PROPERTY & HOME WITH MARTIN ROBERTS
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Welcome to Property & Home with Martin Roberts!
IMAGE: © Martin Roberts
i! It’s Martin Roberts – him off the telly! – welcoming you to this issue of Property & Home, your essential guide to buying, renovating, decorating, and selling property. In the 17 years I’ve been filming Homes Under the Hammer, I’ve never tired of seeing the results people can get when they venture into the property market, find just the right buy for them, and put their heart into a renovation project. There are huge opportunities to make money from property, even in the current climate, if you know what you’re doing! But it’s not just about making money – though there’s loads to be had if you follow good advice – it’s also about the sense of achievement you get, following a project from what can be humble beginnings to a satisfying conclusion. That’s why I was so pleased to be asked to work with the nice people from Property & Home
to bring you this guide to the ins and outs of the property market. Whether you need advice on how to win at auctions and what to do next, insight into the hot spots in the property market, guidance through the minefield of legal issues, news on new-build technology or tips on the hottest furnishing, decorating and gardening trends, it’s all here in this issue. I hope you enjoy reading it, that you learn from it, and that you have as great a time as I have in the world of property! Cheers, Martin
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ProPerty & Home
Martin Roberts tells Chris Jenkins why he loves the property business and still gets a kick out of Homes Under the Hammer
The Art of Negotiation You don’t have to accept the ﬁrst mortgage deal you’re oﬀered – here’s how to negotiate a better one Listen and Learn Getting into the property business can be daunting – our guide to planning and learning will get you oﬀ to a ﬂying start Protect Your Property Why building insurance is essential, particularly if you are embarking on a self-build project
PROPERTY & HOME
Adding it Up If your head for ﬁgures isn’t the best, you’ll need the help of an accountant like Philip Gambrill FCCA to negotiate the property market
The Hotspots Has the coronavirus pandemic changed everything? Why some areas are now becoming property buying hotspots
Move or Improve? From extensions to loft conversions, there are many ways you can enhance your property before considering a move
Retire in Comfort Careful ﬁnancial and property planning should see you comfortable and well-oﬀ in old age
Think Before You Self-Build It’s a complex business, but with our help your self-build project should go like a dream
Save Energy, Save the World Saving energy isn’t just economical, it’s ecological. Find out how you can build savings into your property
Legal Ease Why are solicitors such a vital part of property transactions? Charles Knapper LLB answers our questions Winning at Property Auctions Property auctions can be intimidating, but read our essential tips and you’ll be well prepared for success
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Short-term thinking Short-term letting needn’t mean short-term planning - sometimes it’s a great option for the landlord
People In Glass Houses Conservatories can bring joy to your home. Find out about the wide range of choices involved
Resin to be Cheerful How resin/aggregate driveways can be a beautiful and practical solution - if they’re done right
Silent Light Can windows let in light while keeping out noise? We look at the options
Snuﬀing Out Fire How properly used, ﬁre-resistant building materials can reduce risk
IMAGES: Shutterstock/Martin Roberts/Sofa.com
HOME Kelly’s Eye How CBE-winning designer Kelly Hoppen’s signature neutral palette took over the world
Why Air Quality Matters Could your indoor air be more polluted than outdoors? Find out what you can do about it
All the Rage From nature pattern wallpaper to Art Deco furniture, some of the most exciting interior design trends
Cook and Look A kitchen should be practical but also look great. From modern to rustic we consider the options
Kitchen Tech for Fabulous Food Produce great meals eﬀiciently with the latest in hi-tech kitchen accessories
Brighten Your Living Space With Tiles Underfoot, on your walls or even on furniture, tiling present practical, beautiful and ﬂexible decorative options
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PROPERTY & HOME
Flooring It From wood to concrete to carpet, ﬂooring options are enormous – so what’s the best option for each room of the house?
The Home of the Future How the Connected Home Over Internet Protocol Alliance could lead us all into a connected world
Get Smart in the Kitchen From lighting to security, ‘smart’ technology is improving our lives – but what can it do in the kitchen?
PUBLISHER & CEO Kevin Harrington EDITOR Chris Jenkins STAFF WRITER Hillary Nguyen-Don DESIGNER Friyan Mehta
CONTRIBUTORS John Renwick Deborah Shrewsbury PRODUCTION DIRECTOR Joanna Harrington ADMINISTRATOR Adam Linard-Stevens
Get the right DIY tools and you have the power to do all sorts of money-saving jobs around the house
COVER IMAGE Bob Coyne, Black Tie Portraits
104 And So To Bed… From hi-tech entertainment centres to rustic retreats, bedroom furnishings can hit all sorts of design points
Property & Home with Martin Roberts Celebrity Angels Suite 2, 143 Caledonian Road London N1 0SL Tel: 020 7871 1000
PROPERTY & HOME
109 Holding in the Heat How saving energy expenditure could be as easy as insulating your home properly.
112 Create Your Perfect Garden From decking to water features and artiﬁcial lawns to barbecues, we bring you all the latest trends in garden design and building
126 Tools For the Job From mowers to trimmers, with the right tool there’s no garden job you can’t tackle
129 Martin’s Musings Why do we get into the property game and what do we get out of it? Martin Roberts, celebrity guest editor of Property & Home shares his thoughts
IMAGES: Berkeley Place-Pete Helme/Shutterstock/Estwing Tools/Danielle Anjou-Chalrton Island
All material in Property & Home with Martin Roberts is wholly copyright and reproduction without the written permission of the publisher is strictly forbidden. Products and services included in this publication do not imply endorsement by Martin Roberts. The views expressed in this publication are entirely those of the writers and do not necessarily represent those of Celebrity Angels. The information in this publication is carefully researched and produced in good faith, however, neither the Publisher nor the Editors accept responsibility for any errors. The Celebrity Angels Series is published in the UK under licence by Damson Media Limited. Damson Media Limited is registered in England and Wales under registration no. 07869300.
From a thatched hut to a garden pod, outbuildings are seeing a revolution in design and applications
102 You Have the Power!
PUBLISHED BY COPYRIGHT © 2020, CELEBRITY ANGELS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
For sales enquiries call: 020 7871 1000
100 Out of Their Sheds
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and Beat the Market!
Martin Roberts, celebrity guest Editor of Property & Home, talks to Chris Jenkins about the current state of the property market, and tells us why he still loves it even in these unprecedented times 10
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s one of the UK’s most respected property, travel and lifestyle TV presenters and journalists, Martin Roberts is more than just a household name, he’s a familiar face from one end of the country to the next. Indeed, he certainly puts in the miles as a presenter of the long-running BBC TV series Homes Under the Hammer, which has been on the air since 2003 and shows no sign of running out of steam. So who better to turn to as a celebrity guest editor for Property & Home? Martin’s opinions on everything from financing a purchase to negotiating the legal minefields of property law are solid gold for any prospective property purchaser. With the property market still shaken by the effects of the coronavirus lockdown, we asked Martin to share his inside knowledge of the business – is it still a path to prosperity, or has the gleam won off?
IMAGES: Martin Roberts/Shutterstock
P&H: How has the coronavirus pandemic affected the property market generally? MR: The fact that the property market went into lockdown was a good thing. It gave it a chance to take a breather and not go into freefall. As I predicted, since things opened up again, we’ve seen a huge surge in property transactions and interest, partly from pentup demand, partly fuelled by the stamp duty holiday and both those combined with people seeking a lifestyle change. There’s been a rise in demand for properties out of the city and with more bedrooms – probably some of which will be used as a
home office. Properties with garden space now command even more of a premium than they used to. And if you’re working from home, suddenly “commutability” isn’t so important, which has opened up outlying areas to interest. P&H: WIll the market now pick up, or go into a slump? MR: I think it depends on how long the virus continues to dominate our lives and the economy. Obviously if there is a major economic downturn or we enter a sustained recession or depression then the property market will be affected. But I always advise people to look at property as a medium- to long-term investment, so any shortterm correction in prices should only be a temporary situation. If you look back at previous unstable times in the market, that’s exactly what happened. P&H: Is it still a good time to invest in property? MR: I believe property is a great investment. But not all properties are a great investment. As with anything, you need to do your research and buy wisely. But uncertainty creates opportunity. As Warren Buffet says, “Be fearful when others are greedy and greedy when others are fearful.” People will always need places to live, so intrinsically the commodity you are investing in makes sense. So, perhaps the current climate will provide the chance to acquire assets at discounted prices. If you’re buying to let out, then the most important thing is your yield. That’s the amount of return you’re getting compared to the amount you had to invest to get
Take advice from the professionals if you want to succeed in property
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ProPerty & Home
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that return. So long as the yield is good, the price or value of a property doesn’t really matter on a day-to-day basis. P&H: Where can I learn how to make money in property? MR: Twelve years ago I wrote a book called Making Money From Property where I tried to bring together all my knowledge from the world of property. It’s been updated since then and a 2021 version will be available soon. I used the book as the basis for a property training seminar programme that’s been running for over 10 years now. We take students with no knowledge through to becoming professional property investors. Being successful in any business requires you to invest in your education and through live seminars (when we can do them) and online training, we can pass on years of experience and help people avoid the pitfalls. There are advanced trainings in specialities such as HMOs (Houses of Multiple Occupation), Social Housing, Lease Options and of course, Buying at Auction. I’ve also created a 12-part Property Auction Masterclass, which is the ultimate guide to buying and selling property and land at auction, which as well as myself, features some of the most respected and experienced people from the world of property auctions. P&H: What are the biggest mistakes house buyers, builders or renovators make? MR: As with most things, it comes down to preparation. “Fail to Prepare, and Prepare to Fail,” as they say. It’s so easy to go online and do all the research you need to find good properties and compare them to others that are available. But there is no substitute for visiting a property with someone who really knows what they are doing and who can advise you. If you’re a buyer, you should visit at various times of the day to make sure there are no disturbances, such as a school rat-run or nearby late working factory. When renovating, it’s important to be clear who the end user is and the end use for the property. Too many people make renovations personal rather than ‘fit for purpose’. For builders starting out, I would say join forces with one or two others to share the risk and exchange experience. P&H: Where are the property hot-spots now? MR: Continuing the theme of escaping the cities, according to the property sales websites, coast and country properties have seen the highest rise in searches recently. Interest in places like Lightwater in Surrey, Bruton in Somerset and Chipping Campden in The Cotswolds is booming, joining Hungerford in Berkshire, Sturminster Newton and Shaftesbury in Dorset, Aylesford in Kent, Halesworth in Suffolk and Dartmouth in Devon as places where searches have more than doubled. It seems that the short-term shift has become a long-term trend as home buyers look to escape crowded cities and big towns and move to find space and a better natural environment. If you’re looking for investment or rental properties, places where you’ll get a lot of house for your money are eternally popular. 14
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You’ll get a lot of house for your money in property ‘hot spots’
Stoke on Trent, Derby, parts of Birmingham, Sunderland and other parts of the North East, Crewe and the valleys of South Wales all have a huge selection of sub-£100,000 properties that could deliver impressive rental returns. P&H: What adds ‘kerb appeal’ to a property? MR: Initial impressions are vitally important when you come to sell a property. People will form an opinion in a startlingly short amount of time – a few minutes maximum! Start with the garden. If it’s messy or unkempt, it creates a bad view about the state of the house. Weed the path and trim the grass. Exterior paint can soon become stained or dirty and applying a new coat isn’t a big issue. Likewise, windows. Jet wash them so they are clean and white, not algae covered. Tidy and repair any leaking guttering as not only will this cause potential damp problems but again it gives the impression the property is not cared for. P&H: What do you most enjoy in Homes Under the Hammer? MR: Even after 17 years I still love filming Homes Under the Hammer. I love property, so it’s always fun to see the kind of places people have bought. It’s rare that I visit one that I think the buyer should
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have walked away from. Most houses can be brought up to scratch with enough time and effort. And I love hearing the enthusiasm of the new owners and their sometimes wildly optimistic budgets. Obviously sometimes we encounter properties that have seen better days and some places where the previous occupants have obviously fallen on hard times – and that’s really upsetting. Worst of all is when someone must have kept an animal inside permanently. The smell is like nothing you can imagine! P&H: What have you been up to on your YouTube channel? MR: One of the good things that came out of lockdown for me was that I managed to finally get around to producing content for my new YouTube channel, Martin Roberts Property Titbits. I set it up like a proper TV channel, so there are lots of different playlists – each with a different style and content. There’s my Property Masterclass where I give detailed advice on all aspects of the property world – from suggestions for first-time buyers to tips on how to buy at auction. Then there’s my Real Life Renovations where I take you through various property projects that I am currently working on. There are my Property Clinics where I answer questions and quick Property Tips like The Best Way to Add
£10k to the Value of Your Home. But I was also keen to have a DIY section for adults and kids where I give inspiration and advice on simple DIY projects that people might want to undertake – from putting up a shelf for the adults, to making a bike jump or swing-ball for the kids. Over time, I’ll just keep building the channel into the ultimate place to go to for property and DIY advice. P&H: How would you describe your ideal property? MR: It needs loads of space as I’m pretty bad at throwing things away! But I love open-plan design and I love the outdoors and nature. So, something near a beach with big bi-fold doors overlooking the sea, with an infinity swimming pool and loads of sheds for my clutter would be rather splendid! ■ For more information about Martin’s property education course visit www.martinrobertspropertyeducation.com For more on Martin’s charity visit www.martinrobertsfoundation.org.uk Martin’s YouTube channel is called Martin Roberts Property Titbits www.youtube.com/user/martinroberts1 celebrityangels.co.uk
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TAKING THE HELL OUT OF HOME-BUYING Buying a home should be an exciting milestone. But for most people, it’s one of the most stressful times of their lives. We asked hundreds of buyers across the nation how they felt about the process of buying a home. 65% of them told us it felt more bad than good. 15% came close to a breakdown, one in ﬁve were unable to sleep properly, and one in ten were haunted by bad dreams.*
WHAT HELL LOOKS LIKE Getting a mortgage can make you feel powerless. Lenders poke holes in your ﬁnancial history and demand details of every debt you’ve ever had. Everyone speaks exclusively in jargon. Then it’s time to do the legal work. So of course, that’s the exact moment your solicitor chooses to disappear. Until they reappear at the end and sometimes charge you loads of hidden fees. And no-one really explains the property survey to you. That’s the report you get on the condition of the place you’re about to buy. Without a survey, you might move in and ﬁnd nasty surprises or unexpected repairs.
“I truly am amazed at the service I received. I started the process on 26 June and everything was completed within six weeks! “My team at Habito were always quick to respond to my queries and constantly kept me updated. With Habito Plus, they dealt with everything and for a good price. I would deﬁnitely recommend using this service if you are buying a house.” Jenette, Habito customer
HERE’S WHAT YOU GET WITH HABITO The mortgage Expert, qualiﬁed brokers help you ﬁnd the best possible deal by searching the whole of the martgage market. They make sure your mortgage application is as strong as possible, so you get the deal you want ﬁrst time.
HOW TO ESCAPE HELL & MAKE LIFE EASIER There is a better way. A home-buying service like Habito can help you handle all of it, eﬀortlessly: the mortgage, property survey and the legal work. With Habito, you get a home-buying team on your side. Mortgage brokers to handle the mortgage. Conveyancers to handle the legal side. And property surveyors to help you understand what you’re actually buying. All the services you need to buy a home, in one place. Less admin. Less stress. Fewer bad dreams.
The property survey Habito helps you arrange the right kind of survey for your property, and gets it done fast. When the results come in, they’ll be on hand to support you with next steps. The legal work The legal side of buying is a make or break part of the process. Habito supports you through the whole thing – from drawing up the contracts all the way to transferring the money to the seller. All done to the highest standard.
Want to know more? Head to habito.com.
*Survey of 2,000 GB adults conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Habito in January 2020
PROPERTY & HOME
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The Art of
Do you have to accept the mortgage deal your lender offers, or is it possible to negotiate – or re-negotiate? In the current circumstances, it’s good to have options
with the looming threat of mass unemployment, may be incredibly demanding of any mortgage applicant. So where should you look for a mortgage or a re-mortgage deal? You can’t actually haggle on mortgage rates, but you can shop around. Price comparison sites and mortgage brokers’ websites are a good starting point. These will allow you to get a feel for what’s on the market. Remember that your existing bank or lender may give you a preferential rate.
ince your mortgage payment will probably be the biggest expense of your life, and will certainly last longer than any other debt, it pays to negotiate the best deal in the first place, or to be able to renegotiate if circumstances change. In the current situation, with the property market and the economy generally in turmoil, it can make all the difference if you keep your options open. At the moment, mortgage lenders are basing their offers on interest rates, so they can vary them at any time. They can also afford to be choosy about who they offer their best deals to, and
ProPerty & Home
Apart from High Street lenders, you should consider online-only banks, and small building societies, which can often be more flexible and understanding of your changing circumstances, such as if you are self-employed. Mortgage rates are changing so quickly that a good deal you see one week may have disappeared by the time you actually apply – or it may be better. So keep on your toes. It can be helpful to have the advice of a mortgage broker. They can advise you both on different types of mortgage, and on which
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are the most reliable lenders for special circumstances, such as selfemployment or if you are in a hurry to seal a deal. You will of course pay for this service, so make sure you know what you are paying for.
Mortgage types The different types and rates of mortgage are often the most confusing aspect of applying for a loan. Mortgage types include: h Standard Variable Rate – combines a regular repayment with a variable addition based on interest rates. A risky option, and one which is normally two to five or more percentage points above the base rate, and varying massively between lenders. When your initial mortgage deal runs out, you will normally go onto the SVR – this is the time to renegotiate! h Fixed rate – the most straightforward type of loan, with a rate which doesn’t vary for the lifetime of the loan h Tracker rate – tracks the Bank of England base interest rate, so repayments can rise or fall dependent on the base rate. Different lenders will add a different premium to the base rate, perhaps 0.75 percent. h Discount rate – here you get a discount off the lender’s standard variable rate (SVR). This doesn’t have to vary in the same way a tracker rate does, but on the other hand it isn’t fixed.
Martin’s Tips “It’s generally true that while mortgage rates vary from lender to lender, they all tend to charge a higher rate the more you want to borrow compared to the value of the property. This is called the Loan To Value, or LTV. Rates typically rise for every extra five percent you want to borrow – so it can make a big difference to your repayments if you borrow, say 75 percent LTV rather than 80 percent.”
An option for savers is a ROSCA (Rotating Credit and Savings Association) which enables groups of first time buyers to collaboratively raise their property deposits together. The first digital ROSCA, StepLadder, also provides specialist knowledge to help its members through the home buying process. For more conventional options, fixed rates and tracker rates are unlikely to fall any further, as lenders would not be able to make any profit on them, but you can now get offers of around 2 percent on anything from five- to seven-year loans on up to 75 percent of the property’s value, to two year loans on 90 percent LTV. The figure to look out for is the APRC (annual percentage rate of change), a standardised figure, which shows the overall interest rate for the duration of the deal, including the cost of the mortgage, plus any fees and charges that you have to pay. ■
Digital Home Buying
Habito is the UK’s leading digital home buying and financing company. Whether you’re a first-time-buyer, a next-time-mover, a landlord or simply looking to remortgage visit www.habito.com for free, whole-of-market mortgage advice and everything you need to complete your home purchase.
It can pay to shop around for a mortgage deal
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Ready to buy another property? If you’d like to take the next step towards building a property investment that will generate ongoing income without trapping your capital in each deal, read on. There’s a lot of negative press about property investment, but, providing you know what you’re doing, it’s still an excellent way to build a substantial additional income (or even ditch the day job!) Most people start by looking at buy-tolet properties, but that’s far from the only option. Some people buy-to-sell, some people specialise in homes of multiple occupancy (HMOs) and some people have been inspired by the Airbnb market and have gone into serviced accommodation.
Whichever method or combination of methods you choose - you need to know how to leverage your capital so it doesn’t get stuck in a property. If you go down the traditional buy-to-let mortgage route, you’ll need a big chunk of cash to put down as a deposit - and also enough to finance any refurbs needed. This is what most property investors do. But there’s a better way that lets you make more money, faster and without needing a huge bank balance to get started.
Intrigued? Read the Recycle Your Cash book.
Get the Recycle Your Cash Book Today - it’s a tiny investment that has the potential make you hundreds of thousands of pounds. Stand out from the crowd - become a Ninja Investor. Grab your copy at: www.rycbook.com
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Property investment without a huge bank balance My name is Kevin Wright and I’ve been in property since the early 1980s. I’ve pretty much done most types of property investment, from new builds to buy-to-let.
I’ve always specialised in property and now share my years of experience of innovative property funding through my training programmes and my property finance brokerage, backed by two decades of experience. The Ninja Investor Programme and Ninja Achievers brands are focused on teaching property investors how to make more money with less investment, legally, ethically and practically. I love helping people and teaching investors how to get more profitable results. If you’d like to learn how to make more profit from your property investment, subscribe free to my YouTube channel and discover the smart way to invest in property.
Follow Kevin on YouTube: www.youtube.com/kevinwrightproperty
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Listen and learn
From some angles, the UK property market has never looked busier – but how do you learn to get into it and make a profit?
espite the coronavirus lockdown – or perhaps because of it, if you take into account pent-up demand and the incentive of the Stamp Duty holiday – the UK property market has never been busier. As Property & Home’s celebrity guest editor Martin Roberts says, “The UK property market will not stop for any pandemic due to the simple fact that people need somewhere to live.” But understanding it properly and being able to take advantage of the opportunities that exist isn’t easy. So how do you educate yourself about the ins and outs of what can be a complicated, stressful and confusing business? With his book The Property Auction Guide Martin Roberts has been passing on pearls of property wisdom for many years, and for a
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more personal approach, he also developed training courses under the banner Making Money From Property and the 12-part online Property Auction MasterClass course which covers everything you need to know about buying and selling property and land at auction.
Webinars While it’s not been possible to present courses during the coronavirus pandemic, Martin continues to educate ordinary people with free one-hour introductory webinars to give an insight into this proven training programme, and equip people with the tools and support to develop their winning property investment strategies. “We live on an island with a limited supply of homes” says Martin. “Since the re-opening of estate agents post lockdown there has been a surge in activity. There’s lots of talk around how the market may perform, what the lifting of the ban on evictions will mean, changes to planning regulations and much more. It may seem to be an uncertain time and it’s easy to feel daunted by this fast-changing
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landscape. That’s why we are have been continuing to education ordinary people on how to navigate the market and take advantage of the opportunities that exist.” In his webinars, Martin introduces subjects such as: h Why banks and building societies are desperate to unload the mountain of bargain properties on their books fast h Everything you need to know about investing in property at auctions h The quick and easy ways to decide instantly whether or not to bid for a property h Three simple sums you can use to work out the profit potential of your target property h The sneaky tricks auctioneers use to “rev up” auctions, and inflate the price to trap the unwary Investor h The best auctions to buy property at (and which ones to avoid like the plague) h The only three kinds of property you should ever considering investing in. …and plenty more tricks and tips. You can find out more at www.martinrobertspropertyeducation.com.
Basic principles Like all investments, the property market can be a bit of a gamble – no one could have predicted the coronavirus pandemic, for instance. But again, the basic principle of ‘buy low and sell high’ always applies, and with careful management a single property, or a portfolio, can be made to pay off.
In 2016, The Energy Efficiency (Private Rented Property) (England and Wales) Regulations 2015 established the new Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES) in the residential and commercial private rented sector. It is now deemed unlawful to let properties with an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) rating below an ‘E’ rating. Find out more at www.gov.uk/environment/ climate-change-energy-energy-efficiency.
There are three basic property investment strategies: h Buy-to-let h Development h Buying off-plan
What is MEES?
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So which of these strategies look best in the current environment? Over the last 20 years or so, buy-to-let landlords who built up a portfolio should have done very well, as rental property has been popular and return on investment high. While increasing regulation and legislation can make BTL a demanding field to be in, it’s still a popular and lucrative investment, because it combines rental income with capital growth. While property prices remain high, and some people can’t get on the property ladder at all, rental properties will continue to be in demand. If you can stay on top of requirements such as Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards (MEES), Right to Rent rules, Health and Safety regulations, taxation changes and maintenance costs, BTL can be a sound additional or replacement income for landlords, particularly if regarded as a long-term investment. Property development – what the Americans call ‘flipping’ – can be a better short-term option, though TV shows like Homes Under the Hammer have brought lots of small and medium-sized investors into an increasingly competitive market. The idea is to find an affordable property in need of renovation, do it up, resell it at a profit, and move on to the next. Each individual project can provide an excellent return – but it’s also possible that it could go wrong for a multitude of reasons, leaving you out of pocket. For instance, in the time you take to complete your project, the market could change (again, no-one could have predicted the coronavirus pandemic). Costs will inevitably rise, never decrease, and unexpected setbacks such as problems with contractors, materials or construction hitches like subsidence can knock a project offtrack. Elsewhere in this issue we give you some advice on winning at auctions, and making sure that you don’t land yourself with an unprofitable prospect.
shop for morTGaGes
If you have to borrow, shop around. There are still good mortgage deals around, though you may need a broker to help you find them. Since April 2020, landlords have been able to claim only a 20% basic rate income tax deduction for their mortgage interest, so getting the right mortgage in the first place is even more important.
Buy low, sell hiGh
Whether you intend to live in a property or rent it out, making the right offer is key – for investors, paying too much will have a direct impact on your short- and long-term profits.
GeT professional help
Solicitors, conveyancers and surveyors are your friends. Good ones can save you time and money, and ignoring their advice can cost you a packet! ■
To flip or noT To flip? You can also ‘flip’ a new property, simply by buying it before it’s even built (‘off-plan’), perhaps adding some value, then re-selling at a profit. In theory, this can’t go wrong – property prices will always go up, right? – but what if there’s a property market crash and you’re left with a property worth less than you paid for it? If it works, buying offplan can offer excellent returns, but it’s a high-risk strategy. Whichever scheme you choose, there are likely to be five main stages to your plan.
GeT your finances in order
do your research
Look at your target market, whether it’s the private rental sector or sales, and make sure the property is suitable – for instance commuters will look for somewhere near a railways station, and families will look for good local schools.
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If you’re interested in the property business, research is the key to success
The more capital you have to start with, the more profit you could potentially make. If you have to borrow, make sure you calculate your costs properly. Always leave some margin for error in your calculations as it’s easy to lose your profit on the smallest of miscalculations.
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Insurance is a complicated field at the best of times, but if you’re building or renovating a property it needs special consideration
f you are renovating or extending your home, you may find that your basic property insurance policy becomes void; and if you are building your own home, you will certainly find that you need specialist self-build insurance. So what do you need to know to keep your property covered? The function of renovation Insurance is to cover your existing home, building works, all the materials and your liabilities as property owner while work is being done. The reason your standard home insurance doesn’t cover you during renovation work is that you may encounter problems during the work such as the building becoming structurally unstable, exposed to the elements or more vulnerable to theft.
Building trust A renovation insurance policy should cover you against damage by escape of water, by fire, or by accident such as falling tiles, and should also cover injury to the person. It should also cover materials in transit to your property, or stored offsite, such as kitchen and bathroom units,
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Martin’s Tips “If you use standard construction techniques in a self-build, it can usually be covered by a standard home insurance policy, though you may have to show that the house has been properly signed off by a builder, and that the correct planning permissions were secured. But if you have a non-standard construction self-build, such as a thatched or flat roof, you will need a non-standard home insurance policy to make sure it’s properly covered.”
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flooring, carpets and curtains. Your contractors will have some level of insurance cover while they are working, but probably won’t cover you while they are off-site, and will probably not cover tools or materials you supply.
SELF-BUILD If you are undertaking a self-build project and have taken out a mortgage to pay for it, your lender will almost certainly insist that you take out self-build insurance. Though if you are using a builder they should have insurance in place, you shouldn’t rely on this, and should stay in control of the process. A builder’s insurance policy may have limitations such as an ‘application of heat’ exclusion, by which fires started by a blowtorch would not be covered. If a fire started in this way damaged your property, you would have to pay for repairs yourself then sue the builder, obviously not an ideal situation. Self-build insurance covers you for damage or injuries that may happen on your self-build site, whether you are building on an empty plot of land or knocking down an existing structure and rebuilding. As you are technically an employer during a self-build project, your policy will need to have an employer’s liability element. You should also have public liability cover in case of injury to a member of the public. You may choose to add personal accident protection, in case you are injured yourself. This can cover losses on the project, hospital fees, or even death cover. Another option is legal expenses cover, which will help you if you have any legal disputes during the project.
You will need to get a policy from a specialist, and will usually be asked to specify the duration of the cover according to the length of the build. If you over-run, don’t forget to extend the period of cover. In addition to negligence cover, you may also require non-negligence cover! This covers you for events that are out of yours and your workers’ control, such as subsidence causing your building to collapse and damaging others’ property. This is known as JCT 21.2.1 insurance cover. The JCT - Joint Contracts Tribunal - can help you with insurance and other building contract matters. Its contract families contain main contracts and sub-contracts reflecting the range of collaborative procurement methods used by the construction industry, from traditional/ conventional to design-and-build, management, and integrated team/partnering contracts everything from complex, large-scale projects,right through to individual home owners carrying out alterations. Find out more about the building industry’s Joint Contracts Tribunal insurance schemes at https://corporate.jctltd.co.uk. ■
A Hiscox survey says that two thirds of UK homeowners didn’t tell their insurer about having renovation work done, which may have voided their insurance policy. Most standard home insurance policies also have an unoccupancy clause, so if you move out of the property for more than 30 days while work goes on, cover may well be restricted while the property is empty.
SpEcIaLIStS Your self-build insurance should also cover any temporary accommodations such as caravans or huts used during the project, and tools and equipment which may be stolen from the site. This can be particularly important if you are hiring in expensive specialist equipment. Additionally, a structural warranty policy can help protect you if any repair or rebuilding is required after your project is completed, due to design faults, failure to meet standards or faulty materials. This may also be specified by your mortgage lender, and gives you additional protection when the property is sold.
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Adding It Up
The property business needs a good head for figures, so you’ll need professional help to make the numbers add up. Philip Gambrill FCCA answers our questions P&H: How important is it to speak to an accountant when I buy or sell a property? PG: It often pays to take professional advice before completing a sale or purchase of an investment property, particularly to consider the tax implications. We are generally talking big numbers, so it’s sensible to do a bit of planning, consider the options and the possible savings available. Buyers need to consider income returns and the likelihood of any capital growth. Sellers need to be aware that Capital Gains Tax liabilities are now due 30 days after sale. P&H: What’s the difference between buying personally and in the name of a business? PG: This is a topical question following the recent withdrawal of tax relief on interest payments for individuals. Many landlords have switched to using special purpose vehicles like limited companies, but these need to be considered carefully as there are “tax traps” to avoid. The real question is whether you are trading or investing. Holding a portfolio of property, even if you are involved in the maintenance and up-keep and dealing with tenants, may not be considered to be “running a business”, and a different tax treatment may apply to the expenses and the profits. Some landlords also buy “do up” and sell. If you are doing this regularly, the tax man may consider that you are in business, and you need to pay income tax.
About the Author
Philip Gambrill FCCA is senior partner at PG Lemon LLP Chartered Certified Accountants in London and Kent. The practice advises many landlords on all aspects of property related tax. Call 020 7247 1922, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.pglemon.co.uk
P&H: Is it more advantageous to buy and sell at one time of year over another? PG: Not really - there is only one allowance per year, but you can double-up for husband and wife if the property in jointly owned. ■
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P&H: How is Capital Gains calculated when I buy and sell a property? PG: There is an annual allowance to set against any gain (for 2020/21 it is £12,300). For residential property, the gain is the difference between the sale price and purchase price, less any incidental costs, taxed at either 18 percent or 28 percent depending on other income.
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How the ROSCA is solving the deposit crisis StepLadder is on a mission to help first time buyers get on the property ladder faster Young people and those with adult-aged families know the struggle of raising the capital to buy your first home. With many mortgage lenders needing buyers to have a 15-20% deposit to purchase – around £31,950 on average - raising the funds can feel like an impossible task. Plus, none of us learn how to buy a house at school, so trying to work out where to begin is daunting. It’s a basic human right to be able to own your own home, and one solution provided by collaborative deposit raising platform, StepLadder, is giving hope to first time buyers.
StepLadder is on a mission to help renters make the leap to home ownership by using a financial model known as a ‘Rotating Credit and Savings Association’ (ROSCA). This model is popular and has been used for centuries in nations worldwide. You may have heard of it being called names like a Pardna, Chama or a Susu. StepLadder works in the same way as these but it’s digital and more accessible.
How it works We match you to other Members based on your mutual budget levels, creating a Circle for you all to contribute to.
Each month, everyone in the Circle pays in the same amount of money, and one Member is drawn randomly and awarded the total. e.g. 10 Members paying £100 to raise a £1,000 total.
This happens each month until every Member is awarded their total deposit.
By drawing on the power of collaborative finance, StepLadder helps 90 per cent of its Members raise their deposit faster than if they were doing it alone. It also works in tandem with other deposit savings schemes like Help to Buy or the ‘bank of mum and dad’, acting as the perfect top up to hit that deposit goal.
Greater community support and empowerment Aside from helping people raise their deposit faster, StepLadder empowers, educates, and coaches potential home buyers, giving Members access to specialist knowledge and exclusive discounts. Participating in a Circle also has the potential to help people improve their overall financial health by raising their credit score. By raising their deposit together, Circle Members get to be part of a community that supports each other to reach their financial goals - a bit like how a running club can help people train and stay committed to preparing for a marathon.
What do Members say?
Buying a property can feel so unachievable, especially in London. I didn’t live at home for long, so it felt hard to know how to raise the huge amount of money I would need, but knowing I had StepLadder to keep me on track and that it would help me raise £12,000 within a fixed period of time made it all much easier. The StepLadder team were always so supportive in helping me find exactly what I was looking for in a home, and were always ready to share their knowledge on other home-buying tasks like finding a good mortgage broker too.
Who is StepLadder?
Irene Asamoah, 29, Middlesex
For more information, visit www.joinstepladder.com Using StepLadder’s P2P product you will lend to and borrow from other Members in your Circle. Capital at Risk, Not FSCS Eligible. Missed or late payments may have an adverse effect on your credit score. Some of our trusted partners pay us a commission should you choose to use them.
StepLadder (firm reference number: 783003) is an appointed representative of More Lending Solutions Limited which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (reference number: 702503).
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The Hot Spots M
any of us are working from home at the time of writing, and the way things are going, we may be for some time to come. Experts have been suggesting for years that it makes sense for more people to work at home – the cost of commuting, city congestion and the cost of oﬀice space means that it makes less and less sense to centralise workspaces – particularly since computer technology means that work information can now be exchanged easily. Conferencing via Zoom or Skype means that we don’t actually have to share oﬀice space with colleagues – perhaps a relief for managers who are trying to work out how they can squeeze their entire staﬀ into an oﬀice building while maintaining social distancing.
TECHNOLOGY If it does suit you to work at home – you have the technology, the space and the discipline – the 30
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property market suddenly becomes much more open to you. Maybe you no longer have to look for a small, expensive city apartment, you can consider a spacious, green suburban home. So, where are property buyers now likely to look? Talking to Yahoo UK, Property & Home’s Martin Roberts said “A lot of us are thinking, ‘what are we doing living in the centre of a city when we could be living in the countryside?’” “One thing that the whole lockdown scenario has created in the property market is a massive demand for properties which have space around them. Space in a garden, space to have a home oﬀice, space to be able to walk the dogs and the kids to be able to play. “What we are seeing is a huge increase in demand for properties with gardens. They are selling so much quicker and the prices are deﬁnitely higher.” “One of the things that lockdown has taught us
Coronavirus has changed everything – now, more than ever people are realising that you don’t have to live where you work. So where are the new property hotspots?
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is that there are opportunities to work from home and work remotely more than there have ever been. Suddenly the whole country is fair game. That has got to be brilliant!”
Links and borders Searches for homes with gardens are up by 42 percent from buyers and 84 percent from renters year-on-year, with over a third of buyers and a quarter of renters saying that they wanted a better home workspace. When you don’t have to plan for a daily commute, transportation links become less of a consideration – though you don’t want to be stuck completely cut off from civilization, maybe in a rural area with unreliable broadband. Martin even suggests looking across the border in South Wales and Scotland, where breathtaking views of the Welsh valleys or the Scottish Highlands could surround you as you conduct video meetings from your home office. He says:
Martin’s Tips “When it comes to getting more for your money outside big cities and towns, look at places on the periphery of the town you are interested in. For example, if you were thinking of moving to Salcombe but it’s out of your price range, it might be worth taking a look at Thurlestone or Kingsbridge nearby. Bath and Bristol could be a good choice due to the high speed rail links connecting these West Country havens to London in just an hour and a half.”
“Cast your net far and wide, I think these are exciting times for investors and the opportunities are there for you if you can seek them out.”
PenT-UP deMand It’s true that pent-up demand after lockdown combined with the nine-month Stamp Duty holiday on the first £500,000 of any purchase have played their part in driving UK sales for the two months up to mid-September up by 58 percent on the same period last year. According to estate agents, most demand has generally been through London’s commuter belt, and in some rural lifestyle relocation markets in the East and South East. Here, in September 2020 agreed sales were up 78 and 73 per cent respectively on the same eight-week period in the previous year. Areas such as Guildford, Sevenoaks, Tunbridge Wells, Henley-on-Thames and Esher have been the most active, largely driven by a desire to be near good schools, and the attractions of the beautiful countryside of the Surrey hills. Estate agent Savills says that the typical buyer in this area is from south-west London or Islington, has 2.2 children and is spending £1.2£1.95 million on a property. We may not all fall into that bracket, but there have also been surges of interest in Ipswich, Chichester, East Hertfordshire and East Cambridgeshire – all still within spitting distance of London if the need arises! ■ celebrityangels.co.uk
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Solicitors are part of almost every property transaction – but why are they so vital? Charles Knapper LL.B answers our questions P&H: Must I employ a solicitor for property transactions? CK: The simple answer to this is ‘no’ - but it really isn’t that simple (as usual). Property transactions are fraught with financial dangers, and likely to be the most costly purchase a person will make. A solicitor will undertake a great number of searches to ensure that what you buy is what you think you are buying. A solicitor can advise you whether there is a defect in the title to the property, or a rent charge against the land, or some onerous condition, especially relevant where the property is leasehold or there is a rent charge against the land, or a covenant restricting you from doing something such as parking a caravan on the drive. P&H: When will I have to use a solicitor? CK: Usually when you are taking out a mortgage, because the lender will insist that a solicitor ensures that title to the property is good. If you are the seller and you have to repay the mortgage then again a solicitor will be needed. The question you need to ask is ‘do I want to take the risk of dealing with it myself even if I have the cash to just buy the property outright?’. If it was a second-hand car costing say £50,000, wouldn’t you want an inspection to make sure it was not a cut-and-shut?
About the Author
Charles Knapper has 23 years of legal experience and is the senior partner and solicitor of Fursdon Knapper solicitors, a niche law firm in the South West covering all aspects of law including property, disputes, family and children’s law, wills and probate. Call 01752 309090 or see the website at www.fklaw.co.uk
P&H: What is the difference between ‘tenants in common’ and ‘joint tenants’? CK: When two or more people own a property, it is held on a ‘trust for sale’ meaning that any one person can force the others to sell. For a husband and wife, if one dies the property transfers to the other without reference to a will. If four people own the property and one dies, the three remaining people own it. ‘Tenants in common’ is a mechanism often used by business partners and unmarried couples to ensure you have separate ownership of part of the property. ■ 32
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P&H: How do I extend a lease? CK: Leasehold property is fraught with dangers and increasingly lenders will not advance a loan if the lease is below 70 years. Contact the freeholder about your desire to extend the lease, and instruct a solicitor with expertise in this area to make sure that you aren’t overcharged on the premium for extending the lease. You will probably have to pay the Freeholder’s legal costs, any valuation fee for calculating the premium, and Land Registry fees.
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Winning at Property Auctions Anyone can win at a property auction – the trick is knowing what to do next. We present our guide to the scary world of bidding to win
Martin Roberts can teach you all the skills of making money from property auctions
t would be very easy to get over-excited at a property auction and just keep bidding until you win. The winning bit is easy – the trick is to win on something that is a good investment of your money, and to know what to do next in order to turn a profit. Here are a few of our top tips for winning at auctions, and making sure that you aren’t buying a lemon.
Read the LegaL Pack Nasty surprises can lurk in the legal documentation accompanying a property, such as outstanding bills you may inherit, major works planned which should be detailed in Section 20 notices, and short leases. Make sure that the lease is longer than 80 years and that you have at least a month to complete the deal. 34
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do YouR homewoRk Pressure at a property auction can be intense, and there’s often little time between a catalogue being released and sale day, so the best informed bidder is at an advantage. Reading the legal pack and having your lawyer look it over, looking online at local property prices and checking the floorplan will only tell you so much; a personal visit and getting a full survey done will tell you if the property is damp, dilapidated, illegally converted or in need of expensive electrical restoration which will eat into your profits.
don’t FoRget exPenses Things that can add to your auction costs include a percentage to the vendor, a fee to the auction house, Stamp Duty and insurance.
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What happens When I WIn? If you win a property auction, you have to be prepared for a few things to happen on the spot. Usually, a member of the auctions team will take you to the contracts desk, where you will be asked to provide proof of ID and residency, as well as further personal details such as National Insurance number, length of time you have lived in your current address, and past addresses. These details will then be used for electronic verification for anti-money laundering purposes. You will then be required to pay over the deposit monies, and any other charges stated in the auction catalogue such as the administration fee or buyer’s premium, before completing and signing two copies of the Memorandum of Sale. You will be give one copy of the Memorandum, and related papers which you will be asked to pass to your solicitor.
Go in with a figure in mind and stick to it; ignore the first few auctions, which often go over list price. In fact all guide prices can be underestimates, as this drums up interest – assume that properties will go for around 10 percent more than guide prices. Be prepared to go home without buying - there will always be another auction.
ArrAnge your finAnce Ideally, visit your mortgage broker before you buy, discuss the property you are interested in and set a price limit. Arrange a valuation and get the mortgage on course immediately after your winning bid. Though you can arrange a bridging loan after you buy, you will often have to pay a deposit of around 10 percent immediately, so make sure you take your credit card to the auction. Remember that online bidding often requires you to register a deposit in advance. If you are relying on selling another property to fund your bidding, be aware that it may not sell – around 28 percent of properties fail to sell at auction, and then their reserve price may be revealed, meaning that you may never achieve what you had hoped for. This could work to your advantage if you’re buying – go to the auctioneers the day after an auction and ask for a list of unsold properties before they’re relisted.
IMAGES: Martin Roberts/Shutterstock
Shortly afterwards you should receive written confirmation of your purchase, your solicitor should be notified and you will get an explanation of the next steps. If you are moving into the property yourself, legal completion should take place usually within 28 days, and the auction team will be informed by the seller’s solicitors that they can release the keys, at which time you will be the owner of the property and able to move in.
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Play it safe Remember that rules for auction are rather different to other forms of contract; once you have put in a winning bid you are obliged to buy without signing any contract. If you do back out, you may lose your deposit, and the seller may sue you for any losses, particularly if they are then forced to sell for a lower amount.
ConfidenCe triCk Bidding in an auction requires a certain amount of selfconfidence and gamesmanship. Go in well-dressed, sit at the front or stand in plain sight, take notes, speak clearly and state full amounts. Make sure you bring two forms of identification. Presenting yourself as confident and well-organised could deter other less confident bidders from going up against you - though others may be playing the same game!
know the market
“As a property buyer there are all sorts of tips you need to know – for instance there are some great incentives and tax breaks available when converting commercial property into residential, and you should Investigate the flat conversion allowance, as well as whether you can claim VAT back on conversion costs. Looking for a sale structured as a “Transfer of Going Concern” (a property that is being sold with a sitting tenant in place) can help reduce VAT costs, too.” You’ll find lots of essential tips in my Making Money From Property masterclasses and seminars. You’ll learn about: h Buy-to-let, social housing, HMO, Airbnb and more h Investing remotely if you’re self-isolating or the best investment properties aren’t close to home h Creative ways to finance properties h Improving your credit rating h Marketing, negotiation & spotting the best deals h Creating a power team h Mastering the mindset to achieve success Find out more at www.martinrobertspropertyeducation.com.
IMAGES: Martin Roberts/Shutterstock
If you attend many property auctions you will start seeing the same faces and may be able to pick up some tips from what they buy or ignore. Don’t forget that property auctions are no longer exclusively the province of small-timers – with the popularity of TV shows such as Homes Under the Hammer they have become a mainstream business for many experienced developers. ■
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Visit our website to enter exclusive free to enter competitions
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Move or Improve? Even the Halifax says the decision whether to renovate your home or move house is a ‘tough one’, so how do you decide whether to move or improve?
f you’re one of the thousands of homeowners who are trying to decide whether to move house or to improve your existing property, you will know that all sorts of factors come into play, and the decision is rarely easy. Sometimes it’s forced on you – such as if you’re moving for a new job – but in other cases, such as making room for a new child, there can be pros and cons to both moving and renovating. So what are the main points to consider? 1. Costs For many people the most important deciding factor will be cost. A renovation project such as an extension, loft conversion or basement conversion will normally be cheaper than moving house, but not necessarily once you have factored in professional costs of surveyors, architects and builders. Projects can easily go over-budget. Then, sometimes, depending on where you are moving from and to, you can actually make money on a house sale, rather than it costing you anything. Obviously, meticulous planning of a renovation project should give you a good idea of the cost, but things can change; you may ﬁnd structural problems with the property once the work starts, you
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may have problems with suppliers or materials, or you may decide to enhance the renovation in mid-project. Remember Cheops’ Law: “Nothing ever gets built on schedule or within budget.” If you are renovating your home with a view to selling it, be sure that your money is well spent; there’s many an anecdote of a house with a brand-new kitchen or central heating that was demolished the moment it was sold, because the buyer really only wanted the land. Always remember the hidden costs of renovating or moving; if you have to move out of your house for extensive rebuilding you may have to pay for temporary accommodation or storage, and if you are buying a new house, there are all sorts of costs to consider on top of the price of purchase, such as fees for mortgage arrangement, valuations and surveys, stamp duty, conveyancing, and land registry. All this, plus the actual moving costs, and any redecoration you may want to do in the new property. 2. Location, location… and, oh yeah, location Don’t underestimate the value of the location of your current home. If it’s convenient for your work, for your kids’ school, for the shops, for nearby family, or for local facilities, can you really do better? You could move for one reason, but ﬁnd that your new location is less good for loads of other reasons. If you are inclined to move, make
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sure that you aren’t taking a step down in terms of convenience. On the other hand, if you are nowhere near a school, but are thinking of having children, making a move to an area more convenient for schools would be a good investment for the future. 3. Attachment Some people get very attached to a house, either for family or other reasons, and just ﬁnd they aren’t happy once they have moved. If you think that you might always be pining for your old home or area, put more thought into renovation. There are often ways to solve potential building problems that you may not have thought of in the ﬁrst place. 4. Permissions You may be full of great ideas for renovating your property, but are they practical? Internal changes normally require no planning permission, but structural changes such as knocking down walls or adding doors, not to mention building extensions or converting lofts, may well require planning permission, which can be an expensive and long drawn-out process. You will need professional legal and planning help if you plan to do anything substantial, and in some cases, such as listed buildings or those in conservation areas, you may be limited in what you can do.
Martin’s Tips “If you are thinking of buying a property in need of renovation as an investment, in most cases you do find that a home that has been extended or improved to a high standard will command a higher asking price than its neighbours. Alternatively, if you want to live in the property, you may end up spending a similar amount in total, but you will be living in exactly the property you want rather than having to compromise.”
While renovating your home makes it really work for you and your family, it can also add value should you decide to sell at a later date. But be aware of the ‘ceiling price’ – the maximum amount a similar property has sold for in your area. On the other hand, if you move to a new home, you could ﬁnd one which overcomes the problems of your old house, and oﬀers more modern and attractive features – such as better energy eﬀiciency and more modern ﬁttings. ■
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PROPERTY & HOME
Retire in comfort When you’re coming up to retirement, it’s important to have a property plan to make sure you have somewhere to live, and a good income. So what are the options?
PROPERTY & HOME
hen you retire, the loss of a work income can come as a ﬁnancial shock. With more people having to rely on private pensions to supplement the meagre government pension, it’s all the more important that your property planning plays its part in making sure that in your later years you have both a comfortable home and a decent income.
DOWNSIZING In some ways, retirement can present golden opportunities for property planning. For instance, if you no longer need a large family home, or feel that you will have diﬀiculty managing in a large or multi-ﬂoor property, downsizing give you the chance to make some
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The disadvantages of downsizing are that you may ﬁnd it hard to get used to living in a smaller property. Also, if you are looking for a bungalow, it may be diﬀicult to ﬁnd one in your area, as there are relatively few on the market.
BUY-TO-LET Because state pensions are hard to live on, some retirees choose to invest in Buy-to-Let properties as a form of income in later years. Having a property portfolio makes for a ﬂexible investment which can adapt to changes in the economy. According to Government statistics published in 2019, the average UK pensioner earned around £300 per week after taxes, housing costs and contributions. Beneﬁt income was the largest component of total income for both pensioner couples and single pensioners – 59 percent for individuals and 35 percent for couples. Income from occupational pensions made up 29 percent of total gross income for pensioner couples and 25 percent for single pensioners. So the average pensioner is relying on an income of around £15,000 a year, or £200,000 in total pension income over a 15-year retirement period. This is typically only around 50 percent of what most people feel they need for a comfortable retirement. Research by the Tax Incentivised Savings Association (TISA) found that people aged 50 or over were typically facing an income shortfall of £11,400 a year, and for many, the only solution is to work longer. So is property investment a better alternative?
Since 2015, nearly £2.4 billion in pension funds has been cashed out by savers, and a YouGov poll showed that 30 percent of respondents aged from 45 to 54 said they were considering accessing retirement funds to purchase a Buy-to-Let property.
money on the property market – there is always a demand for large family homes, and selling yours could leave you with enough money for a smaller, more manageable house and a cash pot left over. Downsizing lets you realise the increase in value of your property If you have paid oﬀ your mortgage, downsizing should leave you with equity left over. As a cash buyer you will be able to make a quicker move, get a better price and live without debt Downsizing reduces your upkeep costs and time, leaving you with more opportunities to do what you want
Since pension restrictions were relaxed in 2015, from the age of 55 people have been able to access their cash from a deﬁned contribution (DC) pension without having to buy an annuity. The ﬁrst 25 percent of this savings pot can be taken tax-free, so it has become increasingly popular to withdraw from a private pension scheme to pay for a Buy-to-Let property. If you invest in a ready-made package - a fully furnished and tenanted property - you can get an immediate return on your investment, and with property prices at an all-time high, the rental market is currently strong. In fact the private rented sector is expected to make up 25 percent of the wider housing market by the end of 2021, and renters are expected to outnumber homeowners by 2039.
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There are potential pitfalls with BTL, such as agent fees, possible litigation costs against non-paying tenants, costs of mandatory property safety checks, and ‘void’ periods when you have no tenants and hence no income. Take professional advice before opting for a BTL investment and remember that any income is taxable, even in retirement, so make sure that your BTL income is taxed at the correct rate, separately from any other income.
Equity rElEasE Equity release is a contentious area but can work for some retirees. Basically, the way equity release works is to unlock the value of your home and turn it into a tax-free, cash lump-sum. It’s essentially a long-term loan that’s repaid using your home once you pass away or have to move into long-term care. Until then, you remain a homeowner with no need to move out. Equity release funds can be used for any purpose you like – maybe renovations, paying off a mortgage or helping your children onto the property ladder – or even on a world cruise. You can receive either a one-off lump-sum payment or a smaller sum, with a cash reserve to draw from, whichever suits your purposes best. While you don’t make any monthly repayments, interest builds up on the loan each year, with both loan and interest repaid from the sale of your home. Of course the disadvantage of equity release is that you don’t have the property to leave as part of an inheritance. You may also find that your tax position or eligibility for benefits is affected.
“If you are looking for a Buy-to-Let mortgage, bear in mind that the rules are a little different, as unlike a residential mortgage, a BTL property will usually fund repayments through rental income rather than a work income or pension. An age factor can be applied – some lenders, for instance, will not allow a mortgage to run past the age of 70, so if you are 60 years old, you may be limited to a 10-year mortgage – but, you could repay any outstanding debt by selling the property.”
of company, apartments or bungalows specially designed for older people, meals delivered, luxury facilities such as restaurants, swimming pools and landscaped gardens, spas, gyms, hairdressers, facilities for visitors, a range of social events, and on-site care arranged as needed. But it’s important to pay attention to the small print – all this luxury is costing you money in event and service charges As the property you have invested in will probably be leasehold, you may lose money when you sell, and a retirement community apartment may take some time to move. On selling, you or your heirs may also be subject to charges known as ‘exit fees’, ‘event fees’ or ‘deferred management fees’, so take professional advice before deciding. ■
Another possible retirement property investment is a retirement village apartment. Retirement villages, an American concept which is rapidly catching on around the world, offer all sorts of inducements; plenty
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Martin Roberts Property Training.indd 1
Think Before You
Self-building has some marvellous advantages, but needs careful thought before you commit. Here are our top tips.
elf-building is the very best way to create a home that’s perfect for you, and in most cases a house that you could not otherwise aﬀord. But of course it’s an enormous undertaking and you have to understand the commitment involve before you lay the ﬁrst brick. The ﬁrst thing to understand is that self-building doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to be your own architect, bricklayer, electrician, plumber, roofer, carpenter and labourer. You can choose to help with the work, or just act as a project manager and engage professionals in each area. (In fact you don’t even have to project manage – you can hire someone to do that too, via a package supplier). So what exactly is self-building and what are the most popular routes into it?
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INDIVIDUAL TASTE The point about self-building is to specify a house that is exactly to your requirements, rather than buying a completed property or buying oﬀ-plan. Homebuilding.co.uk says that around 11,000 homes in the UK are self-built each year, but only around 10 percent of the homeowners get involved in the building hands-on. Many more choose to get involved in the design stage, either because they want to stamp a look and personality on the buildings, or because they have particular design requirements, maybe that it should be low-maintenance and sustainable. First-time buyers may be better suited to a “custom build” where you have a hand in the speciﬁcation of a home which is being built by a developer, cutting out some of the more complex parts of selfbuilding such as having to deal with planning permission.
THE PLOT THICKENS Specialist services like plotﬁnder.net are useful in ﬁnding building land, and you can also do some legwork yourself, driving around the area you are interested in or using Google Maps to look for empty land. Some estate agents will hold lists of plots for sale, or you can ﬁnd local land auctions. Check local authority websites for details of land where planning permission has been granted, and register with your local authority under the Right to Build.
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Design anD builD
The Cil quesTion
The cost of submitting a planning application is currently £462 in England, but you will find that surveys and the cost of preparing plans and documents will add greatly to that. Planning permission normally takes around eight weeks to grant, and usually comes with conditions which you must adhere to if you don’t want to invalidate your consent. Putting together your team of builders and subcontractors can be done by word of mouth, and of course it’s always helpful if you can inspect previous work. Bear in mind that good contractors are often booked months in advance so it’s good to start looking at an early stage. You will need a Self-Build Insurance policy before work begins, and all new homes have to adhere to Building Regulations, so a building control inspector will visit at key stages of the build to inspect the work and ensure it complies. These stages include:
The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) imposes a fee on the creation of new homes, based on the size of the house and determined by the local authority. As a self-builder you should be exempt from CIL, subject to criteria such as the house being your principal residence for three years or more. But the exemption process is complex. You should also be able to reclaim VAT on your self-build materials, so make sure you keep all your VAT receipts! For comprehensive advice contact the National Custom and SelfBuild Association at nacsba.org.uk ■
h h h h h h h
Excavation for the foundations Pouring concrete for the foundations Building the oversite Building the damp-proof course Drainage Pre-completion Completion
“Finance can be the sticking point in many selfbuild plans. You’ll need to buy a building plot, pay for professional services such as architects and surveyors, and fund the building work itself. You might have the money in savings or equity in an existing property, but if you need to apply for a self-build mortgage, you’ll probably have to find a specialist – few High Street lenders provide facilities for self-build loans.”
And finally, before work begins you need to ensure access, which can cost from £500 to £10,000 depending on whether the connections need to run across private land and you need a ‘wayleave’. Water supply will be needed early on in the build, electricity and gas at a later stage.
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save the world
Eco-friendly builds are becoming universal, but how would you design a property for maximum energy efficiency and minimum carbon impact?
e all understand the importance of designing homes for maximum energy efficiency. In fact, some people aim for zero energy homes, designed from the ground up to be so super-insulated, energy efficient and renewable that they have a minimal running cost and carbon footprint. It’s even possible to design a zero-carbon home - a challenging prospect, but see https://zeroenergyproject.org for some pointers. But it is possible to create a less demanding but still energyefficient home, particularly if it is a self-build and you have control over the specification. The concept is often referred to as the ‘Passivhaus’ philosophy.
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The Passivhaus concept originated in Germany in the 1990s, and aims to reduce vastly the energy usage of homes by focussing carefully on the design and construction stages. It’s more about this phase than the fancy technological energy-saving gadgets you may choose to fit later – the argument is that if you get the fabric of the building right, your eventual energy usage will be minimal.
Design anD builD The Passivhaus concept works in two stages, design and build. In the Design stage, the emphasis is on radically reducing air leakage, the major source of heat loss in conventional builds.
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The main ways to do this are to increase insulation levels, make good use of glazing for heat gain, and to eliminate thermal bridges. A thermal bridge, also called a cold bridge, is an area of a building construction with a significantly higher heat transfer than the surrounding materials, typically where there is a break in the insulation, or the insulation is penetrated by an element with a higher thermal conductivity, such as timber. Achieving Passivhaus status depends very much on the construction team working closely together - each stage could involve a costly mistake if it isn’t well planned. Several types of construction including timber frame, structural insulated panels, insulated concrete formwork and cross-laminated timber are applicable for achieving a high level of air tightness, and less efficient methods, such as Brick and Block, can have their airtightness levels improved by using special tapes and membranes. After basic construction the next essential in the Passivhaus philosophy is a high level of insulation. Retaining warm air is the key to lowering heating costs and your carbon footprint. Another common element of a Passivhaus design is triple-glazing.
Fabric First This ‘fabric first’ approach before thinking of other energy-saving measures is increasingly common in new builds, even if the aim is not to achieve full Passivhaus certification. If that is the aim, to complete a certified Passivhaus you must engage a Certified Passivhaus Designer, a specialist in designing and certifying the standard. our house. This will be an additional professional cost to your project and may cost around £5,000. The Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) is a design tool produced by the Passivhaus Institut for use by building architects and designers. PHPP incorporates the energy specifications for quality-approved Passivhaus buildings from the Institut in a manual and CD-Rom. PHPP contains a series of tools for:
h h h h
Suitable for both residential and many non-residential applications, PHPP is supported by Certified Training Courses to help you get the most from the software. So what can you do if you are working not on a new build but on an existing, and possibly very energy-inefficient, house? Some of the Passivhaus methods can be applied here through a less-demanding standard called EnerPHit, devised by the Passivhaus Institut specifically for retrofit projects. Find out more about it at www.passivhaustrust.org.uk. ■
Martin’s Tips “There have been some incredible developments in glazing technology over the last few years, particularly in the use of triple glazing, which can regulate solar gain and increase thermal comfort, as well as limiting noise. But triple-glazing is still around 10-15 percent more expensive than a double-glazed performance window, so unless you specifically need it, as in a Passivhaus design, you might well get a better balance between cost and performance from high-performance argonor crypton-filled double glazing units.”
Calculating energy balances Designing comfortable ventilation Calculating the heat load Summer comfort calculations
The latest version of the software, PHPP 9, is now available, offering many benefits over its predecessor. PHPP 9 includes facilitated data entry and incorporates the latest results on the integration of renewables in building energy concepts. It also includes further findings from the Passivhaus Institut’s recent research on high performance buildings in various regions in the world; additional calculations combined with newly validated algorithms ensure suitability for all climates, including those with cooling and dehumidification requirements. celebrityangels.co.uk
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Getting started with short term rentals Earn effortless income from your properties with UnderTheDoormat If you’re thinking about how to earn income from your properties, short and mid term lets is a great way to maximise revenue and maintain flexibility. The great news is, you don’t have to do any of the hard work to find or manage suitable guests. Professional companies like UnderTheDoormat specialise in short term rentals and bring a new level of service and standards to this fast-growing industry. We will market your home, then ﬁnd and vet guests to stay in your property from as little as three days to several months. Whether you choose to go the fully managed route or do everything yourself, make sure you think about the following:
1 Where is my property being listed? You will get a better occupancy rate, and therefore better income if you’re visible on more than one platform. There are dozens of websites, with some companies having access to more exclusive channels (like Homes & Villas by Marriott International).
2 Looking after your guests Guest reviews are arguably the most important driver for bookings. A clean, tidy and welcoming home is very important in a post Covid world. It’s better to welcome guests in person if you can. This not only makes your guests feel at ease, but also gives peace of mind knowing who is in your home.
3 Insurance Most home insurance does not cover short term rentals, so you would need to take additional cover or use a company that has quality insurance, just in case.
As featured by:
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UnderTheDoormat is an award-winning, professional short lets company, working with individual homeowners as well as portfolio managers, property developers and estate agents to operate in the short-let industry. We fully manage and market your properties on an exclusive combination of more than 40 booking platforms, take care of the complexity of daily dynamic pricing as well as the demands of guest enquiry management. All your guests go through our vetting processes, with all IDs veriďŹ ed in person. We can even manage the end to end operations, so youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll return to your property even cleaner than you left it!
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0207 952 1650
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16/10/2020 12:12 11:44 09/10/2020
Short-term letting can be a lucrative business, but it also has its risks. We look at the pros and cons of premium rates
f you are a landlord, the main incentive to let on short terms is that it oﬀers a premium rental rate. But are there downsides to this potentially lucrative business? You can blame it all on Airbnb. The online private letting website set the trend for oﬀering private properties for short-term stays. For many, this oﬀers a level of comfort and convenience you wouldn’t ﬁnd in a hotel, and is a more welcoming experience for the tourist. Also, for many tourists a short-term private let is a cheaper option than a fortnight in a hotel, particularly in expensive areas like London.
PROPERTY & HOME
Of course, demand is particularly high in these metropolitan areas, so landlords there may have more choice of tenants.
TRY FOR SIZE Premium properties can appeal not just to tourists but to a wide range of customers, such as relocating professionals, short-term contract workers, homeowners who have to move out while renovations are done on their property, house sellers waiting for a new property purchase to be complete, and people who want to experience an area before committing to a move. In some cases a property owner may be planning on selling in the future, but may not want to have it empty in the meantime. A short let can give them time to take stock of the property market or to rearrange their ﬁnancial situation. Then, when they want to sell, they don’t have to wait too long for the let to end. Merilee Karr, Chair of the STAA (Short Term Accommodation Association), views short term rentals as a complementary part of
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any property portfolio, but says they “require a lot more involvement and daily management. If you don’t want to take that on yourself, there are fully managed options like UnderTheDoormat, but also services like Hospiria who can offer a marketing and distribution only option, whilst you handle the operational elements. “You can find all the relevant regulatory guidance on the Industry website, www.ukstaa.org/policy.” For landlords, the good news is that a short let can potentially command rates about 30 percent higher than a long-term rental. They’re also flexible, as tenancy contracts can be extended in weekly or monthly increments. Limitations could be imposed by your local council or mortgage lender – some councils have a three-month minimum, and some mortgage lenders will have a three-month maximum! If you are a leaseholder, check the terms of your lease – the freeholder may want to restrict short-term letting through covenant or administration charges. There is no limit to the number of days you can rent out a portion of your home during a calendar year so long as you are living there at the same time. As an individual property owner (or host) or a portfolio owner, you can get accredited by the STAA to reassure your tenants that you comply with all standards - increasingly important in the current environment. ■
Martin’s Tips If you are thinking of short letting, make sure that you are covered by insurance. It’s unlikely that a standard house-andcontents policy will cover you for letting, so you may need specialist buildings and contents cover, liability insurance in case of injury or damage, and insurance for loss of income, in the event of, say, a fire or flood.
PROS AND CONS The biggest drawback to short-term letting is the possibility of ‘void periods’ when you have no tenants. It’s easy to lose that 30 percent premium when your property is empty. Conversely, when it’s occupied by a stream of tenants you may suffer more than usual wear and tear. Until a few years ago there was a fixed 10 percent allowance on net receipts from furnished letting to compensate for wear and tear, whether you actually had to spend anything or not, but now landlords can only claim for actual expenditure. In short-term lets the landlord is responsible for furnishing and equipping the property, and for bills such as utilities, broadband, TV license and Council Tax, as well as being expected to deal with any repairs or emergencies immediately. A property management company can take a lot of this responsibility off your hands, but be aware that you will probably be charged double the fee you would for a long-term let.
Premium quality properties are particularly attractive for short-term letting
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A conservatory can add utility and value to your house, but it’s important to get the design and fittings right.
hether you want space to sit in peace, or somewhere for the kids to play, a conservatory can be a beautiful, useful and valuable addition to your house. But are you worried that it could be a nightmare to live in, hot in summer and cold and leaky in winter? You shouldn’t have to be, with the latest designs and technologies. A conservatory is essentially a home extension made mainly of transparent panels, often thought of as a half-way house between the home and the garden. While a conservatory should let in plenty of light, it’s important to be able to control the temperature – direct sunlight on glass panels can create a lot of internal heat, while thin
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glazing can become cold in winter. Also there’s the danger that the purpose-made panels of a conservatory could leak in the rain.
ConstruCtion Conservatories come in three main types of construction – timber, aluminium and uPVC (Un-plasticised Poly Vinyl Chloride, a form of plastic). Each has its pros and cons in terms of economy, utility and efficiency; in some cases, particularly if you think of it as an extension to your house, the conservatory may have a brick lower half, which will obviously increase building costs, but will add value.
utility Your reasons for wanting a conservatory will largely determine its design and materials. All conservatories have the advantage of letting in lots of light and offering clear views of the garden, but how else will you want to use it? Offering the space gain of an extension but without the cost, a conservatory can be a cozy sitting-room, a spacious dining-room perhaps as a kitchen extension, a handy
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playroom, an office or study, or even, with blinds fitted, an extra bedroom; whatever option you choose, it will add value to your home when you decide to sell.
The heaT quesTion Whatever the construction of your conservatory, the question of temperature should not arise if it is installed professionally, using the best quality materials such as high-performance frames and efficient glazing. h uPVC construction is the traditional choice – it’s relatively inexpensive and low-maintenance, but does a good job retaining warmth. h A timber conservatory will be naturally insulating, but make sure that microporous sealant is used to protect against all kinds of weather
Martin’s Tips “Generally you don’t need planning permission to build a conservatory, but it pays to check. One important question is what changes the previous owners of your house made; you may not need planning permission if your conservatory will extend 3m or less from the original back wall of a semi or terraced home, but if you live in a detached house, the conservatory can’t extend more than 4m beyond the original back wall. The conservatory must not be higher than 4m, or higher than the highest roof of your home; it must not cover more than half the area around the original house, and it must not ex-tend beyond the rear wall of your original house by more than 3m if an attached house, or 4m if detached.“
How to save an old conservatory If you have inherited an old and inefficient conservatory, you might consider upgrading it by fitting polyurethane or polystyrene insulation cut to size under the roof panels, with an air gap for potential condensation. Better in many cases to install a replacement roof with more efficient glass panels, mock tiles or insulated aluminium panels. This can be done as a DIY job, but as conservatories usually can’t take much weight on the roof, and are hard to repair once broken, you are probably best off leaving the work to the professionals.
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StyliSh choiceS After materials, your next choice is style. This depends very much on the intended use, and should be chosen in harmony with your house. h Victorian: Perhaps the most popular style, Victorian conservatories have a pitched roof which allows plenty of space. h The Edwardian style is usually flat-fronted, giving it a more modern look, and is the ideal choice for a dining room h The gable or Georgian style conservatory has a triangular front which maximises light, and is again particularly spacious h The Lean-to style is simple and easy to install and hence the least expensive 54
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If your conservatory is too cold to use in winter or too noisy in bad weather, you can transform it with insulated roof panels. In 2010 planning laws were relaxed and most cases you can now fit a solid roof to your conservatory without planning permission. This means better insulation, keeping the room warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer, and a room that you can use all year round. Green Space Ltd specialise in transforming conservatories with lightweight roof panels that offer eight times better insulation than a polycarbonate roof. With U-values of 0.29, they will keep your conservatory at a comfortable temperature all year round. What’s more, the panels are manufactured to measure off site, so installation generally takes less than a day. Your conservatory that was too cold to eat your breakfast in the morning, could be lovely and cosy by dinnertime. Find out more at www.greenspaceconservatories.co.uk. ■
What is an orangery?
While a conservatory will have a mainly glass and uPVC, timber or aluminium structure, an orangery is a structure with a brick pillar between each window. An orangery may well have a lantern roof, and a semiplastered interior, will be more expensive than a conservatory, and will require more preparation of the foundation before construction.
h Aluminium construction is the most modern option and the most durable. It also has a ‘thermally broken’ profile – that is, there is an insulating air-gap between layers of glazing which prevents heat leaking out.
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WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES “It’s the best home improvement we have ever made. Our conservatory is now our dining room in the garden.” Mike Millis, Middleton On Sea
LATER THAT DAY
*Quote Ref HOME0920
There are many reasons to change your conservatory roof with Green Space UK INSTALLED IN 1 DAY “What a difference a day makes as the saying goes, and yes, that’s all it took to install.”
MOULD & CONDENSATION “This is the best thing we have done in this house. Used to run with condensation and now zero.”
Mr & Mrs Barber, Wells
Karen Thomas, Chippenham
WARMER IN WINTER “There is no doubt that the conservatory is much warmer than previously, and no, the room is not darker either!”
COOLER IN SUMMER “You could have fried an egg on the table in there in the summer, I now look upon the conservatory as a new room. It is quiet, restful and cosy.”
David Birch, Chichester
USABLE ALL YEAR ROUND “The conservatory is now used throughout all seasons of the year and is far more comfortable to sit in whatever the weather outside.” Mr & Mrs Gibson, Portishead
Carol Doyle, Surrey
REDUCES ENERGY BILLS “I’ve already turned the underfloor heating down. Lovely job guys, thank you!”
QUIETER IN BAD WEATHER “For the first time in 10 years we do not have to close the door to the conservatory when it rains, as the noise is minimal and before I found it difficult to hear the TV over the loudness of the rain on the old roof.” Mr & Mrs Bailey-Webb, Warsash
CONTACT-FREE We can offer contact-free installations, and perform these in less than a day!
Anne Bird, Bristol
Get a price for your conservatory roof
0800 08 03 202 www.greenspaceconservatories.co.uk
*Finance subject to status, T&C’s apply. Subsidies are limited by area and not guaranteed. Putting off your enquiry could reduce the potential subsidy available to you
Resin to be cheerful When you’re creating a driveway, one option offers a durable, low-maintenance, yet individual solution
hen you are creating a driveway you have many choices of material and technique; for instance block paving, tarmac, or loose gravel. But one solution, pioneered in the US and appearing in the UK around 25 years ago, oﬀers all the advantages of easy construction, durability, good looks and ease of maintenance. In a resin bound or bonded driveway, decorative or coloured aggregate is combined with coloured or transparent epoxy or polymer resin, coated over the existing surface. Suitable for applications on external or internal ﬂooring, footpaths, driveways and patios, as well as commercial applications, the use of diﬀerent coloured aggregates and resins can create all sorts of colourful eﬀects with lots of ‘kerb appeal’. Even if you are doing it as a DIY job, which is possible, you can come up with a much more attractive ﬁnish than concrete or tarmac - but a skilled installer can create anything from swirling patterns to company logos. The colour shades and mixtures available are almost endless, and can be colour-matched to blend in with the existing property or even the natural surroundings. Ideally the aggregates should be carefully sourced, cleaned, dried, blended and bagged to give the highest quality, dust-free product.
BOUND OR BONDED? There are two types of resin/aggregate driveways; a resin bound driveway is created by mixing resin with small stones, with the mixture then hand trowelled. This produces a water permeable driveway that is compliant with SUDS, the Sustainable Urban Drainage regulations, and so needs no planning permission. A resin bonded driveway is created by first placing the resin on the ground, and then sprinkling small stones on top. The resulting rougher finish is not water permeable, so planning permission may be required.
A good monolithic substrate should ﬁrst be laid, such as tarmac, asphalt or concrete – not slabs or decking. As the resin bonds solidly with the base surface, the result is
extremely durable. Good quality resin systems are resistant to ultraviolet light so will not fade, and are resistant to oil and petrol spills so can be easily maintained. A resin bonded ﬁnish has a rougher surface with good anti-skid properties, and a more natural, gravel-like appearance, while a resin bound driveway has a more consistent appearance and a smoother ﬁnish. Both applications must be applied in dry warm conditions, and can be used lightly within 12 to 24 hours. ■
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RESIN BOUND THE DRIVEWAY SURFACE
ADD INSTANT KERB APPEAL AND VALUE TO YOUR PROPERTY WITH A RESIN BOUND DRIVEWAY
IS ASKING FOR! A quiet revolution has been taking place on driveways across the UK for the last 5 years. From traditional Victorian terraces to large contemporary new builds, the driveways, paths and patios of thousands of homes have been improved and transformed with resin bound. A resin bound driveway is a fantastic investment that adds instant kerb appeal and stops passers-by in their tracks. It can be easily applied to slopes or areas of limited access and is ideal for any size of area – from a small patio to a grand sweeping driveway. The beauty of resin bound’s uniform, natural looking finish is matched only by its practicality – this permeable surface is SUDS compliant (so no planning permission required) and is easy to maintain being both weed, oil and slip resistant. Derbyshire Specialist Aggregates is the manufacturer and home of DALTEX – the no. 1 brand in resin bound. Only the cleanest, driest aggregate delivers a consistent quality finish and DALTEX Dried Aggregates are the premium quality aggregate for all resin applications.
Offering the widest colour range in the UK, the DALTEX Bespoke range consists of 46 stunning colours. From rich, warm golds to stylish silvers and contemporary greys to reds, pinks, creams and more, colours can be combined in any combination to create a bespoke design, house number, logo or pattern.
Trusted by thousands of architects, landscapers, builders and driveway specialists every year, the DALTEX UVR Resin bound system has been accredited by the BBA (British Board of Agrément) – the highest industry standard for resin bound and it is ideal for both new builds and renovations.
The team is happy to help customers with questions regarding resin bound or seeking a local DALTEX installer. For more information visit daltex.co.uk or call 01629 636500
NO PLANNING PERMISSION REQUIRED SUDS COMPLIANT
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“Early on, we realised that to truly transform people’s lives through their living environments, we needed to develop our knowledge of the ‘science of silence’ and apply it to our products and process.” Jacob Gwalbert Figura, CEO.
Take the example of a busy street that registers 75 dB. Whereas traditional double glazing can only reduce the noise to 45 dB (a level likely to still cause sleepless nights), our own acoustic glazing solution can reduce it to below 30dB - the same as a soft whisper.
That’s why we approached experts from the Institute of Acoustics for help and have built a business working relationship with Solent University, Southampton.
You can see why we’re the natural choice for hotels in city centres. Take the Radisson Blu Hotel on Tottenham Court Road, where we created ‘quiet rooms’ across the entire first floor. According to the hotel’s chief engineer:
It’s also why we measure noise levels with the very latest analysers and install using the same acoustic materials found in recording studios, and insist on engineered timber - the ultimate noise suppressor. And it’s why in 2019 our Silent Windows were voted “Best Window and Door Manufacturer & Most Innovative Noise Reduction Product.” Hearing is believing Many people wrongly assume that double glazing is the height of their noise reduction options… only to discover how woefully inadequate it can prove.
“The difference was unbelievable. Absolutely amazing.” A welcome return to tranquility And the verdict of homeowners? On TrustPilot, 98% of all reviewers give us five stars. In part, we believe this is because we never subcontract. That means, for the entire process from the timber sourcing to the installation and follow-up maintenance - you benefit from our deep expertise in ‘the science of silence’. Hearing really is believing. To learn more, get in touch today.
SILENT WINDOWS ® 0203 993 8243 www.silentwindows.co.uk
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BY HUGO CAR TER
Rated ‘Excellent’ by our customers
If you live by a noisy road, or under an airport flightpath, one way you can reduce the noise level is to take a closer look at your windows
ccording to a European Union study, about 40 percent of the population is exposed to dangerous levels of road traﬀic noise, with children, the chronically ill, the elderly and shift workers particularly prone to health eﬀects from noise pollution. One of the easiest improvements we can make is to look at our windows. Jacob G Figura, CEO of Hugo Carter Ltd, says: “Growing awareness and understanding of what harms us as human beings is changing the way people live. Harmful eﬀects of air pollution and changing climate are the subject of lively public debate. Noise pollution is joining the other two at the top of people’s concerns. “Noise is often a determining factor when buying new property, kitchen and home appliances or even mattresses. “We can see a huge surge in interest in noise reduction technology, partially fuelled by the change of people’s work habits, which was a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The more people work from home the more they realise the need of having a silent environment to excel not only at work but also to relax after.”
Martin’s Tips “Triple-glazing is more expensive than double-, and in some cases not much more effective in reducing noise. In some cases it can actually be worse than a double glazed equivalent if it’s of equal thickness, so if noise reduction is your main aim, check figures carefully before you opt for the triple-glazing option.”
Double- or triple-glazed windows are certainly a good approach to reducing noise levels; they can reduce levels by around 30dB. Of course, they have to be properly ﬁtted; building elements such as trickle vents, poor ﬁtting gaskets, and gaps between the frame and wall will all allow noise to pass into the room, so the entire frame has to be considered in order to do a good job. In some cases a laminated layer of, for example, PVB (polyvinyl butral) between the sheets of glass can reduce noise pollution without aﬀecting the clarity of the glass. And of course doubleglazing has added beneﬁts, such as reducing dust and particulate pollution from outside, and preventing heat loss, so you can save on your heating bills. Energy eﬀicient windows and doors of all types can be customised in size, shape, colour, and stain, so they’re suitable even in conservation areas, and of course you can choose your own selection of ﬁttings so your windows look good too. ■
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77% OF FATALITIES FROM FIRE OCCURED IN THE HOME. Protect yourself and others from ﬁrespread by installing Envirograf products in your home.
9000+ FIRES PER YEAR CAUSED BY MISUSE OF APPLIANCES Envirograf have a wide range of products to ﬁre protect electrical products such as cables and sockets.
IT TAKES 8 MINS & 49 SECS TO RESPOND TO A FIRE Envirograf products prevent serious ﬁrespread to allow safe evacuation in the case of a ﬁre.
PROTECTING PROPERTY PROTECTING LIVES At Envirograf we believe that one of the most important things in life is to feel safe. We have created a range of products that will help you protect people you care about from ﬁre. Our range of products are designed to mitigate the risk of ﬁre by eﬀectively compartmenting the property and therefore preventing the spread of ﬁre. Since 1983, Envirograf have manufactured over 200 diﬀerent types of products. These range from ﬁreproof paint, ﬁre gaskets for sockets, ﬁre rated sleeves for pipes through to larger scale projects such as cavity barriers for high rise buildings. All of our products are tested to British and European Standards. We have worked with many diﬀerent clients and oﬀer a ﬁre stopping solution for most situations. Get in contact today to ﬁnd out more.
01304 842 555 | www.envirograf.com All statistics are taken from the UK Government Home Oﬃce Fire Statistics Apri 2018 to March 2019 available on their website www.gov.uk/government/collections/ﬁre-statistics
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We all know the importance of fire and smoke alarms, but do you know about the building materials that can slow the spread of fire if it breaks out?
ost modern homes will have smoke and carbon monoxide detectors installed â&#x20AC;&#x201C; in case of fire or CO leakage they can be life-savers. But itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s equally important that care is taken in any building job to specify materials which will impede the spread of fire should it break out. This is particularly important in the case of steel constructions, where the load-bearing qualities of steel can be severely compromised by heat. There are several forms of fire-stopping building materials available, including paints, boards and sprays. Around 70 percent of steel constructions now use intumescent paints, 25 percent use fire stopping board cladding and three percent use sprays. There are also systems such as fire resistant sheets, filling of columns with bricks made of foamed concrete, and the pouring of beams halfway into the concrete ceiling, though the use of these methods is decreasing. Intumescent paints are relatively inexpensive and can be applied in the workshop or on site. In a fire, the paint swells, insulating the steel from heat. intumescent paints come in various types including thin water-based and thick epoxy-based. Sandblasting and priming is required before painting.
An intumescent is a substance that swells as a result of heat exposure, leading to an increase in volume and decrease in density. Intumescents are typically used in passive fire protection, and require listing, approval and compliance in their installed configurations in order to comply with national building codes and laws.
Boards Fire stopping boards, usually made of calcium silicate with fillers, are available in thicknesses from 10mm to 60mm, and are installed on site. They are regarded as the most reliable fire protection for steel structures. An alternative in some types of structure is a fire-stopping membrane, or a fire-retardant spray consisting of cement fibres, vermiculite and plaster. The same fire-stopping principles can be applied to all sorts of construction items; for instance there are special paints for wood, lath-and-plaster ceilings, PVC, fibreglass and aluminium; gap-filling blocks and expanding pillows to fit around service points; rockwool slabs with intumescent coating design for non-load bearing walls, and special wraps, collars and pipes for electrical and other outlets, not to mention sealing kits for letter-boxes and doorways, fireresistant mastics and putties for gap filling, and even fire-resistant ducting for ventilators and toilets. Make sure you are up to date with the fire regulations in the Part B Fire Safety Documents at www.planningportal.co.uk. â&#x2013; celebrityangels.co.uk
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As the interior designer and entrepreneur receives a CBE, we look back at her career and her top interiors tips
warded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, South African-born Kelly Hoppen is recognised for her exceptional contribution to the UK’s interior design scene as an entrepreneur and female business owner. Kelly’s design career started at the age of 16 when she was given the opportunity to design a family friend’s kitchen, and she has now designed for a number of celebrities, including David and Victoria Beckham and Martin Shaw. She has branched out a bit from kitchens too, and has designed the homes, yachts and jets of private clients, as well as commercial projects in several countries, including hotels, restaurants, offices and aircraft.
Queen of Taupe
“Open your heart and mind to the world, and find the things that connect with you. How else will you know how to design your home?” - Kelly Hoppen
“Think about how a room will be used before you make a start.” Kelly Hoppen
IMAGES: Kelly Hoppen/Andrew Martin
Kelly’s recent projects include a collaboration with Disney to celebrate Mickey Mouse’s 90th anniversary, regular appearances on This Morning and designing the Retrospective collection of furniture for Andrew Martin (seen below).
But to the general public she’s best-known for her role on Dragon’s Den, which she quit after two series saying she was ‘just too busy’ - or perhaps for her cameo appearance as herself in the Absolutely Fabulous movie. Her signature neutral palette and trademarked Perfect Neutrals ranges have won her the nickname of the ‘Queen of Taupe’. She has said of her design ideas, “My philosophy has always remained the same. It’s about creating calm balanced environments based on Eastern cultures, i.e. order and creation of harmony. How people feel in a space is as important as the way it looks; one can’t be without the other to succeed.”
Ranked as the second most influential female interior designer in Britain in 2014, Kelly was voted Grazia Designer of the Year in 2007, and received an MBE in 2009. She has written nine design books, including 2013’s Kelly Hoppen Design Masterclass - How to Achieve the Home of your Dreams. ■
“The truth is that style and taste are all relative. It is not a question whether or not someone has good taste. It is how something feels to the individual”
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Why Air Quality
We spend about 90 percent of our time indoors – so why are we less aware of indoor air quality than outdoor?
veryone knows that outdoor air pollution, mainly caused by petrol fumes, aﬀects our health, and there are regular campaigns to improve it. But we spend about 90 percent of our time indoors, and there, air quality can be equally bad – in fact, worse. Yet few people seem to be aware of the causes, results or solutions regarding indoor air pollution. Poor indoor air quality is linked to lung diseases such as asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder and lung cancer. Children are particularly susceptible to indoor air pollution as their lungs are still developing, and their airways are narrower.
CAUSES AND SYMPTOMS The main causes of indoor air pollution are chemicals used in cleaning and decorating, building materials such as asbestos (in old buildings), tobacco smoke, poor ventilation leading to damp and mould, allergies caused by pet hair of dust mites, and outdoor pollution getting indoors. Particularly worth watching out for are VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, such as acetone, xylene and formaldehyde, used in household cleaning and decorating materials, or bleach and ammonia used in cleaning compounds.
Remember, breathing polluted indoor air can lead to respiratory infections, with symptoms such as runny noses, dry throats, sore eyes and sinuses, to shortness of breath, wheeziness, and in the long term to increased risk of pneumonia, COPD, lung cancer, heart disease and stroke – so pay as much attention to indoor air quality as you do outdoors. ■
Fortunately there is plenty we can do to reduce exposure to indoor air pollution.
Get a pollution monitor which will give you a readout of air temperature, humidity, levels of particulates and other pollutants Use allergy-free cleaning compounds, and use liquids rather than sprays. Make sure your home is well ventilated when you clean Make sure cookers and heaters are well ventilated and that ﬂues and extractor fans are cleaned and serviced regularly As well as smoke alarms, ﬁt carbon monoxide alarms Don’t burn wood or coal on open ﬁres Stop smoking, or smoke only outdoors with a door shut Clean bedding and furniture regularly to remove dust mites and pet dander Don’t let pets sleep on beds Don’t overdo it with incense or scented candles in conﬁned areas Make sure your home is well ventilated and check for leaks, damp and mould If yours is an old building, have a professional check it for asbestos Check on www.ukradon.org to see if you are in an area with a risk of the natural gas radon
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Chemicals, fine particles & toxins from cleaning, air fresheners & personal care products
Condensation & mould from showers, washing & drying clothes
Volatile chemicals from furniture & construction materials
Nanosized particles, chemicals & gas from cooking & heating appliances
WHY CAN POOR INDOOR AIR MAKE US SICK?
Allergens, viruses & bacteria from outdoors
Noxious & radioative gas from road traffic & industrial activities
Particles & allergens from dust mites, shed hair & skin
The air in the home can be 50 times more polluted than outdoors. Many pollutants are generated from everyday activities like cooking and cleaning, but road traffic emmissions, allergens, and toxins can enter the home from outside and make us sick. Without adequate ventilation, these pollutants remain trapped inside the home where they can seriously impact our health. Long-term exposure to damp environments and polluted air is linked to serious health conditions including asthma, respiratory infections, lung disease, and heart disease.
To learn more about properly ventilating your home visit www.nuaire.co.uk or call 029 2085 8500
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BRINGING THE COUNTRYSIDE HOME
BATH | CHIPPING CAMPDEN | STOW-ON-THE-WOLD
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All the Rage
Interior design trends come and go, but some elements of fashion and taste are forever. We look at some of our favourite styles and suggest which are currently on-point
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TIMELESS ELEGANCE Art Deco, the timeless and elegant style trend of the 30s, is making a comeback with gold accents, geometric patterns and deluxe velvets. Check out the fabulous Malala dressing table from Hommés Studio of Barcelona and London (1); Brabbu of Portugal’s closet, stool and wall lights (2); and Swoon’s copper-clad Ziggy bedside table (3). www.hommes.studio / www.brabbu.com / www.swooneditions.com
SOUTH AMERICAN CHIC The Pampas trend uses the tall South American grass to add a calm and bohemian vibe to your interior space. A favourite among those who don’t have time for high-maintenance plants, pampas designs and materials show up in everything from Sofology’s Coco sofa and Sofa.com’s Joplin ﬂoor lamp (4), to House of Flora’s Rattan chair and footstool (5). www.sofology.co.uk / www.sofa. com / www.house-of-ﬂora.com (3) (2)
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Dulux’s Colour of the Year for 2021 is Brave Ground, a versatile new neutral warm beige which connects us to nature and brings a sense of warmth to our interior space, ideally paired with darker browns, cinnamon, light beige hues and caramels. See it in Kutlu’s beige mix tiles (6) and Waters of Ashbourne’s Loche back-to-wall bath. www.dulux.co.uk / www.wallsandﬂoors.co.uk / www.watersbaths.co.uk
IMAGES: Murals Wallpaer/Hommes Studio/Brabbu/Swoon/Sofology/House of Flora/Kutlu/Red Candy
Nature designs are on-point, with MuralsWallpaper’s made-to-measure environmentally friendly mural wallpaper collection, Equinox Clouds (ﬁrst page), celebrating the diversity of our skies. Also check out the Fable luxury garden swing chair in water repellent polyester from Essential Home, and the Woodland ﬁre globe from Red Candy (7), a safe and secure ﬁre pit that looks good even unlit. www.muralswallpaper.co.uk / www. essentialhome.eu / www.redcandy.co.uk ■
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PROPERTY & HOME
Delivering a home from home CONTINUE COOKING AT HOME WHILE YOUR NEW KITCHEN IS INSTALLED
THE HEART OF THE HOME It is often said that the kitchen is the heart of your home. So if you are undergoing a complete kitchen renovation and you are temporarily without that all-important space, what do you do? You could squeeze some bits and bobs into another room, live on ready meals or spend extra cash on takeaways or eating out. You might even be tempted to pack up and go to a B&B while the workmen are in. We think we’ve got a better solution.
A compact, well-equipped mobile kitchen, delivered to your home for you to enjoy until your new kitchen is ready means no hassle and less expense. Hiring one of our popup kitchens costs substantially less and means you still have the comforts of your own home with one of these parked in your drive or garden. You can choose between hiring a pop-up office or kitchen or buying one.
If you want to save at least £250/week and would like to discuss your requirements please call Stéphane Barbey now! pioneerpopup.co.uk email@example.com 07835 751 241
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The kitchenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s no longer just somewhere to prepare food, it can be a dining place, workplace or even a playroom. So how do you make the most of a kitchen space?
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ONE TAP. FOUR EVERYTHING.
THE NEW 4 IN 1 TAP SYSTEM
■ UK manufactured taps with classic designs for any kitchen ■ Swiss-made filters eliminate all bacteria and micro-plastics ■ Compact, easy-use 3L heater tank with 4 temperature settings ■ 5 year warranty on tap and 2 year on tank ■ Dedicated after-sales service with UK support team
For more information call 0800 999 3959 or visit www.triflowconcepts.com
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ince lockdown, many of us have had to re-assess our domestic spaces, and the kitchen has been pressed into use as a makeshift office or schoolroom. Whatever the reason, lots of us have been taking a long-hard look at our kitchens, and wondering whether worn decor, tired units, and battered appliances couldn’t do with a makeover. So where do you start with a quick kitchen refresh? There’s a lot you can get done without spending a great deal of time or money, so let’s look first at some easy options.
Rather than throwing out old, mis-matched kitchen furniture, upcycle it with a fresh paint scheme and make odd items match. For a shabby-chic look, try Rust-Oleum’s Chalky Finish Furniture Paint.
non-porous and repairable, but not particularly heat-resistant h Glass – Modern, decorative, durable, and resistant to water and heat, but heavy, expensive and prone to acid damage h Granite – Luxurious, durable, functional, available in many different shades and patterns, but very heavy so needs good support, as well as regular sealing h Laminate – Chipboard coated with plastic, affordable, DIY-friendly and easy to clean, but easily damaged and not suitable for use with all types of sink
Low-hanging fruit A good tip when renovating your kitchen is to try to stick to the existing layout. Moving appliances, pipework and electricals is probably not something you could do without professional help, so try to work with the layout you have. h If your appliances look worn, clean them before thinking of throwing them out h Repaint in lighter, brighter colours to refresh the look of your kitchen at minimal cost h You can repaint timber panelling once you’ve sealed it h Replace worn splashbacks with tiling or metal h Replace taps, power-points and light fittings for a quick refresh h Get new blinds or curtains to pep up windows In these ways you can score some major improvements without spending a lot of money or having to endure major disruption in your kitchen. A good way to save money on a kitchen refurb is to replace the cabinet doors, draw fronts and worktops without disturbing the appliances or the carcasses of the units. This can save you around 50 percent of the cost of a new kitchen, and the work can normally be completed in days rather than weeks. There are thousands of cabinet styles to choose from, and dozens of types of work surface.
h Ceramic – Versatile, colourful, hygienic and lightweight, but prone to scratching and cracking h Corian – A popular resin and bauxite combination with wooden substrate, joint-free,
Worksurfaces can be replaced entirely, or in some cases, fitted over existing ones. There are many types of worksurface material available, including:
A splash of colour can brighten up the dullest kitchen
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Combining modern and traditional materials can give a kitchen flair
h Quartz – durable, scratch-proof and ecofriendly, but vulnerable to heat and not inexpensive h Stainless steel – great for a modern look and commercial applications, heat-resistant, water-resistant, but easy to scratch and dent and noisy in use h Wood – naturally good-looking and colourful, maintainable, germ-resistant, but not heatresistant or suitable as a cutting surface But what if you decide that your kitchen has had its day and need complete replacement? Maybe you want to sell, and realise that the old kitchen is dragging down the value of your house – would a refurb help you sell faster? Or maybe you’re working on a new-build, or a kitchen extension, where you can let your imagination run wild?
Fresh start Your first consideration should be what purposes you want your kitchen to serve. Easy, right? – to prepare food. But it’s no longer that simple. You may well want your kitchen to serve as a dining room, and family room, even a workroom – and for each application there’s a design trend and suitable units. 76
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So what are the design trends and themes for the modern, multi-function kitchen? WHITE is out – darker, more elegant colours are coming back in, with splashes of brighter colour added in paint, wood stain or tiling. Blues and greens are popular tones, while dark jewel tones such as black, navy, emerald green and even plum can add a dramatic and luxurious feel. STREAMLINED and modern styles are more popular now than classic farmhouse designs, and go better with smart technology. Simplicity reduces stress and makes working in the kitchen easer. It’s becoming popular to remove wall cabinet to add more space and air and make it easier to use worktops. The pantry is back in for food and equipment storage, or you can use an island if your kitchen is big enough. If you still need more storage space, low open shelves are the trend – not high shelves that you can’t reach anyway. INDUSTRIAL materials such as rough cut wood, metal tubing and concrete floor tiles add that commercial feel that people love from TV reality shows. Interesting natural textures or bevelled
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designs bring some focal points back to the streamlined design, while a ceiling treatment such as wood beams, recessing or panelling adds design punch.
Kitchen flooring Kitchen flooring is trending towards ceramic tiling. If you like the hardwood or stone look but want something that’s easy to maintain, ceramic tiling offers the best of both worlds. Ceramic tiles are available in everything from large planks to customshaped tiles for unique patterns.
SURFACES continue to offer hundreds of variations, but quartz is making great strides as it is now available in more finishes than ever before, including realistic stone patterns and veining, and even spectacular swirling effects. Grey, beige and creamy finishes are popular, matching the style for cleaner finishes. The availability of composite sinks matching the colour of surfaces is a notable trend, though stainless steel is still popular. ISLANDS are getting bigger, particularly where the number of wall cabinets have been reduced, and are becoming multi-functional, serving both as storage, preparation surface, worktop, and as a casual dining and drinking bar. Where the home design is open plan, the island often extends into the living room space. SPLASHBACKS are an ideal way to add a splash of colour to a kitchen, with tiling available in thousands of colours, designs and surfaces. It’s also trendy to have extra-large slab splashbacks in marble, quartz, wood copper, stainless steel and other materials. ■
Martin’s Tips “Extending your kitchen with a side-return extension (using the narrow alley that runs adjacent to the kitchen in a typical semi) can add around 15 percent to the value of your house. A single-storey side-return extension will usually be classed as a permitted development, so long as it’s no more than 4m high and no wider than half the width of the original house, but you’ll still have to comply with building regs and have the work inspected at regular stages – and remember you might lose light from windows, so allow for skylights or a glazed roof on the extension.” celebrityangels.co.uk
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Kitchen Tech for
From toaster ovens to air fryers, kitchen technology can produce fabulous meals quickly and efficiently
ince the 1950s visions of the automated ‘kitchen of the future’, we’ve been fascinated with the idea of applying technology to food preparation. With our busy lifestyles it’s understandable that we want to prepare food fast, but there’s more to technology than putting a ready-meal in a microwave; with the aid of modern gadgets we can prepare healthy and nutritious meals with the minimum of fuss and effort. But of course it would be easy to fill up your kitchen with greatlooking devices that you never use. We’ve come up with our list of the top ten kitchen gadgets that will be useful for everyone.
This multi-use device combines a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker, and more into one handy-dandy machine. There’s a
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reason why this machine has a cult following. The Instant Pot is the jack-of-all-trades, allowing the user to make easy dinners while avoiding the hassle of dirtying up multiple pots and pans. From yogurts to pork chops, the possibilities are endless.
Gone are the days of fatty deep-fried foods. Although onion rings, French fries, and chicken nuggets give you a quick hit of serotonin, these-high calorie snacks also add to your waistline. An air fryer can give you that crunchy fried taste without the addition of hot oils and extra calories from fat.
sPIralIzer Used on vegetables like zucchini, carrots, and cucumbers,
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vegetable spiralizers are a great and cheap tool that can help you get more vegetables in your life. Substitute your pasta noodles and rice noodles with veggie noodles created by a spiralizer to create a healthier, lower-calorie dish that somewhat resembles your original pasta recipe.
Though some recipes measure ingredients in cups and tablespoons, most chefs agree that measuring ingredients through weight is the most precise method. A digital scale is also beneficial for people wanting to practice portion control or meal prepping. It’s much easier to track your macros when you are eating the same portions throughout the week.
For soups, sauces, smoothies and more, blenders are a must-have appliance in the kitchen. Some ‘smart’ blenders even connect to Bluetooth which allows the users to track nutritional information through the blender’s app. Now you will know exactly how many calories are in your next fruit smoothie.
A combination toaster and a microwave, a toaster oven gives you the best of both worlds, allowing you toast everything you would have prepared in the toaster, but opening up more possibilities like pizza, pastries, cheese sandwiches, and more.
Outdoor food preparation is a whole art in itself, and even here technology is coming to the aid of the cook. Modern barbecues can burn hardwood pellets for eco-friendly cooking, use modulated fans to deliver consistent results, and connect via Wi-Fi to temperature and timer apps and recipe databases, so you can guarantee perfect results every time!
A must-have appliance in every British household, an electric kettle is the easiest and most efficient way to boil water for a quick cup of afternoon tea. But modern electric kettles can also simmer broths and soups, heat baby food, simmer fish and poultry dishes and keep water hot all day.
silicone muffin pan
For bakers, this is a game changer. Though metal pans may work fine, silicone pans are nonstick which allow your baked goods to pop out of the pan a whole lot easier without the need for grease or butter. Additionally, the silicone material allows the pan to fold and bend, taking up less space than a fixed metal pan.
Kitchen tech and web recipes combine for tasty results
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Blenders are getting smarter - will they take over the world one day?!
A simple yet staple item to have in the kitchen. Pre-packaged shredded cheese usually contains a starch coating to prevent sticking together. This adds extra unnecessary carbs in your meals. Instead, purchase a block of cheese and grate it yourself to ensure that you know exactly what is going into your meals. Plus, you can use the box grater to grate a lot more than just cheese.
It’s become a favourite pastime in lockdown, but breadmaking can be satisfying and worthwhile any time of year. Modern breadmakers can also make jams, yoghurts and doughs, and with the right accessories, even ice-cream. ■
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“Try not to invest in products designed to do only one thing – a babyfood maker, for instance, is just a miniature blender, and slicers are just the lazy cooks’s substitute for a good sharp knife!”
BREAD MAKER The 62823 Design Automatic Bread Maker Advanced by GASTROBACK® delivers fresh, fragrant breads and cakes without a great deal of fuss. Apart from baking various types of bread, including gluten-free, the bread maker can knead dough for pasta, pizza or bread rolls. In addition, the appliance can also be used to produce refined jams, yoghurt and ice cream (with an ice barrel accessory). It also has an ingredients compartment for nuts, seeds, fruits or chocolate sprinkles for automatic phase-in during baking. Eighteen programmes are stored in the appliance for all these purposes including an option for a customized programme. https://gastroback.co.uk
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Brighten Your Living Space
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Whether you’re renovating your bathroom, kitchen, or outdoor area, tiles can be used to give your space a whole new feeling.
iling is a versatile way to finish floors or walls, and can be used purely practically, as tiling is hard-wearing and easy to maintain, or decoratively, as the selection of colours and finishes is enormous. Whether you are going for a traditional look or a modern style, tiling can be the solution to so many interior design questions.
Completely Customisable Carpet and wood floors give you plenty of design and finish options, and faux-tile vinyls like the Blooming Tiles collection from www.atrafloor.com (see facing page) can offer a tile effect that’s easier to install - but with genuine tiling you have even more variation, as you can choose from dozens of materials, thousands of colours and millions of designs – and you can even combine them to your own desires. With tiling you can choose from porcelain, glass, ceramic, marble, mosaic, granite and more materials. As for the designs, the possibilities are endless. You can even find websites that allow you to design your own custom tiles, ensuring that your home is unique and one-of-a-kind, just like you.
easy to Clean There’s a good reason why tiles are used in bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor decks - they’re water resistant. With carpeting, dirt and stains can seep deep into the fibres. Wine spill? Good luck getting that out. But when you have tiled floors, mopping up spills and sweeping up dirt is a breeze. Tile is also a preference for those who suffer from allergies. Pet hair, pollen, and other outdoor allergens can get trapped in carpeting, but can be easily swept up from homes with tiles. This is ideal for people who want to keep their homes allergen-free.
Mosaic tiles like these from www.houseofmosaics.co.uk are an increasingly popular choice for finishing walls or floors in kitchens or bathrooms, and also as decorative touches in cloakrooms, hallways and conservatories. Mosaic tiles interlock like a jigsaw puzzle, and vary in thickness from around 4mm to 12mm. They come on a mesh backer which is easy to cut, and can be cut themselves with a tile nipper. For a striking look, you can use mosaic tiles as a feature wall, as you would with paint to define a room. To complement a contrasting tile, or to keep budget down, use as a slim horizontal or vertical border or use to zone with a larger border, full-sheet width, for example in a shower area. Use in a kitchen in between cupboards as a splashback to create instant impact, or zone behind the hob as a subtle accent. Natural stone mosaics can be used on floors to create a wetroom or zoned floor area.
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Wall tiles like these from www.houseofmosaics.co.uk can brighten up any style of kitchen
According to Realtor.com, fitting tiling can give you a 70 percent or more return on your investment when you come to sell, and tiling can be a relatively easy DIY job. In contrast, the return on investment in carpeting can be a much lower 25-40 percent, and you’ll probably have to pay a professional to lay it. People appreciate the durable qualities of good tiling.
Cost-effeCtiVe Although the prices of tiles and carpets vary depending on the style and material, tiles generally turn out to be better value for money because they last much longer. With good care, manufacturers say that carpeting should last you about 10 years - but according to the Study of Life Expectancy of Home Components, which was prepared in 2007 by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), the predicted lifetime of a ceramic tile floor is 75 to 100 years, while natural stone such as marble and granite can last more than 100 years.
eCo-friendly Tiles are usually made from natural raw materials like sand, glass, and clay, typically combined with recycled materials, so they are eco-friendly. Additionally, tiles can keep your house cool in the warmer months while warming up your home in the colder ones, making your home more eco-efficient and lowering heating bills. With so many tile options now available, it is easy to find the perfect tile for your home. Tiles are durable, cost effective, ecofriendly, and easy to clean, so what’s not to like? ■ 86
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Martin’s Tips Tile care is easy and can use eco-friendly materials, but sometimes requires a bit of elbow-grease! h Warm water and Vinegar. An oldie but a goodie. Vinegar can help get rid of stains from cooking in the kitchen. h Toothpaste. Grab an extra toothbrush, a tube of toothpaste and get to work. This trick is perfect for getting rid of the build-up of grime found between tiles. h Baking Soda. Combining baking soda with warm water can help you tackle greasy tiles. Mix the two ingredients together and grab a floor scrubbing brush for cleaning. h Lemon juice. Similar to vinegar, the acidity from the lemon helps get rid of dirt and grime. Now you can clean your home with natural ingredients and leave it with a lemony scent. Just be sure to wipe it down with a damp cloth to get rid of any extra juice. h Mop. The trusty mop is arguably the easiest, quickest, and most effective way to keep your tiled flooring clean. h Buffing. After a few years you may want to use a hand-held or upright floor buffing machine to restore the gleam to your tiles.
Value for money
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Warm wood flooring is always popular in the kitchen Henleaze Gardens by Berkeley Place, photo by Pete Helme
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IMAGES: Berkeley Place-Pete Helme
The choice of floor materials and finishes is enormous, but read our expert guide and youâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ll soon figure out what you want under your feet
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he choice of flooring is one of the important factors in improving your home; it involves all sorts of factors from aesthetics to energy efficiency. The main factor in material choice is of course type of use. You almost certainly will not want the same type of flooring in your living room, kitchen and bathroom, for instance. Whether you are building a new home or refurbishing a period property, getting the right type of material usually comes first, and style, efficiency and budget will probably all be factors. Let’s look at some of the options.
Stone Stone flooring is of course very traditional, and has the main advantage of being hard-wearing, but can work equally well in modern or traditional homes. Costs can vary from around £20/sqm for slate, to £30/sqm for solid stone.
tiling Tiling is available in thousands of designs and finishes, so you should be able to find a type that suits you perfectly. Ceramic types are the most economical, costing from around £10/sqm, with ceramic types more expensive at around £20/sqm. Both are hardwearing and easy to maintain
existing floor). Costs varies enormously according to the quality of the laminate, from around £6/ sqm to £25/sqm.
The best types of flooring to use with underfloor heating (UFH) are tile and stone. Both have high thermal conductivity, meaning that the heat from an underfloor heating pipe or wire transfers to the floor surface quickly. Tile and stone also retain heat well, making the system efficient.
Vinyl or linoleum is no longer the cheap, poor quality option it used to be; durable, waterresistant and available in a huge range of designs, vinyl can also mimic wood or stone, giving you the best of both worlds at a cost of around £20/sqm. Vinyl can be supplied in a roll, or as planks or tiles, at a cost of around £30-40/sqm.
Carpet Carpet is popular for living rooms and bedrooms, as it’s warm, comfortable and quiet underfoot. Of course it’s not ideal for wet areas such as bathrooms and kitchens, and in heavy traffic areas such as hallways and landings you will need a very durable carpet to avoid rapid wear. A synthetic material carpet could cost around £20/sqm, while wool might cost £30/sqm. Other materials are available, such as jute, sisal, seagrass and coir, all sustainable, allergy-friendly and hard wearing.
ConCrete Ideal for a smooth modern industrial look, concrete is extremely hardwearing, so it’s good value for money. It’s also less eco-unfriendly than
Wood The common solution in period homes, particularly on upper floors, wooden flooring can be made to work in either classic or contemporary styles. Cost is from around £25-30/sqm. An alternative to shard wood is bamboo, which is relatively cheap to produce yet durable. Though it doesn’t offer the same range of finishes as hardwood, it can be coloured darker by heating. Cost is around £20/sqm.
laminate Engineered wood (laminated timber) is increasingly popular because it can look as good as solid timber, but offers better resistance to water and movement. The core board is made of compressed wood fibres, with the material then covered in a melamine wear layer, giving it considerable durability. Laminate is often impressed with a printed image of a wood finish to make it look like solid wood, but is a lot easier to fit because it uses a tongue-and-groove system requiring no nails (though in some cases it needs to be glued to the 90
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Easy-clean engineered wood for the bedroom Henleaze Gardens by Berkeley Place, photo by Pete Helme
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Martin’s Tips “Some types of flooring are fairly easy to lay yourself - porcelain and ceramic tiles and engineered timber for instance. But fitting carpet, and laying natural wood or real stone flooring are jobs best left to professional fitters, so allow for the fitting costs when specifying your flooring.”
Porcelain tiles are a practical bathroom option Henleaze Gardens by Berkeley Place, photo by Pete Helme
you might think, as it’s usually made using recycled aggregates. However, it can be an expensive option, requiring specialist installation and polishing, coming to around £90/sqm.
Cork Made from the bark of the cork oak tree, this is a sustainable and renewable option, comfortable underfoot and offering good soundproofing. However it does need special sealing treatment to keep it clean and dry. Cost is around £13/sqm.
There are some good general guidelines for what type of flooring should be used in each part of the house, but there’s no reason why you can’t mix and match – for instance a kitchen/dining room area could well have durable, wipe-clean tiles in the kitchen, and warmer, quieter laminate flooring in the dining area.
Bathroom flooring needs to be extremely water and heat resistant, non-slip, and easy to clean. Either porcelain or ceramic tiles are fine, and will work with under-floor heating, but also consider luxury vinyl tile (LVT), which is available in a range of colours, patterns, and finishes that imitate stone, while being soft underfoot. Stone is also an option for the bathroom, though types such as limestone need to be sealed before laying, after grouting, and at regular intervals afterwards. Slate and marble can be less work as they are less naturally porous.
Living room and Bedroom
For the kitchen, it’s essential that the flooring should be stain resistant, easy to clean, durable and resistant to moisture. Natural stone works well for so long as it is sealed to prevent staining. Riven finishes are perfect for classic styles, and smoother tiles ideal for a modern look. Grouting between kitchen tiles can be difficult to clean, so smoother tiles work better. Polished concrete flooring also works well in kitchens, and is particularly good over underfloor heating. A poured resin coating can give concrete a lovely finish in a choice of colours and surface.
For comfort and warmth, carpet is the traditional choice in the living room and bedroom, though engineered wood floors can also be warm and comfortable, and are easier to keep clean if you have children, pets or allergies. Carpet durability is determined by material and fibre density count. Wool is the standard, naturally moisture and stain resistant, but not as durable as nylon. Other synthetics include acrylic, polypropylene and polyester, but be aware that it is difficult to remove stains from polyester. ■
What goes Where?
IMAGES: Shutterstock/Berkeley Place-Pete Helme
Porcelain or ceramic tiles can also work well in a kitchen, but be aware that ceramics can be easy to crack or chip. For the utility room, stone is a good choice for stain resistance, though it has to be well sealed. Porcelain or ceramic tiles may be a better choice, and linoleum, vinyl or rubber are good options.
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ZEP UK Ltd. Tanhouse Lane, Widnes, Cheshire, WA8 0RR Telephone: 0151 422 1000 - Fax: 0151 422 1011 - firstname.lastname@example.org
PROFESSIONAL SOLUTIONS. DONE RIGHT. Zep® has been established in the DIY and Home Improvement market for over 8 years in the UK. We are based in Widnes, Cheshire where 95% of the products we sell are developed, manufactured and distributed to our customers. We serve customers across the UK and Ireland with hopes to expand into Europe in the near future. We have a complete range of products for virtually every surface, that you can trust to always deliver exceptional results – first time, every time. From our plant in Widnes, we not only provide an excellent and varied product choice, but also high levels of service and great technical expertise. And as the nature of the industry and demands from customers are always evolving, we focus a lot on product development, both new and existing. Zep UK is owned by Zep® Inc which has its headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia and has been established in the US since 1937. Zep® is a leading U.S. brand of professional strength cleaning and maintenance solutions for small business and home cleaning.
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The Home of
What is the Connected Home Over Internet Protocol Alliance, and why is it going to find a place in all our houses? We asked the techno experts to explain
Compatible Formed in December last year by the multimanufacturer Zigbee Alliance, Amazon, Apple and Google to simplify development for manufacturers and increase compatibility for consumers, the initiative is built around a shared belief that smart home devices should be secure, reliable, and seamless to use. Building on existing internet standards, the project aims to enable communication across a huge range of smart home devices, mobile apps, and cloud services and to define a specific set of internet-based networking technologies. The industry working group will take an open-source approach for the development and implementation of a new, unified connectivity protocol – in other words, anyone can join in. Intending to use contributions from market94
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tested smart home technologies from various member companies, the project is expecting to accelerate the development of the unified protocol and deliver benefits to manufacturers and consumers faster. Through its participation in the Connected Home Over IP Project, companies like Essence Group, which joined the Alliance this year and which specialises in remote security and medical care applications, ai to move into all sorts of new market sgments and promote the idea of the smart home throughout the coming decade. “Industry players are working alongside each other through the Alliance to shape the future of the ‘Internet of Things’ using open global standards,” said Chris LaPre, solutions architect from the Zigbee Alliance. “Our members together drive meaningful connections throughout the smart home, and we welcome new additions like Essence Group to our roster of IoT visionaries.” ■
Zigbee is a low-power, low data rate, short range protocol for home systems such as lighting, energy monitors, garage door controls and the like, conceived in 1998, standardized in 2003, and revised in 2006. The name refers to the ‘waggle dance’ of honey bees after their return to the beehive.
IMAGES: Shutterstock/Jasco Products
ince the invention of the TV remote control, it’s been possible to control our technology from a convenient handset. Applying the same principle to every household device proved more difficult, because every manufacturer had different ideas on how this could be done. The big game-changer was the popularity of the smartphone. Apple, Android and even Windows phones have the ability to control almost any device via Wi-Fi; then, all the appliance manufacturers needed to do was to work to the same standard. After a few years when it looked like ‘smart homes’ might never take off because there were still too many rival standards, at last there have been moves towards setting a single standard – though they’ll have to come up with a catchier name than The Connected Home Over Internet Protocol Alliance.
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Vac + Mop = Vop It Vacs. It Mops. It Vops.
Available at www.bisselldirect.co.uk and major electrical retailers
in the Kitchen
From lighting to security, ‘smart’ technology is improving our lives – but what can it do for your kitchen?
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redictions of futuristic household aids in the 1950’s created all sorts of ideas about automated kitchens you could ask for a pot-roast which would pop out of a slot, or even domestic robots which would trundle around oﬀering you a tray of snacks. Well, we’re not quite there yet, but ‘smart’ kitchen devices are making great headway. Take the ‘instant pot’, for instance. An increasingly popular and versatile kitchen gadget, this sort of small pressure cooker can steam, warm, sauté, and even make yogurt, rice and cake; but there are now types that can connect to an app via WiFi and can be programmed by talking to smart hubs such as Alexa, so you can turn them on or oﬀ as you commute home. The same applies to coﬀee makers, which increasingly are being made ‘smart’, so when you feel like some java you can switch them on via a smartphone app, or just ask Alexa or Echo. Air fryers, toasters and other small kitchen appliances are similarly becoming ‘smart’.
PORTION CONTROL A smart scale will not only measure quantities for you, it will also calculate changes in portion
Major smart home appliance players Apple, Amazon, Google and Zigbee are working together on Project Connected Home over IP, an attempt to create a unified, open standard for all types of smart home appliances. They hope to launch it in 2021.
size, convert from one measure to another, and connect you to thousands of recipes via a smartphone app. There are also smart drinks scales for would-be mixologists. When you want a healthy smoothie blended to perfection, a smart blender will track nutritional information for all your favourite recipes, and will even update your grocery shopping list. Smart touchscreen toasters have cooking sensors which can tell if you’re toasting bread, waﬀles, bagels, pastries or muﬀins, and adjust toasting times to suit, while a smart burnerand-frying-pan combo will guide you via an app through a perfect cooking experience. We’re not far from the ultimate smart kitchen aid, an intelligent refrigerator which will automatically re-order groceries online when you run out. The sticking point there, of course, is that everything you put in has to be bar-coded. But there are already smart fridges with cameras inside so you can check on the contents while you’re doing the shopping. We may never get the ‘domestic robots’ we were promised in the 1950s, but with the help of smart technology, the meals of the future should be eﬀicient as well as delicious. ■
KEEPING GIGACLEAR It’s never been more important to keep connected. Gigaclear’s brilliant broadband packages allow you to have unrivalled speeds, crystal clear video calls, connect multiple devices and to stream seamlessly. www.gigaclear.com
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PROPERTY & HOME
LIFE ON L I N E Powered by Gigaclear
When choosing a property there are a multitude of things to consider - look and feel, size and location as well as obvious aspects like what type of heating does it have and is it connected to mains water and electricity. But in today’s digital age, connectivity should be just as important. Does the property have a good, reliable broadband connection should also be a key consideration when looking to purchase a new property. A fast, reliable connection may at one point have been considered a luxury. However, as homes around the country become increasingly reliant on broadband for working, learning, entertainment and keeping in touch with friends and family, Gigaclear remains committed to building the infrastructure to deliver gigabit capability to rural homes, farms and businesses. We design, build and operate a full fibre, ultrafast broadband network in underserved rural areas, from remote hamlets to larger rural communities and market towns, across central and southern England. Established in 2010, our network now reaches more than 200 communities across 20 counties – and is still growing.
There are three types of Broadband connectivity available in the UK: ADSL – Stands for Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line. This is standard broadband delivered over a copper telephone line. Some part of the copper network are over 100 years old. Download speeds tend to be faster the closer you live to your local telephone exchange.
FTTC – Fibre to the Cabinet can deliver speeds up to 80mbps and is as it says, the operator has partially upgraded their infrastructure, so the fibre connection reaches as far as the cabinet. FTTC can improve speeds for some users but at times of heavy usage the speed will be drastically reduced, and user experience negatively affected. Fibre
FTTP – Fibre to the Premises or property. This is where operators such as Gigaclear have installed new infrastructure and brought a full fibre connection to each and every property on the network, Often called ‘full fibre’, only FTTP delivers gigabit capability to each and every home and business of up to 1000mbps and can deliver the same upload and download speeds. This means that over a hard-wired connection, users will get every megabit they pay for. Full Fibre
So what does ultrafast full fibre connectivity mean for a home owner? Now more than ever, it’s important to be connected, to keep in touch with friends and family, and to benefit from the host of opportunities that our digital age has brought in. With a large proportion of the British workforce at home, the pressures on the internet continue to increase and an ultrafast network allows people to work from home effectively, making it simple to access cloud services and host video calls, irrespective of living deep in the countryside. It also delivers benefits to local amenities and services like pubs, libraries, surgeries, clinics and schools, minimising interruptions and allowing online resources to be effectively utilised.
A good WiFi network needs a good broadband signal and while gigabit speeds are being delivered to the router, moving the signal around a home via WiFi will cause a reduction in speed and/or quality. WiFi is actually a radio signal so is subject to interference from other objects in the home and even the construction of a property. Thick stone walls, large timber beams, leaded windows or lots of metal and glass will impede the WiFi signal. Even the number of connected devices you have in your home can impact the speed and quality of the WiFi signal. To combat this, a MESH WiFi system increases the coverage area of the WiFi signal by placing a ‘bubble’ over the property, which gives a better performance compared to adding boosters and access points. Multiple devices can be connected to the signal without competition.
Rural properties can sometimes suffer from both bad broadband and poor mobile and 4G coverage, leaving users with little to no connectivity. Most mobile operators support WiFi calling which means if you traditionally get no mobile phone signal in your home, you can switch on WiFi calling and use your mobile over your network. Having a fast, reliable broadband network means crystal clear conversations and no more missed calls!
Entertainment From streaming platforms to downloads, there are many different ways that we consume programmes and movies. Once you’ve settled on the sofa for an evening to binge watch the latest box set or catch up on your favourite programme, there is nothing more frustrating than waiting for it to download or waiting as the programme catches up with the stream. Buffering and latency (how fast the data can be transferred from your connection to the server and back again) both mean that the broadband isn’t up to the job. Ultrafast broadband means you can download a 2hr HD movie in less time than it takes to microwave the popcorn.
WiFi Security A key consideration for any homeowner is security and the last few years have seen a host of WiFi enabled security products become available for home use. From home automation to video doorbells and inconspicuous cameras, using your broadband connection to safeguard your home and property has never been easier.
Connected living From home automation, virtual assistants and even home appliances such as fridges, ovens and lightbulbs, the range of products you can connect to your broadband network grows on a daily basis. You can perfectly tailor your home automation to suit your lifestyle and needs if you have a reliable full fibre broadband connection.
To find out more about ultrafast full fibre broadband, or to check if your property has access to our network, visit www.gigaclear.com
Out of their
Garden outbuildings are no longer the broken-down huts of our grandfathers – they can be anything from meditation zones to care facilities. We pick some of our favourites
Artists Heather and Ivan Morison designed Mother… a thatched hut (above) offering sanctuary and solitude in a Cambridgeshire nature reserve. The shape and proportions of the timber-framed structure are based on a traditional style of hayrick, and a conical top forms a roof with a small oculus at its peak.
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These traditional mobile shelters became so popular for restoration that you can now specify one to be built to your needs, with a selection of window and door types, traditional ironmongery and the all-important layers of insulation. Few shepherds could afford the typical prices of around £10,000.
A garden ‘pod’ gives you excellent all-year-round views. Some can even rotate. Typically seating up to eight guests, the wood-andsteel constructions are fully waterproof and construction is often modular so it doesn’t have to be craned into your garden.
Robust, spacious and secure, converted shipping containers make ideal prefab buildings, and can be used as anything from an equipment storage shed, to a luxurious garden bedroom. Prices start from around £1,500 for the empty shell.
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If you are an aviation fan or an enthusiastic recycler you might fancy an Aeropod (below), made from the shell of a scrapped airliner. Retaining many of the original aircraft fittings, this example is made from an Airbus 320 and features a hand-made ash frontage. Cost is around £10,000 from https://dappraviation.com.
With the cost of cares homes skyrocketing, it can make financial sense to site a granny annexe in the garden – and crucially, models like the Oak from www.carepods.co.uk (below) can now be adapted to medical care requirements. Some models can be re-sited when no longer required. Prices start from around £55,000. ■
Is it a toolshed, or is it art? This slimline design by architect Nils Holger Moorman (bottom right) features slots for garden tools, a barbecue, a bench and table combination with an extensible awning as a sun screen, and a secret loft space for the kids.
Los Angeles artist Michael Jantzen’s ‘Interactive Garden Pavilion’ is constructed around an octagonal frame, with thirty slatted and hinged panels that can be moved to allow different uses. Prefabricated from recycled wood, the pavilion can be scaled up or down, and multiple structures can be joined together to create numerous rooms. See it at www.michaeljantzen.com.
Some people have fairies, we have
IMAGES: Studio Morison/Dappraviation/Carepods/Michael Jantzen
granny at the bottom of our garden
The Aeropod - fly me to... the
The Ultimate Toolshed, a high-
bottom of the garden
tech design for arty gardeners
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You have the
If you have the right tools, you have the power to do so much around your house â&#x20AC;&#x201C; here are our top tips for the essential elements of a DIY kit
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hile millennials are notoriously clueless about DIY, they do love the internet, which is an endless source of DIY tips. Learn what tools you need for a job, and how to use them safely, and you can save yourself hundreds or thousands by doing a job yourself rather than getting in a professional. Anything
IMAGES: Shutterstock/The manufacturers
from laying laminate to constructing shelving should be within your capabilities with the right gear. Remember, if you live in a rental property you will have to consult your landlord before knocking anything around – but in your own home, you can be the DIY master! ■
From knocking in a nail to setting a fence-post, a hammer is an essential tool, and there are dozens of types for different jobs. Start with something multi-purpose like this USmade, English-style all-steel Estwing Curved Claw Hammer with its moulded-on vinyl grip for shock reduction. estwingtools.co.uk
Whether you’re replacing tired skirting board or removing oldfashioned door panels, wood chisels are the carpenter’s best friend. Irwin’s Marples chisels come in handy size sets, have fully forged, one-piece steel blades, and are designed for use with mallet or hand but can withstand an occasional hammer strike. irwin.co.uk
There’s no tool more essential than a drill, and the modern cordless combi-drill which also functions as a screwdriver is almost infinite in its applications, from putting up shelves to removing old brickwork. Milwaukee’s M12 Fuel Sub-Compact Drill-driver is particularly manageable and has a built-in light and ‘fuel gauge’. uk.milwaukeetool.eu
The locking pliers or ‘mole grip’ make it easier to clamp and handle anything, acting as a mighty third hand when you most need one. Kennedy’s 10inch Ideal Grip Wrench is typical, made in heavy-duty chrome vanadium with a two-stage curved jaw design and easy quick release. kennedy-tools.co.uk
There are all sorts of saws from handsaws for gardening and woodcutting to hacksaws for pipes and sheet metal and circular saws for heavy duty carpentry. One of our faves is the reciprocating saw, which does all the work for you – compact, multi-speed, easy to change blades, and capable of flush cutting. bosch-diy.com
From resurfacing furniture to cutting pipes and trimming decking, an oscillating multitool is the jack of all trades. This DeWalt DCS355 features a longrunning lithium power-pack, built-in light, and optional dust extractor. dewalt.co.uk
From small electrical appliances to furniture assembly and repairs, you can never have too many screwdrivers. Makita’s 47-piece 1/4” drive screwdriver, bit and socket set has a ratchet handle, a magnetic bit holder, and a huge range of slotted, Phillips and Pozi screwdriver heads, as well as sockets and hex heads. makitauk.com
A retractable knife is an essential for all sorts of cutting and trimming jobs. Stanley’s FATMAX safety knives offer three blade depth settings to protect contents in packaging materials, new trigger-squeeze to improve ease of use and cut user strain, and blade locks to help prevent accidental blade exposure. stanleytools.com
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And So To Bed...
We spend a third of our lives in bed, so shouldnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t we pay more attention to our bedroom furnishings? Here are some top ideas for sleeping in style
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If you want to hide the TV away altogether, look for a bed with a concealed TV on a rising platform built in. If you don’t want to disturb people elsewhere in the house while watching the TV late at night, invest in a pair of cordless headphones. If you have your bedroom TV free-standing on a dresser, make sure it is safe by fitting a wall strap to prevent it tilting forward. Hide your bedroom TV away, or make it a feature
ust because the main use for a bedroom is sleeping, doesn’t mean that it has to be stark, dark and utilitarian. Many of us like to make the bedroom the most luxurious room in the house, a place where we can revel in bohemian luxury, and indulge in sensual pleasures. Bedroom furniture can be practical, but life is more enjoyable if it’s fun too.
EntErtainmEnt One current trend is to incorporate all sorts of electronic entertainment into your bedroom furniture. For comfortable viewing of a TV, never place it on small furniture or in a corner of the room. Instead, put it on a tall dresser at the foot of the bed, or mount it to the wall or ceiling with specialized hanging brackets. Remember that if you are viewing from the comfort of your bed, your viewing angle isn’t the same as it would be in the living room, so you shouldn’t assume that the TV should be mounted at the same height. If you use a tilting or fullmotion wall mount, minor adjustments to viewing angle can be made easily. If you don’t like the look of a TV on the wall, conceal it with artwork, or make it part of a design using fabrics, mirrors, timber or shelving. Though modern TVs are almost invariably very thin, you can reduce their footprint even more by having them recessed into the wall – this is a specialised job since it involves accommodating a lot of connecting cabling. celebrityangels.co.uk
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The Exo floating bed from Levitas is a miracle of design and engineering
Sound aSleep If you are not convinced by the arguments for having a TV in the bedroom – there’s good evidence that watching TV late at night disturbs sleep patterns – perhaps a little soothing music would suit you better. A step up from the bedside clock/radio is the in-ceiling speaker system, using small inset devices perhaps 2.5 or 5 inches in diameter, controlled by a mobile phone app or a handheld remote. You can listen to FM or DAB radio, and with more sophisticated systems, tie in to your main sound system elsewhere in the house. This sort of kit can work well with intelligent systems such as Amazon’s Alexa.
Work and reSt If space in your home is at a premium, or you find yourself having to work from home but don’t have a separate home office, careful choice of furniture can convert a spare bedroom into a useful workspace. A favourite for kids is the high sleeper bed/ desk, where the top of the unit is a bunk, while a desk is built in below. Cube and drawer storage 106
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units are often built in, and in some cases the design can even incorporate a chairbed, so you have a second sleeping option for guests. Now there are also sturdier versions of these ‘loft beds’ designed for adults, either in traditional wooden construction incorporating a dresser, or in modern open-frame industrial tubular designs. For seriously compact solutions, a studybed from www.studybed.co.uk can convert in seconds from a bed to a desk – the whole bed unit folds into the wall, raising a desk unit where devices such as laptops and lamps can be left semi-permanently wired in. Designs like this are popular in student accommodation, but in many cases they can be supplied with a choice of matching furniture accessories, so they can be made part of a complete bedroom look. One radical design from Greek design company Studio NL sees you sleeping under the desk, with panels folding out to reveal the mattress and create a headboard. Known as 1.6 Sq.m. of Life, it’s meant to be more of a comment on modern work/life balance than a serious design, but surely someone will put it into production.
Help and advice The National Bed Federation (www.bedfed.org.uk) provides professional, unbiased and generic advice on everything you need to know about beds to help you navigate through your bed-buying journey. It has no allegiance to any specific type of product, any one brand or any particular bed retailer.
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Equally visually stunning is the Exo floating bed (previous page) from www.levitasdesign.com. Inspired by the illusions of stage magicians, the cantilevered bed floats above the floor - you need 50mm behind a plasterboard wall to float it. Alternatively it can be erected in the middle of a room using special trusses. The Exo bed is available in a variety of sizes and has corrugated slats for increased ventilation and temperature control of the mattress. Its all-aluminium frame has highly polished corners and you can supply your own artwork and images to be printed onto the frame.
nAturAL SLEEP Letto Zero will provide a good night’s sleep from any angle
IMAGES: Shutterstock/Levitas/Letto/Free Range Designs
Luxury Living For the ultimate in bedroom opulence, the sort you would expect in a mansion rather than the average three-bed semi, you could go for the world’s most expensive bed, the Three Sixty from www.savoirbeds.com. This hand-crafted rotating bed with leather and maple frame and yak-fibre cover costs from £250,000. But you needn’t spend this much to sleep in luxury - you might feel just as opulently cocooned in the Zero from Italian designer Letto (above). This novel circular bed combines volume and structurally defined forms into a harmonious visual effect that according to the designers “stands to amplify its relentless totality in the most aesthetically successful manner.” The Zero design combines two pure shapes, the circle and the square, but is made more practical by using a standard size and shape mattress instead of a special circular one. Letto Zero is available in a base version with or without storage box, and in three sizes - small, medium and large, that can be also combined with two types of upholstered headboard. The structure is also available fully upholstered in leather or eco-leather in many different colours., and customers can provide their own leather, subject to suitability test. There’s also an option of a methacrylate support and LED light for under the bed. Prices are from £2,989 for a bed frame for a mattress of width 160cm x depth 200 cm, with the standard fabric finish (price of mattress excluded). UK distributor is www.livingspaceuk.com.
Bedroom furniture can be practical, but life is more enjoyable if it’s fun too.
Taking a completely and more natural different design approach, the Rustic Oak Four Poster Tree Bed (below), costing around £1,760, uses the organic twists and turns of the wood as part of the beauty of the design. These four-posters from freerangedesigns.co.uk use traditional carpentry techniques to cut the mortice and tenon joints that lock the beds firmly together. They are supplied in sections for easy delivery and self-assembly in your home, with the headboard and tailboard as two units that slot together into the side lengths. If you fancy a snooze in the garden, you can also specify them for outdoor use as a day bed! ■
Four-posters have a traditional charm all of their own
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Making Green Grant Projects Even Greener with Soprema’s Insulation Options
he Green Homes Grant announced by the Government in August enables homeowners to receive a grant of up to £10,000 for energy efficiency improvements. One of the key areas for improvement is insulation, but it’s important to choose the right solution that will work in harmony with the existing fabric of the building. “Many of the properties that will benefit most from improved thermal performance have solid brick or stone walls,” explains Phil Griffiths from Soprema. “For this type of building, it’s important to choose a breathable product for any internal wall insulation (IWI) installations to prevent moisture from becoming trapped, which can lead to damp and mould in heavily-insulated properties. “The Pavatex range of woodfibre insulation from Soprema provides the ideal solution because it is designed specifically for IWI projects and allows moisture to disperse gradually, creating a comfortable environment.”
A sustainable product made from renewable timber, the Pavatex range not only helps to keep properties warm in the cold months, but also prevents heat build-up in the summer months, making it ideal for roof void installations too. Phil continues: “As our climate becomes warmer and summers become hotter, heavily-insulated homes can overheat, which is uncomfortable for occupiers and can lead to use of energy hungry fans and air conditioning. Pavatex woodfibre prevents heat becoming trapped ensuring a comfortable indoor temperature all year round.” For homeowners and landlords who prefer to use their Green Grant voucher for an external wall insulation project, Soprema recommends the company’s XPS 500 insulation, which is BRE Green Guide A-rated. Made from recycled plastic pellets and manufactured using climate-friendly recycled CO2 technology, XPS 500 has a 60-year lifespan and is 100% recyclable at the end of its service life. “We believe green improvements should consider the eco credentials of the materials used as well as their environmental performance,” Phil adds, “And both Pavatex and XPS 500 offer a 3600 approach to thermal efficiency.”
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There are many simple yet effective ways to insulate your home, which can significantly reduce heat loss while lowering your heating bills
t’s essential in this eco-friendly age to do everything we can to reduce fuel consumption by minimising heat loss in our houses. In fact, if you own a rental property there are energy efficiency standard regulations you must conform to. For homeowners, it should be enough to know that efficient insulation will help you to stay toasty in your home without wasting a fortune on fuel.
Lofts The Energy Saving Trust says that a quarter of domestic heat is lost through the roof in an uninsulated home. Fitting loft insulation is a fairly easy job which should last for up to 40 years and pay for itself many times over. Before you fit it, though, make sure that you have resolved any underlying damp problems by eliminating leaks, checking ventilation to prevent condensation, and treating any damp patches. h Mineral wool laid between joists and then over them at right angles is an easy DIY job. If you want to floor the loft, you should raise the floor on battens to allow for the dual layers of insulation. Leave an air gap to prevent condensation. h Rafters can be insulated using insulation board, mineral wool or spray polyurethane foam. Inaccessible areas can be insulated with blown insulation. Don’t forget gable ends, party walls and chimneys. This is a job for professionals.
h If you use your loft as a living space make sure there is insulation between it and any heated rooms.
Cavity waLLs Responsible for around a third of heat loss, cavity walls can be insulated by injecting insulation material into the cavity from the outside. A specialist company will drill holes in the outside walls, inject insulation through the holes and then seal them with
The U-value is a measure of how quickly heat will travel through part of a building. To achieve the usual standard of 0.25 W/m2K or less for a floor, for instance, you will normally need at least 70mm of high-performance foam insulation, or 150mm of mineral wool, varying depending on floor type, shape and size.
cement. The insulation material used is usually either a mineral wool or polystyrene beads, but polyurethane foam may sometimes be used instead.
others Lagging pipes, putting jackets on hot water tanks and reflectors on radiators, insulating between and under floorboards, fitting draught excluders to chimneys, plugging gaps in brickwork and putting insulating strips around door and window frames are among the cheapest and most effective forms of insulation. Don’t forget that covering the smallest gaps like keyholes and letterboxes will all be worthwhile – every little helps hold in the heat! ■ celebrityangels.co.uk
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rom kitchen gardens to immaculately-manicured showpieces, everyone has their own ideas about how a garden should look, and what it should contribute to family life. A garden might have to serve several purposes – for play, relaxation, entertainment or even to provide food. But each garden is someone’s pride and joy, and we love them all.
GREEN, GREEN GRASS A well-manicured lawn is of course the crowning glory of many gardens, but keeping it in trim requires time and dedication. Among the little routine tasks you have to do are to remove weeds such as dandelions, scatter new grass seed on bare patches, 112
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aerate the turf by spiking with a fork, and rake out dead grass in the autumn. On heavy clay soil it can be helpful to open up space using a garden fork every 10cm or so, and brush in some sharp sand to improve aeration and prevent compaction. Try to avoid the temptation to use weed-killer as it doesn’t help the overall health of the lawn. But that’s just the tip of the lawn maintenance iceberg. The real job is of course regular mowing; you need to do this job at least once a week in summer, and every two weeks In spring autumn and warm winters. Mowing encourages root development and healthy overall growth.
IMAGES: Shutterstock/Stiga/Rainwater Terrace
From a rustic idyll to a Japanese Zen garden, every plot has its own characteristics and special charm. We look at some of the top trends to tempt you into the garden
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Lawn technoLogy There’s an enormous choice of lawn mowers available, from petrol and electric to large ride-ons and tractors. What you choose will depend largely on the size of your lawn. In any case you must maintain your mower and keep the blades sharp. Adjust your mower blades for longer lengths, say 5-10cm in the summer, as this prevents grass from going brown in dry weather. The last touch in sculpting a lawn is edging. This can be done manually with long-handled shears and a half-moon edger, but you’re likely to get a neater job with an electric trimmer. Install permanent edging if the job becomes onerous. Watering a lawn is of course essential, but don’t over-water, particularly on a new lawn. Gardening expert Alan Titchmarsh says: “There’s a great deal you can do to cut down your use of water in the garden, and fashion is on your side. Instead of a traditional, bowling green-style lawn, many gardeners are going for the natural look.
Alan Titchmarsh MBE; rainwater recyling fan
“Even a light shower in summer is enough to top up your water butts. Rainwater is un-chlorinated and naturally soft – perfect for plants. It’s far better than the stuff that comes out of a tap for watering lime-haters such as rhododendrons, camellias and blueberries” - Alan Titchmarsh MBE
“By allowing the grass to grow slightly longer than usual and encouraging drought-resistant clovers and trefoils – which don’t turn yellow when they are short of water – grass stays a lot greener in dry conditions.” Alan also encourages the idea of re-using ‘grey water’ from your bath or saving rainwater in a water butt. While sprinklers can do a good job watering a lawn, they are wasteful, while saving rainwater in a butt reduces the risk of flooding and erosion and saves money. Tap water contains chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride intended to keep it safe for drinking, but these are not good for many plants. Rainwater contains less minerals and is slightly more acid. Use watering accessories extending to your lawn and flower-beds to make the most of the free rainwater. Some rainwater butts can be ugly, but good design can turn them into a positive garden feature – for instance designs from www.rainwater-terrace.com (below) incorporate side planters, so they’re pretty as well as practical.
aRtIFIcIaL aLteRnatIVe Of course, there’s always the alternative of an artificial lawn. Modern artificial grass can look very realistic, and the advantages are numerous – no feeding, no patching, no mud in the house, safe for children and pets to play on, and soft and comfortable underfoot. If you’re worried about drainage, it shouldn’t be a problem if a permeable sub-base is installed.
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Danielle Anjou’s Gymnast
Namgrass (www.namgrass.co.uk) is a leading supplier of luxury artificial grass, designed and developed entirely in-house and meeting the highest industry standards (see right). Namgrass manufactures a large variety of grasses, with a range of budgets, making them accessible to all. A natural choice for the perfect lawn.
Water features A water feature in your garden forms a pleasant centrepiece and encourages wildlife. A water feature can range from a modest pebble pile with a submersible pump powered by a 12V or solar supply, to a large fountain. When your garden water features get more ambitious and you’re looking at a swimming pool, there are some marvellous ways to enhance your garden ambience. For a really special pool decoration, try a sculpture like Gymnast by Danielle Anjou from www.charltonisland.com (above) - the American’s statuary is so realistic you’ll think you have an extra guest for pool parties. Bespoke sculptural pool slides from www.splinterworks.com (right) are noncorroding, self-cooling and long-lasting. They’re as stunning to look at as they must be to ride, come in a number of basic shapes but can be customised to fit your indoor or outdoor pool. 116
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Splinterworks’ Waha pool slide: Image by Meagan Larsen Photography
IMAGES: Shutterstock/Charlton Island/Namgrass/Splinterworks
There’s an old story that to prevent algae growing in your water feature or birdbath you should drop in a few pre-1982 pennies, which contained a high proportion of copper, a natural algicide. These days, you’ll probably find it easier to use a short length of copper piping.
will enhance any pool
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Decking has had a bad rep but can be built sympathetically
Decking Dreams Garden decking has had a bit of bad press in the last few years, commonly regarded as an embarrassing 90s throwback, like grunge and pagers. Certainly because it was a cheap and cheerful way of renovating a garden, it was embraced over-enthusiastically by the TV garden makeover shows. No-one gave much thought to the environmental consequences of covering your garden with hardwood plundered from rainforests. But used sensibly and with some environmental awareness, decking can be a wonderful enhancement for your garden. For instance, if you don’t have any level ground for sitting outdoors, a small decking area by the rear of the house can effectively extend our living space into the garden. Alternatively, a space at the end of the garden or a shaded area under a tree might provide some comfort and privacy.Here are a few points to consider when designing your decking area.
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and buy the required number of boards or tiles and joists for the job, or you can buy kits with a pre-cut decking area. Add handrails to create a more comfortable, separate feel. Decking tiles are an alternative to planks, can be easier to install – they just click together – and come in an attractive range of colours, or you can colour them any shade you want with decking paint. Try matching paint colours with your fences for a coordinated look. Combining decking with a feature such as a pergola gives you plant growing options which can soften the hard lines of decking. Climbing plants can be used as shade too, or to provide more privacy for your decking area. Border plants and pot plants can be allowed to overgrow the edges of decking to soften outlines. Alternatively a canvas awning can provide shade when you really need it. Decking can provide a base for solid structures such as pavilions which can provide shade in summer as well as protection from the elements when it’s cooler.
Composite decking using a combination of recycled wood and synthetic materials is more durable than wooden decking, and is environmentally friendly. It’s also non-slip, easy to clean, and comes in a range of colours
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An open pergola can frame a decking area without cutting out the sun, but when you do need shade, you can use inexpensive garden materials such as open weave seagrass. Garden lighting is essential if you want to use your decking area all year round - enhance your decking area with fairy lights, spot lights, or for an architectural effect, integrated panel lighting. For decking furniture, don’t go for cheap garden plastics – try to choose something that would look good indoors too.
to provide some privacy potted plants, and it will be just like eating out in the garden. An easy way to set up an outdoor dining area is to site a folding shelf under your kitchen window. Use this as a dining surface and you can sit on the patio and pass food out to the garden. Think about where the sun is going to fall at meal-times; if you have plenty of space, you might even be able to set up more than one outdoor dining area, perhaps for barbecuing in the daytime, and more formal dining in the evening.
Al fresco dining One of the hottest trends in home design is outdoor dining. Though this isn’t as attractive an all-year-round prospect in the UK as it might be in, say, Barbados or California, there are still ways to open up your kitchen or dining room into the garden, and enjoy your food in the fresh air. In the summer, thoughts naturally turn to barbecuing and family get-togethers – a bit of a no-no during the coronavirus pandemic. But let’s hope it’s a go-er for next summer. Alternatively, you can cook indoors and serve al fresco, given a suitable outdoor dining area. The ideal way to connect your kitchen and outdoor dining area is with patio doors, or even better, space-saving sliding glass doors. Often, designers will floor the kitchen and outdoor dining area with the same tiles, making a seamless transition between the two. But don’t limit yourself – a balcony can make an ideal outdoor dining area too. Just equip it with a tiled floor, metal table and chairs, and a line of bamboo plants in pots
Martin’s Tips “A small space such as a side return can make an ideal dining area – just add some garden sculptures, small potted trees, climbing plants, and delicate garden furniture so as not to obstruct the view. Make the space look bigger and lighter with a mirror wall.”
If you are struggling to keep your artificial grass smelling fresh, Zep has the product for you! Artificial Grass Cleaner destroys odours and targets the sources of bad smells on artificial grass and AstroTurf. The 3-in1 formula freshens, cleans and deodorises to make your garden smell meadow fresh. The enzymatic formula is pet and child friendly once dry. www.zep.co.uk
An outdoor barbecue area is the handiest way to eat al fresco
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OUTDOOR FURNITURE Outdoor dining furniture can be removable, or built into the garden; for instance your decking could extend to form a built-in bench or table, and an also serve as a storage unit for folding furniture. For additional seating, metal folding chairs are flexible and can be easily stored away in the winter, and wrought iron dining tables can often be folded away too. If you want something more permanent, reclaimed wooden dining tables in the rustic country style are trés chic. For outdoor dining, exposed bulbs on an overhead canopy or pergola incorporating climbing plants can provide adequate soft lighting, without blocking the view of the garden, or you can use a battery-powered table light, or candles in glass jars. For permanent shade, you can use the hedge management techniques called ‘pleaching’ or ‘plashing’ to interweave living and dead wood. Plant a row of trees and weave the branches throughout a hedge to create a canopy – it won’t keep out rain, but it will create shade. Canopy plants can be tied back like curtains to create space. For temporary shade, an awning of canvas, hessian or sailcloth looks great suspended from ropes or stretched across poles or trees, or if you have around an hour to erect it and a free metre around it to peg it down, try a waterproof cotton canvas ‘tea tent’. 120
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HOT TOpIc As the autumn wears on, enjoying your garden is going to become dependent on getting enough warmth. The eco-friendly way to do it is to put on another jumper – but you try eating a corncob wearing gloves. No, at some stage you are going to want to choose a patio heater. The first thing to bear in mind is that gas heaters are extremely wasteful of fuel and heat. They also have a large carbon footprint, giving out 85 percent more CO2 than an electric heater. Electric heaters are cheaper to run, too. You might think that a log burner is a more ecological alternative, but it depends on what you’re burning; damp wood or anything contaminated with chemicals is responsible for a lot of atmospheric particulate pollution, so check the environmental standards of whatever burner you are considering, and make sure to use clean, dry fuel. Also think about where you can store your heater out of the way in the summer - some are massive. Other than that, what are the pros and cons of different types of garden heating?
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h Electric heaters reach a good temperature quickly and are easy to use. They can be free-standing or table-mounted, plugging into a mains socket, or wired into a wall-mount. They are efficient as they use radiant heat rather than air convection, and are generally best where you can decide which spots need heating and which don’t. Electric heaters come in several varieties including halogen and infrared, and some are so compact they can be concealed under a parasol.
h Gas heaters can be cheaper to buy than electric, and provide wide-ranging heat at levels up to around 13kW, so they’re good for larger areas. Though temperature is usually adjustable, they are expensive to run, at about £1.20 an hour, about five times as much as an electric heater, and take a while to warm up. Some are also extremely space-consuming, at up to seven feet high. h Biofuel heaters run on more eco-friendly fuels such as bioethanol, which burns clean with no scent or smoke, so they can also be used indoors – they’re small and portable enough to carry around to where you need them. h Fire pits are extremely on-trend, and are good at heating a small space around you. Fuelled by either charcoal or wood, they are made from steel, clay or cast iron, and many come with a safety lid, and cooking grill so they can be used as mini barbecues.
h Chimineas (or should it be chiminae?) are also achingly on-trend. Pot-bellied clay chimney ovens used in Mexico for baking bread, they have been adopted as garden heaters. You can still use them as ovens though - wrap potatoes in foil to bake them in the coals, place food such as pizza directly on a ceramic tile or metal sheet to cook, or lean skewers inside to cook over the coals.
This metal chiminea could be used as a heater or a cooker
An alternative is a chimenea made from hightemperature, powder-coated steel covered in a layer of temperature-resistant paint. These often have a handy log store to provide fuel throughout the night, and are waterproof, so they can withstand some rain (though as with the clay version it’s recommended that you cover them when you can). For a low-impact temporary heating solution, try torches or Roman candles. Perfect for when there’s just a slight nip in the air, they supply a gentle heat while adding a glowing ambience to your al fresco experience. Citronella candles will also keep biting insects such as mosquitos at bay, and they’re as easy to use as sticking them in the ground and lighting the wick. You can even make your own torches using wine bottles clamped to fence-fittings with a bottle wick fuelled by lamp oil. celebrityangels.co.uk
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Simon Gudgeon’s Leaf Spirit sculpture would enhance any garden
There are many ways to brighten up your garden other than the traditional garden gnome (though if that’s what floats your boat, try www.gnomelands.com for an amazing assortment of little plaster people, from the traditional to footballing and surfing gnomes, baby gnomes, and even some very rude gnomes indeed). The kids will enjoy building a fairy garden using miniature ceramic mushrooms, wishing wells and doorways, and will also like helping you in your vegetable garden if you make it in a neat vegetable ‘trug’, or trough planter. For a garden decoration that’s a step up from the plaster gnome, the Leaf Spirit sculpture from Devon-based Simon Gudgeon will uplift your spirit and enhance your surroundings – Prince Charles is a fan. Find out more at www.simongudgeon.com. A simpler decoration is the suncatcher, made of a bright neoncoloured acrylic plastic. Suncatchers do just that – catch even faint rays of blue and ultraviolet sunlight and emit them from their edges as fluorescence – so they work particularly well in flowerbeds, where they can enhance the colours of your blooms. Suncatchers don’t need any power and are available in a wide range of sizes, colours and designs. Look for them at www.suncatcher.scot. Wind-powered spinners fitted with coloured LED bulbs can provide both movement and colour in the garden, while for larger areas you can even get a replica windmill which serves as a weather vane. Don’t throw out plastic drinks bottles – cut off the top third, fill the base with gravel for drainage and a topping of soil, and you can turn them into no-cost plant pots. Old picture frames can be converted into wall-hanging plant holders using a chicken-wire support, and if you have old indoor 124
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furniture that has outlived its usefulness, think about whether it could be upcycled for use in the garden. An old bookshelf suitably repainted with exterior paint could make a good herb garden, and unused chests-of-drawers can be turned into planting tables. A row of coat-hooks could be repurposed as lamp hangers, old kitchen fish kettles can make attractive planters, and broken wooden ladders can be cut into plant displays. However you design and construct your garden, it’s your chance to stamp your personality on your property, enjoy your outdoor space and get some exercise. So clear out that garden shed, make with the hedge-trimmers, and start creating your perfect garden now! ■
A colourful Suncatcher can brighten your garden even in the darker months
IMAGES: Simon Gudgeon/Suncatcher
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Garden Ornaments stunning reflections vibrant colours magical glow
powered by natural daylight SunCatcher.Scot SunCatcher.Scot
Tools for the Job If you have the right tool there’s no garden job you can’t tackle, no matter how big or small. We ask the experts for some seasonal advice
rom battery-powered hand tools to rideon mowers, nothing makes short work of garden task better than a power tool. But which jobs need which tools, and how do you know you are choosing a reliable and green product? First think about the jobs you need to tackle in each season. At this time of the year when mowing your lawn, raising the mower blade to its highest setting. This will avoid too much stress to the grass in dry conditions. Current thinking is to leave the leaf cuttings in the grass sward to act as a mulch and conserve moisture. Green up the grass if necessary, using a high nitrate liquid feed when rain is expected. Apples, plums and other tree fruit will be maturing, so keep up with the picking. Plant strawberry runners, for cropping in 2021. Prune wisteria side-shoots back to ﬁve leaves from the main stem. The ﬂowering shoots of rambling roses can also be shortened by a third when ﬂowering is over. Hedges can have a ﬁnal trim before the winter.
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CHOOSING TOOLS For every garden job there’s a power tool to help – Tillers and Rotovators to get your soil ready for sowing Hedge trimmers, pole pruners and chainsaws to tackle garden hedges, trees and bushes Multi-mate / multi-tools – a wide range from handy compacts perfect for box hedging and pruning to larger multi-tools with several attachments to tackle most garden jobs such as tree cutting Strimmers/Brushcutters – the perfect tools to tackle wild lawn areas, nettles, undergrowth and lawn edges Lawnmowers/Ride-Ons – from walk-behind push and self-propelled mowers to lawn riders and tractors you can cut the lawn, collect, mulch or side discharge Pressure Washers – clean your patio, deck, terrace, drives and pathways Blowers – machines to collect and tidy leaves and other garden debris to keep pathways and lawn areas clear.
Many gardeners are now moving away from petrol models and choosing battery products which are lightweight, efﬁcient, environmentally friendly and easier to use.
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Battery powered garden tools have revolutionised gardening in recent years with the help of advances in Lithium battery technology. They are available in varying wattage and amperage power specifications to cover a range of usage from smaller gardens to much larger areas and heavy-duty professional use. Many gardeners are now moving away from petrol models and choosing battery products which are lightweight, efficient, environmentally friendly and easier to use.
Multi-tools allow gardeners to tackle many jobs with one power head and a range of attachments. Available in petrol and battery power they offer flexibility and performance covering many gardening jobs in one.
Ride ‘em But hand tools are one thing – what if your garden is so big you need a ride-on mower? Lawn Riders are suitable for lawns from 0.75 – 1 acre in size, and for larger lawns there are Garden Tractors of increasing size suitable for gardens from 2 acres through to 5 acres. Lawn riders are a great economic alternative and a step up from a walk-behind mower. They are compact, fitting through a standard garden gate as well as being easy to manoeuvre. For larger areas of an acre or more a garden tractor is a must. There is the option to choose from collecting models with the grass collector fitted to the back of the machine, or a dedicated side-discharge mower, perfect for longer grass. These mowers often feature a mid-mounted cutter deck, with either a twin or triple blade cutter depending on the desired width of cut. Front-cut mowers offer great cutting and mulching performance and have a tight turning circle, making them the perfect choice for larger more complex lawns. The unique 50:50 articulated steering seen on STIGA Park models demonstrates this agility and precision. With the cutting deck situated at the front of the mower to give an unimpeded view of the cutting path, these mowers are fast and convenient, and can even fertilise the lawn as you cut! ■
Scrapping productS WEEE regulations cover electrical or electronic equipment that has come to the end of its ‘user life’. Each year in the UK we generate 2 million tonnes of electrical waste. Items that are discarded contain a variety of materials, including metal, glass, plastics, ceramics and precious metals, and without specialised waste processes this complex mix of materials can create several health risks. Under WEEE regulations when you buy a new electrical product you should be able to return your old one for disposal in a legal and environmentally friendly way. Talk to your retailer about their WEEE compliance scheme and enquire with your local authority to get details of electrical product recycling.
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Martin’s Musings So, at the end of the day, what’s it all about? Why do we put so much time into property, and what do we hope to get out of it? Martin Roberts reflects
I’ve met people on Homes Under the Hammer who bought a property at auction, did it up and sold it at a proﬁt so they could give all that proﬁt to an orphanage in Africa. They ﬁgured it was a quicker way of generating charitable funds than rattling tins outside Tesco or cycling the length of the Great Wall of China. And they are right. Money buys choice. And when you and your family are comfortable, your choice may be to give some of your proﬁts to worthwhile causes. Personally, I’ve spent the last three months putting my time and eﬀort into providing a free copy of a special ‘Teaching Version’ of my children’s book, Sadsville to every primary school in the UK, through my charity, The Martin Roberts Foundation.
Martin launching his book Sadsville
IMAGES: Martin Roberts
at Paulton Junior School, Bristol
nvesting in property is not just about amassing a small fortune in the bank, buying a yacht and a private island and eating fresh mangoes plucked from a distant paradise island and fed to you by your favourite celebrity. The great thing about property is that if you do it correctly, with the right guidance and due diligence, it can create wealth faster and more reliably than most options available to the average person. What you choose to do with that wealth is then up to you.
You can ﬁnd out more at www.sadsville.co.uk, but in essence the book helps children explore their emotions and gets them to reach out for support if they need it. By providing a lesson plan and resources for teachers, they will easily be able to incorporate important lessons into their classroom that will highlight children that are struggling more than others with general problems of growing up, or more speciﬁc worries brought about by lockdown. The book has been produced with the backing of the NSPCC and it directs children to its Childline resource if they have any concerns they wish to raise outside of school or at home. And I’ve been able to recruit a host of celebrities including David Hasselhoﬀ, Bruno Tonioli, Jeremy Vine, Kimberley Wyatt, Esther Rantzen and even Basil Brush to read short passages of the book, for a video that will be released soon. My property portfolio has given me the freedom to undertake this initiative, while it bubbles away in the background, generating passive income. So, if anyone accuses you of investing in property for purely ﬁnancial or capitalistic reasons, quietly point out that your reasons may be a lot more altruistic than they ﬁrst appear!
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