The Abode

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.

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.

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 Perils of DIY

01 May 2015 12:47

So, you have an extra day off this weekend… Some will take the time to binge-watch their favourite TV show, some will use the extra day to recover from a Saturday night hangover. However, many will spend it doing various DIY projects at home, everything from laying a patio to painting a porch. The DIY stores are likely to be packed with customers looking to use the extra time to get that last bit of home improvement done.

All too often people who embark on personal DIY projects find themselves making things worse not better. Being able to assemble a flat pack bookcase in under 3 hours does not make you a master builder! A lot of building and renovation is difficult work that needs to be done by a professional. The Federation of Master Builders can help you find a local builder and make sure you get the job right the first time.

Stay up to date with consumer news

For regular consumer updates from FMB, sign-up here with your email address.