Financing home improvementsToo many times I see people embarking on a home improvement project without thinking it through. The first thing I would suggest you do is to get your finances sorted. An architect is likely to cost you £600 – £1,000, which is money wasted if you then can’t raise the money to fund it.

How about approaching it this way instead?

  • Check your savings and contact your lender to find out what you can borrow that’s affordable for you to pay back.
  • Once you have a budget in place, then it’s time to speak to a reputable builder, such as K.J. Hill in Bedford. Call them in and tell them what you would like them to do and ask for a ball park figure.
  • If this ball park figure is within your budget, and you’re happy with the builder, ask them to recommend an architect.
  • If this ball park figure is over your budget, explain this to your builder and you can then start a discussion that will show you what they can do within your budget. It’s about finding a compromise that will give you what you need, at a price you can afford and your builder is able to work with.

If you’d like to start these talks with us, then please give us a call on 01234 765050

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Stamp duty changes, December 2014I’m really pleased to hear that the government has changed how stamp duty is calculated. In the past it’s been very difficult for homeowners who are selling properties that are worth slightly over one of the thresholds, as the financial consequences to the buyer were too high.

For instance, for a property that in an open market is worth £252,000, prior to the recent changes it was unlikely to sell for this price, but was likely to be sold at £250,000. This is because once the purchase price went over £250,000 stamp duty rose from 1% to 3% on the whole amount, which makes a massive difference to your moving costs. Using the same scenario but with the new rules, a buyer would now pay 2% on the first £250,000, and then 5% on the £2,000 over the threshold.

Thresholds are now set at:

0% up to £125,000
2% to £250,000
5% to £925,000
10% to £1.5million
12 on £1.5 million +

It’s reported that the new way of calculating stamp duty will mean that 98% of homebuyers will save money. That said, it’s still a very unpopular tax, and the higher thresholds have failed to increase with inflation. The temptation to avoid higher rates of stamp duty still remains, but I’m sure that properties sold just under a threshold but with a large sum for  fixtures and fittings , will be looked at very carefully.

Having said that 98% of home buyers will save money on their stamp duty, staying in your own home and having a loft conversion or an extension is still likely to be the cheaper option and the easier one. Moving home is one of the most stressful things you can do, and is up there with other gems such as divorce and the death of a loved one. Re modelling your home by converting your garage or extending may cause some disruption to your home life, but not too much if you choose a good builder such as KJ Hill in Bedford and it does mean that you’re in control, and not at the mercy of a buyer who can’t get their mortgage approved, or maybe the people you’re buying from losing the house they wanted.

If you’d like to explore what could be done to make your home suit your current needs and lifestyle, do give us a call on 01234 765050, or e-mail us.

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Check loft insulation in the homeUp to a quarter of your home’s heat can be lost through your roof, so it makes sense to check that your loft insulation is up to the job.

Ideally your loft should have around 270mm of insulation, but if your home has less than 100mm you really need to get it topped up. If you’re not sure, it might be worth your while popping up into the loft to check.

Whilst you’re there, check that your loft insulation is well fitted, with no gaps where warmth can escape, and that your water pipes are well covered too. Check for signs of vermin as mice, rats and bats often seek shelter in lofts during the cold months and can cause damage to insulation and wiring.

Some of the big energy providers are offering free loft insulation in order to fulfil their obligation to make homes more energy efficient. They have targets to reach and are fined if they don’t achieve them.

To find out if you’re eligible all it takes is a phone call to The Energy Saving Trust on one of these numbers: England – 0300 123 1234, Wales – 0800 512 012 or Scotland – 0808 808 82

A well-insulated loft will make a huge difference to your comfort and energy bills. If your current insulation is looking the worse for wear, then I would recommend you take action and call in a professional.

A really good way to add insulation and accommodation is a proper loft conversion which can provide extra living space and a great deal of insulation to the original space below. Contact us for an estimate.

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Check the GuttersThere aren’t many things that you can guarantee, but I think it’s a safe bet that winter will bring rain, and maybe snow. So before winter sets in it’s a good idea to clear your gutters and check them regularly, especially through autumn when the leaves are falling. If you have a build-up of wet leaves over the winter this adds considerable weight to your gutter and is likely to cause you problems.

If gutters become clogged you could find water running down the outside of your home, which is both annoying and hugely detrimental to your property as it can cause damp, ruin your decoration and even cause mould growth.

Clearing your roof of excess moss, which can get knocked off by heavy rain and end up in your guttering, is also a good winter safeguard. Moss thrives in shady positions, so if you want to reduce the amount that grows on your roof, cutting back overhanging trees is a good idea.

Lastly, check that your guttering is secure, without cracks. There’s no point keeping it clear if at the first sign of high winds it ends up in your garden!

If you find that short term house maintenance is not enough to make your home comfortable, then perhaps it is worth considering a renovation project. Contact us for advice – it may be that a strategic face-lift to roof, gutter, brickwork and rendering will be good value in the long term.

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Check for drafty gaps in the homeIf you live in a drafty house, but you’re not sure where the cold air is coming from, you can smoke them out!

On a cold day light an incense stick and once it’s smouldering nicely, move it towards the edges of windows and doors. If there’s no draft the smoke will rise, but if there is one the smoke will be blown horizontally. Typically the gaps will be where a unit is hinged, or two panels meet.

Once you know where your problem areas are you can then treat them either with caulk or weather strips.

Drafty doors and windows make for uncomfortable living conditions and expensive heating bills.

Wood has a tendency to warp and change size depending on the humidity. If you suspect this is happening then a coat or two of specialist paint could be all that is needed to solve it.

If your problem is that there is a poor seal around your door that’s letting in unwanted drafts, then adding draft excluders will make a huge difference.

Original windows are notorious for sending cold air into your home. Double glazing is a must for thermal efficiency, but if your budget won’t stretch to that, then thick heavy curtains will certainly help, as will draft excluders. I would suggest you need to budget for upgrading your windows.

Even these “quick fixes” may not improve the situation enough – in which case we can help with new windows and doors, perhaps as part of an extension or conversion.

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Helpful tipsWhen the temperature drops below freezing, if pipes aren’t adequately lagged, there’s a chance they may freeze, and even burst.

Having good insulation and keeping your heating on at a low level all the time should help to avoid either of these problem, but if you’re unlucky and your pipes freeze, this is what we suggest you do.

  1. Locate the stop valve and turn it off immediately.
  2. The simplest next step would be to call a plumber, but if you’d like to tackle it yourself, then read on…
  3. Check for leaking joints or bursts in the pipes.
  4. Very gently, heat any frozen sections with a hairdryer or heated cloth around the pipe. Remember that electricity and water don’t mix, so always hold the hairdryer above the pipe.

If in any doubt at all, call a reputable plumber!

Frozen pipes can lead to burst pipes, as water expands when it freezes. It isn’t the radial expansion of the ice against the wall of the pipe that causes the problem, but the build-up of pressure between the ice blockage and the closed tap can lead to pipe failure.

If a pipe bursts in your home the easiest thing to do is call a plumber, but before you do that you need to locate the stop valve and turn it off immediately.

If you’d like to tackle the job yourself, here are our suggestions:

  1. Locate the stop valve and turn it off immediately.
  2. Switch off your immersion heater and your central heating boiler.
  3. Turn on all hot and cold taps and allow to drain. This will help minimise the damage.
  4. Allow solid fuel fires to die out naturally.
  5. Switching off your electricity at the mains is a good precautionary measure if there’s any chance that water could come into contract with electrical wiring.
  6. As soon as possible, alert your neighbours so they can take any steps to safeguard their own homes.
  7. You can make a temporary repair to a burst pipe by binding it tightly with a cloth and/or tape, but this must be replaced by a permanent repair from a registered plumber as soon as possible.
  8. Re-fill your hot water system before you switch on your immersion heater or re-light your boiler.

Remember, adequate insulation is a good step towards minimising the risk of either of these problems, which can have devastating consequences.

Sometimes on older properties it is very difficult to ensure all pipes and drains are insulated against frost. In such an old property it may be worth considering an interior upgrade – even renovation with new protected pipework in modern materials installed to stay warm and run free. We can deal with upgrades and renovations, including the re-plumbing, as well as any remodelling of the interior space, e.g. with partitioning, new stairs, electrics, plastering and finishing. Call us for a consultation.

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Invest in your home with K.J. Hill Builders in BedfordInvesting in property is one of the best ways to protect yourself financially, and has become a way of life for many families in the UK. Throughout the economic turmoil of recent years property has remained a sound investment, all be it a long term one. But you don’t need a limitless pile of cash to buy up every property in the area; by carefully adapting your existing property you can ensure that you’re increasing its future saleability and/or value.

There are many different ways to invest in your property, from smaller updates such as improving insulation, which can have a significant impact on your energy bills, or larger alterations such as a house extension, loft or garage conversion, a granny annexe or even a complete new house if you have the land for it! Look at what you have available and what opportunities present themselves for you to increase the value of your home – either in terms of comfort or monetary value.

Outbuilding Conversions
Starting outside, do you have any outbuildings that could be put to good use? Depending on the size and location, existing outbuildings can be converted into office space, a studio or workshop, a granny annexe or even a new home. Having extra usable space is a real asset for a property and is likely to increase the value of your home. It could also generate you a regular income if you’re able to convert an outbuilding into a work space that you can use or hire out, or a living area that you can rent out either long term or as a holiday let.

Loft and Garage Conversions
Before you look at house extensions, do you have unused garage or loft space? Loft conversions and loft extensions provide a unique space to use as a master bedroom, office, gym or play room. Converting a dark, unused space into a light and airy feature for your home will add value and provide you with much more space for your needs. Your loft may be full, and yes you will need to find space to store some of your things, but I’m willing to bet that a lot of it you will never use again. Why not have a clear out and donate to your local charity shop or sell your unloved items to someone who will make use of them? Car boot sales, eBay and Facebook are all good ways to do this.

Converting a garage will also make a great difference to the available space in your home. Whilst garages often appear high up on people’s priority lists when they’re looking for a new home, they’re very rarely used to keep a car in, especially if the house comes with sufficient driveway space. A more useful asset would be a room with lots of neat storage space. This means you can store the important things, but you’re not so tempted to hold onto something “just in case”. Just in case what exactly?

A garage conversion can have many different uses, from extending an existing room such as a kitchen or living room, to providing a whole new room for work or play. You’ll wonder what you ever did without it!

Extensions
If you live in a desirable area then extending your property so you have more space, and differentiating it from every other house in the street, is a great way to potentially add value.  You don’t need to extend a property by much to make a big difference to the feel of the home, especially if you extend more than one storey. A garage conversion and first floor extension over it will create valuable space in a family home, and could add to its value.

If your extension is designed and built to a high standard, and doesn’t negatively affect the proportions of your home, then you can see a good return on your investment. Designed and built poorly, with no thought to how it fits with the overall house could leave you out of pocket with a house that suits nobody.

Smaller Investments
If your budget doesn’t run to major investment, but you’d like to make some improvements we would recommend improving your insulation, there are a number of ways this can be done, but Monocouche render is one you may not have considered. Of course, good double glazing and doors will also keep you nice and snug over the winter, and should also result in reduced energy bills.

There are many ways to invest in your property to create a better family home or to increase the sale price. If you’re not planning on moving, then we would usually recommend you consider what changes will add value to your way of life, rather than what will improve the value of your home. If they are one and the same, and you have the budget to support it, then it almost becomes a no-brainer.

Like any investment it’s important to get professional advice, and when it comes to the building side then experienced local builders can smooth the way with professional consultants such as architects and surveyors. A feasibility consultation and detailed proposal can then move the build forward with confidence through to completion, and unlike many builders we are happy to do the lot, leaving you with a finished extended and decorated new home – until you want to sell and realise your investment.

 

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Monocouche rendering by K.J. Hill Builders in BedfordThe outside of your home is the one thing that’s visible to everyone. You could be living on baked beans, and inside your home your wallpaper might be peeling off the walls, but as long as your garden is tidy and the outside of your home looks well cared for, you can create an impression that all is well in your world. Whilst we can’t advise you on your garden, we can help with your home, and today we’d like to tell you about Monocouche render, and why it’s worth considering for your home.

Monocouche, or through colour render, refers to a type of render that is already pigmented with the final colour. This render comes with numerous benefits making it a very sound choice for the exterior of your property. Here are some of the benefits of using monocouche render, as opposed to standard render:

No need to paint
Monocouche render gets the whole job done all in one go. There is no need to apply any coats of paint once you have rendered, as the colour will already be perfect.

No need to re-paint
Monocouche render lasts for at least 25 years. So that’s 25 years of not worrying about re-painting the exterior of your property. The colour doesn’t fade over that time, so the colour you originally chose will remain strong.

Completely weather-proof
No matter how much rain or wind the UK weather throws at your property, monocouche render will remain completely waterproof and weather-proof in its guaranteed life span. It won’t crack or fall off and will completely protect your property.

Simple application
Monocouche render can be applied directly to block or brickwork. This simple application process reduces labour costs and the time it takes to complete the outside of your property.

Flexibility
Monocouche render can be the colour and finish that you want; creating the perfect look for your home that suits your style and needs.

Insulation
Monocouche render has high thermal efficiency, so you will insulate, as well as render your property. This will save you money on heating bills and give you a comfortable home to live in.

Multi-purpose
Monocouche render can be applied to almost any building, no matter how old or new it is. It is a good choice for anyone wanting to refurbish an older home.

May add value to your property
Having a high quality render with insulating properties that won’t need maintenance for 25 years could add value to your property, and may improve its saleability, in terms of kerb appeal, the promise of a low maintenance exterior and reduced energy bills. Even if you aren’t planning on selling in the near future you may change your mind in a few years but you won’t have to worry about what the outside of your home looks like before you put it on the market.

Cost-effective
Monocouche render is a cost-effective option, due to the minimal time it takes to complete the outside of your property and the lack of maintenance involved.

If you’d like to find out how much it would cost to Monocouche render your home, or to find out about any of the other services we offer, such as plastering, floor screeding, dry lining, stud partitioning, suspended ceilings etc, then please contact us through our website, or give us a call on 01234 765050.

 

 

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Garage Conversions

02/09/2014

double garage conversionMany home owners find that they listed a garage highly on their list of requirements when purchasing a property, only to find that they never put the car in it! Most traditional garages are too small to fit today’s modern cars, especially if you want the luxury of opening the doors, and often end up as junk rooms, or an overspill area. Why not take a few minutes to imagine what that space could be transformed into …

  • Home study
  • Utility room
  • Granny Annexe
  • Play room
  • Hobby room
  • Family room
  • Games room
  • Kitchen extension
  • Dining Room

The list is almost endless!

Double garage conversionFor those people lucky enough to have a double garage, you might like to convert half of it and keep the other half as storage? This is a great compromise and often suits couples who have slightly different priorities. Depending on the garage, you may also be able to convert the loft to provide yet another room, or turn the entire unit into a granny annexe or teenagers flat.

Such garage conversions can be simply and successfully achieved with a guiding hand from an experienced builder like K.J. Hill in Bedford, who can assess the possibilities and help you through each step of the way to a completed extra room, which may well be a great deal more valuable than the garage it replaces. Planning permission is not usually required, providing the work is internal and you’re not extending.

If you’re wondering if a garage conversion could be achieved in your home, why give us a call for a no obligation exploratory chat. We can take care of the whole job for you, including internal block work, floor screeding, partitioning, plastering and decorating, as well as installation of services such as water and electricity.

You can reach us on 01234 765050, or contact us through our website.

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Bi-fold doors are becoming hugely popular and are taking over from sliding doors and conventional patio doors in new build houses and residential extensions. But are bi-fold doors the right choice for you? Maybe sliding doors will suit your needs better, or could the traditional patio door be your ideal solution.

Bifold doors

We’ve come up with some pros and cons for each. If you have anything to add, please let us know in the comments section below.

Whether you’re designing a new-build, planning a house extension or having a loft or garage conversion it’s essential that you take advice on what is possible. A good builder such as KJ Hill in Bedford would be very happy to discuss the options that you’re considering and advise on the practicalities.

What doors you decide on will be dictated by your space, budget and the visual effects that you want to create…

Patio Doors:

Pros Cons
Great views of the outdoors when closed Doesn’t open up to integrate your outside and inside living space
Doesn’t encroach on your living space Not suitable for large openings
Can be a cost-effective solution

 

Sliding Doors:

Pros Cons
Panels can be wider than bi-fold doors, therefore giving unobstructed views when closed Conventional sliding doors will block part of the aperture
Pocket sliding doors can extend beyond the opening to open up the entire space
Separate tracks will give you much of the versatility that bi-fold doors have
Good versatility in terms of the level of opening i.e. fully right down to just a small gap
Can be placed on adjacent walls meeting at a right angle without the need for a corner post, creating a “floating ceiling” effect

 

Bi-fold doors:

Pros Cons
Can open up 90% of the aperture they sit in You need to keep an area clear to one or both sides of the opening as the doors stack at a 90 degree angle
Perfect for bringing your outside space into your home When the doors are closed, the joins obstruct your view
Can incorporate a traffic door to allow easy access to the garden The British climate means that you will mostly be looking through closed doors
Can open inwards or outwards When open they encroach on your living space

 

If you’re wondering which doors will work for you, why not give us a call and ask our advice. You can reach us on 01234 765050, or contact us through our website.

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