Category Archives: Home and Family

Wall insulation be causing damp problems

In recent years, due to government campaigns and free offers, more and more homeowners have been having wall cavity insulation added to their homes. In most cases this is a welcome addition that can save a homeowner as much as £275 per year according to the Energy Saving Trust. But in some cases, it has been shown to cause damp and mould problems and it may even need to be removed.

What is cavity wall insulation?
Most homes are constructed with exterior walls that have a gap between the outer brick and the inner block. This air gap can promote heat loss from the inside and wall cavity insulation is designed to fill this space. Usually an insulation material is pumped into the space – a job that should be done by experts to ensure that it no gaps are left and that your home is suitable.

Does wall cavity insulation cause damp problems?
Not always, but if it has been incorrectly fitted or your home is not suitable, it can lead to problems. The consumer company Which? carried out an investigation into wall cavity insulation problems a few years ago and they discovered that some homes are not suitable, but that some installers were not aware of the problem. If your home is affected by the following this may not be suitable for you:

Your outside walls are affected by driven rain or regular rainfall – this applies to certain parts of the UK where wall cavity insulation should not be fitted at all.
Your home is in an unsheltered position and not protected by other houses or tree cover.
Your brickwork is in poor condition with cracks or blown grouting or render.

If these issues affect you, water could penetrate the outside walls of your home and literally soak the insulation. This is then transferred to the inner walls of your home causing damp and mould. The only solution at this stage is to have the insulation completely removed, the outer walls repaired and the insulation re-installed – a lengthy but effective solution.

Loft conversions

Deciding to create more space in your loft is almost always a great idea. It is relatively inexpensive, it can create plenty of space and it uses space that would otherwise be empty. But many people are put off going through the process because they have preconceived ideas about loft conversions. We are here to break some of these myths and help you to realise that a loft conversion could be exactly what are looking for in a house extension

Planning permission is too hard
It is true that getting planning permission can be a long process. But it is not hard at all. In fact, if your loft conversion comes within permitted development (which the vast majority do) you may not even need to get planning permission at all. However if you find that planning is required all you need are some architects drawings and to fill the required forms. Within 3 months your planning should be in place. Your builder will be able to take over the entire process for you, so it needn’t be a concern.

I will lose value on my home
If you spend £20,000 on a loft conversion, you want to be sure that you will get £20,000 or more on the value of your home. While you need to ensure that your loft conversion meets all the regulations and requirements of your local authority and that it is well constructed, the chances of it costing you more than the return on the investment are low. It makes sense to talk to an estate agent before you go ahead to find out the improved value and you should bear in mind that moving to a larger home may cost you much more.

Loft conversions are disruptive
All building work requires you to be a little understanding of dust, mess and disruption, but actually, loft conversions are probably the least disruptive of all. The majority of the work is carried out on a part of the house you are not currently using and so you won’t be losing a room. The construction of the stairs will be the hardest part, but this is usually a relatively quick part of the process.

My roof height is too low
There are definitely restrictions on loft conversions based on roof height, but there are still ways around it. You could consider lowering the ceilings of the downstairs rooms, lifting your roof line (this will usually require planning) or installing a dormer to get the required height at the top of the stairs. It is rare that a loft is too small or so restricted in head height that nothing can be done.

The age old question

Should I stay or should I go? It’s a common dilemma for homeowners looking to upgrade their living space. On one hand, you could sell up and move to somewhere better, or alternatively spend the money improving your existing house. Should I sell my home and move into the one that best suits my needs, or shall I just improve the home I am in and turn it into my dream home? It really is a tricky one and not least because there are pros and cons on both sides. You need to consider a huge range of questions before making this choice and the answer may still not be clear.

The question has been even further complicated by the recent vote in the UK to leave the EU and its somewhat unknown effect on house prices. The Nationwide reported recently that house prices saw a slight rise of 0.5% in July 2016, but that they felt that the EU decision could reduce demand overall. This rise compares to more than 5% in the previous year. If house prices were to fall this could seriously affect your choice about whether to sell or improve.

The pros and cons of selling

  • If house prices are falling, you may be able to get the house you want at a cheaper price. If you are downsizing this might work in your favour. But of course you will receive less for your home
  • You will be able to choose the exact home that suits your needs, but there may be a lower supply as house prices will be depressed
  • The costs of selling (fees, solicitors etc) may be less than the costs of extending
  • Banks have become very averse to offering mortgages – so getting an increased one may be tricky
  • The work is already done and you won’t need to live with the mess and disruption of home improvement work
  • You may find it hard to sell your home in an uncertain market

The pros and cons of improving

  • You already know your home, the area and your neighbours – those things won’t change if you stay put
  • The costs of improving may outweigh the increased value of your home – especially if Brexit really takes hold of property prices
  • You may not be able to afford to improve your home to the extent you would like
  • Getting a loan may be cheaper than ever due to very low interest rates – so improvement may actually be easier than increasing your mortgage
  • You get to improve your home to suit you – not the previous owner

Tips for choosing a quiet revolution for your storage

Are we seeing a second revolution in terms of solar panels? Solar panels saw a huge surge in interest in the last few years – mostly due to the excellent feed-in-tariff returns. However in recent years the returns available on this investment have considerably reduced and solar panel installation levels have predictably reduced at the same time. But could battery storage systems be the start of a new surge in solar panel interest and are they really worthwhile?

Solar panel battery storage

One of the main drawbacks of solar panels until now has been the fact that it was impossible to store the energy produced during the day for use at night. This issue was offset by selling the unused daytime energy back to the grid at a profit. Now that this this profit has been significantly affected by changes in the feed-in-tariff, consumers are getting a worse deal. However that could be about to change with the introduction of a battery storage system that could allow consumers to save the energy produced during the day for use at night, rather than selling it to the grid.

Tesla – leading the way

Tesla is already well known for their electric cars and now they are looking to provide battery storage systems for homes that have solar panels. They are selling the concept as a way to go off grid and to contribute to the country’s energy issues by selling off unused and stored energy from your solar panels. For the first time consumers can have solar power at night and make the most of the natural power of the sun.

These lithium based batteries have already proved themselves to be incredibly efficient and economical and once installed require little or no maintenance. The batteries are even connected to a smart system that will work out the best way to use the power generated, when to store it, when to sell it and when it is best to use grid power.

Are they available yet?

Not quite, but they are expected to be available for sale during 2016. Tesla is not the only company that is looking into this technology and it is expected that there will be quite a bit of competition. So prices are likely to tumble as the technology becomes more widespread.

Tips for choosing external doors for your home

The fact is that your front door is the first part of your home that visitors will see and many of us want to choose the most attractive door to make the best impression. But should you be basing your choice on how the door looks, rather than how it performs? Probably not – because choosing a pretty front door might be something you regret in the long term. Follow our tips on buying the best exterior doors for your home so that you can trust your door will do everything it needs to do and more.

The material

This factor is probably the most important of all considerations when buying your new door. While a solid wood door may look lovely you should be aware that if it gets wet, it will swell and as it dries it will shrink. This continual change in size will mean it is frequently sticky and gaps will appear letting in draughts. These doors are best for doors that are very much under cover and not exposed to wet or cold. For a wood look you can choose a composite door which will have fewer of these issues and it will need very little maintenance – unlike wood. UPVC is also a good option, but they can be unattractive – but you will have no trouble with them becoming sticky or draughty.

Glazing

Do you want your door to have any glass? You should be aware that any glazing will inevitably mean that you more draughts around the door, however glazing can be very practical for seeing who is outside and for letting in light. You may prefer to have double glazed windows to each side of the door and a peephole instead. This is certainly down to preference as the best doors are still very secure even with glazing.

Security

No matter what type of door you choose you need to ensure that it has excellent security features. That means installing a good lock (even a double lock if necessary) or choosing a door that comes with the best lock you can afford. Some of these will have bolts that are at the top and bottom and some will have self locking mechanisms. Be aware that some doors can be manipulated through the letterbox to be opened from the outside unless you double lock them from the inside.