The sins of scruffy homes

Taking care of your home can sometimes feel like the proverbial painting the Forth Bridge. There are always a hundred things to take care of, and just when you’ve finished the last one, you can guarantee the first thing on the list will go wrong again.

No one wants to feel like their home is a ticking time bomb of potential problems, but the truth is most things have a built-in best before date. However, there’s no need to panic - as long as you educate yourself on what needs doing and when, you can make sure you stay on top of everything, and defuse the time bomb in plenty of time.

Carpets

There are beautiful handwoven rugs in museums around the world that have lasted hundreds of years, but when subjected to the normal stresses and strains of domestic life, our floor coverings aren’t quite as robust. A high-end carpet in a room without much traffic (like a guest bedroom) might give you 15 years of good service, but typically 10 is a good run, and under five is common in places where footfall is high, like hallways and living rooms.

There are three key things to look out for - stains, thinning and patchy underlay. Stains and other marks are common carpet killers, especially if you have kids, and while general cleaners or even specialist machines you can hire will hold back the tide, ultimately all carpets will start to show the ravages of time, particularly lighter colour carpets. It’s also easy to spot when carpets are getting thin - polyester and other synthetic carpets are particularly common for this, and there’s no real way to restore the pile once it’s worn away. Patchy underlay is something you can feel - where the floor feels slightly uneven or squashy. In that case, it might be possible just to replace the underlay, but in some instances it makes sense to replace the whole thing. An experienced carpet fitter will be able to install one quickly, and might even help you source the kind of carpet you want.

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Exterior paint

It can sometimes be hard to tell how fresh your home’s paint job is, until you see it compared to a freshly-painted version - and then it can seem like night and day. Exterior paint rarely looks good after 10 years, and is usually showing signs of age after five, with British weather taking its toll to discolour and damage our walls.

In some cases, a thorough power wash can give your paint a new lease of life, getting rid of any mould or vegetation that has started to wear away at the paint and restoring the original colour. Check for black marks, climbing plants, and any cracks or blisters to check on the condition of your paint. Be wary if there is extensive cracking or areas of flaking paint, as a power wash can end up doing more harm than good to the paint and the underlying render.

If a power wash struggles to get your whites white, or reveals deeper issues with the paintwork, then it’s probably time to hire a painter and decorator to resurrect your exterior with a couple of new coats. Preparation is key, making sure the surface is clean and ready and checking that the render itself is in good order, to ensure the new paint takes and looks good for years to come.

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Windows

It might come as a surprise when thinking about how seemingly indestructible plastic is, but timber-framed windows can actually last more than twice as long as uPVC equivalents.

In the right conditions, uPVC windows can last for 30 years before they need replacing, though often this is typically closer to 20, particularly for south-facing windows which deal with more direct sunlight. However, good quality hardwood windows can last for 60 years, meaning it’s a job you might only ever have to do once - but the key is maintenance. You have to be vigilant to any signs of decay or damage which can affect the integrity of the frame. Look out for damp or soft spots, or where the wood is coming away, and check the panes themselves - cracks in the glass, or condensation between the layers can indicate that the seal has perished, damaging its insulating properties. In this case you may just be able to replace the glass, further extending the life of the window. Good quality paint and varnish will help keep the windows in good nick for decades to come, but a window fitter can make sure yours are built to last.

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Boiler

Modern boilers should last for between 10 and 15 years, but as with so many household features, the key is maintenance.

Your boiler should be inspected by a Gas Safe Registered engineer once a year to ensure it’s working properly. They will check it is working cleanly and efficiently, and can make sure there are no underlying problems with the gas flow, the water supply or the flue, such as leaks or blockages. If they find an issue, they can usually handle it relatively simply, either with replacing a part or with a process like a power flush which can clear sludge and debris from the heating system.

In between inspections, you should keep an eye on your boiler for any warning signs of ill health. Things to look out for include odd noises such as knocking or banging, any drips or leaks, and if there any drops in pressure. Modern boilers are designed to be simple to use and efficient and cheap to run, so problems should be few and far between, but like with all things, prevention is better - and cheaper - than the cure, so find a gas engineer who can help.

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