Tag: home improvement

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Going out into our gardens is a simple pleasure that many of us enjoy, but it’s also one that lots us take for granted. For those with disabilities or issues with their mobility, making the most of their garden can be difficult – especially if the space hasn’t been adapted for them. If you’re interested in making a garden more accessible, here are some tips to get you started.

 

Tame the Jungle

 

One of the best ways to take back your garden space is to physically clear out the things that have taken it over. Long grass, weeds, climbing ivy and other plants can all choke a garden if left and unchecked, while old broken down sheds and garages can end up as nothing but eyesores that have long outlived their usefulness. A demolitions and clearance expert might be best placed to help remove the detritus that making your garden such an unwelcome space.

 

Don’t Step on the Cracks

 

Old paving, loose blockwork and broken concrete can all prove to be huge impediments to enjoying a garden – while any stairs can be more like barriers for wheelchair users. If a path is meant to lead you through the garden, then it needs to be fit for purpose, while a ramp can replace stairs. A tradesman who does paving and hardstanding can help get them up to scratch.

 

Bed Time

 

Gardening is a British obsession, and even those of us without a green thumb can enjoy planting everything from beautiful flowers to tasty vegetable. However, bending over to get your hands dirty can be difficult for many people – so raised beds, where the planters are brought up to be more accessible – can be a great solution. A good carpenter or joiner can help create an attractive wooden design.

 

Turn on the Bright Lights

 

We all want to make as much of our outdoor space as possible, but it can be difficult when the light is fading and the evenings grow colder. Adding lighting to the seating area of your garden can help transform an underused space, and while it’s simple to add cheap, solar powered lights, an electrician will be able to install a more permanent and comprehensive solution.

 

Ready to take back control?

 

If you or someone you know is in dire need of a garden makeover, you could be in luck. MyBuilder is currently running a competition with a garden makeover worth £1,000 up for grabs. All you have to do to enter is submit a picture of the garden with the people who use it, and tell us what the makeover would mean to you.

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Space might be the final frontier, but if you’re in a home where space is at a premium, it can also feel like the most precious thing in the world. Being surrounded by your things – and other people – can feel cramped at the best of times, and positively claustrophobic at worst. Almost everyone would like to have more space, and with the right plan and a good tradesman, you can get it, without having to move.

 

Knock Down Walls

 

One of the oldest tricks in the book to help maximise living space is to turn smaller rooms into larger ones, by knocking down dividing walls and opening them up. It allows more light in, and diversifies what you can do with the space. It is always worth speaking to an experienced tradesman about knocking down walls, especially if they are load-bearing and may require a structural engineer’s report. Though interior work will not require planning permission, it will need to meet building regulations and be inspected by Building Control. Paul Coulson of KDBS in Newcastle, which has more than 350 pieces of positive feedback on MyBuilder, advises that people look out for experience in the tradesman they choose: “If I was a homeowner looking for a tradesmen, it’s the experience I’d look for over any particular memberships.”

 

Add Extra Storage

 

If you have pots and pans, books, clothes, paperwork and all manner of other things building up in towering piles around your home, just the sight of them can be enough to stress you out. But the old adage is true – out of sight, out of mind – and if you have some way of putting the clutter away, it stops being clutter. Creating extra storage space means thinking creatively – adding in new sets of shelves to the corner of a room, or creating built-in wardrobes for a bedroom with an awkward wall. An experienced carpenter or joiner can give you some ideas or turn your own designs into reality.

 

Convert your Loft

 

City planners have known for generations that the best way to find space is to embrace the vertical, and build up. If you have a loft that is sitting empty, or is just used for storing a dusty box of Christmas decorations, it could be ripe for a conversion that could see it transformed into a usable space. A loft conversion specialist can lay out the different kinds of projects available – from a simple dormer, to a whole mansard roof development. Lewis Sage of Romford’s UPS Home Improvements, a business with more than 160 pieces of positive feedback on MyBuilder, recommends seeing a tradesman’s previous jobs to help decide who to choose: “Any good builder who takes pride in their work should be happy to put you in touch with old clients. I’d suggest that clients get out there and have a look at something the tradesman has done in your local area – there’s nothing better than actually seeing it.”

 

Create an Outbuilding

 

While your home may feel full to bursting, if you have any outdoor space, it might be the perfect place to focus your attention. It only takes a small amount of space to erect a shed that is perfect for storage, while with a bit more room and a larger budget, you could create anything from an office room to a granny annexe that can provide extra accommodation. Depending on the scale and usage, these may need planning permission, so speak to an experienced builder who can talk you through the process.

 

Build an Extension

 

Sometimes, if your home feels too small, the simplest thing to do is just make it bigger. An extension will add space – and potentially value – to your property, whether it’s just expanding your kitchen, or adding a double-height extension giving you a bigger living room and an extra bedroom. These can be subject to planning permission as well as building regulations, and with such a big project, you need to be on good terms with your tradesman. Vasile Ghinda of V Ghinda Builders specialises in extension building and has dozens of pieces of good feedback on MyBuilder. He says: “The first thing I’d expect someone to ask about is experience, how long you have worked, what jobs you have done that are the same. But you also want to know what a tradesman is like. You need to be able to talk to them, get on with on them.”

 

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There are two kinds of New Year’s Resolutions. One is about giving something up – smoking, drinking, sugary snacks. The other kind is about promising to try and take up something new – a sport, a hobby, or a passion project.

For lots of people, that project means finally getting round to giving their home the attention it deserves. January is all about having big ambitions and making big plans, so here are some tips for harnessing the spirit of the new year and getting your home improvements under way.

 

Planning for Success

 

No big project gets off the ground without having a solid plan behind it. For major work, like a big extension or a new build, you’ll want to draw up plans, speaking to an architect or architectural technician who can help make your ideas into reality. David Hepburn of Hepburn Architects, a fully-qualified ARB and RIBA-registered architect with 100% feedback on MyBuilder, said: “First, you should describe what you’re hoping to achieve – your ideal situation, not just limited by what you can specifically afford at the time. That’s because if a homeowner explains what their future aspirations are, a good architect or architectural technician may well be able to ‘future-proof’ that project, factoring in various future possibilities in advance.”

Alexandre Durao of Alex D Architects (pictured above) also has a 100% feedback on MyBuilder. He described how working with an architect helps to realise client’s ideas: “Before I start doing any drawings, I like to consider everything that’s relevant – so for example I go through all the planning policies. There’s no point in making drawings if then you’re not getting them accepted. We have a 97-98% approval rating for the jobs we do – we’re really proud of that.”

 

Finding the Right People

 

When you have your plans, it’s crucial that you get the right tradespeople to help turn your drawings into bricks and mortar. Large projects like extensions and loft conversions come in all shapes and sizes, so it’s vital to find a tradesperson who has experience with your particular kind of project. Lewis Sage of UPS Home Improvements specialises in home renovations and extensions, and has more than 150 pieces of positive feedback on MyBuilder. His top tip for finding the right builder is to get out there and see their work: “I’d say to clients get out there and have a look at something the tradesman has done in your local area – there’s nothing better than actually seeing it. The other good thing to do is ask if they have a build currently on the go, and go along and see that. That way, you don’t just see a nice, tidy job, you can make sure everything behind the scenes is being done properly.”

However big your job is, doing your research, planning ahead, and finding the right people for the work will help you keep your 2017 resolutions.

 

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New Year’s Resolutions are always made with the greatest of intentions. Things always start so well; the gym gave you a ‘great discount’ in exchange for a 12 month iron-clad contract. You deleted the takeaway app, the fridge is full of fruit and vegetables and the drawer of ‘emergency’ fags and lighters has been disposed of.

Fast forward three weeks, and the wheels have fallen off your virtuous lifestyle. It began to unravel when you gave the gym a miss. Instead, you decided to pop down the pub last night. Now you’re slumped on the sofa gorging on pizza in the hope it will cure the 8 pints and pack of fags you swore you weren’t going to have.

Ok, maybe you’ve got slightly more willpower than me.

Nonetheless, the promise of a new year is a great time for reflection and planning. Rather than hackneyed resolutions, there are plenty of improvements you can make to your house that will have a lasting impact well beyond 2016. We asked some of our top tradespeople what home improvements they recommend this year.

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Increase your space with a loft conversion

Loft conversions are a great way to capitalise on the unused space in your home, according to Rae Mackay from RCM Carpentry. “Loft space can be converted in many ways, from a simple boarding out for storage through to a full bedroom and en-suite conversion.”

Loft work can happen all year round, so now is a good time to consider one. Start by consulting with a loft conversion specialist as planning permission is often unnecessary. “Dormer conversions are slightly different though, they often need planning.” says Rae, “They also expose your house, so you may need to get a tin roof to protect you from the rain if work starts in winter.”

Install an office in your back garden

Russell Tullis from RT Carpentry believes an outbuilding is a cost-effective way to increase space. “An external office is perfect for houses with bigger gardens and start from a couple of thousand, much cheaper than an extension”.

Spring is a very good time to start planning for this kind of project. “Moisture can be a problem if the outbuilding is made from wood. As the weather gets drier you can get installation and decoration done in a week or less”. Russell’s recent outbuilding projects have resulted in office space, additional storage and even a kids playroom.

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Extend your kitchen or family room

Extensions are a way to both create additional living space and add value to your home. “The current trend for growing families is to extend their kitchen or living area”, said Rae from RCM. “Bi-fold doors into the garden are very popular, on my last job I installed a 5 metre door, it took a look of effort but it looks great.”

Extensions are possible in all weather, though you might lose a few days here and there in the winter. “The perfect weather is dry and warm, but you don’t get much of that in the UK,” Rae joked. Opinions vary on whether to consult an architect or builder first, but Rae recommends getting him round initially. “A builder can tell you what is practically possible before the design stage begins. Some smaller extensions can even be done without plans if no planning permission is required, but we leave that up to the homeowner”.

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Make a new kitchen the hub of your home

Kitchens and bathrooms are the focal point of a home, especially if you are looking to sell in future. “A kitchen update can add a lot of value to a house”, says Russell from RT Carpentry. “Costs vary, an IKEA kitchen might cost a couple of thousand while high-end kitchens can cost upwards of £70k”.

Russell explained the latest trends he has seen when installing kitchens. “High gloss cabinets offer a very modern finish and are in demand, while wooden finished kitchens have fallen out of favour. Gloss finishes come in a variety of colours, I even installed some orange gloss cabinets last week!”

Change the layout by knocking through an interior wall

Remodelling the downstairs can drastically change the look of your house. “It’s important to consult with a structural engineer before you consider changing the layout”, says Charles from Bates Carpentry and Building. “For trickier jobs you might even have to engage an architect”.

“It’s common for clients to knock down the wall between the front and back room to create a through lounge. We charge around £2500-£3000 for that, including the electrics, plastering and carpentry”, said Charles. He’s also busy with bi-fold doors, “Clients like bringing the garden inside with a large opening on the rear of the house. It can be expensive, around £6000, but the results are stunning.”

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Just like everybody else, tradespeople like making new year’s resolutions too. January is a very active time for builders working from a clean slate, which means they have extra capacity to take on more work. This makes the New Year a great time to start your home improvement journey.

If you’d like to speak to knowledgeable tradespeople like the ones in this article, make sure to post a job on MyBuilder.

 

As business grows, many tradesmen make use of subcontractors to tackle bigger projects. But with your own reputation on the line, it’s easy to be reluctant to allow other people on your job. MyBuilder spoke to some tradesmen to find out the steps they take to ensure continued growth while keeping their reputation intact.

What are your views on subcontracting? Please leave your advice below.

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Trust is key

Finding the right subcontractor is all about trust; you need to know they are a professional who can complete the work in a timely and efficient manner. A lot of subcontracting work becomes available because it requires skills outside of your knowledge. For example, we often hear from carpenters who move into bathroom fitting, but need to employ a plumber and electrician to complete the project.

Sometimes you won’t be able to judge the quality of someone with a different trade from you. Employing someone just because they seem knowledgeable isn’t enough. You need to be sure they will reflect positively on you. You could say you are in a similar position to a customer when they hire a tradesman.

Finding the right subcontractors

Recommendation is a great start, but not always possible. Neil from NMW Building Services has two sons in the trade, so he’s confident of their skills. While he is in a fortunate position, you might not be able to judge the competency of someone you’ve met during the course of your travels.

Even if you know someone pretty well, it doesn’t hurt to ask them for qualifications. You know how important specialist knowledge is, especially for certifiable trades like electrical or gas work. The last thing you want is a gas cooker installed by somebody who isn’t Gas Safe!

You can also ask for references. This is something we recommend homeowners do. Anyone worth their salt will be only too happy to show off their previous work. While this may feel a bit uncomfortable, remember that you will ultimately be responsible for any job they do for you.

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Working together

Once the subcontractor is onboard make sure they know the ground rules. Do you hoover the house at the end of the day? They should know that. What’s the rules for using the loo? Enforce your rules in a tough but fair manner. Kerry Chapman, a MyBuilder roofer, operates a refereeing system. Two yellow cards or a straight red and his subbies are off the job.

You also need to keep up your communication with the homeowner. They want one key point of contact and that’s likely to be you. Too many cooks can derail a project so any projects decisions should be agreed between yourself and the homeowner. If a subbie wants to make changes, make sure you know about them beforehand.

It’s often the case that a plumber who has come in to help with the kitchen then gets asked to do additional work down the line. You need to make clear that you are not responsible for any ongoing relationship after your project is completed. That’s if you are happy for this to happen at all.

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Use MyBuilder

Finally, if you want some extra peace of mind why not hire through MyBuilder? A lot of tradesmen use the site because they trust the review system and enjoy the ability to leave feedback. MyBuilder tradesman Jack O’Riordan says, “I wouldn’t want to use someone from the yellow pages because it could make me look bad. If I use someone off MyBuilder there is accountability.”

There are many potential upsides to branching out into project work. More variation and the stability of long-term projects are just some of them. But bigger jobs come with bigger responsibility. Make sure you are confident with everybody who is working on your project. You never know, you might make a few new friends!

We’d really like to hear you experience of working with subcontractors. What are your tips for a good working relationship? 

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Read Related articles here: Finding the Right Builder

Last week I met with Russell Tullis, a carpenter from Nuneaton who is our tradesman of the month. Russell has been with the site for over six years and in that time has gained a mountain of feedback so positive that one client went as far as comparing him to Jesus!

Russell stands with a pergola completed for a client.

Russell stands with a pergola completed for a client.

Meeting our tradesman of the month

Russell began working as a carpenter in an accidental fashion after a neighbour was completing some work on a barn conversion. Back in 2006 he was working in transport but after a chance meeting with the foreman of his neighbours job, he found his calling. Russell went on to join MyBuilder in 2008 and has amassed 88 positive feedback comments from customers he has met on the site, so it was a pleasure to go and check out some of his work in person.

When I arrived, what really excited me about this property was not only the quality of the work, but the versatility that Russell had displayed on the numerous projects he had undertaken for the client. In the six short months after they had moved in Russell had knocked through their kitchen/diner, created a beautiful pergola and was now putting the finishing touches on a new summer house.

Russell enjoys being a tradesman because of the variety in each new job he takes on. Even if there are similarities, he still sees a challenge, ‘no two flooring or extension jobs are the same’. A lot of his success could be chalked down to his attention to detail, ‘I’m anal like that, someone might think some skirting looks OK from a few feet away but I want to make sure it’s perfect’.

Putting the finishing touches on a summer house.

Putting the finishing touches on a summer house.

Finding the right tradesman for your job

I asked him his advice on hiring the right tradesman for the job. He explained that he always paid a visit to the client before pricing up the job, this gives both parties a chance to get to know each other and build up some trust from the start. He also thinks it can save time, ‘often clients think they might need ten different people in when just a couple of tradesmen will suffice’.

When it comes to hiring the right tradesman, Russell trusts in online reviews. ‘MyBuilder feedback can only be given by customers who have previously hired a tradesman. Go and read the reviews before making a decision’.

I couldn’t help asking what the homeowner intended to do with the beautiful summer house that overlooked the Warwickshire countryside. He plans to put a 25 foot model railway in there, what a fantastic use of space!

MyBuilder has over 11,000 tradesmen like Russell who are ready to help you with your home improvement project. Visit the site to post your job for free today.

Check out Russell’s profile


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