect to just pay the final bill when the job is done. You should have an agreed schedule of what money is due and when – so you can have the cash ready. If you don’t, it could slow the project down and mean you have an unhappy builder. Make sure you keep a note of any payments you’ve made so these can come off your final bill.

Nearing the end

Once you’re at the ‘snagging’ stage of sorting out any final fixes, your builder might start to talk about ‘practical completion’, meaning the work is finished and is ready for your use. This is when you’ll have to arrange final payment and this means responsibility for the site passes from the builder to you so you must be ready for this (for example, have insurance cover in place).

Keep talking

Having a good relationship with your builder will be important to your project’s success so have regular chats and find out how it’s all going. It’s important to talk about problems when they happen so make sure you don’t wait until the end of the work. Projects are never perfect so be reasonable about whether something is a real issue or not. If you don’t understand something, ask a question. Building works are full of strange terms so be clear about what they mean to avoid any confusion or misunderstandings. Taking a keen interest, asking questions and being clear about timings and costs (and any changes) are all ingredients that will help deliver a successful project.

Storage ideas that give a better shape to your bathroom

bathroom

bathroom

Be it a small or a big bathroom, both need effective storage ideas so that every bit of space is used to its maximum propensity and nothing lies out causing clutter everywhere. Following are such effective storage ideas that can make even a small bathroom look spacious.

Wall cabinet

A wall cabinet enables you to bring the empty wall space in bathroom to use. Wall hung cabinets serve as a good storage units without interfering the walking space and the counter space in a bathroom.

Industrial bathroom storage

An open cabinet that is ideal to store all your bath oils, shampoos, and creams. It comes with a metal finish that gives your white or a neutral tone bathroom and industrial style.

Over-the-counter storage

This type of storage is an inexpensive and more efficient storage that comes over the vanity countertop. It is so convenient that while using the sink, you can take out things you want from the open and closed cabinets of the over-the-counter storage situated at just an arm’s length. You can give this cabinetry a nice outer design and color.

Multiple storage ideas

This multiple storage idea is ideal for big bathrooms. You can take some wooden crates and paint them inside out with bold colors. It is a color-blocking tip that can add a zing to your bathroom décor. After coloring, stick the crates together with glue or nails and place them against a wall or you can also hang individual crates on the wall. Use the crates to store towels, body soaps, sponges, and cotton balls.

Bumped-in storage cabinet

Sometimes the design of walls leave small and shallow spaces in between, which you can use to place bumped-in storage cabinets. They work well to store in a huge amount of toiletries. It is up to you that you leave it open, conceal it, or add glass doors. Use your creativity to make best use of the available shape, and to have the cabinet blend in well with its surroundings.

Tailored bathroom shelving

Tailored bathroom shelves help you manage you small bathroom in the best possible way. Take into consideration the space and the things you desire to store in the shelves, like the open shelves are good to store towels and glass bottles of shampoos, whereas the closed ones are good to store things like toilet papers and other products that you would not like to put on a public display.

LED Light Bulbs: The Future of Lighting

LED Light Bulbs

The light emitting diode, or LED, is quite simply the lighting option of the future. You don’t need to watch an American sci-fi movie to see futuristic lights that come on when touched, emit more light than heat, and can save money and very precious ecosystems. When the first incandescent light bulb began to take shape in the early 1800s, inventors and forward thinkers had no idea that their simple idea for an ‘electric candle’ would gradually morph into a lighting option that makes their work seem like cave drawings compared to a Monet. While the traditional incandescent light bulb has been around for hundreds of years, lighting homes and businesses, and making life brighter and more comfortable, they have also been wasting massive volumes of energy and creating waste that cannot be buried or burned or recycled.

LED Light BulbsIncandescent bulbs, on the average, consume energy like a dehydrated camel but only produce 20% light from that energy. The remaining 80% energy is wasted as heat which is what makes incandescent bulbs so very hot to the touch. LED light bulbs utilise the very latest in lighting technologies that allow them to consume energy and use more than 80% of that energy to produce bright, white, clear light and virtually no heat. LEDs can be touched and manipulated with ease even after several hours of use. Because LED light bulbs produce more light, they are considered to be energy efficient which makes them a cost effective lighting option that can literally save you up to 90% on your annual energy costs. LEDs are considered by environmental activists as the lighting option of the future. The future is now and you can get in on the ground floor of this technological lighting advancement before the streamlined rocket lifts off and leaves you behind.

To learn more about how LED lighting can brighten your home or office, the science behind LEDs, or to order your own LED lights check out the Light Rabbit site where you can find a nice range of LEDs, information, and you might just discover the illumination of home lighting enlightenment.

Know Where Your Money Goes During a Kitchen Remodel to Keep Costs Down

Kitchen Remodel

The average cost of a major kitchen remodel is $56,768, according to Remodeling Magazine. You could possibly control costs during your remodel by knowing where the money goes and how your choices affect the final cost.

Kitchen Remodel

HGTV says that labor usually takes anywhere from 20 to 35 percent of project costs and cabinets also taking a big chunk (if not the majority) out of the budget. Here’s the average breakdown:

35 percent: cabinets

20 percent: labor

20 percent: appliances

10 percent windows

5 percent: fixtures

3 percent: fittings

7 percent: other

Your mileage would vary depending on your choices, of course. A complicated design would skew labor higher, while high-end, custom-made cabinets would raise your product costs but not labor and installation by very much.

Knowing the breakdown helps when you’re on a tight budget and evaluating contractors’ estimates or deciding where to splurge and where to save during a remodel.