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Handy tips for guest-proofing your home ahead of Christmas

Created: 17/12/2015

The festive season is a time for connecting with friends you may have lost contact with over the last year or with those new faces in your life. With your house decorated to the nines for Christmas, opening your home to your nearest and dearest is a likely occurrence and whatever challenges this may bring with it, with a little prior planning you can ensure your house withstands the onslaught of winter visitors.

 

Windows

 

Before they’ve even entered your humble abode, you can rest assured that guests, Christmas carollers and just about anyone calling at your front door over the festive period has clocked the smears and smudges on your windows. First impressions count and even if your store cupboard is overrun with figgy pudding and the like, everyone has these simple ingredients that double up as the perfect emergency glass cleaner.

 

Simply mix 100 millilitres of vinegar with a teaspoon of washing up liquid, then add to 4 litres of warm water, and you’ll have your very own DIY window scrubbing solution. Of course, it’s not quite as crafty as the glittery cards your children have been working on but those windows are sure to sparkle in their own right. If you really want to impress this year, call in the professionals. A local handyman service will be able to spruce up those rotten frames or install that double glazing before your wish list has even reached the North Pole.

 

Bathroom

 

It’s the time of the year when your neglected guest bathroom is likely to actually see some action. Avoid calling out the plumber on Boxing Day by planning ahead, after all, prevention is the best cure. Get those drains unblocked and clear well before the first well-wisher arrives. You can find a good quality drain unclogging product at any hardware shop and almost all household aisles in supermarkets will stock a small selection.

 

Stains

 

Adults, much like children, tend to get a little too enthusiastic around the festive period. If one of your guests has enjoyed a little too much merriment and managed to spill their mulled wine all over the carpet in the process, never fear! Have a pre-prepared bottle of homemade stain remover at the ready. Soda water and any foam shaving cream come together to fight all manner of food and drink mishaps so your carpets stay as clear as the white winter you dreamed about, but have yet to receive again this year. If nothing else, this handy tip finally gives you a valid opportunity to say “here’s one I made earlier”.

 

These tips can just about keep your home sweet home in one piece as the guests plough through your front door this Christmas but if you’re planning a little more than basic maintenance, now is the time to plan your New Year’s renovation. As with all important undertakings, a good place to start is by asking the experts. There are numerous handyman services in London that can help with the major remodelling work in January, whilst you concentrate on damage control over Christmas.

 

Image Credit: Chris_J (flickr.com)

 



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Alternative heat systems to help you enjoy winter

Created: 02/12/2015

Especially after the recent snows and freezing temperatures have swept through the UK, the efficiency and effectiveness of your home heating system is critically important. With Christmas just around the corner, the joy of the season often depends on the warmth of your family AND your home.

There are several ways to ensure a warm house – from updating the efficiency of your current system to changing over to alternative or new money-saving home heating technology. To find out what is the best option, as a knowledgeable and experienced handyman in south London and throughout the capital, we can offer you advice for the best options for you and your home.

Regardless of your heating fuel source, the state of your boiler is a key factor in your ability to heat the house. A modern boiler could shave hundreds off your heating bill, but can cost thousands to install so there needs to be a middle ground. As fuel prices – heating oil, natural gas and electricity – fluctuate, you need to be more efficient in when the heat is on. Installing a new, modern thermostat and controls may be a cheaper option and can save some money in the long run.

With high oil, gas and electricity prices always changing, it’s important that we heat our homes in the most efficient way. Using less energy is the best way to cut your bills, but this doesn't mean having to live in a cold, dark home.

Another heating option is the use of alternative energy and heat sources. Many of these systems use modern technology and often are “greener” types of energy. New ways to heat your home are by using wood burning stoves, solar water heating systems, or biomass boilers.

Wood heating

Wood is carbon neutral as it expels as much CO2 as it takes in when growing as trees. In many homes, wood burning stoves are used as secondary or primary heating systems. Unlike fireplaces or traditional hearths, a wood-burning stove uses a self-contained chimney, and can be used to heat water as well.

The Stove Industry Alliance (SIA) estimates that wood logs produce 0.008kg of CO2 per kWh, compared to 0.198kg for gas and 0.517kg for electricity. Stoves are more efficient than many other types of standalone room heaters. According to the SIA, an open fire has the efficiency of around 32%, and a gas fire in the region of 55%. Stoves, on the other hand, have efficiency ratings of between 60% and 80%.

If you have a thermostat in the room where a stove is installed, then your central heating will turn off sooner as the stove heats the room - saving you money overall. Besides, especially at Christmastime, there is something calming and soothing about being kept warm by a roaring, crackling fire. 

wood burning fire

Solar Heating Systems

Solar water heating systems, or 'solar thermal' systems, use the heat from the sun to heat your home’s water supply. These heating systems use solar panels – called collectors that are fitted to your roof. Using heat from the sun, they convert the energy to heat up water stored in a hot water tank. That hot water can then be used for radiator heating or for domestic hygiene use.

There are a number of benefits to solar water heating: it can provide you with hot water for washing and cleaning throughout the year – not just when it is cold out. Additionally, solar energy offers reduced energy bills. Sunlight is free, so once you've paid for the initial installation, you should see a reduction in your overall heating and energy costs.

Solar energy offers a considerably lower carbon footprint. The energy is green, and is the foundation for a renewable heating system. And because it aids in reducing your carbon dioxide emissions, the government continues to support its use by the public through the Renewable Heat Incentive.

solar roof panels

Biomass Fuel Technology

Biomass systems burn specially made wood pellets and chips – often processed from recycled or reclaimed wood materials. Through specially built stoves, biomass systems provide warmth in a single room or can generate enough energy to power a central heating and hot water boilers.

According to estimates by the Energy Savings Trust, a wood-fuelled biomass boiler may be able to save you up to £880 a year compared to traditional electric heating systems. There are a variety of benefits to biomass heating: they are supported by affordable heating fuel, there may be government support in outfitting your home from the Renewable Heat Incentive, and it is a lower carbon emission fuel. The process is sustainable as long as new plants continue to grow in place of those used for fuel.

biomass chips

Although the price of wood fuel varies considerably, it is often cheaper than other heating options.

Image Credit: terren in VirginialamcopphisMarufishOregon Department of Forestry (flickr.com)

 



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Time reports ways to save on home repairs

Created: 13/11/2015

If you’re a homeowner, it can often feel like you’re spending endless amounts of money on repairs and replacements, especially for those who aren’t living in a relatively new build. However, news website Time suggests that many of these outgoings can be avoided, or reduced, and shares simple tips in this article to help you save money, some of which are also detailed below.

Off-season repairs

Certain jobs will be more prevalent at different times of year, so one piece of advice would be to think in advance and choose an off-peak time to have your repairs done. For example, gutter clearing is particularly in demand during the autumn and winter months, so why not organise to have this completed in the summer? This way, you may be able to get a reduction in the cost during the slow season.

Buy materials

If you do need to hire a handyman in south London, then a great way to save money is by purchasing the materials separately and asking a professional to simply carry out the work. You can always ask for a list of the materials needed, which most will be happy to provide, and then you will be able to choose particular colours and styles to your tastes too. However, it may be worth asking the contractor about material costs, just in case they are able to get discounts and purchase the products for a cheaper price.

Upkeep maintenance

Rather than letting a small issue become a larger problem, which will no doubt be more costly, get it fixed as soon as possible. You should also carry out routine maintenance and deep clean as often as possible, as this will help systems and appliances in your home last for much longer. For example, change the filter on your furnace in order to keep it in a good condition, especially when it is in more use during the winter.

Image Credit: Tax Credits (flickr.com)



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Rise in female manual trade workers

Created: 09/11/2015

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics show that women made up just 20 per cent of the workforce in 2014, although this is predicted to change in the near future.

By 2020, it is predicted that a quarter of manual trade workers such as a handyperson in London will be women, which will be significant progress for the construction industry as it has been predominantly male in the past. The manual trades have seen an increase in the past year, with women now accounting for six per cent of the total workforce, which is a very encouraging figure for those who may have considered a similar role. Certain colleges such as Bournemouth and Poole have also reported a 30 per cent increase in women signing up for painting and decorating courses.

Many more talented women are entering the construction industry

Experts have suggested that this is a great time for women to get on board with manual trade careers, with the number of construction and house-building companies on the up following the cash-strapped times of the recession. This means that the demand for painters and decorators is also likely to rise, meaning more job opportunities for female skilled workers. This evolution of working demographics has been extremely positive and has demonstrated the benefits of opening up male-dominated fields of work for women.

Sandie Webster, a recently qualified level three painter and decorator, told professional painting tools supplier Purdy: “It is important for any women who are training to be decorators to believe in themselves and their ability. It is vital to persevere with people, always be determined and treat every job as if it is your first. There will be times where you will receive negative comments, but just laugh off the banter and prove that you are equal, if not better. Confidence is key.”



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Keep the cold out of your house this winter

Created: 29/10/2015

It’s that time of year again. We’ve got some ideas to protect your home during the winter months, and maybe save a few quid at the same time.

There are a number of easy tricks to spruce up your home for the winter. Some easy things include a new coat of paint to seal your walls, insulation wrap for your windows, or portable, hand-crafted draught excluders for your door frames.

But if you are feeling a bit more ambitious this year, there are a number of projects that can yield a major difference in how your home reacts to the colder temperatures. Some of these tactics can be completed with some focused weekend DIY. If you aren’t comfortable, however, call a licensed and experienced London handyman to get the job done for you.

winter in London

Filling cavity walls with insulation

If built between the early 1930s and 1982, most likely you have cavity walls. By filling these cavities with insulation, you can help stop the inside heat from being lost. According to estimates from British Gas, filling the gaps can save up to as much as £160 each year on your energy bills. As much as 35 percent of your home’s heat can be lost through un-insulated walls.

In the process, insulation is blown into the wall cavity from the outside of your property. Holes are drilled holes from outside, allowing a variety of materials to be pumped into the cavity. The most common types of insulation are mineral wool, polystyrene beads or foam. When the cavities are filled, the holes are then repaired with materials that match your house’s exterior facade.

There are a number of companies that will hire equipment to complete the process. Additionally, there are a number of available grants to help pay for insulation. 

cavity wall insulation

Extensive draught-proofing

The long hand-sewn tube of sand at the bottom of the door is a good start, but there are a number of products that can help you greatly reduce draughts in your homes. Done properly, you can see a great deal of savings on your energy bills.

For practical purposes, draught-proofing should include the sealing of windows, doors, loft hatches and any pipework that leads outside. Letterboxes and any entrance furniture that allow air in should also be addressed. There are self-adhering products that attach to windows and sills. There are also permanent products that can be installed to the lower thresholds of your doors.

For exterior pipes, special crack filling products can be used. Often they are expanding foam that you spray in and around the pipe to create a draught-free seal. For very little effort and expense, reducing draughts can greatly improve your comfort this winter.

holes around pipes

Upgrade your heating system

If you have a boiler that does its job, and your radiators warm the house, then you are more than halfway there. If you have sealed the drafts, installed a bit more insulation, you are doing even better. The last key to making sure your home is winter ready is to ensure your thermostat is up to the task of maintaining the system.

If you have an outdated thermostat – one that's not used to accurately regulating the internal temperature – your heating system may turn on every five to 10 minutes because it cannot keep an accurate temperature.

Additionally, with so many technological advances and the coming of the “smart home”, installation of new hi-tech heating controls could be the right choice for you. Recently, Tech Advisor took a look at the most popular and forward-thinking heating systems on the market today. With automation, you may find savings through more efficient scheduling of when your boiler is running, and not running.

thermostat

Image Credit: Damian CugleyMetro CentricMok9[a.d.]Antonio Silveira



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Survey reveals Britons would rather hire a handyman than do DIY

Created: 29/10/2015

A recent survey commissioned by Swinton Insurance has discovered that more than half of Britons don’t feel brave enough to carry out minor repairs in their homes.

Just 49 per cent felt confident enough to put up a shelf, with the average person spending £300 on jobs that they could have done themselves. One in six would be happy to unblock a drain, while only 35 per cent of the 2,000 people surveyed would have a go at fixing a leaking tap.

Tradesmen such as plumbers in Beckenham have agreed with the view that people are shying away from DIY, with eight in ten suggesting that Britons are too quick to ask for help fixing something that they could complete themselves.

 

Basic property repair skills appear to be diminishing

Mark Hallam, head of products at Swinton Insurance, told This Is Money: “The findings make it clear that much more needs to be done to educate Britons on basic DIY. It's absurd that we spend hundreds of pounds on odd jobs we could do ourselves, particularly when family budgets continue to be stretched.”

While DIY can offer a cheap solution, it is not always the best option, as a botched job can cause much damage and end up being more expensive in the long run. Tradesmen believe that they spend at least two hours a day repairing DIY jobs that have gone wrong, with the most common call outs regarding changing a fuse.

Hallam agreed with this statement, and said: “Of course, the need for professionals is always going to exist, and there are some tasks only experts should handle, especially complicated electrical and plumbing jobs.”

Britons also admitted that they will leave issues such as squeaky floorboards and flushing radiators until they become a problem and require the help of a professional.

Image Credit: Mark Hunter (flickr.com)



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Scientists develop chameleon-like house paint

Created: 16/10/2015

Chinese scientists have developed a new paint that is able to change colour in a variety of ways. The paint uses nano-sized cells, which can be controlled to inflate or deflate in order to detect visible light at different wavelengths. This generates different colours, causing the chameleon-like effect.

The invention may be the solution to arguments caused about colour schemes within the home, and can also help to alter the moods of those in the room. It is hoped that the colour of the paint will be able to be changed by using a smart phone in the future, which is a feature sure to be welcomed by many.

Chameleon paint has generated enormous interest

There are currently three different ways to change the colouring of the paint, using electricity, water and temperature. The first works by applying a small current to the metal core of the nano cells, which gives the metal a positive charge and pulls the cell’s crystalline shell inward. Then, when natural light hits the nano cells, the human eye sees different colours depending on the wavelength.

Spraying water on the painted walls will also cause a chemical reaction, with the most natural being a simple change in the warmth of the room. This may be a preferable method, as the paint will be able to alter according to the seasons, which many decorating fanatics already aspire to achieve.

Disappointingly, the scientists suggested that the biggest challenge would be manufacturing the tiny cells, which are only several hundredths the diameter of a typical human hair. Currently, the scientists are able to produce approximately 30 litres of paint per day, with estimates that the paint will hit shelves within three years.

However, in the meantime, why not call on painters and decorators in Dulwich to revamp your home with warm hues to match the autumn season?

Image Credit: Umberto Salvagnin (flickr.com)



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Royal Princes pitch in to renovate homes for soldiers

Created: 30/09/2015

Princes William and Harry rolled up their shirtsleeves to help reclaim and rebuild the homes of military families in Manchester. As part of the television program DIY SOS they donned hard hats and work boots to help those in need.

The brothers were joined by Nick Knowles and the BBC's DIY SOS team of builders for the project. There are also hundreds of volunteers trying to make a difference in the big construction project. Called the team's "most ambitious" project so far, they will renovate eight buildings. They will also refurbish the facades of 62 additional houses in an effort to help create a new mixed community.

Resident John Wilkinson, 58, told the BBC he thought the visit from the royal brothers was "brilliant". But, he was a little concerned his wife might be smitten with the two.

"They were gentlemen,” he said. “They were flirting with Margaret more than anyone else. She was well chuffed with Harry. I think she is going to leave me."

Wilkinson has lived on Canada Street in Newton Heath for 28 years. The project will keep his house from being demolished.

"Hopefully this is the catalyst across the country to do something for all our soldiers and families,” he said. “There is no reason for our soldiers to be living on the streets, they can come and form a nice community here."

 

The plan is for the entire street to be rejuvenated for ex-service personnel. William and Harry said they are hoping to draw attention to the difficulty former military personnel face to make the transition back to civilian life. When leaving the military, some former soldiers are dealing with injuries, mental or physical challenges.

The redevelopment in Manchester will see a support centre built on the street. The centre will be operated jointly by Walking With The Wounded and the Royal British Legion. Both organisations try to assist ex-servicemen and women with retraining and on-site support. 

For all homeowners, a successful DIY project can help restore their pride of ownership. But, for many of us, DIY may seem daunting or intimidating. For advice on assistance with any home construction job, there are a number of handyman services in London that can help give your project a boost.

Image Credit: WHALEN JACK (flickr.com)



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When to leave DIY to the experts

Created: 30/09/2015

For many of us, DIY is one of the best ways to show pride in our home. Building improvements, one-of-a-kind installations, and the chance to work with amazing power tools all lure us in during the weekend and our inner builders itch to get out.

While DIY can be a fruitful and great experience, there are some projects that should be left to experienced professionals. There is nothing sourer than the failed attempt – and wasted expense – of projects gone wrong. More importantly, there are several projects that require specialised safety equipment, local planning permission, or both.

If you are not sure when you need to call on professional handyman services, here is our list of projects where it may be best to leave them to the experts:

Tree removal

It may seem simple enough, but if the tree is large, or too tall, failure in the act of cutting it down may have dire consequences. Cutting down trees, even removing unruly or dead branches, requires an element of climbing and working with specialist tools. There are dangers in working from high heights without the proper safety gear. Additionally, experienced tree removal experts can help you avoid damage to you house, underground or overhead utilities, and in some cases, your neighbours’ homes. 

tree cutting

Electrical Work

For legal and safety reasons, most electrical work should be left to a licensed professional. Beyond just blown fuses, the power balance in your home should be maintained at all times. It's one thing to flip a fuse switch to the power in your home on or off, but it is another thing to attempt to repair faulty wiring or any other electrical issues without professional help. Moreover, it can cause more damage than help. Live electrical wires can have lethal consequences if not properly worked on by a professional.

electrical work

Home additions or major structural changes

A bit of demolition is always fine. A couple of swings with a sledge and all of a sudden two small rooms are transformed into one big room. But there are a number reasons why this should be handed over to a professional. Inside your walls, there could be electrics, gas pipes or plumbing. There are also structural concerns like load-bearing walls and potentially breaking the local building code.

structural changes

Your driveway

Many of us have been tempted to re-vamp or improve our driveways. From concrete pours, new tarmac or complicated paving stones – driveway projects may seem simple. But they often are not. Installation, drainage and surface requirements can all lead to your new driveway becoming a disaster. Trained professionals will definitely lower project time and cost of this project.

driveway repairs

Plumbing Repair

Clogged toilets and drains and maybe replacing an odd gasket or two are fine – but plumbing is a skill best left to trained professionals. Improper or faulty work could cause hidden problems that won’t necessarily make themselves known until the wrong and more expensive time in the future. Additionally, there are building codes to adhere to when working with plumbing systems. From replacing burst pipes to changing hardware, a lack of plumbing experience can be a recipe for disaster. Pay the professional now so you don’t have to pay even more later.

plumbing

Installing Cladding

If done properly, vinyl cladding or other materials can greatly increase the aesthetic of any home, and it can last for years. But, if moisture or improper installation occurs, eventually your choice of DIY will have expensive consequences. It could lead to structural damages to your house’s frame, or be detrimental to the foundation. Rather than taking the chance of severely damaging your home, it is safer to have a professional install your new cladding properly.

installing cladding

Creating an Outdoor Kitchen

With a fantastic gas-supplied cooking area, maybe a fire pit, and some lovely stone work, a well-designed back garden cooking area can become a showpiece for your home. But with needed plumbing, gas line installation and possibly planning permission, your dream set-up could quickly turn into a nightmare. So, if you have your heart set on a back garden kitchen, make sure to call a pro.

back garden kitchen

Responsible and skilled professionals are always available to help you with your home improvement needs. For exceptional handyman services in South London and the surrounding areas, contact us today.

Image Credit: Paul SteinhauserCoCreatrBengt NymanJocelyn KinghornEli DukeSludge GGreen Impressions (flickr.com)



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Product Review: Purdy Marathon™ Roller and Revolution Frame

Created: 14/09/2015

For a recent painting and decorating project we used some specialist painting tools by Purdy for the first time. We give you our verdict on how we got on with some of their most popular tools and whether or not we would use them again.

The task

Our painters and decorators in Dulwich recently transformed a spare room from a “dumping ground” to an attractive spare bedroom that guests would love to stay in. The room had a “dark and characterless” feel to it, with the magnolia walls and dark furniture making the space feel uninviting. The existing walls were smooth and simply needed to be painted.

The products

The decorating tools used were the Purdy Revolution Frame together with the Marathon™ Roller. At the customer’s request, Wilko Silk Emulsion in Stardust and Moonlight White were used.

Purdy Marathon roller and frame

Getting the job done

Once the area had been cleared and the walls prepped for painting – a clean with sugar soap and the edges lined with painter’s tape – we first set to work on the three white walls. After cutting in about 3 inches, the Marathon™ roller was attached to the frame and the paint poured into a suitable container. The first impression of the frame was that the handle was exceptionally comfortable, but did not compromise on grip. The roller itself looked to be of good quality in comparison to previous standard quality rollers used.

After loading up the paint, it provided excellent coverage and no dripping when a large amount of paint was applied. The finish was smooth and colour was spread evenly. There was very little wastage, with two coats on all three walls achieved with only one pot of paint.

The feature wall in Stardust needed three coats to achieve an even look across the whole wall, but again the roller and frame worked very well. The roller was as good as ever on its second day of use, and the comfortable grip of the frame’s handle meant that there were no sore hands at the end of the job, unlike with previous wooden handles we have used. No blisters here!

Clean up was very easy. The roller came off the frame without too much trouble. Cleaning ready for the next day was very straightforward – the paint came off the frame easily and the roller just needed a good dousing of warm running water.

The result

Without changing the furniture at all, the room has an airy and welcoming feel to it. The furniture even complements the room despite being a bit of a mishmash of styles, as the colour of the room provides the perfect background for it to work.

Spare room before and after

Spare room - before and after 2

Verdict: we will certainly use Purdy’s products again. As well as delivering an excellent finish that impressed, they were comfortable and easy to use. ‘Professional’ is very much a word we would use to describe these painting tools.



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