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.

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

Loft conversions on a truss roof.

Whilst your loft might look like a maze of timber, it is possible to convert the loft space into a usable room – a spare bedroom with en-suite or a study etc.

A truss roof is easily identifiable by the ‘W’ shape of the rafters inside your loft which support the roof.

Conversion of such roofs usually involves inserting steel beams down the sides of the loft, onto which wooden battens locate vertically from the corresponding truss. Once this work is done, the old w shaped trusses are removed and the space converted to your new room specification.

The weight of the roof is re-distributed on the new battens and steel beams. The steel beams themselves are usually inserted by removing several edge tiles or even corresponding bricks on the gable end, through which the beam is slid before the access hole is made secure again.

The vertical battens I mentioned earlier also form the framework for the side walls of the interior of the conversion into which access doors can be incorporated to allow storage access to that small space under the eaves of the roof. One keen DIY person I know went one step further by fabricating a moving shelf system so that he could slide the ‘cupboard floor’ across the eaves entrance allowing him to store more further back from the entrance without having to crawl down the cramped access way to access stored items.

And with Loft conversions being voted the home improvement most likely to add the most value to your home in a recent survey of Halifax property valuers, little touches like extra storage making use of ‘dead’ space will only make your conversion more appealing, quite aside from making it work for you personally.

If you thought your loft wasn’t suitable for conversion, think again. Visit Loft Quoter now for a free online loft conversion quote without the need for any salesman to call on you.

This article first appeared in our weekly homeowner newsletter dated 16th May 2011. Click here to read the full home improvement newsletter.

Loft conversions top value-adding poll.

A survey by Halifax property valuers has revealed that loft conversions offer the best return in terms of adding value to your home.

Loft conversions were followed by extensions, whilst new kitchens, bathrooms and double glazing also featured highly.

Adding a driveway or off-road parking had jumped by 124%, adding an average of over £2,800 to a homes value compared with just over £1,200 in 2009.

The value of a home with a loft conversion increased by an average of just over £20,000.

However, the property giant warned homeowners to be on their guard and compare prices in their area if they were considering such improvements with a quick return in mind.

They should be taking overall average property prices into account in their area, as it may be unrealistic to expect a particular home improvement to increase the value so dramatically.

More room was most likely to attract buyers, particularly where an area had a lot of similar properties on the market.

The home improvements least likely to add any value to the property were re-decorating and new carpets/flooring.

Remember, you can get an instant online quote for loft conversions, building extensions and other home improvements like kitchens, bathrooms, driveways and double glazing all from the comfort of your own home, without any salesman calling simply by visiting Home Improvement Quotes.

photo credit: les chatfield

This article first appeared in our weekly homeowner newsletter dated 10th May 2011 – click here to read the full newsletter.

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

Cue Popcorn! Cinema admission prices turn us to Home Cinema’s

With talk from the major movie studios of making new films available on DVD just 4 weeks after their first cinema release, and the rising costs of taking the family to the cinema (particularly with the pletheroe of 3D releases) – a family of 5 plus drinks and popcorn for the kids can soon get through £50, it’s no wonder that more and more households are turning to technology to set up their own home cinemas.

Add to that the convenience of a showing time when you want it, no travelling, nobody walking in front of you and you get to pause the film if you need the toilet. Not to mention the drinks and snacks are cheaper too.

You don’t have to go as far as converting the loft or basement, although doing so does make the perfect home cinema room. Good black out blinds and a comfy sofa work just as well.

You’ll be able to choose between a large screen (as large as your budget will allow) lcd or plasma television or even a projector and screen (which can be rolled up when not in use). All 3 have their strengths and weaknesses and depending on the layout of your room, you may rule out a projector from the start. That leaves a widescreen TV – best idea is to go and look at a few working, choose which picture you most prefer. There are some very good guarantee periods to be had – some as much as 5 years, depending on the brand and the retailer. And now more and more manufacturers are producing 3D televisions – just in time for Christmas.

No blockbusting action packed film is complete without a body shaking sound track. Whilst your TV will be perfectly adequate, for the full movie experience, you’ll want to consider a surround sound system. The usual set up is 4 ‘surround’ speakers (1 in each corner of your viewing area), a dialogue speaker (which is usually situated immediately in front of the screen) and a bass speaker (usually tucked away somewhere).

Of course surround sound systems aren’t just for films. Connect them up properly with your Digital service and you’ll be able to play normal television through them – very good now that digital broadcasting is upon us – you’ll notice an improvement in overall volume levels (with some tv, you may have noticed the dialogue can sound a little lost).

Some systems will even play music CD’s and receive radio broadcasts. You may pay extra for systems which will play recordable CD’s etc – always check what will play on the system you finally select.

So a good surround sound system actually becomes your new hi-fi system.

Again, budget will dictate what you end up with and it’s a good idea to try and listen to a few different systems in action – most high street and electrical retailers have systems all set up for you to try out.

If you’re thinking of a dedicated room for your home cinema experience, then converting your loft or a garage into a cinema is an ideal choice. You can get an instant online loft conversion quote from Loft Quoter before being able to compare loft conversion companies operating in your area through our unique homeowner feedback comments and star ratings.

There’s an identical service for garage conversions – visit Garage Conversion Quoter for your free online conversion quote.

photo credit: the odd note

Home Improvements that don’t need planning permission (usually)

If you’ve been thinking about a new porch or a conservatory, or perhaps converting your loft or building an extension, the chances are the thought of having to get planning permission first has put you right off the idea.

What you may not have realised is that many home improvement and building projects don’t require planning permission, provided a few simple rules are followed. If in doubt, your local planning office will be able to advise or ask your chosen installer / contractor – they should know what’s allowed and what isn’t.

The Government has relaxed the planning rules on what is ‘permitted development’, in an effort to remove much of the red tape surrounding home improvements. You’ll still need to comply with building regulations though.

For example, you’ve probably noticed one or two new porches appearing in your neighbourhood. The good news is that for any porch that’s under 3 square meters in floor size, planning isn’t required. The rule used to be that it couldn’t project more than a metre from the front of the house – that may have changed but always check with your preferred installer.

Converting your loft into a usable everyday family room also doesn’t require planning permission. This includes fitting Velux windows, although check with your conversion company as these may have to face away from the street facing side of your home.

If you need a little more room and have been thinking about an extension, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that a single storey extension doesn’t require planning permission if you’re extending up to 15% (70 cubic metres) or less of your home’s original floor space. This doesn’t include previous extensions. You can’t build higher than 4 metres (for a pitched roof) or 3 metres (for a flat roof) and the extension shouldn’t ‘move’ your home closer to a road.

You can also build on top of an existing garage as long as it doesn’t go any higher than your existing roof, and obeys the same boundary restrictions.

Dreaming of new windows and doors? They don’t need planning permission either, including turning existing windows into bay or bow windows. If you’re after a conservatory, then the rules are usually the same for a single storey extension, particularly regarding nearness to surrounding boundaries. Again, your installer will be able to advise you further.

So, there’s lots of improvements you can get straight on with, although it should be noted that if you live in a listed building or a conservation area etc, then there may well be a few ‘hoops to jump through’ in order to get permission to carry out any of the improvements we’ve mentioned above as well as a few we haven’t. And because there’s no guarantee that permission will be forthcoming, you should never engage a contractor or start work before obtaining permission.

You’ve heard the story of the Farmer who applied for permission to build a home on the site of a static caravan and who was refused permission? He surrounded the caravan with bales of straw and secretly demolished the caravan and built the house in its place. Much later, he removed the bales of straw.

It was only when he was overheard bragging about his achievement by a local planning officer that he was ‘found out’ and ordered to knock down the bungalow.

photo credit: gareth davies

Getting a loft conversion rather than moving house.

More of us than ever before are staying put in our homes and extending them, rather than moving house. Over the last few years, applications for planning permission have more than doubled, with homeowners now making up around 53 per cent of the planning authority’s total workload.

There is no doubt that adding extra space to your home automatically adds value, and back in 2008, loft conversions came out top in a research report by Nationwide, adding a massive 21 per cent on to the value of your property! New techniques in loft conversions also mean that previously inaccessible roof spaces, such as trussed roofs, can now be converted – so there is no excuse!

Here’s how a typical loft conversion would proceed:

One – What type of roof do you have? The first thing to do when thinking about converting the loft is to have a good look at it – the type of roof you have will determine what can be done with the space. Single roofs – with a triangle of rafters and joists at the bottom are the easiest to convert, but sadly are the least common type! Purlin or double roofs are most common and next easiest to convert – these have timbers running horizontally to support the rafters and V-shaped struts at intervals across the roof. Trussed or ‘W’ roofs were previously impossible to convert, as they were too complex to create a workable space. However, new load-bearing techniques mean that even trussed roofs can now be converted! All roof types must have a minimum height of 2.3 metres to be suitable for conversion.

Two – Planning permission. Do you need to comply with planning permission or any building regulations? This should all be covered before you go ahead with the conversion. Your chosen loft conversion company will probably be able to help with submitting plans and getting permission as part of their completing the conversion for you. They’ll know exactly what’s required by way of plans and drawings, specifications and building materials to comply with the latest guidelines.

With a loft conversion, you won’t usually need planning permission. Under new laws, homeowners can convert garages and lofts, build extensions and install solar panels and wind turbines without permission, as long as they don’t impact on the neighbours. However any large extensions – over 15 per cent of the overall property size – will still need permission, as will listed buildings and houses in conservation areas. Most objections will relate to concerns over loss of privacy, loss of daylight or noise disturbance. If in doubt, check with your local planning authority before proceeding.

Building regulations apply to all renovations and all work carried out will need to be inspected by the Building Control Surveyor on a regular basis. They will provide you with all the necessary certificates which must go into your HIPs pack when you sell. Building regulations apply to things like structural stability, fire escapes, resistance to fire and damp, ventilation, stairways and insulation.

Three – Time to call the professionals. A professional loft conversion company is a must – they will plan out your whole design for you, and will know what will work best in the space you have. Specialists will also take care of all the paperwork for you when it comes to dealing with planners and building inspectors, and will sign it all off for you to include in your HIPs pack. It is important to shop around for loft specialists – always try to get at least three quotes to compare costs and ideas and try to see examples of their previous work. A loft conversion is a massive undertaking, so make sure you agree everything with your builder – timescales, cleanup processes (you don’t want to live in mess for the duration!) and also check they’re insured.

Four – Your loft conversion begins to take shape. Once you have satisfied the planners and regulators, it’s time for the professionals to get going! Depending on the type of loft conversion you have, it could take anything from four to eight weeks to complete.

For the first half of the build, contractors are going to need to access the loft from the outside of the roof, and may need to erect scaffolding – it’s important to tell your neighbours when this is going to happen and for how long – you don’t want to be falling out! The existing joists in your roof will usually not be strong enough to support a habitable room – one that can hold people and furniture – so they will have to be replaced with steel joists. Anything else structural such as roof windows or partition walls will need to be added in the first round of building, so you need to think about these early on. Once the initial structure is in place, builders will turn to installing staircases, electrics and plumbing.

Loft conversions in trussed roofs will be using techniques specifically designed for converting previously inaccessible spaces. These work on a ‘Load-Sharing’ system, where two new steel beams help the individual roof truss carry its original load plus the additional floor load as a result of the conversion. The beams will be cut to the span of the building and stretch from outside wall to outside wall with no internal support. These new systems usually only require three rows of roof tiles to be removed in order to insert the beams – which means minimum disruption!

Five – The finishing touches. Get out those paint brushes – your new room should feel like part of your existing house, so that when it comes to selling, you can then sell as a three-storey property, adding extra value! If you don’t have a lot of room on your landing, you could always look at spiral staircases or alternate-tread stairs in the design, which save space. A loft ladder doesn’t count as proper access and would mean you couldn’t sell your home with the loft room featured as an actual bedroom.

There are lots of high tech gadgets around which can make your new loft extra special – you could install remote-controlled windows high up in the rafters, or even roof domes which create light and headroom. Roof windows will need special blinds as they are fitted at an angle, and it is important to remember that there is nothing to block the sunlight up there – so screen your windows well if you don’t want your furniture to fade. When furnishing you loft, there are lots of specialist companies who will make low-rise furniture to fit the space. This will make the room appear taller and less cluttered. Also remember there isn’t as much headroom in a loft. Bare this in mind when positioning beds and chairs – you don’t want to keep banging your head!

Loftquoter.co.uk can help you find quotes for all types of loft conversions, in all types of roofs, both conventional and trussed loft spaces and let you see real homeowner feedback on the loft conversion companies around your area.