Extending Your Home With A Conservatory

The advantages and considerations of this popular home improvement

Adding a conservatory to a property is commonly recognised as a worthwhile home improvement from the points of view of adding to the enjoyment and comfort of your home and increasing its value. The advances in conservatory construction and glazing options means the days of a basic structure ‘bolted on’ to a property and only useable on warm days are long gone.

Enhancing value

The Office of National Statistics say we spend over £30 billion a year on home improvements, and when the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) surveyed its members to find out what home improvements added most value to a property, a conservatory was in the top four.

Generally, property commentators and professionals say a well designed and constructed conservatory can add between five and ten percent to the value of a property. The ‘well designed and constructed’ part is vital; a basic ‘one size fits all’ design that doesn’t complement the property could actually put potential buyers off.

Having one designed and built by experts such as Yorkshire based Caulfield Conservatories gives you plenty of design options and the ability to have a conservatory tailor made to your needs and to blend in with the property and surrounding land such as the garden.

On that point, be careful of impinging too much into the garden area. Good sized gardens are a big draw for potential buyers, so don’t let your new conservatory eat up too much of this space.

Improving your living environment

A new conservatory can add a new dimension to your property in terms of adding extra space, extra light, improving ambience and making more of your garden.

Extra space

A conservatory can compensate for lack of space or a need to create some for a specific purpose. For example, if someone works from home a conservatory can make for a pleasant working area with natural light – maybe year round if the area is heated.

Some use the conservatory as a dining area – especially pleasant on warmer evenings.

The conservatory can act as a general ‘den’ area for children and adults alike; the flexibility of using tablets, computers and other devices on wi-fi makes this option even more appealing.

Extra light and improved ambience

By using the same flooring as the room that gives onto the conservatory, it can form part of an integral space that draws the eye giving the impression of a larger overall area.

Conservatories make the most of natural light so yours could make a previously darker area of your home lighter and airier – and making more of natural sunlight makes a space far more pleasant to spend time in. In certain acute cases of ‘dinginess’ you may even find you require electric lighting less often.

Make more of your garden

Conservatories are often used to make a natural segue from living to garden space as opposed to the definite boundaries when one isn’t present. Careful conservatory and maybe garden design means the garden can ‘meet’ the conservatory so you feel like you’re in the garden when you’re inside the conservatory. Large glass areas with the minimum of framing – possible thanks to advanced design and construction techniques – can really enhance the feeling of the garden surrounding you.

Choose carefully

Consider your property type and style and how much of your garden or the land you can ‘give up’ for a conservatory. Ensure you choose a reputable and experienced conservatory company; a good outfit can help design and construct one that blends in with your property and enhances its value.

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Health and Safety For Kitchen Fitters

The average kitchen is filled with numerous hazards that may go unnoticed until an accident happens. That’s why if you work as a kitchen fitter, it’s important to control the risks and hazards around you.

Lifting and using heavy objects

Kitchen fitters are used to carrying heavy objects in the workplace, whether it be tools, equipment or materials for the job. Granite worktops are a popular choice when it comes to having kitchen worktops replaced for example, so it’s important to know how to lift a heavy object properly.

The correct lifting technique is to keep a wide base of support and squat down, bending at the hips and knees only. It’s important to keep a good posture and slowly lift the object by straightening your hips and knees. It’s important to keep the object you’re lifting as close to you as possible. Change direction with small steps and be careful to set down slowly.

There are plenty of high performance back supports on the market that can help you with your posture and reduce the risk of causing injury or harm to yourself.

Using and storing power tools correctly

It may seem like common knowledge, but it’s important to ensure all power tools and equipment are stored safely when not in use. Ensure protective guards are on and that everything is unplugged. Take each job one by one, don’t overload a plug with extension cables and extra plugs because this could damage the electrical system and even cause a fire.

It’s important to keep tools off the floor and to create a dedicated space where they can be kept whilst completing a kitchen job. To control the accumulation of dust on the tools, which is inevitable for kitchen fitters who are constantly cutting and fitting, it’s important to put them back in store. Otherwise, dust could ruin the motor of a machine and prevent it from working.

Safely dealing with water, electric and gas

Only trained and certified electricians and gas fitters are permitted to disconnect and reconnect the appliances. Any electrical work that is carried out in the kitchen is subject to Building Regulations.

To help reduce the risks presented by the use of gas in the workplace, it’s important that all new gas equipment is being supplied and fitted by a Gas Safe Register engineer. All gas appliances should have arranged regular servicing and it’s important that a kitchen is fitted in such a way that there is adequate airflow around gas appliances.

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Why Do Construction Companies Require Marine Plant?

Many cities in Britain have changed beyond recognition since the industrial revolution, leaving behind their industrial pasts and resulting in a greater demand for housing for the continually growing populations.

As a result, this has required the regeneration of many inner city areas close to the rivers and waterways which can often be challenging locations for construction companies to operate in. To meet the increased demand for housing and infrastructure projects, marine plant such as barges, have become more important to the construction industry in providing over-water access to otherwise hard to reach areas of our cities.

Marine plant hire has become crucial to many construction companies to support the delivery of their projects, barges are used for a variety of tasks throughout the project from the initial site investigation works, overwater piling, personnel access, crane platforms and materials delivery.

Transporting equipment and material by river or sea reduces the construction traffic to many of the project sites, which reduces congestion and pollution in our busy cities. Supply barges are used on the River Thames to remove spoil materials from the many tunneling projects that are underway to discharge sites outside of London. This material is being used for regenerating wetlands and recreating saltmarshes for the wildlife along the Thames Estuary. The construction materials are then transported back up the river to the sites, this use of the river as a major transport route reduces thousands of HGV movements every year as the barges can carry hundreds of tons of material in a single movement

Jack up barges have legs which reach down to the sea or river bed so that the barge can be lifted out of the water. The platform is then stable, level and not affected by the tidal movement. A floating barge will move with the water and rise and fall with the tide. Jack up barges can also be used on the inland waterways where a stable fixed platform is required for projects where heavy lift cranes are required

At Battersea a 400t deck load jack-up barge was used to provide a stable working platform for a 160 tonne crane to complete the piling works, driving 28m long steel tubes into the riverbed. These piles will be used to hold the new pier extension in place at Battersea, which will allow TFL to operate improved riverboat transport links from the area into central London for commuters and tourists.

Marine plant hire is essential for projects such as these to solve the issues such as access, the lack of suitable shore side working compounds and to allow the safe delivery of many of these projects. Aside from jack-up barges, there is an extensive range marine plant that may also be used, flat top barges, jack-up barges, modular pontoons, workboats and various bespoke items of plant

Although ideal for coastal and city redevelopment, the versatility of marine plant means it is used in many different sectors from marine construction through to the offshore renewables industry, where it is used to service the operations and maintenance on the offshore wind farms.

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Efficient Electric Heaters Save Money

Consider Tubular Heaters as Affordable Alternative to Central Heating

If you have a smaller home, then tubular heating could save you a fortune in heating costs. Try one out from as little as half a pence per hour of warmth!

Recent stories in the media have warned homeowners about the rise of fuel costs in the coming months. Scottish Power, for instance, has announced that it will be increasing its standard domestic gas and electricity prices for 1.1 million customers from the end of March. This amounts to an average of 7.8% or £86 being added to the typical annual household fuel bill. The energy provider’s rival Npower also added an additional average of £109 to over 1.4 million homeowners recently.

Naturally, the companies are citing “rises in energy wholesale markets and compulsory non-energy costs” as legitimate reasons for the price hikes. However, this does little to ease the concerns of the average consumer, whose main concern is finding the money to keep their homes warm, particularly during some extremely cold winter periods.

Introducing Tubular Heating

While there is no denying that central heating is an efficient investment for many properties in the long term, some households may benefit from the use of tubular heating, particularly for short bursts of time. These convenient and reliable aluminium heaters offer a low-wattage output of around 150W per foot. They are typically wall-mounted and provide a steady background heat which make them ideal to use in smaller spaces. Tubular heaters can often be found in areas such as the garage, greenhouse, or behind appliances such as fridges or freezers that fail to operate if they are too cold. However, the economically-savvy are now realising that tubular heaters could be the perfect heating solution for those with smaller living quarters, such as a 1-bed flat, bungalow or studio apartment.

Prevent Allergies

Tubular heaters don’t tend to dry out the air in the same manner that central heating with convectional radiators do. This means that allergies such as eczema and asthma are less likely to occur if you use a tubular heater. Similarly, the latter are excellent at de-misting windows and preventing mould and dust mites from forming within the home. A lack of these also contribute to less likelihood of allergy triggers.

Cost of Tubular Heating

Depending on the energy charge which is being used, it is possible to heat your room up from as little as half a pence per hour when using electric tube heaters. In comparison, central heating prices vary, but Which estimates that the average household in the UK spends around £609 on it per year, so going tubular could save you a fortune in heating costs.

If your property doesn’t yet have central heating, then it can be an expensive commodity to install, often setting homeowners back somewhere in the region of £3000-4000 for labour, a gas boiler, radiator parts and pipework supply. If the property has not yet been connected to the gas mains, then this will be an additional cost.

Instead, you could trial using a tubular heater, or even a set of them in various rooms in your home for as little as £16.34 per appliance. Safety guards are also available as an accessory to protect you from the direct heat source. Why not try one out today and see how much money you could save on your fuel bill next winter?

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Maintain a Safe Building Site

It’s important to maintain a safe working environment to ensure there are no hazards or potential accidents waiting to happen. Tidying up a building site is often a job that is left to the end of the day, but this shouldn’t be the case as it just means you are exposing yourself and others to hazards all day.

So with this in mind, here are 10 good housekeeping rules for a tidy site. With these implemented, you should see a reduction in accidents and near misses to your workforce. It is important to make all workers onsite aware of the safety rules, so after you find local tradesmen, be sure to run a health and safety induction for all site workers.

Designate an area for rubbish and waste and store materials safely

Create an area where all the rubbish and waste can go, whether it be a designated skip or other waste disposal bin. It’s a good idea to segregate the waste types for reuse, recycle and landfill. Making it a lot easier to sort out at the end of the week!

Materials and tools need to be stored safely to prevent any crushing injuries or damage to property. Poorly stacked materials can also block access routes and pathways, making it a hazard for people working around them.

Maintain a safe work area and keep access routes clear

Throughout the day, make sure to check the work area and clear up as you go along.  If trip hazards and mess is starting to build up, it’s better to sort it out sooner rather than later before any accidents happen.

A safe work area means it is easily accessible and easy to get out of. Ensure materials, tools and benches are stored away from gangways and corridors. Having these tools blocking corridors could impede someone’s escape route or be a trip hazard.

It would be worthwhile to hire Euromats for your building site as they can help protect work areas and roads from heavy vehicles. They’re also good to use as pedestrian surfaces on construction sites.

Put tools away once the job is done and set a tidy example

Put away any tools or equipment that aren’t being used. It’s easy to leave tools lying around because you’re moving from job to job, but it’s important to put them away so they aren’t a hazard to yourself and your colleagues.

Take responsibility for the whole workforce; if you see something laying around be sure to move it to a safe place. Leaving tools laying around on the floor and stairways will only cause people to trip and fall. Don’t wait for someone else to move it!

If it’s broken, fix it

It’s important to ensure things are in good working order on the site. Damaged tools or equipment must be taken out of use immediately and steps must be taken to either throw it away or have it repaired.

Tidy up trailing leads and cables

Leads and cables from equipment are the most common trip hazards, especially when using portable equipment. You may not have a socket close in the working area, but it’s important to make sure the lead is away from walkways or access points.

Avoid fire risks

It’s important to make sure waste and materials are stored as far away as possible from fire escapes, in the case of an emergency. Make sure waste material is stored away from sources of ignition to avoid any fires from breaking out. If all waste is regularly collected and put into a skip or bin, in the event of a fire, the danger is then confined and more easily dealt with.

Make others aware

It’s important that everyone gets involved in keeping the work area tidy, and that requires commitment from everyone. Get everyone practising good housekeeping techniques and your workforce will be on their way to a tidy and safe site for everyone.

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Selling Your House? Be Sure Building Work Was Signed Off

Have the Right Approvals in Place to Avoid a House Sale Disaster

Selling your house is stressful enough without finding out that the whole deal could fall through because you are missing a crucial piece of paper.

Anyone who has bought or sold a house will know about the seemingly limitless forms, reports and sundry pieces of information that conveyancing solicitors demand. Often, they seem to ask for them moments before exchange of contracts, and invariably the one piece that is missing is the one that could make or break the deal.

This is why Balgores Estate Agents urges every one of their property sellers to make sure they have the right paperwork for any and all building work that has been carried out the moment they list their property for sale.

Planning consent

The majority of major alterations require planning consent from the local authority, and if you have had any such work done on your property, prospective buyers will, of course, want to see that it was approved correctly.

If the consent documents are lost, you can usually get a copy from the local council for a nominal administration fee, but it is better to do this as early as possible. The last thing you need is the added worry of furiously trying to get hold of a piece of paper at the eleventh hour in order to exchange contracts.

Building regulations

Even if building works or improvements did not require planning permission, they will still need building regulations approval. This is a certificate stating that the work meets the essential safety regulation laid down by the government.

The Competent Persons Scheme allows authorised individuals (such as builders, plumbers and electricians) to sign off their own work. This means that when they finish the job, they issue a Completion Certificate, confirming that the work complies with the applicable regulations.

It is important to hang on to these Certificates, as copies are not held by the local authority.

Missing approvals

If you are missing any of the necessary approvals, there are a number of steps you can take. Firstly, it is important to discuss the problem with your solicitor as early as possible, so that any potential issues can be ironed out before they can endanger the sale.

Where a Building Regulations Certificate is missing, it might not be an issue if the work was carried out some time ago, as regulations have changed over the past 10-20 years.

If a certificate is definitely needed but not present, then it is impossible to get one retrospectively, as the building inspector would need to assess the work from the very beginning. In this situation, the best solution is to obtain building regulation indemnity insurance, which will pay out in the event that the works have not been carried out correctly. Cover is relatively inexpensive – a basic policy for a £500,000 house costs around £175.

Absent planning permission is potentially a bigger problem. If it emerges that your building work needed planning approval but was done without it, you should think twice before approaching the planning authorities retrospectively. Even a speculative telephone call could trigger an inspection and result in a demolition order, so speak to your solicitor before you do anything else.

Photo by Holland And Green Architectural Design via Flickr CC Licence.

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Safety Advice For Surveyors

Staying safe in various hazardous outdoor environments and weather

Construction is one of the most hazardous industries in terms of injuries and fatalities, and while land surveyors aren’t directly classified as construction workers, they’re often undertaking their duties in potentially dangerous situations. Construction areas, mines and working near busy roads are a few examples of the hazards surveyors often face.

Some basic safety procedures should be adopted to minimise the risk of accidents and injury when undertaking topographical surveys.

Construction site risks

Wherever building or construction of any sort is taking place, risks inevitably abound and it’s important to ensure safety.

The surveyor should ensure they’re briefed on any particular safety hazards and procedures existing in the construction area they’re working in. It’s not just the obvious such as heavy vehicular movement and possible falling objects, but also the importance of bearing in mind the possible need for hearing and eye protection.

The surveyor should ensure they’re equipped with basic safety wear such as high vis jackets, hard hats and safety footwear, whether or not the construction site provides them.

Unstable conditions

A surveyor may find themselves working on unstable areas including loose rocks and stone – especially dangerous if near an incline or sheer fall such as down a hillside. Slippery conditions such as near water need to be taken account of and protected against by using suitable footwear and maybe a safety harness.

Remote areas

Surveyors should ensure they’re fully equipped and prepared for work in remote locations where access to support could take time to reach.

For example, check vehicles are fit to undertake the journey and can easily be made roadworthy if problems occur; basics such as ensuring an inflated spare wheel is present and maybe a small tyre compressor is packed to deal with slow punctures. Along with one or two mobile phones (preferably on different networks just in case reception is poor for one of them) and in car chargers; Wilderness Scotland remind us that a fully charged battery is essential.

Ensure a sat nav and good paper map is included, and pack plenty of food and water. Non-perishable and easy to store foodstuffs such as energy bars are ideal.

Weather

It’s sometimes easy to forget how long surveyors may be out in various weather conditions, so preparation is key – maybe for various weather types bearing in mind the changeable nature of the UK climate.

Rain – durable waterproofs such as a good quality raincoat or waterproofs are a minimum along with plenty of cloths and towels to dry off and keep equipment dry.

Thunder and lightning – work should be suspended if thunder and lightning is present. Don’t shelter under a tree, and keep well away from equipment such as metal tripods as they can act as a lightning conductor.

Cold – several layers are the best way to stave off the colder weather, and something hot to drink is a good idea. If possible, taking breaks to warm up as extended periods in colder temperatures can affect performance and concentration can decline; especially dangerous if working in hazardous areas such as by a roadside.

Heat – keep covered without becoming uncomfortable. A brimmed hat and loose clothing will keep a surveyor outside in the sun as cool as possible; take plenty of water and keep hydrated – it’s easy to become dehydrated without realising it.

Don’t be tempted to skimp on safety; for example, don’t skip wearing the high vis jacket in the interests of wearing as little clothing as possible if working in a hazardous area. Use sunscreen and reapply at regular intervals to protect the skin against sun damage if out for an extended period.

Take plenty of breaks preferably in the shade – an outdoor umbrella could be a useful item to take along.

Insects and wildlife hazards

There could be a risk of bites, stings and more even if not surveying in a wildlife area such as a wood or forest. Wearing clothing that covers as much bare skin as possible is important even if a hot day makes it tempting to remove layers, and a basic first aid kit to treat insect bites is a worthwhile investment.

Traffic hazards

If working by roadsides, beware of traffic at close proximity possibly travelling at high speeds. High vis jackets are a minimum so motorists see the surveyor in good time, and ideally some signage warning approaching motorists that surveying is in progress ahead could be deployed.

Safety first

The main consideration for the surveyor is to prepare for the conditions and locations likely to be encountered. A suitable first aid kit appropriate to the circumstances should always feature in any planning.

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