Category Archives: Home and Family

Home Heating Methods

Whether you’re in the process of planning how to heat a new extension, or just looking for ways to reduce your existing home heating bills, you may be wondering what the alternatives are to basic gas and electric heating. With very few ways to reduce home heating costs when using conventional heating sources, moving your system to an alternative setup can be the best way to significantly reduce your expenditure on heating. We have compiled a list of some of the options – each have their own benefits, some may be better than others depending on your circumstances. It’s worth also noting that not only can these alternative sources potentially save you money, all but oil fired central heating can be considered as using renewable energy sources and therefore also reducing the cost on the environment.

 

Oil

If your home is not on mains gas, your only option may be to use oil to fire your boiler. As this is a fossil fuel, it isn’t exactly earth-friendly and the costs can be high compared to gas, however you may be able to find bio-oils which will reduce the carbon footprint.

 

Heat pumps

You get two types of these heating options: ground source and air source. They both work in a similar way by taking the heat produced in the air or in the ground and concentrating it before pumping it into your home. These systems tend to work best in underfloor heating systems as they will maintain a low overall temperature. You will need electricity for the unit to run – but this is minimal compared to the amount of heat they produce.

 

Biomass

These are essentially similar to a wood burner, but they run on wood pellets and can even burn your household waste. However they require quite a bit of space and will be connected to your boiler. The best options have automatic pellet feeders, otherwise you will need to keep a close eye on it to ensure they are not running low on fuel. Some councils are now encouraging businesses to use these to provide their own heating sources and to reduce their waste.

 

Solar

For heating your hot water you can use solar thermal systems which basically run your water across tubes on your roof, heating the water with sunlight as it goes. This reduces the amount of electricity or gas used to heat the water for use. For home heating, photovoltaic cells (more commonly known as Solar PV or just simply ‘solar panels’) can produce electricity which you can use for underfloor heating or electric radiators.

External wall materials

The building of an extension is certainly going to alter the way that you home looks and part of that process is adding external walls that work with the existing structure, but also possibly changing the existing wall cladding to give a more attractive overall look. In most cases your exterior walls will be exempt from planning permission, but there are cases where planning will be required.

  • If you live in a listed building or in a conservation area you will almost certainly need planning permission
  • If you want to clad your new or existing walls with stone, pebble dash, render, tiles or plastic and you live in an area of outstanding beauty or a national park you will need to apply
  • In all other cases you still need to ensure the cladding or wall covering you choose must be in keeping with the existing style

Building regulations

Changing the look of the outside walls of your home may not always need building regulations approval – but the addition of new external walls as part of your extension probably will. Building regulations use a set of rules to determine if approval is required:

  • If more than 25 percent of the exterior walls are re-built, re-rendered, re-clad or re-plastered then evidence of correct insulation will need to be supplied to building regulations inspectors
  • If new external wall cavity insulation is inserted into walls you may need them to assess this
  • Generally your new walls should be built using the cavity wall system as this provides a better thermal load. Buildings regulations will be checking for this. Solid walls will need special insulation to make them passable
  • Wall loads are also incredibly important and will be checked. If your new walls are holding up upper stories or the roof they need to comply with loading rules and possibly having lintels installed
  • Weather resistance rules and thermal resistance rules are also taken into account
  • Your walls need to meet fire protection rules also and existing walls may need to be upgraded as part of the work to ensure compliance

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.

Windows and Doors Planning Tips

When you decide to get your extension built you will probably choose your doors and windows based on whether they fit in with your existing home and by how thermally efficient they are. You may give very little thought into whether these choices will affect your requirement for Planning Permission. But if you make the wrong choice you may find yourself having to go down that route.

For the vast majority of cases, you will not usually need to apply for Planning Permission for the doors and windows on a permitted development extension. If the extension itself has been carefully planned to avoid planning then you are normally home and dry. If you stick to the following rules, your chances of needing planning are greatly reduced.

  • You are simply repairing or maintaining the existing windows – you may do this as part of a general refurbishment during your extension build
  • The new doors and windows look similar to those already on the house
  • Side windows are made from obscured glass, if they face towards neighbours
  • Upper windows need to be at least 1.7 metres above floor level or non-opening

Roof lights or skylights

If you want to add a skylight to your extension you can normally do so without the need of Planning Permission as long as they protrude no further than 150mm beyond the roof slope, they are no higher than the current roof and the adhere to the obscured glass and opening restrictions detailed above.

When will I need Planning Permission?

In some cases, your new extension may not be eligible for permitted development because it is too large or your home is listed or in a conservation area. If this is the case you may need to apply for Planning Permission that will include some restrictions on the type of windows and doors used. This will also apply if you live in a flat.

Wall insulation be causing 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.

Biomass planning requirements

When it comes to renewable energy, biomass is one of the most efficient and energy saving options you can choose. You can choose a system that will both heat your home and provide hot water, all while producing very little carbon into the atmosphere. If you choose to install a system as part of your extension work, you should be aware that there may be some Planning Permission requirements.

What is biomass?

A biomass boiler provides heat to your home via a burner that runs on wood pellets. In some cases this burner can also be used to burn household waste and even food waste. The energy produced is fed into the home where it is used to heat radiators, underfloor heating and hot water. It is incredibly efficient as the carbon produced is less than that absorbed by the tree during its lifetime. In this way it is considered carbon neutral.

Will I need planning?

If the biomass system work is entirely internal and uses existing flues or chimneys, you will most likely not need Planning Permission. If your flues and chimneys meet permitted development rules then you should also be OK. However there are exceptions as follows:

  • If your chimney or flue extends more than one metre above the highest part of the roof
  • If your building is listed or in a conservation area – internal changes may also need to be approved
  • Flues in conservation areas must be fitted away from public view

An outdoor shed or building

You may decide to house your biomass boiler away from your main extension and this building could require planning permission. This is especially the case if the extension has already used up your permitted development rights in terms of space. If the shed is small and you have plenty of space in your garden, you are likely to be OK. But your builder should certainly bear in mind the requirements before work progresses.

Permission for solar panels

Enhancing your home with a new extension is a great idea, but you might want to take the opportunity to make it even better by adding solar panels to the roof. After all, you will now have a large space that needs to be heated and more roof space to accommodate the panels. Doing it all at the same time can be a great idea and even save you money in the long run.

For the most part solar panels do not need Planning Permission, but you may find that your home is subject to some of the restrictions that currently exist regarding the installation of solar panels on the roof. These restrictions are as follows:

  • The solar panels should be positioned so that they do not have a visual impact on the area or the external appearance of the building. Ideally this means putting them on the back of the house
  • The panels should be removed when no longer required
  • The panels cannot protrude further than 200mm from the roof slope and cannot be installed any higher than the highest part of the roof (but not on the chimney!)
  • Panels cannot be installed on a listed building or within the grounds of a listed building
  • Solar panels cannot be installed on a designated monument site
  • Panels installed in conservation areas cannot be fitted to the front of the house or building
  • Permission must be sought from the leaseholder for installations on flats and the management company must be informed

While you will not need Planning Permission if you fit into the above criteria, you will still need Building Regulations approval. The electrical work, the load capacity of the roof and the registration of the builder will all need to be checked. The installer needs to be registered under the Competent Person Scheme or your panels will not be eligible for the feed-in-tariff.

Planning Permission Series

With housing being in short supply across many parts of the UK, it is very common for houses to be split into flats or for us to live in maisonettes or purpose built flats. You may feel that living in a flat means that you are very limited on work that you can do on the property. But it doesn’t have to be the case – it is still possible to carry out extensions on a ground floor flat or maisonette as long as you follow 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.

Think about when planning an extension

People choose to extend their homes for a variety of reasons – to add value, to make it more balanced or to simply give them more space for a growing family. Whatever your reason may be, you still need to make sure that you are properly prepared for the extension and that you have thought through the main considerations before you start. The following list of 5 things to think about before you get started on an extension will ensure that the project gets going without a hitch.

Planning permission

Before you even start you should consider whether your extension will require planning permission. The rules for planning in your area are detailed at the UK Planning Portal website and there, you can find out if your extension will come under permitted development or if you will need to go through the planning process. This could add as much as 3 months to the time it takes to complete your project, but it does ensure that your extension is legal and that your neighbours are aware of what is happening.

Building regulations

This is quite distinct from planning permission and most extensions will require building regulations approval, even if they do not need planning permission. Essentially, buildings regulations ensures that your extension is safe and that it meets the current legislation for the type of work you are having done. It is a simple process and probably won’t slow down the build too much. It usually involves one or two visits from an inspector to ensure the work is being carried out to their rules and regulations.

Insurance

Before you do any work at all you should check with your buildings insurer to find out what their rules are when it comes to building work. Most builders will have the necessary site insurance, but don’t take their word for it. Ask to see their certificates and and get your own insurance if you are not sure. If you are leaving your home during the work you need a special type of insurance to cover this.

Permitted development

Under the current planning rules, extensions of under a certain size do not need permission before the work is undertaken – but there are some caveats that you should be aware of. If your home is in a conservation area or is listed (either grade one or two) you should check with your local planning department to see what is allowed for your home. There are also recommendations about the sizes of certain rooms and if you decide to go smaller to accommodate the permitted development rules you may fall foul of the planning rules.

Put Off Buying a House Near Fracking Sites

In a new survey commissioned by House-Extension.co.uk, and conducted by OnePoll, it has been revealed that up to 64% of homeowners would be less likely to buy a house, if it was situated near a fracking site. This is perhaps not that surprising, as proximity to infrastructure developments such as power stations have always been a consideration for house buyers. With news this week that the government has overturned Lancashire County Councils rejection of an application by Cuadrilla to setup a fracking operation, it looks as though Fracking could well be here to stay, with more applications underway for new sites across the country.

In the survey conducted by OnePoll, on behalf of this website, 1,000 respondents across the UK were asked if they would ever consider buying a house near a fracking site, and whether they were for or against fracking if it reduced their energy bills.

Over 64% of respondents said that they would be reluctant to buy a home near a fracking site. In response to the question, 21% said that they were somewhat unlikely to consider buying a home near a fracking site, and 43% stated that they were very unlikely to do so.

When looking into the ages of the respondents, 45 to 54 year olds were most unlikely to buy a home near a fracking site (68%) compared to 59% of 18 to 34 year olds. There was also a higher number of women (63%) who stated that they were unlikely to buy a home near a fracking site compared to 54% of men.

Conversely, when respondents were asked if they were for or against fracking if it reduced their energy bills, 32% said that they were in favour of fracking. This sentiment was almost matched however by 31% of respondents who stated that they were against fracking even if it resulted in lower energy bills.