May is a popular month for people selling their homes, but you don’t have to be looking to sell to think about adding value to your property. There are big and small ways to boost how much your home is worth, and also make it a nicer place to be.

 

 

Fix structural problems

 

If you are looking to sell, then taking care of major structural issues such as a sagging roofline or persistent damp issues is a necessary step to making it sale-worthy – but they’re not issues that you’ll want to live with for any length of time either. There are a variety of tradespeople available depending on the issue, from specialist roofers to structural engineers, bricklayers, and damp proofers.

 

Create a loft conversion

 

Building up is generally regarded as the single biggest boost you can give to your home’s value. It’s a major investment, but one that pays off with new living space that can completely change the feel of your home. Whether it’s a dormer, hip to gable, or mansard roof conversion, you will need to have plans drawn up and may need planning permission, before hiring an experienced loft conversion specialist to take on the project.

 

 

Build an extension

 

Similarly to loft conversions, adding more space to your home will add value and give you new ways to enjoy your property. Whether it’s creating a kitchen-diner or a dedicated space for an office or studio, there are firms that specialise in extensions and conversions and can help you realise your vision.

 

Update your kitchen

 

Many families value having a modern, usable kitchen, that can be used not just for cooking, but for eating, relaxing and entertaining. If you have the space and budget, updating your kitchen with all mod-cons can be a real boost for your home.

 

Refresh your bathroom

 

It’s difficult for anyone to feel like they can get clean in a tired and broken-down bathroom, with cracked tiles, mouldy grouting, and damaged units. While a bathroom fitter can completely revamp the room, you could refresh it with smaller changes – a tiler can add new tiles for cleaner look, while a plumber can swap in new taps and hardware.

 

 

Add a parking space

 

If you live in a town or city where parking is at a premium and neighbours are battling over spaces on the street, then can it can be a worthwhile investment to replace your front garden with a driveway, giving you peace of mind that you’ll always have a safe place to keep your car. A driveway needs to be built to last, so only hire an expert with a good track record.

 

Boost your kerb appeal

 

No one wants to live in the most run-down home on the street, and for buyers as well, first impressions count. There is plenty you can do to smarten up your kerb appeal, from adding a porch, replacing your front door, upgrading your windows or repainting the exterior.

 

Take care of the little things

 

Sometimes the little things don’t feel that small when you have to deal with them everyday, so why not make them better? Give new life to a room with a lick of paint or roll of wallpaper; add new lighting to your hallway; finally sort out the toilet with the dodgy flush – if it adds value to you, sometimes that’s all the value you need to add.

 

 

May is a fabulous month in the garden. Trees and shrubs burst into leaf and flower, cottage garden plants fill borders with their exuberant growth and containers bloom with vibrant summer colours ready for longer days enjoyed outdoors.

Here, Louise Golden, senior plant buyer at Dobbies Garden Centre, gives her top tips to make the most of your garden as the summer months roll in:

 

Terrace Gardens

 

With the warmer temperatures, this is a great time to plant your patio containers, hanging baskets and window boxes with summer bedding plants that are sure to put on a fabulous display of flower colour throughout the summer.

For an all-round, show-stopping display, include both upright and trailing varieties in your containers. Zonal Geraniums, Fuchsias, Marguerites and Osteospermum are all great summer performers. Combine with trailing Petunias, Verbena, Bacopa and much-loved Lobelia to cascade over the sides. Larger containers benefit from a bold central feature planting to add height and structure, such as Cordylines in their striking colour-ways, adding an exotic element to your scheme.

For best results add slow release fertiliser and water retaining granules to the compost when planting your containers and hanging baskets. Water regularly and remember to feed fortnightly with a liquid fertiliser.

Dobbies garden centres are bursting with an extensive range of colourful, British grown bedding plants just perfect for patio containers. They also offer a free container planting service in store – simply bring along your favourite container, pick your plants and they’ll do the rest, leaving you with a gorgeous container ready to go straight in the garden.

 

Beds and Borders

 

Wallflowers and early spring bedding will have faded now. Remove tired plantings, adding to the compost heap, to make way for fresh summer displays.

Prune early spring flowering shrubs such as Chaenomeles, Forsythia and Ribes after flowering if required to keep them in check. If not done so already, more tender late summer flowering shrubs such as Caryopteris, Perovskia and hardy Fuchsias can also be trimmed now too if needed.

Top dress alpines with grit or gravel to show off their dainty spring flowers. Grit helps to prevent soil splashing onto their delicate blooms whilst also improving drainage.

If hedges start to look a little shaggy, May is a good month to give them a light trim, but do check for nesting birds and if necessary wait until fledglings have flown.

 

Cottage Gardens

 

In May the Cottage garden is growing madly and borders filling with their exuberant growth. Put plant supports in place around taller herbaceous plants or those that carry prized heavy blooms such as paeonies. Do this early before plants get too big and your supports will soon be disguised by fresh growth. In store we have an extensive range of quality British grown herbaceous plants perfect for adding colour to existing or new borders.

Early season herbaceous plants, such as Pulmonarias or hardy Geraniums can be cut back after flowering to encourage re-growth of tidy fresh new foliage and often a second flower display.

Later this month the renowned ‘Chelsea Chop’ is also a great way to stagger height and flowering times of some late summer herbaceous plants. Sedums and Phlox, which can sometimes grow over-tall and floppy benefit from being cut back by one third. The resulting new growth is compact and bushy, bearing numerous slightly smaller flowers later in the season for a prolonged season of colour.

 

Kitchen Garden

 

Plant rows of your favourite herbs, such as parsley and coriander for a plentiful supply for summer salads and alfresco BBQs. If short on space, grow in containers on your patio for quick picking just when you need them. Mint in particular is perfect for container growing, keeping its vigorous growth in check. Once all risk of frost is passed, take the opportunity to grow pots of sweet basil for Italian recipes and home-made pesto.

Most vegetable crops can be sown now. With quick growing crops such as salads and spinach, repeat sow every 10 days to ensure a consistent supply of fresh leaves. Visit your local Dobbies to choose from our wide range available in-store. Or if you prefer, they have a wide range of young vegetable plants available for quicker results.

 

A long weekend gives you the freedom to do lots of things, whether it’s getting away for an exciting trip, meeting up with friends and family, or just relaxing at home. For many people, it’s a great chance to get done all the little things that need doing around the house that need addressing, but you’ve been putting off. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve put together a checklist of things to look at to make sure you’re on top of your home maintenance.

 

 

Alarms

 

Have you tested your fire alarms or carbon monoxide alarm recently? If you’re not sure when you last swapped out the batteries, now is a good time to make sure they’re fresh and in fully working order.

 

Boiler

 

When was your boiler last inspected? If it’s been more than a year, it might be worth having it checked over by a Gas Safe Registered engineer to make sure there are no issues.

 

Taps and pipes

 

Is everything leak free? Small drips from a badly connected pipe can lead to larger problems if not addressed. It might be an easy fix you can do yourself, but speak to a plumber if you want peace of mind.

 

 

Windows

 

Do you have draughts coming in, or condensation appearing within the panes of your double glazing? It might be a sign that the seal is faulty and the glass needs replacing. Get in touch with a window fitter to see what needs to be done.

 

Locks

 

If you have a back door lock that is loose or you’ve lost a set of keys recently, you might have been thinking about the need for an upgrade. An experienced locksmith can advise on the best products to use and install them for you.

 

Gutters

 

After a wet winter the gutters on our home can be a bit worse for wear, so it’s worth checking them out to make sure they’re still working as they should. A specialist can inspect them for damage and blockages and make any replacements that are needed.

 

 

Brickwork

 

Now is a great time to check out the brickwork on your home and see how it’s looking. Though the weather is always unpredictable, spring and summer are the best time for taking on work such as repointing. A bricklayer can show you what might need work.

 

Trees

 

If you have trees on your property, while they’re coming into leaf is a good chance to check if they present any issues, such as interfering with any electrical cables. If so, a tree surgeon will be able to cut them back without damaging the tree.

 

 

This week saw another the arrival of another royal baby, with the Duchess of Cambridge giving birth to a boy, the fifth in line to the throne. While the as-yet-unnamed prince will be growing up in a palace, there are plenty of changes you can make to your own home that would impress any youngster, no matter how royal.

 

 

Create a stylish nursery

 

His Royal Highness may have an opulent nursery, but many new parents enjoy the thrill of being able to create an entire room designed for the little one, that can adapt and change with them as they grow. The most important thing is getting the basics right, which means getting it decorated to a high standard, a job that an experienced painter and decorator can help with.

 

Build a garden play area

 

The latest royal will have acres of land to romp in, but even a small garden can be the perfect playground with a little love and imagination. Clever design and the help of a talented landscape gardener or builder can create a garden that has tonnes of fun features for youngsters to enjoy, from raised beds for learning about plants, to sand boxes, covered seating areas and climbing frames.

 

 

Create bespoke furniture

 

Handmade furniture may sound like something reserved for royalty, but you don’t have to invest in ancient antiques to have something built specially for you and your needs. A carpenter or joiner could make a fitted bunk bed with a desk under it perfect for a child’s bedroom, that would make any youngster feel special.

 

Make sure your home is safe

 

While the royal palaces and castles look impressive, there are plenty of features beneath the surface that aren’t quite up to scratch – Buckingham Palace is undergoing extensive renovations to ensure its 100 miles of electrical cabling are safe, and its 30 miles of pipework are leak-free. Thankfully, your home should be easier to check out – an electrician can make sure your electrics are up to date, while a Gas Safe registered gas engineer can inspect your heating and boiler.

 

 

A house is a complicated thing. When something goes wrong, it can be hard to figure out what the problem is, and most importantly, how to fix it. That’s when an experienced tradesman can step in.

Here at MyBuilder, there are thousands of tradespeople who know their trades inside out, and are always willing to share some of their extensive knowledge. Ask A Tradesman is filled with burning questions people have had about their home improvements, from the big to the small. We’ve collected some of the most popular questions that have been asked on the site, and collated the best answers. If you need to know more, don’t hesitate to ask your own question.

 

 

Double-glazing drama

 

Question: I’ve just moved into a house which has a number of windows with condensation between the glass panels. Can they be cleaned or do they require replacing?

Answer: Unfortunately for anyone hoping for a quick and easy resolution to this fairly common problem, the best solution is to replace the windows – though just the glass, and not the frames. Though they can be removed and cleaned, replacement is often the simpler and cheaper option.

The condensation occurs when the seal at the edge of the glass breaks down, allowing air and moisture into the gap. If you purchased the double-glazing yourself, you should check with the manufacturer as they may still be under warranty. Otherwise, it is worth hiring a window fitter or glazer to come and measure for the replacements. As BJD Building / Roofing says: “If you have condensation between the glass, it means your units have broken down, best to get a window fitter out to measure up for new units, he will need to remove a couple of beads to also measure thickness of glass.”

 

 

Fusebox FAQ

 

Question: I’m buying a house which has an old fuse box. This was noted on the survey I had done and it was suggested I update it. Is this really necessary? There’s nothing actually wrong with the fuse box – it’s just old fashioned? Are there any safety concerns with these old ones or is this just something they tend to note on such surveys?

Answer: All of the electricians who responded to this query had a similar response – while there may not be anything wrong with the fuse box, any older fittings like this are worth checking out to catch problems before they occur. While the installations would most likely have been done in line with all the regulations that were current at the time, components do wear down over time, leading to issues, so it’s worth having an electrician give it a once over. If it’s found that it doesn’t meet current standards, it will need to be replaced.

N C Electrical said: “If you have an old fuse box you will also have old wiring. Essentially there is nothing ‘unsafe’ with old installations – they will comply to the regulations around at their time of installation. However, old wiring will have been used and will over time wear out just like anything else, the main problem being in the breakdown of insulation. New fuse boxes have switches that are extremely sensitive and if there is a breakdown these switches will not accept the wiring, meaning it cannot be done or causing nuisance tripping. Another problem with old wiring is that electrical screws can become loose, causing wires to become loose, causing unsafe situations.”

 

 

A Payment Poser

 

Question: What is a reasonable payment schedule? Should I give a deposit on confirmation of wanting a builder to do this work?

Answer: This is a complicated question with an answer that varies depending on lots of elements, particular the scale and length of the job, and of course, its cost. Many builders undertaking large projects that are expected to run for several weeks will ask for a deposit to reserve their time and show that the customer is committed to the work. Some will not ask for a deposit, but will lay out a list of staged payments to be made when various milestones are reached, such as when footings are completed, the superstructure finished etc, with the final payment to be paid upon completion. Most builders will have trade accounts so will not need payment for materials upfront. In any case, homeowners and tradesmen should be clear and happy with the schedule before any work is begun.

F Geo Robinson (Coventry) Ltd said: “A good well set up builder should have the resources to finance his own work. However in today’s troubled times getting paid is a worry and it’s all about risk reduction, for both parties. My advice is a small deposit, say £1,000 (on an £8,000) if it is asked for. Then a substantial interim payment if you are happy with progress after a couple of weeks, of say £4-5,000, leaving a reasonable sum to make sure the job is completed. (Finishing a job is always the hardest part for a builder, when most of the value is complete and just the snagging to do).”

 

 

Tiling Teaser

 

Question: Can you tile over old tiles?

The answer to this is simple: yes, but why would you? Tiling on top of old tiles means that any problems with the originals, such as becoming loose, will still be an issue with the new layer, while the extra thickness can also make it more difficult to accurately install fixtures and fittings. People worry about removing plaster from the wall when stripping old tiles, but re-skimming the plaster as a preparation for the new layer is part and parcel of achieving a good finish.

BJD Building & Roofing: “You can tile over tiles, with the right preparation, but I would never do this – the proper way is to strip right back to original wall finish. Don’t worry if you do pull a bit of plaster when stripping the tiles, as it’s easy enough to replace. Tiling over tiles can make it awkward, i.e. extra thickness when tiling around shower fittings. For the sake of a few hours work, I would take them off.”

 

 

Sometimes, the most important things go unappreciated. They’re always there, doing their job, working hard in the background, but until there’s a problem, we never pay them any attention.

That’s how it is with things like our boilers and cookers. Throughout the winter, or whenever we need a blast of comforting warmth, we switch on the heating, and there it is, our radiators quietly getting the job done. When we want a relaxing bath or reinvigorating shower, we turn the taps and enjoy the hot water the boiler happily provides without even thinking about it. When we want a nice meal, we turn to the stove and flick the hobs into life. But when something goes wrong, that’s when we notice it, and realise how crucial they are to our homes.

 

 

What to look out for

 

There are a number of issues that can occur as a result of problems with your gas appliances. When it comes to the boiler, you may notice unusual noises such as bangs or gurgles, or spot leaks and drips. It may lose pressure, keep switching off, or the pilot light may go out. With gas hobs, you may spot that the flames are uneven, smaller than usual, or yellow in colour, or smell more gas than usual. In any instance, if you’re concerned that something isn’t working as it should, it’s always worth checking it out, especially when it comes to gas, as leaks can be dangerous. The smart choice is hiring a qualified gas engineer.

 

 

All about the Gas Safe Register

 

When it comes to gas, only engineers who are on the Gas Safe Register are legally allowed to work on gas in the home. Unlike many other trades where experience may be the only qualification needed, it is essential that you only hire a Gas Safe registered tradesman. The Gas Safe Register replaced the CORGI gas register in 2009. Tradesmen who are on the register are allowed to carry out works such as installing or servicing gas boilers, fitting or repairing gas hobs, and any other work on a heat producing appliance connected to a natural gas or liquid petroleum gas (LPG) supply. Tradesmen on MyBuilder who are Gas Safe registered will mention it on their profile – however, you should always check their registration yourself when you meet them.

 

Check the Card

 

When you meet the tradesmen, always ask to see their Gas Safe Register card, if they do not offer to show it to you. On the front of the card, you can check their picture and unique number, which you can check on the Gas Safe Register site. There is also an expiration date which will show you if their registration is current. On the back of the card, it details which particular work they are able to carry out, from pipework (the minimum requirement) to boilers, cookers and water heaters.

 

 

Gas safety is all year round

 

While you must use a registered gas engineer to work on the gas in your home, you can keep gas safety in mind all year round. You should have your boiler serviced once a year to make sure it’s in full working order, and catch any problems before they strike at the worst time. You should also have a carbon monoxide alarm, that can alert you to high levels of the dangerous gas. If you have any questions about gas in your home, you can ask a MyBuilder tradesmen. Or, find out more about hiring a great gas fitter in our hiring advice pages.

 


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