The Abode

How to pet-proof your home

30 June 2016 12:22

The British are known as a nation of pet-lovers pets, housing a total of 7.7 million cats and 6.6 million dogs! If you’re taking the leap then you’ve probably prepared yourself for the personal commitment involved, but how can you get your house ready? Here are some ways to keep your pet safe, your house clean, and to prevent the sharp claws of an excitable new pet from wrecking the place!

Floors: Choose solid flooring. The best thing to go for is something hard like tiles, vinyl or bamboo plank flooring. Otherwise you’ll find your pet ripping up the carpet or leaving scratches and stains along hardwood floors.  It’s not always possible to redo your flooring for your pet but if you’re looking for a specialist in your area use our find a builder service.

Rugs: You can make a house full of pet friendly hard flooring more homely with a rug or two. Choose hardwearing, washable fabrics like sisal, silk and wool.  Avoid anything like viscose, rayon, art silk which stain easily and can be ripped to shreds by sharp clawed kittens. Also, keep away pale colours. Brightly coloured, small patterned rugs are better for hiding fur and dirt. 

Colour-coordinate: This is pretty extreme, but the best way to obscure malting is to have furniture that matches your pet. This doesn’t mean investing in tortoise-shell print furniture but think about leaning towards a lighter/ darker shade.

Banish clutter: If you own a dog he’s going to chew your possessions, and he is going to chew them indiscriminately. Money, expensive items of clothing, furniture and harmful cleaning products – leave them out and he will find them. This is a great excuse for a declutter, get rid of things you haven’t looked at for years, and find a place for everything you do use. Here is a handy guide on how to declutter your home.

Keeping them safe: This is more for dog owners, if there are areas of your home you want to keep your pup away either for their own safety or to prevent them wreaking havoc, use a few gates as you would with a baby. They don’t have to be the unsightly white metal contraptions.  This one’s actually quite attractive!  Also look in to safety locks for bathroom and kitchen cabinets and ways to cover up power sockets and cables. Here’s a list of foods that dogs are allergic to.

If you’re looking to make more substantial changes to your house, contact one of our members today through find a builder to see what they can do to help. 

Simple ways to personalise a new home

24 June 2016 11:11

When you first move into a new place it can be hard to make it feel like your own. You leave the big paint jobs and renovations until you’ve lived there long enough to know what you want, so how can you put your own stamp on your property in the meantime?

Here are some simple ways to express your personality and make your new place feel like home. These are also great ideas for people who are renting and don’t want to invest money in renovating someone else’s property.

Spring clean: Hopefully the previous residents cleaned before you moved in, but it always seems to smell a bit too clinical and never really feels like they’ve left until you’ve cleaned it yourself. Find some new some scented products use a familiar brand and it’ll start to smell like home.

Storage: As soon as you’ve worked out where it is you drop your bags and leave your coat when you enter the house, put up some coat hooks. Set up a rack or a box for your everyday shoes and work out how much wardrobe space you need in the bedroom. Well placed storage prevents clutter and makes life easier!

Switch up your window treatments: Curtains and blinds are a great way to make a room “yours” without having to paint. In a plain room, the curtains can be the thing that either inspires or pulls your existing colour scheme together.

Make it cosy: Have a blanket next to the sofa, frame some pictures of your family, put out vases of fresh flowers, some candles on the dinner table, and a big fluffy rug in front of the sofa – it’s these little things that take a home and turn it into your home.

Paint the front door: There’s not much you can do to personalise the outside of your house, especially in areas that don’t have front gardens, but painting the front door can really make a difference.

Art: Art pieces are a great way to put your stamp on a property without committing to doing any more than putting up some hooks. Bring your existing art or trawl the internet and shops for some new pieces.

Statement light feature:  Look into putting up some statement light features.  This will be a lot easier if you have a standard hanging lightbulb, but can be done with other types – although you may need to get someone in to install it if you’re not gifted with DIY skills! 

If you’re looking for a tradesman or decorator to help you with any of these ideas then use our find a builder service to find one in your area.

Transform your spare room into a useful space

17 June 2016 15:43

Struggling to decide what to do with a spare room? We've come up with some ideas to help you make the most of your extra space.

Office/ studio: Whether it’s for working from home or a sanctuary for life admin and creative thinking, a study is a traditional favourite use for a spare room. It needn’t be a room with a computer, if you are a painter set an easel up, if you’re a musician have it sound proofed. This is where you earn your keep and hone your craft!

Themed guest bedroom: We don’t suggest going overboard with this, but it’s always a bit of a novelty staying in a themed hotel room. Why not set your guest room up in a similar manner?

Library: If you’re a lover of literature then a library is a novel idea for a spare room, set up a pair of comfy chairs and line your wall with book shelves. There’s nothing more relaxing than settling down amongst your books on a lazy afternoon, curled up with a classic and a cup of tea. 

Playroom / Games-room: Whether your kids are toddlers or young-adults they can always benefit from a playroom! For small children, fill this with games and toys, whilst teenagers may prefer a TV and games consoles. Keep the mess from the living room and allow your children to have fun hosting friends without taking over the living room.

Movie room: This can double up as your games room. Have some comfy chairs, a big TV and a thick curtain. If you get it set up quickly, this could be where you finish watching Euro 2016!

Walk in wardrobe/ dressing room: Many girls grew up dreaming of luxurious walk-in wardrobes lined with shoes!  If you have the luxury of excess space, what’s stopping you from fulfilling this dream? Fix some clothing rails and shelves around the outside of the room, with a mirrored dressing table in front of the window. This is a great idea for a house with smaller bedrooms as you’ll free up space in the master by removing the wardrobes.

Bar: Many of us dream of a bar in the home. If you’re one of the growing number of people who enjoys making their own alcohol then this can double up as a distillery. Just remember – you can’t actually sell drinks without a license! If you’ve got space then why not look in to getting some pub games and a pool table?

Gym: Converting your spare room in to a gym could do wonders for your health. You’ll have no excuses for avoiding it anymore!  There are many set ups to choose from – from yoga mats and dumbbells to exercise equipment. Install some speakers for music and a TV for mid workout entertainment and exercise videos. 

Avoid the DIY blues this bank holiday weekend

27 May 2016 14:17

In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re only hours away from the bank holiday weekend! For most this means a great opportunity to get away on a quick mini-break, or the chance to spend a guilt-free Sunday in the pub knowing that you’ve got all day Monday to get over it. For others, it’s the perfect occasion to get on with some home improvements. You might start out with bags of enthusiasm but it can soon dwindle to boredom and even despair! To help avoid any undue stress, we’ve put together our top five tips to make your bank holiday DIY jobs as painless as possible:

1. Make a list. The biggest error you can make is to think you can do everything in one weekend so be realistic in terms of your aims. Yes, there are TV shows where you can watch them makeover an entire house in a matter of hours but remember that they have enough helpers to fill Wembley stadium. Make a list of everything you want to achieve then put them in priority order so you can concentrate your efforts on the most important tasks.

2. Be an early bird. No one really wants to spend the entire three day weekend stuck in the house painting or assembling flat pack furniture. Setting your alarm for the crack of dawn on a Saturday may not sound like much fun but the sooner you get started, the sooner you can finish. An early start will help ensure you get the job done - then you can enjoy your afternoon feeling smug about what you’ve achieved.

3. Use the right tools for the job. The old adage ‘Preparation Prevents Poor Performance’ rings especially true when it comes to DIY. Make sure you’ve got everything you need before you start. You may be able to borrow smaller tools from friends, family or neighbours. For larger pieces of equipment, hire shops often have some great deals on over the long weekend.

4. Keep calm. It’s surprising how DIY can test even the strongest of relationships! Discuss your ideas before heading to the shops and be clear on what you’re going for before you even set foot through the door - no one wants to be that couple arguing over the ‘right’ shade of cream in the aisles of B&Q. If you’re looking for some inspiration, check out our Pinterest pages.

5. Make it social. If you’ve got a big job to do like clearing the garden or ripping out old fitted wardrobes, why not get a group of friends round to help out? You’ll get the job done a lot quicker and probably have a lot more fun along the way. Reward them for their hard work with some cold drinks and (weather permitting) a BBQ at the end of the day.

Built on quality

20 May 2016 10:22

What does quality look like? One definition of quality states it as the degree of excellence of something. But who is the judge, and what does that mean for you as the home owner when it comes to selecting a builder for your project?

Quality standards affect nearly every aspect of our daily lives and that’s why it’s important that setting these standards is taken seriously. From the quality of the toys we gift our children, to the standards required to manufacture safe and reliable cars, all must adhere to a strictly imposed set of standards in order to meet our needs as a consumer.

Recommendations are important; like when you are referred to that Michelin star restaurant by a friend or family member. But at the end of the day, it’s the Michelin stars that stand out, isn’t it?

It’s the same with our builders. While recommendations from friends and family go a long way to proving the worth of a builder, knowing that they have been judged against a strict set of standards helps us to sleep at night.

It’s for this that we routinely make sure that our members are checked against the strict quality and safety standards outlined by the British Board of Agrément (BBA). The BBA provide a fully accredited and independent inspection service with a team of assessors responsible for checking the quality of onsite installations and projects.

Inspections from BBA assessors are conducted on a day-to-day basis as the team travel the length of the country to make sure the consumer can trust in the quality assurances promised by us here at the FMB. This inspection process which started in 2011 as part of the member application process has now been reformed and from last year all FMB members, regardless of how long they have been with us, will be visited by a BBA assessor every 3 years.

We recently spoke to Jeremy Holehouse who is the field supervisor for the BBA assessor team who explained the important role they play for the consumer.

“Our inspections for the FMB have been great; the team has carried out inspections on a whole range of projects. From newly laid tarmac driveways to a fully renovated castle, it’s been a pleasure to view some fine workmanship,” says Jeremy.

“The process enables the FMB to ensure that all of its members a reputable and providing a good quality service to their customers. The inspections provide confidence to the consumer, that the work that has been carried out has been completed to a satisfactory standard and has met all of the regulatory compliance.

“By monitoring the FMB members we can provide consumers with assurances for the builders they are commissioning to work on their projects. We can give them the satisfaction to know that they are a reputable building company.”

We want the name FMB to be synonymous with quality and it’s by setting standards for our members to adhere to and be judged against through an inspection process that we can make promises to homeowners. We use these inspections to promote our members because we are proud of the work they achieve daily.

How to Brief Your Builder

08 April 2016 11:50

find a builder Getting your project off on the right foot is important and briefing your builder clearly can be one of the most effective ways to do so. Developing a brief that is well thought out, researched and agreed between all parties will help you to begin your project on a high.

Ian Henderson from Hende Building Services was crowned Heavenly Builder of the Year at the Federation of Master Builders’ 2015 Master Builder of the Year Awards and knows a thing or two about working closely with his clients.


Here are Ian’s five simple tips explaining how to get the most out of your project.

1. Have an idea.
Before attempting to find a builder make sure you know clearly in your own mind what you are trying to achieve with your project. This does not have to be a full, down to the last nail understanding, but planning your job and knowing what you are hoping to achieve from the outset is hugely important. Having as much detail at the outset, if it will be a single storey, double storey or loft extension etc. is important information to provide your prospective builders. If you are working with an architect you should have a good set of accurate plans. Having these to show your builder at the briefing stage will help them to provide a more accurate quote.

2. Do your research
The internet will be your best friend here. That is where you will be able to find a lot of the information you require and determine what it is you are hoping to achieve with your project. This is a massive investment for you so it should be the same as buying a car - you wouldn’t just go out and buy the first one you see, would you? Researching at this stage of the project is hugely beneficial as it will limit the shock of coming across unexpected requirements. When extra costs are introduced into a project, this typically comes from a lack of original research.

3. Budgeting
Setting out your budget prior to assigning a builder can help to make sure that you manage all expectations. Having an idea of how much you want to spend and contribute toward your build will help you in your selection process. What you might not want is to tell your prospective builders your budget, make sure you have a clear idea. It is also wise to set aside between five and 10 per cent of your total budget as a contingency fund. Remember, a thought out budget will be the greatest asset for you and your builder.

4. Let’s agree, not to disagree
Communication breakdowns between key stakeholders, i.e. you and your partner, can be one of the most difficult struggles a builder will face when being delivered a brief. Before your builder gets involved, have an honest discussion with your partner or spouse about exactly what you want. Make sure that you are on the same page, or at least in the same book. Agreeing on details in advance, especially if it’s not a standard feature, is important so that significant changes to the brief can be made before it is too late.

5. Nail the specifics
While the very minor decisions tend to come later in the project, like deciding on a colour scheme, it’s details that are often considered minor that tend to have a large impact on the brief. These can range from brick types, door and window styles to light switches and kitchen and bathroom faucets. Explaining these details in your brief go a long way to determining the full quote price and helps to stop unexpected costs from occurring.

Become a self-builder and make your dream home a reality

26 February 2016 16:03

Self build house

The idea of building your own home is a popular dream amongst Brits, with more than half the population liking the idea of building their own residence. Yet despite it being quite a common occurrence in other countries, the idea of the ‘self-build’ as it’s known here, remains a thing of fantasy for most. The cost, the hurdles that have to be jumped over and, possibly more than anything, the sheer stress of it all can out people off before they’ve even considered it properly. However, the Government is actively trying to encourage more self-builders so there’s never been a better time to make your dream home a reality.

Of those who decide to pursue their self-build dream, 90% never get past the first hurdle – that is finding a suitable piece of land. However, there are ways of maximising your chances of finding a plot. You should check the local authority planning registers on a weekly basis to see which landowners are applying for permission – they might want to sell to you directly without paying agents’ fees if they aren’t intending to build on it themselves. Another smart trip is to use Google Maps to search for small houses on large plots – after all, any house is only a temporary occupant of a plot and could be replaced with your own new build. Try to narrow your search down to a relatively small area and then research diligently.

Getting the design right is obviously crucial. Aim to take in the local context and get an understanding for both the natural and human environment. This doesn’t mean having to sacrifice your vision but coming up with a dream home before you even have a site, which will bear all kinds of unique features, could lead to disappointment. You’ll also run the risk of having your plans rejected by the local planning authority. Work closely with a vetted builder and/or architect to collaborate on what your house will look like. Also, you should always remember that even if you are forced into maintaining a conservative exterior, your interior can be pretty much whatever you want it to be. A lot depends on how ‘hands on’ you want to be but the importance of a professional construction firm cannot be overstated.

Leaving yourself plenty of ‘fat’ in your budget as a contingency should be a core budgetary consideration. Prices will rise up beyond what you originally forecast. Most likely it won’t get used up in one disaster but in a succession of unexpected cost ‘creeps.’ Equally important is to design to budget and never lose sight of the potential resale value in determining how much you’re going to spend. Building bigger if you can afford it of course makes sense, but if you don’t leave yourself some room for financial maneuver, you’ll be in a precarious position where you might not even be able to complete the house.

And perhaps most importantly, be patient. There are going to be moments where you want to tear your hair out and where everything seems to be going wrong. Remember though, if you’ve found the right builder, the right plot of land and you’ve managed your budget properly, you'll triumph. You’ll have created your very own home, with all of the touches, features and flourishes that you wanted – and that has to be worth the effort.

If you want to build your own dream home, use our Find a Builder service to find an independently vetted construction specialist.

The Abode’s top 10 design tips for 2016

26 February 2016 15:53

Candle lit roomYou don’t have to move houses to make a new home and the new year is a perfect time to plan your interior transformation. Here’s the Abode top design tips for 2016.

Don’t be afraid – be bold

Given that house prices are continuing to climb, increasing numbers of people are opting to invest in refurbishing their current home rather than moving house. One of the big benefits of this is it gives you a chance to really pursue what you want. If you’re staying for the longer term, don’t obsess over keeping the place neutral in order to flip your property in the future. Have a real think about how your interior spaces can reflect your personality – while a 1920s speakeasy living room may not be everyone’s cup of tea, if it’s your style, go for it.

Pinterest/Instagram can be your guide

Pinterest is laden with top quality designers who can inspire you (including one rather excellent account you can find here) and you can use it to create a concept board. Instagram, on the other hand, can give you more ‘real’ interiors, making it easier to imagine how ideas work in practice. Find some designers or bloggers you love and follow them religiously.

Eden project

Do you have a spare corner that looks a little bare? Wondering what to do with that extra bit of shelf space? It’s time to turn your home into a mini-Kew gardens. Aside from the cliché that it’s good to learn to look after something, having plants in your house has been proven to improve concentration and happiness.

Turn out the lights

It’s 2016, and you need to ditch the ceiling lights. Candles and lamps create a more pleasant, softer ambiance rather than bathing your home in an excess of candescence.

Fire place in living room

Declutter

This may stray into typical New Year’s advice territory, but it’s time you ditched some of the unnecessary knick knacks and ornaments. The Abode balks at recycling the adage ‘a cluttered room is a cluttered mind’, but it remains a great advocate of internal order to soothe the soul. Reducing your junk content should also make finding your keys first thing in the morning that bit easier.

While on that subject, storage

Benjamin Franklin had it right: ‘a place for everything and everything in its place.’ Although interior design was not one of his many occupations, his philosophy on order is a must for any home. Acquiring some good quality storage is an easy way to really improve the quality of your life. Why not hire a carpenter to install some bespoke built in wardrobes or shelving units? You’ll be amazing at how much better you feel once you have the ability to stash stuff out the way.

If you’re going to invest in something, make it a dinner table

As the real centre piece to your house, it pays to invest in a high quality dinner table. You’ll feel obliged to skip the TV dinners and compelled to start cooking proper meals (therefore helping realise two different New Year’s resolutions.) Plus, you get to impress your friends as a dinner party host par excellence.

Heated floors and walls

Heated floors have been all the rage for a while now but a big innovation that is starting to prove popular is heated walls. It’s not applicable to all homes and not all builders with have the tools to do it, but if you can pull it off, it’s a big game changer.

Cushions

Time to stock-up! You can (almost) never have too many.

Keep it seasonal

Try not to think of your internal spaces as being fixed in their appearance – take inspiration from nature and the seasons. In the winter, you want a decidedly cosy aesthetic, with throws and warm lights galore. Summer time lends itself to a more airy, sparse feel. Picking out the colours of the season is an even better way of keeping your home refreshed and interesting.

Doing more with less

26 February 2016 15:03

Beck house

Unfortunately, small living rooms are a fact of life, especially for you city dwellers. We can’t all live in palatial places like this.

However, that doesn’t mean you can’t make your more confined living area work. In fact, you can turn its size into a strength and achieve a homeliness that’s often beyond the reach of a grander-sized room. Here are some tips on designing a living room that makes the most of a limited amount of space.

Let’s start with the basics – be smart with the colour of wall paint you go for. White paint may seem like a conservative choice but it will really open up the room – it will also provide you with an empty canvass to work on personalising a smaller space. You can instead add colour and personality with wall prints and soft furnishings without undermining how the room-size is perceived. At least one large wall mirror is an absolute must as it will instantly give the impression of a much larger space.

You need to make every square inch of practical necessities work. That doesn’t mean you have license to cram, but it does mean you need to be clever, meaning anything from floating shelves to bookcases built into awkward spaces.

Slim-line furnishings. Keep things svelte, simple and clean. Bulky furniture is your enemy when working with limited space and must be avoided at all costs. For example, instead of a coffee table, why not use to end tables? Using smaller furniture may mean you can’t purchase the tanking four seater sofa of old, but you can get something just as comfortable (and likely more modern and stylish) and which works much better for the space you have.

Living room

If your living room also doubles-up as a dining room, an extendable table is your best bet. That way you can maximise floor space when not eating or entertaining guests but still enjoy the flexibility of a larger table when necessary.

And whatever happens, when going furniture-shopping, don’t leave home without a clear idea of the minimum and maximum measurements of the space you want to fill. We all know if people who have naively purchased furniture on a whim that looks ideally proportioned in the shop but when taken home, it looks bloated and out of place in their modestly-sized living room. Don’t fall into this trap!

Cluttered lounge

What would you do with six more metres?

12 February 2016 14:24

A few years back, permitted development rules were relaxed which has made it easier for home owners to extend their property without having to go through the rigmarole of a full planning application. Last year, these permissions were extended until May 2019 giving even more people the opportunity to add a bit more space (eight metres for a detached house and six metres for an attached house) to their home. This week, ‘The Abode’ is taking a look at what you could do with an extra six to eight metres of space.

Make your welcome warmer

Add a porch to the front or rear of your property to boost storage space for coats, bags and boots that always seem to end up dumped in the hallway. Plus, if your front door leads directly into your lounge, it’s a great way to create a buffer room at the front of the house while also making your home more welcoming. With the possibility of adding up to eight meters of space, depending on the type of property you live in, you could even create space for a downstairs cloakroom or utility area – all key selling points if you decide to move on in future years.

Make the kitchen the heart of your home

If you’ve ever had a party or even a small group of friends over, you’ll have noticed that the kitchen has a strange magnetic pull which makes people want to gather together there. Couple that with the rise in popularity of healthy-eating cookbooks and superstar amateur baking TV shows and you have to conclude that the kitchen is the ideal room to extend. From adding additional workspace to creating a family dining space, an extra six meters could help ensure that the kitchen really is the heart of your home.

Work smarter

Around 4.2 million people in the UK work from home. With more flexibility from employers comes the need for additional office space. Rather than repurposing a bedroom or taking over the kitchen table, adding a small extension could make all the difference to obtaining the perfect work life balance.

Break the boundaries

Break out spaces needn’t be reserved for the world of work – they can be incorporated in to your home as well. It might seem a bit frivolous to extend just for the sake of it but investing in additional space can pay dividends in the long run. You could use it as a playroom by day and a dining area by night. With some clever planning, it could be a space for teenage children to watch TV of an evening – it could even provide the space for your favourite hobby Whatever you choose to do, adding a multipurpose space can work wonders for family harmony and you should add some value to your property at the same time.

If you’re thinking of adding more space to your home make sure you use a member of the Federation of Master Builders. All Master Builders are vetted and inspected on joining and can offer a warranty on their work. Click here to find a Master Builder in your area.

Remember you will need approval from Local Authority Building Control on any building projects you undertake. For further advice on permitted development rules, please visit your local planning authority’s website.

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