5 years ago… Home Improvement Trends of 2007

Has a lot changed since 2007? We took a quick peek back at the home improvement trends of 2007, which included the housing market, buy-to-let, DIY and eco-friendly homes.
2007 saw more people than even get bitten by the by-to-let property bug, whilst other homeowners thinking of selling their properties were confronted with the HIPS pack for 3 bedroom houses. Average house prices had risen 156% in the last ten years and homeowners were adding extensions and conservatories to increase their homes value even more.
One report predicted the average house would cost £300,000 by 2012, despite December seeing a third consecutive fall in house prices, signalling, some said, an end to the property boom.
Rented homes were already in great demand as the cost of buying a first home or a larger family proved too much for the British public. This fuelled the by-to-let market as properties were snapped up and consequently let by a growing army of private property investors.
DIY was as popular an obsession with the public as it had ever been. The previous 5 years had seen a steady increase in ‘handy women’ with Tesco reporting it had sold 21,000 pink tool kits last Christmas.
The flip-side of the coin was increasing numbers of young professionals without any DIY skills, and a culture of ‘call in an expert’ for even simple tasks was evolving.
Eco-friendly interiors was surely one of the hottest topics of home improvement as house builders started incorporating natural materials like lambs wool insulation. The revolution was truly underway as energy saving lightbulbs were snapped up, although much more was achieved by simply turning the heating down a agree or two and switching off lights when not in a room.
Finally, the 18-24 age group surprised us by getting increasingly green-fingered as Britons spent an average of £180 each on sprucing up their gardens. However, those obsessed with ‘keeping up with the Jones’ ended up spending ten times as much as last year on landscaped gardens and even driveway turntables.
2007 also saw us launch Loft Quoter – an instant online loft conversion quoting website, joined our growing family of ‘Quoter websites. It’s regularly updated with the industries latest prices and can still offer free online quotes, whether your attic is traditional trusses or the more modern W shaped trusses in construction.
This story first appeared in our weekly homeowner newsletter dated 6th February 2012. Click here to read the full newsletter, which also included a round up of the weeks top home improvement offers.

Ditch the Gym membership

Gym Membership Costs Mount

Many gyms charge a joining fee; monthly membership can range from £25 to in excess of £100 and most expect you to commit to a 1-3 year contract. When you come to leave many will impose a minimum notice period of 1-3months.

Stay fit gym free –exercise at home without the expense of gym membership. Here are some simple tips to help you stay fit:

– Increase general activity: be more active in your day-to-day life (e.g. use the stairs instead of the lift,. walk or cycle instead of using the car for short trips).

– Be realistic: set achievable goals. Stick to something you can commit to, start with 1-2 sessions a week. It will be easier to stay on track and build your programme.

– Short can be sweet: Don’t worry if you can’t commit to an hour or 2 hour session, an intense 5-10minute session can be just as effective. The important thing is to stay in the routine of exercising.

– Remain flexible: Your intended routine may get blown off course by work or personal commitments. Don’t get despondent; simply reschedule your exercise when you have more time.

If you’re thinking on converting a garage or loft, to make your own Gym area, one concern can be how much home fitness equipment can cost, especially if you’re used to commercial Gym grade equipment.

In & Out Fitness specialise in sales and rental of fitness equipment, including refurbished equipment. You could rent a commercial grade running machine or cross trainer for £10 a week – steppers are from £8.75 a week.

(guest post – non affiliate link)

Lack of housing stock forces people to extend and convert for extra room.

If you’re currently trying to move house of you’re thinking you might move home, to get the extra space for a growing family or a the hobby / work area you’ve always promised yourself, then prepare for disappointment.
Estate agents around the UK are lamenting the fact that there just isn’t enough housing stock on the market, to offer people ‘just what they’re looking for’.
Would-be home movers are being forced to settle for less or are staying put and increasing the living area of their present homes.
Aside from saving all the costs associated with moving home – legal and stamp duty fees, not to mention removal costs. Extension and conversion costs are very attractive and you also get the benefit of having a direct hand in how that extra space is planned and laid out.
This means a garage can easily become anything from a larger kitchen to en-suite annex. Working from home or about to embark on a new career from home? A garage conversion or extension can add the space you need and by incorporating exterior doors, you can even make your ‘office’ open to visitors without them having to walk through the rest of your house.
And if you’re after more leisure space or room for those pesky teenagers, then converting the loft to become a cinema room or den can give both parties some breathing space. Of course, once those same pesky teenagers have left home, you can revert back to your original plan of a en-suite master bedroom!!
When you’re arranging quotes, check with the companies their payment terms. Some may offer payments in instalments as the work progresses, whilst others may have their own terms & conditions regarding payment.
Look out for offers like free flooring, electrics or drawing of plans. Small jobs compared to the overall cost but any savings, that make the most financial sense to you, are always worth exploring.
This article first appeared in our weekly homeowner newsletter dated 24th October 2011. Click here to read the full newsletter.

Home improvement trends – Autumn 2011

What can we expect to see in the final quarter of 2011?
Homeowners continuing to invest in their homes by improving them rather than risking a fragile housing market. Relatively small ‘tweaks’ like remodelled en-suites or larger space creating projects including garages or lofts will still be popular as the dark nights shift focus from improving the outside of your home to the inside.
And with the return of the dark nights will come a renewed awareness in energy bills. Expect to see more use of LED and low wattage lighting.
Homeowners will continue to discover that going green is not only good for the environment but good for the waller too. From major projects like solar panel installations to smaller steps like half flush cisterns. Electric showers and central heating boiler upgrades make sound economical as well ecological sense.
Price comparison websites have empowered homeowners to check out prices for themselves and this has extended into the home improvement industry with many homeowners doing the sensible thing of comparing 2 or 3 comparative quotes before signing on the dotted line.
Home Improvement Quotes still speaks with many homeowners who’ve accepted the first quote they were given, and regretted it later. Why take the risk when you can spend a few minutes online or if you prefer, call us, and let us find you the top 3 companies in your area, based on quality and price.
You can even get to read what other homeowners in your area thought of them – from initial quote to completion of the work.

Lack of space the problem for most families

running out of room?

Not only are children living at home for longer, the present housing climate means that for many, their first-time property is shrinking in living space.

The result is parents are having to act like free storage depots, looking after everything from furniture to personal items like books and music.

If your home feels like it’s busting at the seams with family members and their belongings, then now might be a very good time to get a rough idea of cost for converting your garage or loft.

Because today’s housing climate means many would like to move for more space, but are unable to, creating more space out of what you already have is becoming increasingly common and it makes good financial sense too.

Add up all the costs of physically moving home – removals, solicitors, stamp duty, re-decoration etc and by the time you’ve factored in a higher mortgage payment, converting ‘dead space’ you already own becomes a very good investment indeed.

Not to mention the added value, the conversion will add to your property.

Because of the construction technique differences between converting your loft and garage, Home Improvement Quotes has two separate dedicated quoting websites – one for each project.

Both allow you to enter your location, approximate room sizes and specify extra’s like en-suites etc before giving you an instant online quote – no fuss, no pressure and no salesman.

Click here to try Loft Quoter now. For Garage Conversion quotes, click here.

*this story first appeared in our weekly homeowner newsletter dated 14th June 2011. Click here to read the full home improvement quotes newsletter.

photo credit: davidd

Garage Conversions make sound sense

One of the cheapest ways of adding more living space to your home is to have a garage conversion.

Particularly where the garage (or garages) are integral to the house, although don’t be put off if yours is a detached garage. The only difference, assuming the structure is suitable, will be the conversion costs.

The bulk of the conversion work will be in bringing the garage up to the building regulations of the day in terms of its insulation and build.

Very often, integral garages will not have been finished to the same standard as the rest of the house – particularly the floor.

The floor.

The trouble with the floor is that a) it’s usually a few centimetres lower than the rest of the house (this is a deliberate planning point and aimed as stopping leaking fuel running through the rest of your house – when it was a garage) and b) it won’t be insulated to the required standard for the interior of a home. Fine for cars but not for people.

So don’t be shocked when the conversion company start talking about skips and digging up what looks like a perfectly good floor. The floor will need breaking up and removing, digging out and the latest building regs insulation layers being added before the whole lot is re-covered in concrete and bought up to the same level as the rest of the floor throughout the property.

This is a good thing since an uneven floor, apart from being a trip waiting to happen, is a tell-tale sign of a garage conversion. The whole idea for maximum return on your investment, should you come to sell your home at a later date, is that the conversion looks like just another room.

The walls.

Exterior walls will need bringing up to building regs. standard for their insulation. It’s all about energy efficiency. If you’ve got an integral garage, and you’re using the full width, then it’s only the ‘door wall’ that will require work most likely. If you’re only using 1 of two garages, then the dividing wall between the garages will have to be made solid and a new fire-rated door put into access the garage.

If your garage is detached, then it’s quite likely that the walls are only single brick thickness. Not to panic but be prepared for a higher conversion cost as we said, because all exterior walls will have to be made good (and the chances are the roof too).

The finishing touches.

We’re not referring to what colour you paint the walls (although choosing a shade that matches the rest of your home will, again, help give the illusion that the room’s always been there). We’re thinking about things like choosing the same style of window to match the rest of your house and for the interior, choosing wooden architrave – skirting boards and door trims – even the doors themselves, which match that already present in the rest of the house.

It’s these kinds of details that will ultimately bring the most reward when you finally decide to move home.

If all that sounds like a lot of fuss, then don’t loose sight of the end goal – adding more interior space to your home.

And as we said at the beginning, garage conversions are very good value since much of the building work has already been done. There’s no footings to be dug or walls to be built from scratch (depending on the age of your property and what the existing garage is built with obviously) and although the floor and wall insulating sounds complicated, it’s actually really straightforward and hence, the timeframe from start to completion can be only a couple of weeks.

This story first appeared in our homeowner newsletter – 21 march 2011 edition – read the full newsletter here.

Home Extensions and conversions – Homeowners expanding outwards and upwards

If you’re currently trying to sell your home then you’ll know it’s a pretty desperate situation at present. Yet more figures reveal house prices falling ever-so slightly and the number of property transactions at record lows.

No wonder then that many homeowners are re-appraising the present homes with a view to increasing the living space without having to move.

What are your options?

One of the most popular and cost effective is a garage conversion, especially where the garage is already integral to your home. Many properties with double garages take advantage of converting one and leaving one – the best of both worlds. A garage conversion can incorporate a new dining area, an extension to the kitchen, the creation of a utility room, a new playroom, a home cinema, a cosy snug or even en-suite guest accommodation.

It may be possible to keep the existing garage door and partition a small width off for garden storage – remember, anything presently in your garage like bikes and lawn mowers (not to mention the accumulation of ‘junk’) will have to go somewhere once work starts and it probably won’t be going back once the conversions complete.

Next in the popularity stakes is a loft conversion. Whilst some properties may not be suitable (you can quickly tell by if there’s enough room to stand up in the loft space), and modern rafter arrangements might make the task a little more complicated (and costly) but most can be overcome.

Suitable for a variety of uses, by adding dormer windows, you can really open the space out into an imaginative and desirable room.

Basement conversions (if your home has one) can be technically demanding in the initial stages, making sure the room is watertight but once the preparation is completed, then you’ve another very useful room.

With the relaxing of certain planning rules, more and more homeowners are turning to a full newly built extension. Either single or double storey (depending on your needs, budget and planning restrictions), an extension gives you the opportunity to incorporate several features into the one build – e.g a dining and utility area etc. Because you’re starting with a blank canvas so to speak, you can plan the space to suit you. Bare in mind if you come to sell the property later, does the extensions use still offer a new buyer something.

And finally, some ‘extensions’ you may not have considered.

Conservatories – again with the new less restrictive planning rules in force, it’s possible to add a sizeable conservatory to your home – space that can be used for entertaining or the more functional.

Porches – restrictive in size but just having a solid, weather-proof extended entrance means you could possibly empty your present hallway of boots, shoes and coats, making the entrance to your home seem more spacious, and certainly warmer. There are some fantastic upvc porch designs available.

Before carrying out any of the options above, particularly where garages are being converted or you’re thinking of loosing a bedroom in favour of a larger bathroom / access to a loft conversion, it’s worth checking with a local estate agent.
They’ll be able to advise you on what options are a good investment and will add to your homes value and appeal as well as the alterations that will cost you value and a potential buyer in the future.

*This article first appeared in our 14th February 2011 homeowner newsletter – with a weekly subscription of nearly 300,000 readers – click here to read it in full.

photo credit: d sharon pruitt

Old Kitchen cupboards have a new lease of life

This article is actually about using the Autumn to tidy out the Garage after a hectic Summer of bikes, mowers and tools falling into dis-organisation through constant use.

It’ll make everything much easier to find, especially when there isn’t the usual sunlight to light up the darkest corners where hunting for that particular screwdriver takes on the hardship of a trek up the Amazon.

What I wanted to point out is that, whilst there are plenty of cheap shelving options, if you’ve recently had a new kitchen installed or you’re about to have a new kitchen installed, then being careful when pulling out the old units, wall cupboards and worktops can make a very useful addition to your garage.

Providing ample storage as well as a reasonable bench at which to work or store everyday items like engine oils and toolboxes.

Of course, after you’ve cleared all the accumulated junk and packaging that somehow always seems to collect in the garage, you might just get to thinking that really, there isn’t much in your garage at all.

If that’s the case, then why not think about converting your garage into an additional room for your home. Perhaps extending the kitchen, creating a dining area or cosy snug? These are all possible – even en-suite guest bedrooms with a little planning and the services of a good garage conversion company.

worth their weight in gold

A specialist garage conversion company will be worth their weight in gold for many reasons. For example, they’ll have come across many ‘design issues’ and be able to adapt your garage space in the most useful and practical way. They’ll also be qualified to construct the conversion to the latest building regulations so that if you should ever sell your property in the future, then you’ll have all the proper documentation to have the conversion included in the house particulars.

Having the conversion properly constructed includes insulation and ventilation issues, heating and electrics as well as how the room ‘attaches’ to your existing home, especially where you’re only converting one half of the garage. For example, most modern garages with a concrete floor will require the floor being dug up and the proper insulation materials laid down before the floor is re-laid to comply with the latest council planning and building regulations. It’s not just a matter of bricking up the garage door and inserting a window.

How things have gone full circle. We started talking about how old kitchen units make great garage storage and ended up discussing garage conversions. Wherever your garage clear-out takes you, the ‘Quoter family of websites can offer you instant online quotes (including for fitted kitchens and garage conversions) as well as showing you which local companies were rated the best by previous homeowners.

photo credit: tandem racer

Why you should use an Architect

From a modest remodelling of your home to doubling it’s size with an extension or a complete new build / barn conversion etc, you’ll find your project goes a lot more smoothly with an architect involved.

An architect will discuss your ideas and transpose them onto paper in a set of drawings that will satisfy both council planning departments and the contractor who has the job of turning the drawing into bricks and mortar.

Architects will be aware of all the relevant building regulations, so their involvement at the start will hopefully smooth out any planning wrinkles later on, including issues arising out of building inspections, which happen at crucial stages of a build / re-model.

And having an architect on your side means you’ve got an extra voice when discussing any issues with your contractors.

Most people think of an architect as just someone to draw up the plans but get a good one and you’ll see just why they’re so good. They’ll be able to offer their own suggestions on your ideas and hopefully inspire you with what’s possible within the space you’re adding. As well as keeping up to date with planning issues and suitable materials, they’ll also have loads of knowledge on fittings and latest trends.

Decide to do it yourself and if the plans fail to get approval or your contractor runs into trouble during the build / remodel, then you’ll probably end up having to hire an architect anyway, to fix the problems. With no architect on board, It’ll also be up to you to liaise with your contractors and keep the project on schedule (and budget).

So hiring an architect could actually save you money. Money you can spend on better fittings or a nice holiday whilst the builders get on with it back home.

Recent changes in planning laws meant you may not need planning permission for a straightforward loft conversion and very often those conversion companies will be able to provide their own design drawings anyway but for any project that’s not going to be ‘off the shelf’ or involves planning applications, then time taken to find the right architect for you will be time well spent.

Planning your own Extension? Start by clicking here and getting that instant online quote. Genuine online quotes there and then, based on current UK prices where you live.

Click here to get your Garage Conversion quote now.

A DIY or badly planned garage conversion can turn your house into a death trap

A DIY or badly planned garage conversion can turn your house into a death trap, making it difficult or impossible to resell your home.

Converting a garage, particularly where it’s already attached or built into the house can be relatively straightforward. But it’s not as simple as replacing the garage door with a window – there are building regulations to be considered regarding insulation, electrics and fire hazard (particularly where you’re only converting part of the garage).

That’s why it’s important to call in a professional conversion company that gets good recommendation rather than any old builder.

What you will be left with at the end of the work is an additional spare room that can be everything from a dining area ‘attached’ to the kitchen to a play den, home gym, snug or even form the basis for a ‘granny annexe’.

Being downstairs, access isn’t a problem and plumbing for en-suites can also be incorporated much easier than you’d think.

Have the work done properly by a reputable conversion company and you’re likely to increase the value of your home when it comes to finally selling and moving on, but what’s that against the infinite use and options available to you whilst you still live there?

Here are just some of the key construction points often associated with having a typical attached garage conversion.

Insulation – the floor will probably need to be re-laid to incorporate the latest building regulations regarding floor construction for homes. Walls will also need to be insulated (if they’re not already) before any plastering work begins. Same goes for the ceiling.

Heating, water and electrics – think carefully about the positioning of wall sockets and light switches. if you’re including the new room/s into your homes central heating system, aside from radiator placement, you may need to check that your present system is capable of powering additional radiators.

Windows and doors – Try to match any new windows and doors with the rest of your home. This will lessen the visual impact on neighbours (planning) as well as make the conversion seem more like it’s always been there. Essential if you’re considering selling the property in the future.

Decoration and flooring – Again, try and match the decor with the rest of the house to help your new garage conversion blend in.

Hiring a professional garage conversion company is a very good idea as the whole project will be managed by the one company rather than you having to liase yourself with lots of different professionals. One recent example of this is a neighbour of mine who was selling his property. When it came to the solicitors, he didn’t have a certificate for the wiring as the building company he’d employed for the conversion had used an independent electrician for the wiring work.

There followed a lengthy game of chase to track down the original electrician and secure a conformity certificate for the work that had been done.

A small inconvenience to be sure but one that could have jeopardised the sale and been avoided simply by using a professional conversion company for the whole project.

If your garage is collecting nothing more than spiders and boxes of ‘junk’, then now’s the time to think about making more of the available space you could use that’s already present within your home.

Even if your garage is separate to the house, all is not lost. However, depending on the construction of the garage, conversion costs may be higher due to the additional insulating work required. For example, a relatively modern detached garage will probably only have a single brick thickness wall. This will require suitable insulating on the inside to pass current building regulations.

Flat roofs on garages will usually have to be swapped for pitched roofs to allow space for the required levels of insulation and ventilation. Your local garage conversion specialists will be able to tell you more.

Getting an estimate is always a good place to start before you think seriously about calling in the builders. Garage Conversion Quoter can help in two important ways.

Firstly – It can give you an online price based on your own measurements and details – an idea of cost without ever having to let a salesman inside your home.

Secondly – we can take your location and project details, match them against our database of registered home improvement companies and show you who the top 3 local conversion companies are. You’ll get their contact details and more importantly, the chance to read first hand reviews and feedback from other homeowners who’ve recently used them.

You’ll also be able to see at a glance their star rating (overall performance as decided by past customers) and if they’ve got any special offers or discounts running, then you’ll be able to see details of those too. All designed to help you make the best decision for you and your home and all a completely FREE service to you.

Start planning your own garage conversion today by clicking here and getting that instant online garage conversion quote. Genuine online quotes there and then, based on current UK prices where you live.