Get yourself and your house ready for winter

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There’s not much prep needed for summer – a few workouts, maybe a leg wax and a spray tan – the rest just takes care of itself. Winter, however, needs a bit of forethought and a lot of smarts if you want to avoid all the petty annoyances that the cold weather brings.

By following these clever tips, you can win at winter, hands down!

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Make a pebble boot and umbrella tray

This is genius – when you’re on your summer hols, select some attractive pebbles and carry them home. Get two or three cat litter trays and fill them with the pebbles, then use them to stick wet umbrellas and wellies in. The boots and brollies will drain without leaking all over your floor.

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Order your heating oil while it’s still summer

Yes, winter’s a long way away, but if there’s one way of getting cheap home heating oil it’s to order it while the sun is shining. That way, you’ll get a great deal and you’ll feel all secure once the first frosts appear!

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Buy some spare car mats to help you get out of deep snow

If you’re in an area that actually gets good old fashioned deep snow, you’ll be familiar with getting stuck in it! The lack of traction for your car wheels will have led to many a late start, so keep a couple of spare car mats in your boot and when you’re stuck, place them in front of your wheels to give them something to grip.

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Make instant (well, almost) snow tyres for your bike

Another genius hack here. Not many people use their bikes in the snow because it’s hard to grip. Wrap cable ties around the wheels at 3-4cm intervals for that all-important traction.

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Vacuum-pack your summer clothes

This space-saving trick works all year round, of course, but there’s something significant about getting out the winter woollies in anticipation of the cold weather. You feel armed, somehow.

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Use wine bottles to keep your boots upright

This might seem a bit obscure, but if your boots flop over while they’re drying (on your pebble trays), then once you haul them upright, they will start to develop cracks, which shortens their life and can let leaks in. Keep them standing proudly and they’ll last another winter.

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Switch to dog training mats for when it’s really cold

If you have a really small dog, or one who feels the cold, on some days even nipping out for a quick pee and poo is torture for them. Buy a few packs of puppy training mats for these occasions – you may need to remind them what they’re for – and you’ll have a happier dog.

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Think about ways to retain and add heat to your home

This could be using bubble wrap to insulate windows, or getting the kids to make some draught excluders over the summer holidays. There’s also handy tricks like leaving the oven door open after you’ve finished to let some heat into the kitchen.

What are some of your great ideas for staying warm and comfortable over winter?

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Boxing in pipes: How to remedy ugly plumbing

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No two ways about it, exposed pipes and plumbing gubbins are just plain ugly. The bathroom, cloakroom and kitchen will probably be the worst affected rooms, but it’s a potential eyesore in all areas of the house with radiators, boilers, sinks, loo’s, stoves & fires all requiring connection to services.

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Boxing it all in is a neat and cost effective solution with numerous advantages. The first and most obvious plus side is the cosmetic improvement to a space – clean, neat lines replacing the chaos that lies behind; Boxing in also has an obvious safety element – protecting the exposed gas and water pipes; and best of all, it can provide valuable shelving and storage spaces.

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The boiler is a large area to box in – so add shelves and cupboard doors to provide the perfect home for linen & laundry; under-sink areas in the kitchen can be transformed into cleaning product stores… and bathroom pipe boxing can provide useful shelving for lotions and potions. With a bit of care & creativity, the actual reason for the boxing in becomes almost secondary!

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Wallpaper the boxing in or paint it the same colour as the wall to blend in and make it unobtrusive. No knobs or handles need spoil the look or get in the way either – use push latch or magnetic mechanisms to make everything neat & flush. You can completely disguise where possible too – for example, if it’s low level and only narrow, the boxing can actually be made to look like skirting boards.

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You can get the professionals in – or perhaps take it on as a DIY project. If you’re boxing in pipes yourself but aren’t confident with your carpentry skills try ready-made uPVC pipe covers . Companies such as Screw Fix or B&Q will have everything else you’ll need.

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Just remember a few basic points: Use waterproof materials where appropriate – ceramic tiles, uPVC glue, silicon sealant and so on; ensure there’s some kind of access to stopcocks or important pipe joints; and allow appropriate spacing & ventilation as required.

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Let your imagination flow and follow a few simple rules to achieve fabulous results – those ugly pipes will be a thing of the past!

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The importance of wearing a hard hat

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Every now and again, we get involved in DIY. Nothing heavy you understand. Perhaps a friend needs a hand repainting a room, changing their kitchen doors or demolishing a wall.

Our work also takes us to homes that are being refurbished and it’s clear that some people are far more skilled and adventurous than us. People will turn their hands to all kinds of things as a way to turn a shell into a home.

A lack of money is driving more people to do things themselves. Often they will sell or donate their old furniture to us as a way to raise funds or simply to make space for new furniture.

For the most part, things turn out well for these people. It’s amazing to see what people manage to do when they decide to learn new skills and carry out all kinds of home improvements themselves.

Sadly, every once in a while, things go array and unfortunately accidents happen. One such accident is prompting me to write this post. A friend of ours was knocked out when he was hit with the end of a scaffolding pole. It wasn’t a hard blow, no bones broken just a nasty bruise and a bit of a bump, but he still ended up in A&E being checked for concussion.

When I heard about the accident, it struck me that it wouldn’t have been serious if my friend had been wearing a hard hat. Of course, the accident could still have happened, but the consequences would not have been so serious. A hard hat would have absorbed more of the blow and potentially my friend would not have been knocked out and have needed to attend the hospital.

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Use the right safety equipment

When we work on a project or piece of furniture, we’re usually quite careful. We use gloves, safety glasses and wear a mask when sanding down furniture.

Over the years, the cost of safety equipment has fallen and these days, sites like Safetystock.co.uk sell to the public as well as professionals. On sites like this, it’s possible to buy industrial-quality safety equipment for a low price.

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Keeping yourself safe while doing DIY

Staying safe while carrying out DIY is very much a matter of common sense, you just need to stop and think. It’s very important not to work with power tools when you’re tired, on medication, or after a night out when you’ve been drinking. Remember, it only takes a moment of inattention for an accident to occur and for someone to get seriously hurt.

It makes sense to wear gloves and safety glasses when using power tools. If you’re working in a confined space or somewhere where there are loose fixtures and fittings that could fall on your head, you need to wear a hard hat or helmet. Remember to protect your feet too. Wearing safety shoes is a wise precaution.

Next time you set out to do a DIY job in your home, stop and think about safety and take the necessary steps to keep you and your family safe.

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10 ways to help your home sell faster

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You’ve made the decision to move on – and now the hard work begins. You may have great memories of the property where your children grew up or you progressed in your career, but to the home-buyer that means nothing; their memories are still to be created. Here are ten quick ways to help your home sell faster and boost your chances of moving to your next abode.

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De-clutter for visits

If you’ve made the decision to move, then your personal effects will need to be packed up at some point – so why not start now? Pack away the personal photographs and travel memorabilia, wall certificates, photographs and kids’ paintings, with the aim of creating a canvas onto which a visitor can mentally stamp their authority.

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Let other people love your home

Garish room colours such as dark reds, purples and blues might be perfect for your lifestyle, but for a potential buyer it represents redecoration at best, and rejection at worst. Regard it from the viewpoint of someone coming into the home fresh, with new ideas for rooms, which they’ll visualise more easily if they’re pastel colours.

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Get those jobs done

The niggly, nasty little jobs that you’ve been putting off for months or years need to be done if they’re a real barrier to the sale. Guttering upgrades, crack repairs, and broken windows might need professional help, but replacing doorknobs and skirting boards could be done in a day or so by the owner and could tip the balance in a buyer’s eyes.

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Update the kitchen

Alongside the bathroom, this is the one room where old age can’t be hidden easily by removing items for the photographs. Dirty units and old-fashioned trimmings will drag down the overall picture of the house; while a modern, clean kitchen might catch the eye. We’re not talking big money – just enough for it to become a positive talking point for the estate agent.

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Leaving behind?

Transporting some items is more hassle than benefit; sheds, integrated TVs, cookers and the like are the types of furniture that might not add value to your home, but might a) give a good impression, b) look nice and prevent disruption and c) enable the buyer to sell their own counterpart items.

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Get recording

You’ve got a mobile phone or a small video/DSLR camera, so make use of it. A walk through your lovely home is one thing, but why not go further by taking potential buyers on a leafy tour through the local amenities, pubs, shops, leisure facilities, parks and other attractions. If they’ll agree, enlist neighbours and friends as well.

'Easy Guide to Selling' web page

Go online

The quick house sale and online estate agency markets are booming, with much of the donkey work such as photography, floor plans and advertising on property portals like Rightmove and Zoopla done for you through sites such as HouseSimple.com. It’s certainly worth a look if time is of the essence – for example, if one needs to move to start a new job.

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Utilise social media

That video should not only find its way to YouTube and Vimeo, but other social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Accompany it with lovely pictures, a PDF of particulars for downloading and contact details. The trick is to make something that’s interesting enough for friends & followers to share, encourage and positive comments.

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Don’t forget the exterior…

The external walls and the garden are part of your home, and a spot of weeding/raking to the latter and painting of the former – and therefore protecting it from sun, wind and rain for future owners – could be worth it. Keep a tin of the paint and the receipt if completed by a professional decorator, to prove the job has been done recently.

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…and additional space

According to the Royal Horticultural Society (as reported in The Independent) three times as many front gardens are now completely paved over compared to a decade ago, for reasons such as people can’t be bothered with gardens and need parking spaces. If your property boasts its own parking space make sure this is highlighted, and emphasise that it is near to any attractions (if true). A happy medium would be a combination of parking and grassed area, of course; shout from the rooftops if you possess this treasure.

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House maintenance – 10 ways to maintain your biggest investment

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Your home is probably one of the most expensive things you’ve ever bought, so it’s important to keep it in tip-top shape. A little revamp here and there will ensure your property stays in great condition for a long time, so here are 10 useful maintenance tips:

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  1. Paint your garage doors

A fresh lick of paint is a well-known way of giving rooms a quick and relatively easy makeover. But don’t neglect the outside of your property. The look of your house contributes to what is called ‘curb appeal’ – how attractive it appears, which is particularly important when it comes to getting a valuation. Painting garage doors can instantly transform the appearance of a house. Just ensure you use a specialist paint supplier, like Rawlins.

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  1. Have the carpets deep cleaned

Your carpets might not look particularly dirty, but you’ll be amazed how much dirt and grime has been ground into the material over time. One of the best ways to remove all this is to have your carpets professionally cleaned – you’ll be surprised at the results.

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  1. Wash the windows

On the next warm, dry day, head outside with a bucket of bubbly water and clean the windows using a squeegee. Don’t want to do this yourself? Then there’s sure to be a local window cleaner who’ll do the job for you.

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  1. Get caulking

As a home-owner, it’s essential to check the caulking around showers and bathtubs and repair as needed to prevent leaks.

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  1. Clean sediment from shower heads

Shower heads can become blocked with all kinds of gunk, so if you’re in the mood for some maintenance, pull on your rubber gloves and clean out the sediment. One of the easiest ways to do this is to submerge the shower head in a bag of vinegar for a few hours.

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  1. Give your furniture a polish

There comes a time when furniture can start to look a bit dull and worn, but you can bring it back to life with a good polish. And you don’t even need to buy expensive products as olive oil is a great cleaning agent and ideal for polishing wood.

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  1. Tighten loose screws

Once in a while, go through the house with a screwdriver and tighten any screws that are a bit loose on cupboards, draws and such like.

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  1. Check all locks and deadbolts

The security of your home is of paramount importance, so check all locks and deadbolts. If something doesn’t work properly, replace it.

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  1. Clear out your guttering

Don’t forget to spruce up your outside space too by getting rid of all the leaves, mud and whatever else might have found its way into your guttering.

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  1. Give your patio a deep clean

There are many ways to improve your outside space, but cleaning your patio is definitely one of them. Use a pressure cleaner and you should find it makes a big difference without taking too much time.

So there you have it – ten simple, yet effective ways to maintain your home.

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Everything you need to know about building your dream home

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The Glen self build by Reid Architectsimage credit: Reid Architects

Did you know that almost 20,000 people a year in the UK fulfil their dreams and construct their own homes? The website Self Build suggests that as long as you follow some basic guidelines this vision can become a reality for all.

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Start with a legal search

The budget is always important, but so is the availability of your chosen building site. You may have seen the most desirable plot of land in the world, but it’s no use starting to dream of house building until you have verified that the land can be used for building purposes. If you’re planning to build overseas, then you should use the services of Vanner Perez Notary Services who can offer translation as well as legal services for land and property purchase overseas.

Wedge House by Soup Architectsimage credit: Soup Architects

Set a realistic budget

Don’t just take the cost of the build into account. It’s a good idea to remember that very few building projects run to plan, so, if possible, include contingency funding within your budget. You’ll also have to include the cost of a good architect, planning permission fees with the local authority, as well as your own living expenses while the project is ongoing.

If you’re a good organiser, then by all means take responsibility for project management yourself. If you feel at all uneasy about this role, then appoint a manager for your self build. This appointment could save you money, and you’ll be confident that all aspects of the project are being completed to your satisfaction.

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Getting a mortgage for your self build

You can’t build your own home unless you have the financial means in place. Special mortgages for self builds are available but you’ll also need to have funds or savings of your own in order to get the project started. The Build Store website is an excellent resource for accessing building societies and other information concerning finance and self building.

The most popular type of mortgage is the ‘advanced stage payment’ that will release the funds before the build starts so that you can get going with the job. Funds will continue to be released at regular intervals throughout the project. The ‘arrears stage payment’ mortgage only allows money to be released after each stage of the build is completed. This might not be such a good option if your workforce needs money in advance in order to proceed with the build. You’ll have to prove that you’re able to maintain the mortgage payments whilst the project is in progress.

New House, Stow self build by Jefcoate Anderson Architects Ltdimage credit: Jefcoate Anderson Architects Ltd

Enjoy your project

Despite worries about finance, builders and a thousand and one other niggles, building your own dream home is rewarding. You’ll end up with a house that you have planned to suit your tastes, and your family’s needs. Many self builders have slashed their utility bills by designing an eco-friendly property; others have created innovative gardens around their new home. The possibilities for creating the house of your dreams are endless. Once the project is completed you’ll be able to sit back and enjoy the benefits that come from building your dream home.

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