With those chilly mornings and evenings drawing in, it can mean only one thing – the countdown to Christmas is on!
While the festive season is a great time to get together with friends and family, it can also be a stressful time. With so much to think about in terms of planning and preparation, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed.
Add to this, guests staying at your home for a couple of days and you have the recipe for a potentially stressful situation!
The key, of course, to a successful festive break is to get organised in plenty of time. While I can’t help you decide what to get your Great Aunt Alice this year, I can share some of my top tips for getting your home guest-ready.
If you do have guests coming to visit, the most important thing to consider is where they will sleep. Ideally this will be a room of their own. Not only will this give them a space of their own to escape to for some quiet time but will also be the perfect place to store all their luggage and gifts.
If your spare room is looking a little neglected, don’t panic! There is still plenty of time to get it ship-shape and in-law ready!
Of course in an ideal world, getting your home ready for guests would require little more than a clean and tidy. However many of you may be faced with a much larger project.
Firstly, if your spare room is a dumping ground then spend an afternoon sorting it out and store what you can in the loft space. Invest in some basic storage solutions such as lidded plastic boxes to neatly store and stack everything else away.
Once the space is tidy, you can see what you are working with. Firstly check the walls – are they in good repair? If the walls are papered and seen better days, you will need to strip them.
From here, assess the quality of the plaster. While it may seem like a big job, giving the walls a light skim will leave them looking smooth and fresh and offer the perfect base for painting.
Re-plastering the walls will require the skills of a professional plasterer, visit www.checkatrade.com to find a trusted and approved plasterer in your area.
Whether your walls need plastering or not, if the room has been left untouched for a while it will most likely require an update of the décor.
The easiest way to achieve this is with a coat of paint, while this is something a competent DIYer can do themselves. For those short on time or unwilling to tackle the project, a professional decorator can be called upon to paint walls, ceilings and woodwork to a high standard.
With the décor refreshed, you should next consider storage for the room. Not only will this make your guests stay more comfortable but it will be useful all-year round.
If your room is especially small or unusual in shape, consider inviting a joiner to design bespoke storage for the space.
With over 23,000 vetted tradespeople including plumbers, decorators and electricians, Checkatrade.com is the perfect place to start when it comes to getting your home ready in time for Christmas!
By Craig Phillips
This Friday (2nd September) two teams from Whiteboxvan.uk will begin their 2000-mile trip across Europe in cars they purchased for £250. They are hoping to raise £2000 for the Sussex Community foundation, a charity that helps fund community groups tackling deprivation and disadvantage.
Starting at Whitebox HQ in Lancing, West Sussex the two teams will be driving across Europe as economically as possible, time penalties will be added for every refuel. Using their skills to keep the fuel stops to a minimum, they will cover approx. 500 miles per day. First car back to HQ is the winner.
“It’s fantastic that companies like Whitebox are willing to give their time to help support the local community”. Miranda Kemp, Sussex Community Foundation.
The eco run will take place betw een Friday 2nd until Monday 5th September. To ensure that no one misses out on the action the whole event is to be filmed by Punchy Pictures. For more information about the Sussex Community Foundation see their website or view the interview. More information about the eco run is available via http://www.whiteboxuk.co.uk/eco-run-96-w.asp & https://localgiving.org/appeal/WhiteboxUK/
For further information, please contact [email protected]. 07818 414758.
Where to start? I recently spent a long weekend with family and part of it with friends, I have a huge family with 4 siblings 10 nieces and nephews along with an extended family of what feels like hundreds of Aunts, Uncles, cousins, second cousins, second cousins twice removed……….
When we were young I relished time with my family, we had similar interests, sense of humour and in the 70’s no digital games just a garden hose, jacks (someone will explain if you don’t know this) a tennis ball in a pair of my Mum’s stockings so we could play ‘my mother say’s (again ask someone)
Now as adults we all have different interests, ego’s, we live in a digital age that we all feel we must check constantly, we have our own family that are of course the best at everything in our eyes and we are happy to shoot anyone down who may think differently. Our children don’t have the same bond with their second cousins because we have all moved to different areas of the country and even different continents, this leads to stilted conversation sometimes, in particular various parts of the family have opted out of ‘normal civilisation’ and although the conversations about living off the land, being ecological and not having a carbon footprint all sound commendable the reality is limited chat, no common interest and a slight body odour emanating. We all say ‘I love my family to death but’ do we really mean this? I had a good think after and came to the resolution that I would hunt down and do bad things to anyone who hurt my family and I do love them but, I don’t want to spend too much time with them, we all gave the cordial, ‘we mustn’t leave it so long next time’ ‘let’s make a date’ but in reality I don’t feel we mean it and secretly we are all slightly relieved when we can go back to our own castles and slate everyone in private.
The next day I spent with my girlfriends, I literally spent the whole day in hysterics, belly laughing, looking at something inappropriate and knowing that they will also have clocked it and with one look doubled up without having to say a word. Finishing each other’s sentences, never tiring of talking about our past escapades and still finding them hysterical, knowing that bring a bottle always means two, that if my house isn’t spot on tidy no one is going to talk about it later and on the whole having the most brilliant day.
This leads me to the old analogy, ‘you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends’ True to a certain extent but, I am still fiercely proud of my slightly eccentric, eclectic, sometimes wholly inappropriate family and will keep in touch with them however, thankfully by good old Facebook where we can all hide behind our online persona, we can send the odd Happy Birthday or even just a smile.
Safe until the next family get together!
: a room or a space (as in a loft) designed according to the taste of the man of the house to be used as his personal area for hobbies and leisure activities
Step 1 – Choose your cave space
Not many of us have an actual cave to work with so explore your options. Have a spare bedroom or office space? How about an unused garage or loft space? Perhaps you could invest in a shed? Depending on what you want in your man cave, you may not need a huge space, somewhere snug with enough room to spin around with your arms outstretched may be sufficient! However, if your idea of a perfect man cave includes a full size pool table, a swinging hammock and a gym area you’re going to need a bit more space! Also consider that the more obscure, unused or ‘outdoorsy’ the space is, the more time and costs that will be involved in making it into an inhabitable space.
Step 2 – Consult your partner/housemates
If you find yourself wanting your own personal man cave then it’s likely you already live in a shared space. If so, you may want to consult the others living in the house! Be considerate… You may need to be prepared to compromise if you’re intending on making a man pad all of your own that no one else is permitted to enter without knowing the password, Morse code blinking sequence and the secret handshake.
Step 3 – Prepare the room
Once you’ve chosen your space, access its current condition.
If you’ve chosen a shed or a loft space for your man cave consider insulating, sound-proofing and wiring the space. Any good man cave will be dry, warm, have adequate lighting (dare we suggest remote controlled?!) and will be sound-proofed enough so as not to disturb others. Know your limits, get professionals in to do work where necessary especially if you encounter wiring or asbestos. Click here if you need help finding professionals! Once it’s a inhabitable space, paint or wallpaper it to your desire. Choose a flooring type that suits the vibe you’re aiming for. Carpet is cozy and inviting but it’s not very spill-friendly. If you’re after something more low maintenance or easier to clean, try wooden floor boards/laminate or even lino.
Step 4 (The fun part) – Equip your man cave!
By far the most important part! What do you want in your man cave? What vibe are you going for?
Ultimate chill out zone? A sofa, beanbag or even a hammock will be essential.
Music studio or entertainment suite? Every man needs a safe haven to play Fifa or Call of Duty, right? Or a widescreen for movie nights.
How about a fully stocked bar? If you don’t drink, try a slushy machine. Who doesn’t love a slushy?
Pool tables, foosball tables or even a mini crazy golf course guarantee a good time. Whatever your heart desires, go for it!
MOST IMPORTANTLY a man cave is simply not a man cave without a plethora of ‘stuff’ and gadgets. Are these things practical? Maybe. Are you going to use all of them? Absolutely not. Does it matter? Nope!
We will follow shortly with our top 10 favourite bits to add to your “man cave”
This is a great time of the year to be getting outside and enjoying the garden, but what if your fences and garden shed are looking old and worn? You are not going to be able to settle and enjoy your time out there.
Truth is, you are going to be looking at your fences and thinking “If I don’t get them maintained and treated soon then it’s not going to be long before I’ll be having to replace them!!” The problem is, you’re also going to be asking yourself if you can afford to replace them. Fencing isn’t cheap and neither are sheds so what are the best ways to keep them in reasonable condition?
There are some really quick, easy and inexpensive ways to maintain both your garden fences and your sheds. If we use these, we will not only be making them look great but most importantly we’ll be making them last longer. Also, let’s not forget that well-kept fences and a good-looking shed can play a key role in keeping or even adding value to your home!
If you are planning on doing any maintenance work yourself, here are some helpful tips that you can follow:
- start off by scraping off any old debris and moss that will have developed over the years by using a hard brush or a wire brush. On real stubborn areas you can even use a jet spray to pressure wash off any unwanted bits
- wait for the surfaces to dry fully and then you can start treating the timber
- there are loads of great colours available now for these kind of surfaces; most of them are water-based and won’t harm your plants or animals, but please do double-check when you buy them
- there are two ways you can apply the treatments – one is with a paint brush and roller but the other smarter and more professional way to getter a better finish in a quicker time would be to apply your treatment with a paint-spraying system
- you may find that fence panels are a rougher sawn timber than the shed materials and will be a lot more porous and will require more paint. It’s okay to apply two or three coats if you want to treat them really well
- when it comes to the smoother timber on your shed you would be better off doing to two or three very fine coats of treatments, leaving each coat to dry and with a very gentle sanding between coats using a soft wire wool; this will help the coats to bond better and reduce the chance of the solutions running
Of course, if the task is a large one and you don’t have the time or tools to complete the work – or you simply don’t want to attempt to do the work yourself – you can always hire a professional. Reputable, fully-vetted tradesman capable of doing the work for you can be found via Checkatrade.com.
Either way, please don’t put off treating your fences or your shed. When it comes to maintenance, the more often you do it the easier and cheaper it becomes. Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to wooden materials that are exposed all-year round to the elements that the British weather serves us!
Good luck and let’s hope you get the chance to get out there and enjoy your garden.
Surely, summer must be just around the corner!!
Guest blog by Checkatrade ambassador Craig Phillips
When we are buying a home, part of the stress is because we are normally moving due to a major event in our lives. This might be for good reasons: an expanding family, new job or needing and being able to afford more space. However, it may well be due to tough reasons too, such as getting divorced, being in debt or the loss of a loved one.
As a result, when trying to buy a home during a major life event, good or bad, we often don’t necessarily concentrate on the important fact that when buying you aren’t buying a home initially, you are buying a building you plan to make your home.
The building you have fallen in love with may be in a fantastic location, it may have the perfect space or be the only one you can currently afford and it may look in good condition, but unfortunately very few of us are in a position to assess a property’s real condition. This is why it’s important to get the experts in to check a property ideally before you make an offer or as soon as an offer has been accepted and absolutely before exchanging.
Buying a property to let
This is especially true if you intend to make money from letting property. To let a property legally these days requires adhering to 145 rules and regulations. Although not all of these are based on the condition of the property, many are.
29 of the rules and regulations you need to adhere to are based on the ‘Housing Health and Safety Rating System’. This is a nationwide requirement to make sure tenants are renting a property which is warm, free of mould and damp and without dangers such as tripping downstairs due to frayed carpets or falling because of poorly laid paving stones.
Other rules and regulations required include annual gas checks and, although a grey area legally, your duty is to ensure the electrics are “safe”.
From a landlord’s perspective, you can easily spend thousands if not tens of thousands of pounds making a property that someone has happily lived in for years achieve the letting standards required.
So if buying to let, make sure you have at least a condition survey from a Residential Property Surveyors Association (www.rpsa.org.uk) or a Royal Institution Chartered Surveyor (RICS) as well as gas and electrical safety checks. In addition, also check the drains and make sure anything the survey has raised is investigated further, such as timber and damp issues or problems with the roof.
Only then will you truly know if it’s a good buy or a disaster which will constantly be eating into any excess income you earn from letting the property.
Buying a property for you
If you are buying a property for you and your family, the temptation is to save as much on buying the property as you can so you can spend the money on more exciting things such as a new kitchen, bathroom or both. Or you may have ideas of making it into a beautiful interior designed masterpiece.
The problem comes though when things start to go wrong you didn’t know about. A leaky roof or guttering can soon damage your newly decorated property and end up costing you a fortune rather than using problems raised by a survey to reduce the amount you pay for the property in the first place.
And if you think about it, if gas and electrical checks are required for tenants safety, then surely it is worth making sure your family is safe too? The boiler fitted might look new, but if it wasn’t fitted by a Gas Safe Registered engineer and doesn’t have the right certificates, it could be dangerous and harmful to your family.
So whether you are buying for yourself or for a tenant, make sure you first check out the building you are buying before you purchase the property you want to make your home.
For expert help checking out your property visit Checkatrade
Design on Property Ltd
Having a new kitchen is an expensive investment, so getting the design & layout right is huge. You can get plenty of free professional advice to help with this from kitchen show room designers or tradesmen quoting to renovate your kitchen. However, with all the experience and advice they can offer you, one thing they may not bring to the table is how to protect your new investment “long term”!
A new kitchen should serve you for around 20 years, but in that time trends and styles will change, a style which is sort after now may well look dated in 5 years time, and after all the money spent, do you really want to be stuck with a dated looking kitchen for a further 15 years?
Now I’m not trying to upsell you on “a neutral design”, I’m a big fan of kitchens with personality and I admire people with the gumption to make bold design choices, the point here is to protect your investment (your new kitchen) in the long term. When the time comes that your new kitchen starts to looks dated, wouldn’t it be great if on a very small budget and little to no professional help you could update and refresh the look of your kitchen! Well you can, all you have to do is be prepared for this within your original design! Add features and colours in easily changeable areas of the kitchen, if you commit to Plum coloured units or bright red tiles (not together of course) these are very permanent parts of the kitchen which would require professional help and be costly change. Use Neutral colours for the more permanent areas of the kitchen such as units, worktops and tiles and explore your adventurous side in the 5 areas I have laid out below. Each of the 5 areas below can be refreshed or updated by a competent DIYer, they’ll have a large impact on the design and can be changed on a very small budge.
Use bold colour paints or designer wall paper to give your kitchen an impacting backdrop. You can easily change this down the line for very little cost so be as adventurous as you dare!
The right shelves can be a statement on there own, use them as a platform to dress up or down your kitchen with some charismatic items. whether its cookbooks, pots & pans, glass storage jars or plants, display whatever takes your fancy and simply change it as it loses its appeal!
Whether your opting for one accent colour or half the colours of the rainbow, accessories are the easiest way to achieve this, use tea towels, tea & coffee pots, vintage tins, spice racks even a bread bin to add personality to your kitchen.
Worktop Appliances & kitchen Tools
Worktop appliances such as Kettles & toasters and kitchen tools such as a knife block, utensils rack or pot & pans, these are all available in an array of shape and sizes along with the option of bright colours as well as the more traditional stainless steel and Copper. Use these to dress up neutral work surfaces or open shelves.
The last area is flooring, depending on which material you choose as flooring this may be one of the more expensive areas to change, although it can be worth it. No matter how large or small your kitchen floor area is, the colour will have a big effect on the overall design, so in pro rata changing it will have a big effect also. Bear in mind it will be costlier to change a tiled floor compared to laminated or vinyl flooring and prepare yourself for this in your initial design.
To summarise, don’t enter your new kitchen project with the glum and negative out look that your new kitchen will at some point once again look dated, enjoy the design process and express yourselves, just be aware that the inevitable fact of styles changing will happen and be prepared! Don’t “play it safe” “play it long term”, have fun with your design, be strategic and yield the best return on your investment.
Enjoy your Kitchen
When it comes to carrying out property projects on your home, before you do anything – and especially before you hand over any money for goods and services – you must make sure you know how long the job will take.
It’s not just about looking it up online, reading how long it’s taken everyone else and saying, “Oh great, about six weeks”! Unfortunately, whatever timings you research, you’ll find that your project will have a timeline all of its own.
To make sure you get the job done on time, here are five things you need to find out first:
Do you need external approval for the works?
The first thing to check is whether you can simply go ahead with the works or whether you’ll need planning permission, building regulation checks or a building notice. In theory, planning applications should take around eight weeks, but they can take up to 13 weeks – and sometimes more. Bear in mind that a lot of things can happen at the council’s end, such as neighbours objecting to your plans, or in your own life, that delay you submitting plans or responding to queries from the planning office. So it’s best to assume it could take up to three months, more for big projects.
Building notices normally require two working days for approval, but check with your local authority.
Remember that holidays and ‘life’ get in the way!
Whenever I’ve carried out a project, especially if it’s been a big job, I’ve always found that a huge number of days are lost to holidays, sickness or people having problems in their lives, meaning timings don’t go as smoothly as planned.
So while you’re planning or carrying out a property project, my advice is not to take any holidays yourself, as that will almost certainly delay things.
Then, don’t forget that Easter, the summer and around Christmas are classic times for everyone else to go on holiday too, so if you want work done then, plan well ahead. Ask your team who’s away when, so you can factor it into your timings.
How long do materials take to order?
This is especially important to check if you’re ordering things that are bespoke. Window companies may work to lead times of 6-8 weeks; new boilers may take two weeks to fit; kitchens may only take a week or so to order and be delivered if they’re ‘flat pack’, but bespoke ones can easily take up to eight weeks.
Don’t forget, if there are measuring errors or any damage to bespoke items, this will take more time to remedy and won’t be picked up until the materials are on site. So it’s worth checking when you order, what would happen if there was a problem, so you can build this extra contingency into your timings, just in case.
Are tradesmen at the ready or fully booked?
The bigger the job, the more likely the builder or tradesperson is likely to be booked up well in advance. For example, if you’re planning a big extension, it could take 4-6 months from start to finish and a builder might already have two or three jobs in hand. That means you might have to wait up to 18 months to secure the right company.
Even small jobs, such as extra electric sockets or boiler work, could take weeks to get booked in. Remember, tradespeople aren’t just waiting for your call – especially the good ones, who are rarely short of work. You really need to plan ahead and start checking availability with people as early as possible.
Can you speed a job up?
Well, you can try….but that’s often when things go wrong. One of the best ways to speed up a job is to try and find someone reputable that has just had a cancellation or see if other jobs they have lined up could be switched. Be prepared to pay a little more to incentivise them to move your job up their priority list.
Another option could be to hire someone in from another area where demand for work isn’t quite so high. For example, it’s not unusual for someone in Peterborough to carry out work in London, in order to get a job done in weeks that would otherwise take months to book with a London tradesperson.
For more help and advice on your property project, you can ask me any questions directly – just email me via Propertychecklists.co.uk (link: https://propertycheck.ssl.subhub.com/contact )
Design on Property Ltd
I began running relatively late in life approximately 6 years ago after taking part in a charity run organised by my previous employment.
When I began training I ran from my front door and after just a few yards, I was exhausted and wondered how on earth anyone could run any further. I was so naïve that I did not realise that you had to stretch before and after, the following day I could barely walk. However, I persevered and after completing the charity run, began looking for other organised runs to enter.
My friends and colleagues told me I had the ‘running bug’ and I began to see how addictive this sport was becoming. After taking part in local 10k races I thought it would be good to broaden my horizons and increase my distances. Where better to do so than in my home town of Liverpool!
So, in 2014 I ran my first half marathon and loved it so much that this has now become an annual event for me. So, what next? Well the answer is of course, a marathon. But which one? I had read and seen on TV that the London Marathon was the biggest and best in the world, the one that all distance runners aspire to, so surely that was the one to aim for.
I was lucky enough to obtain a place through my running club and so, the challenge was on and the training and fundraising began.
I chose to run for Tommys which is a charity that does invaluable work and research into difficult pregnancies. As both of my children were born prematurely, this has long been a charity I respect and admire.
After approximately 6 months of training in all manner of weather conditions, the week leading up to the big day arrived. This consisted of nightly meals of pasta, sleepless nights, nervousness and excitement. I felt like a kid at Christmas.
On race day my biggest anxiety was getting to London on time. I was due to get the first train out of Bognor which should have got me there in plenty of time. However……… my train was cancelled due to an electrical fault! This resulted in a 30-minute delay which meant I would not get to the start on time. I knew that it can take some time for all of the of runners to cross the start line so I was not overly concerned.
I arrived at the start line and you i’m sure you can imagine my dismay when it was practically deserted apart from a few marshals in their high vis tops collecting discarded sweatshirts and binliners. In what can only be described as a ‘panicky’ tone I asked them where the start was. After they finished laughing and high fiving each other, they pointed me in the direction of thousands of runners in the distance amidst a cloud of dust, well on their way to marathon glory.
So, with my sweatshirt duly discarded and no time to stretch, off I ran to catch up. Upon crossing the start, I was shocked to find myself running in the middle of hundreds of spectators cheering me on and calling my name (printed on my vest). I was also flanked by those huge screens showing just me, along with my arrival being enthusiastically announced over the PA system. I had visions of me being included on an ‘and finally’ feature on the news.
Also, I had no time to allow my running watch to pick up a GPS signal so I had no means of monitoring my time and distance other than guess work and the mile markers on route.
I soon caught up and was on my way passing by dinosaurs, rhinos, red Indians and sponge bob square pants to name but a few. The experience certainly lived up to the hype. The amount of support throughout was staggering, especially at Tower Bridge, the half way point where the crowds were amazing.
Children hold out their hands for a high five, people offer sweets (to keep sugar levels up) and constantly call out runners names in encouragement, spurring us on every step of the way.
At mile 17 I began to struggle but persevered and ran the whole distance without stopping.
With the end in sight, I sprinted to the finish to be handed my medal and goody bag.
I was delighted to find that I had beat my target time. Not bad for someone who 6 years ago could not run for more than a few yards without running out of breath!
London now has a special place in my heart for giving me my own unique marathon experience and now that it’s been and gone, I miss the training, adrenaline and the fun of doing it but hope to gain a place again next year!
Checkatrade.com founder and CEO, Kevin Byrne shared his successful story as one of the leading entrepreneurs at the Acumen Business Convention on the 10th May.
The networking event which was held at the Grand Hotel, Brighton marked the seventh year of the prestigious event and saw over 250 CEO’s, MD’s and decision makers all in attendance for both networking and outstanding speaking.
Having most notably won the London and South East Director of the Year Award, Kevin was keen to share his experience with others. The CEO discussed how he took an idea with no investment to a business turnover of £16million that generates a £2.7 billion a year for all of the trades on-board.
Kevin commented on his achievement;
“This was a great evening and I was extremely pleased to speak about my success story with like-minded individuals. My story is very unique and it is great to share with others on how to build the right company culture and how to drive a business.”
The evening also saw Founder of Cobra Beer, Karan Bilimoria, Author of Brand Famous, Linzi Boyd and Founder of Acumen Business Law, Penina Shepherd all sharing their business stories.
Guests at the Acumen Business Convention were treated to a three course lunch, public speaking and two interactive workshops.
Checkatrade is a free, online service that is dedicated to helping you find the right trade or service. With over 25 per cent of UK households using Checkatrade, they ensure that their tradespeople are fully vetted before they become a member of Checkatrade and once they join, members agree to have feedback from their customers put online for all to say. Checkatrade has gained over 2 million reviews of tradespeople to date.
For more information about Checkatrade or to find the perfect tradesperson for you, visit www.checkatrade.com.
Find this article on the Building Construction Design website – http://www.buildingconstructiondesign.co.uk/news/successful-event-for-checkatrade-founder/