Does your house need an M.O.T?
The health of a house depends on many things: not only the integrity of its own structure, but also the strains and stresses of our everyday lives, our neighbours’ actions, and of course the weather. To keep your house happy and well maintained we recommended performing an annual check – just as you would with your car.
Boiler & Gas Appliances
It is essential to ensure that boilers and gas appliances are working well. The heating engineer will perform a full service, to check, clean and test all the different functions of the appliance. If it breaks down and you have not carried out an annual service — even if it is still under warranty — you will be liable for the cost of the repair. Note that an annual service is legally required for tenanted properties
Unvented Hot Water Cylinders
The annual service of unvented hot water cylinders includes testing the safety valves, recharging the pressure vessels, cleaning the pressure reduction valve and checking the electrical connections. Servicing helps to prevent general system failure, overheating and pressure build up. It will help to keep the water heater safe and in line with building regulations, and may well be required by your home insurance.
Cleaning gutters and drains
Gutters have one job: to guide rainwater off your roof and straight down the drain. However they also play a huge role in the structural integrity of your house, for if they become clogged or broken this could result in major leaks or damp. Keeping them clean is a simple way to avoid potential costly expense of repair. We recommend servicing your gutters and drains in the autumn to remove fallen leaves and detritus and again in the spring in case bad winter weather has caused any damage.
Monitor smoke alarm & CO detector
We all want to keep our home and family safe, and one of the most important ways we can do this is to ensure that we have smoke alarms, heat detectors and carbon monoxide (CO) alarm correctly installed. There should be one smoke alarm on every floor, and possibly an extra alarm in rooms with large appliances such as a large television or fridge freezer. Heat detectors should be installed in the kitchen, bathroom and garage as they are less likely to be set off by water vapour. A CO detector should be located in all rooms containing gas appliances, such as the kitchen or boiler room. All three should be tested once a year and be fitted with replacement batteries when needed.
Sometimes you may find your radiator does not distribute heat evenly from its surface. This is generally due to air that is trapped inside the system, and can be fixed by a process known as radiator bleeding. The engineer will release the air, check the boiler pressure and run a ‘hot test’ to ensure the system is working well. We recommend that your radiators are checked in the early Autumn to avoid any disappointment in the colder months.
Glossary – Walls & Ceilings
It is always important to pay attention to the details and finishes of your home, but this is particularly true during the final stages of your refurbishment or redecoration project . It really does make a difference to the durability and longevity of the work. We have collated a few of the words and phrases you may come across when discussing the walls and ceiling of your home with your decorator.
Lath and plaster: Traditionally walls and ceilings were made using hand split laths, or strips of timber, keyed together with plaster. Since the mid 20th century, this method has mostly been replaced by plasterboard, but it is still regularly found when renovating heritage houses.
Plaster skimming: Skimming creates a thin layer over the top of plasterboard or existing paint, making a smooth, seamless surface ready for painting or wall papering. It has many of the advantages of a traditional solid plaster finish such as robustness, acoustic enhancement and, of course, a smooth, flat finish.
Render: This is a waterproof layer used mostly on the exterior of a building, made of sand, concrete and lime. It is mostly applied for aesthetic reasons, either to create a very smooth finish, or a particular texture. It can take up to a month to set fully.
Hardibacker board: is a cement-based board used as an underlay for tile and stone, especially in wet areas such as bathrooms and kitchens.
Primer: Also known as an undercoat, the primer is a base coating applied before painting. Priming allows the paint to adhere better to the surface and increases the durability f the paint finis. It also provides additional protection for the material being painted.
Glossary – Plumbing
When building or refurbishing a property, a plumber will usually get involved around the same time as the electrician during the first fix before the walls are put up. Generally a plumber is called more on a maintenance basis and often on emergency call out. Below are some of the things, a plumber can help you with.
Gutter, drain, gully: a gutter is a shallow trough fixed beneath the edge of a roof for carrying off rainwater. Drain gullies or grids as most people describe them are the ground level drains that your waste or storm water pipes discharge into. The basic idea of a gully is that you have a trapped receptacle at surface level that waste or storm water can pass through easily. The gully traps also intercept silt and debris from a roof or a hard standing preventing it from entering the main line system, due to this and the build up of grease and fat that can occur in kitchen waste gullies a certain amount of maintenance can be required to prevent them from blocking. Checking and cleaning your gutter and drain in Spring and before the winter, will keep the plumber away.
Valve: A valve is a device that regulates the flow of water. If you lose water pressure in a tap or shower, first check that it is not blocked by the accumulation of limescale. If this doesn’t help to regulate the pressure, it is likely that the valve will need to be replaced.
Shower cartridge: A cartridge valve is one of four types of valves that you’ll find inside a tap. A cartridge has holes that regulate water flow and temperature when you turn the handle, and it offers more precise control than other types of taps. One of the advantages of cartridges is that they are easy to replace, assuming mineral deposits and corrosion don’t hamper your efforts.
Manifold: A distribution point that connects many branches to a main water supply. It is typically used in under floor heating systems for conveying hot water to different rooms in the house.
Glossary – Lighting
It is important to spend some time at the very start of a project thinking about what sort of lighting you’d like. Some rooms might demand angled spotlights to highlight certain features, while others will look better with the softer glow of floor lamps. Your architect or interior designer will no doubt advise you on the best options – but there may be some terminology used that is not very familiar. Here, we talk through a few different phrases and terms.
First Fix: Electrical work is all about preparation. The ‘first fix’ is the stage when your contractor will put in the bare bones of the system – much of which will later be concealed behind the walls. An inspection from building control may be necessary at this point.
Your electrician will work also closely with other trades, especially at this stage. He’ll need to cross bond and earth the pipework that the plumber installs, for example, as well as communicate with plasterers to ensure that the back boxes can be installed in the correct locations, and that holes are left in ceilings for light fittings where necessary.
Certain items such as renewable electricity sources or electric underfloor heating will usually be installed by the supplier, but they will need to work with your primary electrician during the first fix to ensure that the correct supplies are in place for their requirements.
Second Fix: The second fix takes place after the plastering is complete, and primarily consists of wiring up and fixing visible items, such as faceplates and light fittings.
Recessed light: A recessed light or downlight is a fixture that is installed into a hollow opening so the bulb is flush with the ceiling, directing the light downward.
Gang switch: This is simply the number of on-off buttons on the light switch plate: a 1 gang switch will have one button, a 2 gang will have two etc.
Chasing: Electricians may often speak of ‘chasing’ the lights: this refers to the creation of a groove in the wall or ceiling to house the cable as it runs from one point to another. Generally only brick or concrete walls can be chased.
LEDs: LEDs are fast becoming the most popular type of light bulbs in the UK. They used to be very expensive and would often give an aggressive and unnatural looking light, but in the last few years, LEDs have become both much cheaper and hugely energy efficient – and they often now have a warm, natural light instead. The lifespan of an LED bulb can easily be up to ten years – perhaps 25 times longer than halogen — and they are much cheaper to run. There are various colour temperatures, which should be taken into account when choosing bulbs: the lower the value, the ‘warmer’ the colour of the light emitted. Therefore 2700K bulbs give a soft white glow, perfect for the bedroom and living room; 3000K bulbs are brighter, neither quite ‘warm’ or ‘cool’ in colour; anything above 4000K is much brighter, great for art studios or commercial and retail properties.
Glossary – Joinery & Carpentry
In this second Glossary series, we look at some of the terms used in JOINERY & CARPENTRY.
Carpentry and joinery are both construction trades. In its most simplest and traditional sense, joiners ‘join’ wood in a workshop, whereas carpenters construct the building elements on-site.
Carpenters normally work on site and their specialized skill is in dealing with wood fixtures. This can include building a stud partition (an interior timber-framed dividing wall), building cupboards or shelves, fixing window frames or fitting floors.
Whether it is a parquet floor (flooring composed of wooden blocks arranged in geometric patterns) or an engineered wood floor (Layers of hardwood compressed together), the use of wooden floor in home refurbishment as seen a revival in the last years.
Engineered flooring techniques have improved in the last 20 years and can now be used all through the house. They also tend now to be more stable and more resistant to moisture.
When installing a wooden stair, the nosing (the front edge of a stair tread) will be made by a joiner and installed by a carpenter, it can be the same person.
The same will apply to coping or scribing which is a woodworking technique of shaping the end of a moulding or frame. Coping is commonly used in the fitting of skirting and other mouldings in a room.
Glossary – Interior design
Refurbishing a home is like going to a foreign country for the first time. You need to understand the language, the habits and customs to really get to know a place.
In our GLOSSARY series, we are exploring some of the terms that are often used, starting with INTERIOR DESIGN.
While people have been designing homes for thousands of years, interior design as a job is relatively new — in fact, the term itself was only coined in 1930s. The board of interior design qualifications defines the profession as:
“The Professional Interior Designer is qualified by education, experience, and examination to enhance the function and quality of interior spaces”.
The process starts with a concept drawing or sketches. Your designer will then draw a floor plan using a specific scale to show you the layout designed. He might also give you drawing of cross-section.
Concept drawing or sketch: This is usually a freehand drawing, a quick and simple way of exploring initial ideas for designs.
Floor plan: A drawing done to scale, showing the relationships between the rooms and other physical features. Each floor is drawn separately. Dimensions are usually specified.
Scale: All plans are drawn to scale, and there should be a scale bar at the bottom of every page. A plan drawn at a scale of 1:100 means that every 1mm on the plan represents 100mm in the real physical space. It is very important that the scaling is done correctly! Floor plans sent by estate agents are often misleading, as there is a tendency to reduce the size of the furniture to make the rooms seem more spacious.
Cross-section: A cross-section shows a building or room cut along a vertical axis to reveal the interior structure
Don’t judge a book by its cover! What to look out for when buying a new build
At first glance newly built properties have all the advantages of modern construction: advanced building materials, better thermal insulation and reliable services including water, power and heating. The theory goes that the more expensive the development, the higher the quality of the finish and, more importantly, of the structure itself.
Unfortunately, the reality can be different. This particular new build in South West London masked very significant structural issues that could have been prevented without any additional cost to the build. Further investigation on behalf of the insurance company revealed that no waterproofing system had been installed, and this had led to very significant basement leaks to all five properties in the development.
When viewing and buying new builds try not to judge them on their looks alone. Always commission an independent surveyor to double check for building ‘short cuts’ particularly when the contractor has used a private building control company to certify their work. Test everything, such as doors and windows and above all don’t rely solely on their insurance backed guarantees as an indicator of good workmanship.
As often as not, those expensive finishes have come at the cost of something more fundamental.
No time to lose: managing a tight schedule
Commercial development and retrofitting requires a very different set of project management skills to standard residential refurbishments. The contractor must take into account everything from working out-of-hours to protecting existing fixtures and finishes, while maintaining environmental and IT services. Above all, any disruption to clients and the surrounding businesses must be avoided.
While most projects carried out by Goodbody & Co. are residential, we do complete fit outs in a business setting. The brief here was to build a new meeting room within an existing office space in central London. The schedule was tight and work could only take place at weekends over a period of 3 weeks.
In order to create the new space, alterations were made to the existing glass partitions and new ones were commissioned and installed. This in turn required modifications to the lighting, fire and climate control systems, flooring, as well as the construction and reinstatement of matching bulkheads above the new partitions.
Are wet rooms the answer to a lack of bathroom space?
Lighting is often the key to making any small room feel large but how do you deal with a shower room no bigger than a shoebox? In this case a box measuring 3sqm by 2m tall!
To say it can be awkward would be an understatement, particularly if the walls have to be proofed against exterior damp and all the services including the gas meter (no joke) need to be surface run and hidden behind false walls.
The trick? Fit surface finishes such as tiles – floor to ceiling. Make the shower room into a wet room, complete with a step at the entrance. Hang WC pans from the wall to improve cleanliness and use corner basins rather than square or rectangular shapes to make movement comfortable and safe.
In addition form niches and features lit with a combination of white and yellow LED lighting to create warmth, visibility and a greater sense of space.
Above all ensure that every detail has a very practical purpose.
The Garden Room
When indoor space is at a premium, it’s time to upgrade the humble garden shed.
No longer just for storage, a stand-alone studio or outbuilding is an additional, outdoor room with endless possibilities: a summerhouse or additional lounge for entertaining, a dedicated area for toys and play, an office or a place of quiet refuge. Your garden studio can reflect and enhance the style of your home and garden as well as increase its overall value.
A garden room is a flexible, indoor-outdoor structure that does not usually require planning permission. Bi-fold doors can be used to create the seamless illusion of an expansive yet sheltered outdoor area. Energy efficient glazing – double or even triple – and electricity enable the garden room to be enjoyed throughout the year come rain or shine.
Living or green roofs are also an option on outdoor buildings for those wishing to further integrate an additional room within the garden and soften the visual impact for neighbouring properties.