Wednesday, 15 July 2015

5 Good Reasons to Replace Your Shower Head



When was the last time you took a shower? If you’re anything like the majority of people in the UK, jumping in the shower before work each morning is something you do without really thinking about it. Most of us have a daily shower, and we don’t spend much time thinking about how efficiently it’s working. If your shower has slowed to a trickle or is temperamental in other ways, it’s easy to think that the only option is to rip out the whole unit and replace it. Often though, issues with the shower can be resolved by changing just the shower head, and there are lots of benefits to be gained from making the switch.

1. Save Water

Yes, showers are more economical than baths, but modern power showers can used just as much water as the average bath, especially if you’re one of those people who likes to shower for 10 minutes or more. Water saving shower heads work by mixing the flow of water with air, giving the feeling of a power shower but using a lot less water. Eco shower heads can cost you as little as £25, and although savings will depend on how often you shower, it’s an investment worth making.

2. Tackle Limescale


If you live in an area with hard water, limescale can build up over time and can clog up the nozzles of your shower head. If the damage is not too severe, you could tackle the limescale by unscrewing the shower head and soaking it in white vinegar overnight. If the shower head is too far gone for that, replacing it can hugely improve the performance of your shower. Look for special “limescale resistant” shower heads which have plastic or rubber rather than metal nozzles. Clean them regularly to stop limescale from building up again.

3. Quick and Simple Job


Modern showers may differ in appearance, but most are made to conform to the same sizes and standards. That means that in most cases, when you want to replace a shower head all you have to do is unscrew the old one and screw the new one into its place. An older or more usual shower might prove more complicated, but replacing a shower head is never going to be a major plumbing job. With plenty of guide videos on sites like YouTube and “how to” factsheets on manufacturer and retailer websites, there is lots of assistance out there to help you complete the job with the minimum of fuss.

4. Improve the flow


A sudden deterioration in the performance of a shower is something you will notice, but usually the shower head starts to get blocked or clogged over time and it’s only when we’ve stayed in a hotel or at a friend’s with a particularly efficient shower that we realise just how poor our shower has become. Swapping over your shower head for a new one can dramatically improve the feeling of power from your shower. Shop carefully to make sure you get a shower head which is appropriate for the rate of flow from your hot water tap; there is lots of information online to help you work out which product is most appropriate for your needs.

5. Improve the Prospects of Selling Your Home


Most buyers look for a shower when they are buying a new home and replacing the shower head and putting up a new shower screen rather than a tired curtain is going to make your bathroom look far more appealing. This is considerably cheaper than investing in a whole new shower, but should have the same effect. It also gives a prospective buyer an indication that you have taken care of your home and undertaken maintenance, rather than neglecting the bathroom and not doing basic DIY jobs. Make sure that buyers know that a shower head is new when you’re showing them around too.


Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Six Essential Home Improvements Before Selling your Home



We all love those home improvement shows where someone buys a wreck of a house for next to nothing, makes some clever renovations and then sells it for a fortune. When it comes to our own homes though we can be blind to their faults, and it can be hard to know what sort of improvements are worth doing to sell your home, and which are not worth the money.

Decluttering


The first and most effective home improvement is the one which costs the least money. If your home is crammed with ornaments, pictures and family photos, it can be hard for prospective buyers to imagine what it might be like with their stuff in it instead. Be ruthless with your de-cluttering, only keeping those things you absolutely cannot do without and put everything else into self-storage. Prices vary depending on where you are in the UK and are highest within the M25, but expect to pay around £50 to £100 per month for a garden shed sized unit.

Double Glazing


Double glazing is at the other end of the scale when it comes to expense, but is an investment worth making if you are trying to sell your property. New double glazing can cost around £10,000 but estate agents reckon that it can add at least 10% onto the value of your property. If you live in a period house, use wooden double glazed units rather than uPVC; studies have shown that modern style windows in an old house can actually lower its value.

Broadband


Fast, reliable internet is now so important for buyers that they are considering it along with schools and parking when it comes to decisions about houses. If you have fibre-optic or cable broadband in the house already mention this on the particulars, if not, consider getting it installed. If it is not available in your area, look into satellite broadband as an alternative.

Paint the Front Door


When was the last time you painted the front door? First impressions really do count, and if your wooden front door has seen better days, a few coats of paint will work wonders. Stick to classic black or white or muted shades and not every buyer will be attracted by a bright pink or orange front door. 

Outdoor paint, sandpaper and brushes will only cost around £50, and if the whole door needs replacing, this can be done for around £500. Putting pots with flowers by the door or having hanging baskets on the porch will also enhance first impressions. Also consider painting or re-rendering the whole outside of the house.

Add A Bathroom


New build houses are now built with at least one bathroom to every two bedrooms, and usually have a downstairs loo as well. If you are trying to sell an older, larger property with only one bathroom, adding an additional loo, or even better a shower room, will add up to 10% to the home’s value. If you have large bedrooms, consider re-configuring the space to allow you to add another bathroom or ensuite, turn a cupboard into a small wet room, or split an existing large bathroom in half. This is not a cheap home improvement at around £10,000 for the building and plumbing work required, but if you are selling a larger family home it is an investment well worth making.

Install a Woodburner


Woodburning or solid fuel stoves are hugely popular at the moment. They’re environmentally friendly and attractive to look at, and installing one can add 5% onto the value of your house. Even better, there are government grants and finance schemes to help you spread the cost of a solid fuel stove. A top of the range woodburner costs around £2500 to buy and install although there are lots of cheaper variations on the market, and this has to be done by a qualified professional. If you have chimneys at home, have them swept and set a fire to let buyers see that they have the option for a real fire if they wish.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Driving in the Snow


Over the past few years our winters have been wet rather than Arctic, but every time we get heavy snow there are tales of drivers stranded for hours on the motorways, or who get involved in crashes because they are unprepared for the winter conditions. Driving in fog, snow or ice is not part of the driving test, so as a driver it’s your responsibility to make sure you are properly prepared and know how to react if you are caught in a sudden snowfall.

Be Prepared


Weather forecasts are far more accurate now than they were even five years ago, so if you switch on the evening news to see snow is forecast, take the warnings seriously. If the expected snowfall is severe enough for police to warn against travel, try to delay your journey, arrange to work from home or leave much earlier than planned. It’s always much better to avoid getting stuck in the snow in the first place rather than worry about how to adjust your driving. If you do have to drive regularly in winter months keep an “emergency kit” in the boot of your car. Put a blanket or heavy coat, torch, bottle of water, hat, gloves, and some high energy snacks like chocolate or energy bars in a holdall in the boot of your car as soon as the weather starts to turn cold.

Check Your Car




If you're one of the many drivers who never checks things like how much antifreeze or windscreen wash fluid you have in the car, you could all too easily run out during a period of freezing weather. Top up fluids regularly, and buy antifreeze to add to the stop your engine block from freezing. Check your tyres have not worn down too far; the legal minimum is 2mm, but tread depths of more than 3mm are better for driving through the winter. If you live at high altitudes or in areas which get a lot of snow, it might be worth thinking about investing in a special set of winter tyres which will give more grip on slippery roads. Snow chains are widely used on the Continent, but aren't necessary for the majority of British drivers, however severe the weather.

If you're windows keep steaming up, we've got a guide on that too.

Easy Does It


If you're already out on the road when the snow starts, the key thing to remember is always to take things easy. All too often drivers panic, and slam on the brakes which results in a skid or the car hitting the one in front. Accelerate very gently, brake equally gently and leave lots of space between you and the car in front. Slow right down and don't even try to overtake or change lanes. Follow instructions from the Police given through the overhead signs on motorways or the digital signs beside other major routes. If you think things are too dangerous to proceed, get your car onto the hard shoulder or into a layby, and call for help.

Dealing With Ice


Seriously heavy snowfall which closes motorways and causes massive disruption is a fairly rare occurrence. Ice, however, affects most parts of the UK many times over the course of a winter. Councils do their best to get gritting lorries out onto all major routes, but it is also the responsibility of drivers to think about icy conditions and drive accordingly. Many of the same rules about gentle braking and accelerating apply to ice too. Try to set off in second gear rather than first as this will force the car to move more slowly and will reduce the likelihood of a skid.

Pay particular attention to the road ahead of you as you drive; many drivers are caught out by what looks like a puddle, but actually turns out to be a patch of black ice. Slow down as much as you need to in order to drive safely. If you lack confidence in driving in icy conditions, a session on a specially designed skid pan will give you the practical experience of dealing with a skidding car but in a controlled environment. Expect to pay around £100 for a half day’s tuition, or £175 for a full day. It’s money well spent if you have to drive regularly on icy roads, and probably a lot less than your insurance excess if you have a crash.

If you do have to use a shovel to clear some of the snow then why not look at our guide to get some tips 

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Heating a Chilly Bathroom



Even in a centrally heated home, getting the temperature in the bathroom correct can be tricky. The window often needs to be left open for ventilation, and because of the restrictions on using electricity in bathrooms you can’t just plug in an electric heater as you would elsewhere in the house. If you’re feeling the chill in your bathroom this winter don’t despair; there are a few options which will help you make everything a bit warmer.

Underfloor Heating


Credit: H. Raab


It’s not really practical to consider installing underfloor heating in your bathroom unless you are having other major work done at the same time. Electric underfloor heating mats may not be expensive to install, but once you have factored in the costs of ripping up the floor, having the work signed off by an electrician, re-plastering where required and replacing the flooring, the costs can escalate considerably. If you’re building a new bathroom as part of a loft extension or completely gutting your house to start again, it’s a practical way of heating your bathroom. For most bathrooms though, underfloor heating isn’t really an option.

Additional Radiator




If you already have a radiator in the bathroom, it's worth making sure that it is working properly before you go to the expense of replacing it with a bigger one. Bleeding a radiator to let air out is a simple job and all you'll need is a radiator key to open the valve and a towel to catch any drips. If this doesn't do the trick, then get a plumber in to replace it. Modern radiators aren't all square and white, and not all need to be at floor level. Look around on websites and in the pages of the glossy interior design magazines for inspiration.

Remember though that if you are moving the location of the radiator this will cost more than simply replacing an old radiator with a new, bigger one as it will involve more plumbing work. Always get a quote from your plumber before they start work.

Heated Towel Rail

An example of a electric heated towel rail


A heated towel rail will not only keep your bathroom lovely and warm; it will help to dry off towels after your shower too. A towel rail can either be plumbed into the central heating system or electric, and if you are retro-fitting one to an existing bathroom, an electric heated towel rail is probably the best option. These are cheap to buy, with many coming in at less than £100, and won’t take an electrician long to fit either.

Take advice from the retailers and your electrician about which size of heated towel rail is most appropriate for your room, and remember to get one fitted with a timer so that you can time it to switch on and off with the rest of the heating in the house.

Fan Heaters and Infrared Heaters


One of the most economical bathroom heaters to buy and install – if not to run – is the basic fan heater which can be mounted on the wall. A simple pull cord is used to turn the heater on when needed, and off again when you leave the room. The problem is that electric fan heating in general, is inefficient and will cost more to run than other types of heating, and it won’t solve the problem of you having to step into a chilly bathroom first thing in the morning as it will take a few minutes to take the chill off the room after you pull the cord. Infrared heaters are also powered by electricity and work by heating up bars which glow. These sorts of heaters are similarly inefficient and have a very old-fashioned feel to them.

Increase the Insulation


In older houses, it’s common to find no insulation at all in the bathroom, which means that however good your heating is inside, much of the heat will be lost straight through the walls. Investigate whether your home would be suitable for cavity wall insulation, think about replacing single glazed windows with double glazed units or add insulation on the inside of the walls when you are replacing tiles or decorating. Taking steps to improve your bathroom’s energy efficiency could also save you money in the long term, as you won’t be allowing as much heat to escape.

You should also try these tips on avoiding bathroom condensation.

Monday, 12 January 2015

How to Avoid Injury While Shovelling Snow


Shovelling snow is one of those thankless tasks that simply must be done no matter how much we’d like to pretend otherwise. The fact is that it’s hard work and all too often those of us who have spent a lot of time the previous day clearing paths, wake up to find that Mother Nature has been out and about whilst we’re sleeping and done her worst yet again - so the whole sorry task has to be repeated!

If you live in an area where the roads are not cleared by the authorities then you will know just how important shovelling snow can be, especially for those people who have mobility issues. This is why every winter many able-bodied people find themselves clearing snow not only around their own properties but also around those of their neighbours. Because it’s a hard, physical task but a somewhat mundane one, it’s surprising how many injuries are caused yearly by shovelling snow. People don’t realise that it’s actually a dangerous task and one which needs to be approached with some caution.

Like in Weight Lifting, you Need to be Aware!


If the snow is like this then don't even bother getting the shovel out!

Shovelling snow is actually very similar to weight lifting, and since most people don’t do this on a regular basis, it’s reasonable to assume that they’re perhaps not best placed to go for it with no training. Bending, lifting and removing large, heavy amounts of snow is an activity which can put the body under huge strain and cause many minor and more serious injuries; from strained muscles to heart attacks. In order to ensure your safety when shovelling snow, take care of yourself and heed the following warnings.

  • Never shovel snow when you have a pre-existing heart problem or any chronic illness.
  • Ensure that your shovel is in good repair with no bends or weak spots.
  • Use a small shovel.
  • If you feel any pain whatsoever then stop immediately.
  • Do not continue on through breathlessness or chest pain as that's not normal.
  • Drink plenty of fluids - this is a very strenuous activity.
  • Do not get overheated and if you feel uncomfortably warm then take a break.
  • Do not attempt to throw shovelfuls of snow for long distances.

A good tip is to shovel little and often. Don’t wait for the snow to build up to epic proportions but keep it down as it falls. Whenever there is a break in the snow fall, move a little at a time from your paths and roads. Don’t even attempt to shovel snow if you are not in tip top condition physically as it will be an enormous shock to your system.

If you are worried about getting snowed in or about the safety of your access, call your local authority for advice on what to do in order to keep your home accessible and your health in good order. If you do not have neighbours or relatives to shovel snow for you, there are charities that specialise in this kind of task and your local authority should be able to point you in the right direction.

Stay safe in the winter by thinking twice before taking on tasks which could be too much for you to cope with and if you have to drive in the snow, take a look at our guide.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

13 Must-Know Mould Busting Tricks


Mould or mold? However you spell it it’s undoubtedly one of the most irritating things that can happen in your bathroom. If left untreated it can spread like wildfire and you’ll end up with a major problem on your hands, so getting rid of it should be a priority when it comes to bathroom care.

We recently covered how to first prevent mould and how to tackle it if you’ve already got it. We are, however, aware that there are many more methods to tackling a bathrooms worst nightmare, so Ant decided to use the ease of the DIY lovers website Hometalk to create a board featuring 13 different methods (including our own!) to eliminating mould.

Click the image above to see all the methods; including 10 natural solutions to making mould vanish, a method that employs cotton to tackle the problem and how you can get rid of mould that’s plaguing your bathroom ceiling.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

9 Amazing Things to do With Duct Tape

Duct tape is the tape of a thousand uses, but since we don't have all day we've come up with 9 uses you can do today. Got any you think we should add? Just comment below!

Hem Your Trousers



It’s an unwritten law that you notice your hem on your skirt or trousers has come loose just as you’re about to leave the house, and then have to spend time hunting for a needle and thread to repair it. Duct tape works really well as an emergency hem repair kit, and is especially good on thick fabrics like denim which are tough to sew through.

Get Crafty



Duct tape makes the perfect crafting material as it can be bent and shaped without losing its structure. Duct tape flowers are particularly effective and easy to make, and if you use a variety of different colours or patterned tape, you can create a whole bouquet of blooms for very little cost. Duct tape can also be wound into spirals to make beads, or fashioned into ties, flip-flops and many other sorts of accessories.

Emergency Key



If you’re prone to forgetting your keys or locking yourself out of the house, duct tape can be used to keep a key safely, somewhere that nobody would think to look for it. Tape a spare house key to the inside door of your car, or to the underside of a windowsill at the back or rear of the property.

Hammock



We all know that duct tape is very strong, so why not exploit its strength and make yourself a unique hammock to while away those summer afternoons? All you need apart from your rolls of duct tape is a couple of lengths of strong wood and some rope. Join the two lengths of wood together using long strips of tape, then weave tape backwards and forwards to form the mesh of the hammock.

Learn how to make your own duct tape hammock with this guide on Instructables.

Leaks



It’s not a permanent fix, but when push comes to shove you can use a roll of duct tape to repair a split in the hull of a small boat or canoe. It can also be used to patch up beach balls, lilos and other inflatables. Duct tape works well as a temporary measure and may extend the life of your rubber ring until the end of your holiday, but shouldn’t be relied on as a permanent repair.

Get Rid of Warts



The traditional treatments for getting rid of warts usually use chemicals to dissolve the wart or high pressured gas to freeze it off. A less high-tech, but equally effective method involves putting duct tape over the wart for seven days, removing the tape and rinsing the finger, then repeating until the wart has disappeared.

Waxing



If you can’t afford a trip to the beauty salon to have your legs and bikini line waxed, it is possible to do the job yourself with some duct tape. It takes some practice to get the technique of ripping the strips of tape off quickly, and tape isn’t as kind to your skin as the professional wax strips. It’s not the best way of waxing, but it will do at a push. Oh, and by the way - it will probably hurt like hell!

Emergency Plumbing Repairs


Burst pipes are a nightmare, and if you have sprung a leak somewhere in your home, some duct tape fixed over the leaky part will minimise damage to your property until the professionals can get there to do the job properly. Make sure to check if the duct tape is waterproof first though. You can by waterproof duct tape that you can keep in a cupboard for emergencies.

Kids Dressing Up


Wrapping your kids up in duct tape isn’t recommended (as funny as that image above is, don't do it!), but a roll of silver duct tape can instantly transform some plain cardboard into a sword, shield, suit of armour or a robot costume. It’s an easy way to make cheap and effective Halloween costumes.

Mashable has 15 ways you can make Halloween costumes with duct tape.

You may wonder why taping windows up to prepare for a storm isn't on there. The fact is that it's a complete myth that it will do anything to prevent your window from shattering, so don't bother wasting time and effort doing it.