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Why it’s important to update your windows

February 15th, 2013 Comments off

For homeowners who have never paid attention to their windows, now is the time to do so. Windows are an essential feature of all homes; they not only protect against the weather, but can turn a standard looking property into a quaint and quirky retreat with just a simple makeover. Updating windows is important for a number of reasons and can make a huge impact for very little cost, providing increased security, reductions in energy costs and the opportunity to create a beautiful feature.

Windows are, of course, essential to protecting homes from both bad and good weather. Double glazing keeps heat in and vastly reduces energy costs during the winter, whilst a number of modern glass varieties are also good at reflecting light, keeping rooms cool in the summer months. Paying attention to rotten or warped window frames, in addition to cracks and draughts, offers homeowners the chance to drastically reduce heat loss from their home and save significant amounts of money in the long run.

It is also advisable to update windows for security reasons. Many insurance companies are becoming alert to the fact that homeowners who do not have window locks in place could be more easily burgled. This not only puts up the cost of premiums, but can also result in families constantly being in a state of high alert, worrying that they may be attacked in their very own home. However, by simply updating and replacing old windows, locks can be added and frames fixed in place to ensure that poor security is no longer a concern.

Another reason for paying attention to old windows is when selling. Prospective buyers take a very dim view of poorly maintained, broken and dirty windows and it has a huge effect in reducing curb appeal, putting prospective buyers off even setting foot through the door. Having clean windows, sparkling glass, firmly fixed frames and stylish furnishings can hugely increase a property’s attraction by showing that it is cared for. In addition, furnishings, such as curtains and shutters, can help coordinate an entire room’s style.

Curtains and shutters come in a huge variety of different colours and styles; there is always the ideal furnishing for any room. Whilst curtains tend to be the more traditional window styling, shutters are increasing in popularity and provide a modern, chic and clean-lined feature that will suit any room. In addition, shutters can be used both inside and out, so for people who do not want to compromise on lush and extravagant curtain fabrics, teaming with an exterior shutter is the perfect solution.

Updating windows is very important and for all homeowners it is necessary to pay close attention to maintaining and revamping window spaces. Adding features such as curtains and shutters can bring an entire room together and create the ambiance that designers are looking for. Meanwhile, updating to newer glass and more secure locking systems will ensure that windows stay efficient, secure and in top notch health for years to come.

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Architectural and design ideas for outbuildings

February 15th, 2013 Comments off

When thinking about outbuildings, many people may automatically conjure up images of dull wooden sheds or unappealing box-rooms tacked onto the back of properties. With space at a premium and many people wanting to renovate and expand their home rather than move, developing outbuildings is becoming increasingly popular. However, there is no reason why these areas cannot seamlessly integrate with the look of a property and add an attractive new feature to be enjoyed.

There are many types of outbuildings, ranging from a garden shed or office, to a kitchen extension or the addition of a conservatory. These rooms add the vital space that many people crave and can be adapted to the use of the individual homeowner, whether they need a new office, a play room for their children or a quiet place to relax in. With careful planning and time spent on getting the architecture right, these home improvements can become stunning features that could even add value to a property.

One of the most important aspects to think about when adding an outbuilding is landscaping. It is vital that any addition to a home fits seamlessly with what is already there, whether the outbuilding is an annexe or a completely separate garden room. With annexes and extensions it is easier to incorporate rooms into the house and by using the same type of brickwork or plaster, outbuildings can flow from a main building as if they had always been there. With separate garden rooms, landscaping can be a little more challenging, but there are many ways to create a feature.

Constructing a path running to the outbuilding will help link the room to the main home, whilst decorating it in a similar fashion will help draw the entire scheme together. Sheds and outbuildings do not have to be boring and windows, porches, soft furnishings and lighting can all be used to create a new room that becomes a living space rather than a dull and cluttered storage facility. Outbuildings are often places that have also been maximised for natural light, with skylights and large windows, helping to merge the boundaries between inside and out. It is a good idea to use reflective and light furniture, such as a glass dining table, in such rooms. Dense materials and dark wood will suck in the natural light, whereas lighter pieces and mirrors will help to create an even bigger illusion of space.

With outbuildings considered one of the best solutions to solving the requirement for extra space, it is vital that they are furnished to maximise use. This is important when decorating a space and whilst glass, mirrors and soft furnishings might be ideal for adult areas, they will be dangerous for playrooms. In this example, lightly coloured, child-safe furniture can be used instead, with the room’s palette also being of pale hues to encourage a feeling of airiness rather than oppressiveness.

When designing an outbuilding it is important to think of it as an addition to the home, rather than a separate space. For those who carry out the work correctly, an outbuilding will become a fantastic feature for a revitalised home.

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Construction survey suggests another tough year ahead

February 15th, 2013 Comments off

Although prospects are improving for big civil engineering contractors, the bulk of the industry still faces a very difficult year ahead, the latest Construction Trade Survey suggests.

Those further down the supply chain are particularly struggling from a contraction in workload compounded by difficulties in late payment.

The latest Construction Trade Survey, published today, shows that the majority of the construction industry endured a difficult final quarter of 2012, due to declining output and orders on the demand side, combined with rising costs on the supply side.

Building contractors reported a contraction in work, while the picture for building product manufacturers was mixed.

Key survey findings of the survey include:

  • Private industrial and non-housing R&M were the worst hit sectors for building contractors, with 34% and 30% respectively, reporting falls in output
  • 23% of building contractors reported that, on balance, output fell in the private commercial sector, whilst in private new housing output flatlined
  • 13% of heavy side product manufacturers reported that, on balance, sales fell in Q4, whilst 46% of light side manufacturers stated that sales increased
  • 62% of contractors reported that, on balance, orders fell in the fourth quarter
  • Civil engineering workloads were flat during Q4, an improvement from a negative balance of -17% in Q3
  • 43% of large and medium sized building contractors, on balance, suggested that tender prices reduced in 2012 Q4
  • 30% of building contractors, on balance, reported rises in costs, marginally lower than the 32% in Q3
  • 46% of contractors, on balance, reported falls in profit margins, down from 49% in Q3.

Construction Products Association economics director Noble Francis said:  ‘It was good to see a rise in construction output for Q4 compared to Q3, when activity was adversely affected due to the Olympics and Paralympics. However, output remains 9.3% lower than a year ago and this is reflected in the Construction Trade Survey. A minority of firms working on energy and rail projects continue to thrive, as do construction product manufacturers who are able to export outside the EU. Yet, overall, the industry continues to suffer falls in work across both public and private sectors. Furthermore, outside of infrastructure, the industry is expecting that 2013 will be even more difficult, with declining orders and enquiries across the industry.”

Representing major contractors, UKCG director Stephen Ratcliffe said: “Business conditions remain challenging and, because construction is a lagging indicator, there is unlikely to be any major improvement this year.  Nevertheless, there remain good opportunities in infrastructure, in the schools programme and energy sector.

“Government support in providing guarantees to kick start stalled projects is welcome, as has been the announcement of PF2.  UKCG continues to work with government to see what more could be done to speed up deal flow and increase work available to the industry.”

For mid-sized and smaller builders, National Federation of Builders chief executive Julia Evans added: “The construction industry is braced for a year in which weak demand and higher costs will create a very challenging trading environment. As the government and industry collaborate to lay out a long-term strategy for the industry, we must not lose sight of the need to maintain the current capital investment plans that will generate economic growth in the more immediate future.”

SME contractors have now endured falls in demand for 20 consecutive quarters although they reported in Q4 that the degree of decline was showing signs of moderating.

Looking ahead, even with the additional £5.5bn capital spending announced in the Autumn Statement, public sector capital investment is set to decline until 2014.

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