Archive | Construction

How landscaping our gardens could be contributing to localised flooding

Posted on 13 September 2017 by editor

We all like a nice garden and driveway. But does our desire to strive for low maintenance landscaping contribute to flooding? The answer to this is yes. As more and more of us opt for block paving and concrete driveways, greater excess water ends up in the storm drains, where previously it would be absorbed by grasslands and flower beds.

Did you know that if you install a new driveway and it slopes towards the road, then building regulations require you to install a soakaway? Few people know this, but a simple 5ft square soakaway ensures that any excess rainwater is absorbed appropriately into the ground, rather than ending up in the local river. If you don’t install a soakaway, then it could lead to problems down the line selling your property. Even worse, it will only take one unhappy local neighbour to bring a civil claim against a homeowner and successfully win, and the courts will be overwhelmed with claims.

Kerb appeal is of course very important and there’s nothing better than a nice landscaped garden to welcome you home at the end of your day.

Despite this, we all have a duty as homeowners to ensure we provide a sustainable neighbourhood. The risk of flooding had increased over the years, there is of course lots of speculation and science to indicate why this maybe happening, but ultimately, if we want low maintenance driveways and landscapes, then we need to ensure that it complies with building regulations.

If you are looking to develop your landscape or driveway and you know that your driveway slopes towards the road, you should be asking your driveway company if they are going to install a soakaway. If they say no, then move onto another company because they should be complying with regulations. If building regulations find your new driveway in breach, then it is your responsibility to rectify the matter, not the driveway company. It also won’t be the driveway company that lands up in the courts, it will be the homeowner.

This article has been brought to you by aspiredrives.co.uk – a local business that is Which? Trusted Trader accredited and Trading Standards No Rogue Traders approved. They specialise in the installation of block paving driveways and fine patios.

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Cold Winter Months – How to Save on Your Energy Bills

Posted on 13 February 2017 by editor

One of the easiest and most simplest ways of saving money on your energy bills during the cold winter months is to make your home more efficient. You can easily reduce the heat loss through your roof by adding insulation in between the joists in your loft. Many older house typically only have 100mm of loft insulation. Today’s building control recommendations is for your home to have 300mm of suitable loft insulation. Local suppliers such as Wickes often have offers on loft insulation (3 for 2 deals) and you can buy 100mm and 200mm top up insulation in rolls. 3 rolls will be enough for the average home. So for about £40-45 you can significantly improve the roof insulation.

If you have loft insulation between your joists and you go into your loft during the winter months, your loft should be cold. If it’s warm, it’s because you don’t have sufficient insulation and you are losing heat through the ceiling. When installing loft insulation you need to make sure that you do NOT push the insulation as far as you can into the eaves. Air should be able to pass through your soffits and into your lost space by having an appropriate gap over the wall plate (this is the piece of timber the roof trusses sit on, on top of the blockwork). This will help prevent condensation. If you have condensation on the inside of your roof felt, then you have poor airflow.

The aim is to fully insulate the loft, but not at the expense of preventing airflow as this can cause other issues.

You can buy eaves vents, these are simple plastic corrugated sheets that sit in between the roof trusses and prevent the loft insulation from pushing up against the roofing felt and blocking the airflow. They are available in long rolls, and cost around £3.30 for 10m.

It would also be advisable to ensure that your loft trap is also insulated. Although timber has good thermal properties, most older house just have a plywood loft trap. This is not sufficient, and we de recommend improving the insulation of the trap. The alternate, but more expensive option is to replace the loft trap for a modern one. Building control now require loft traps to be made of metal, airtight, good thermal insulation and they are required to meet 30 mins of fire resistance.

Of course, keeping the warm air out of your loft, means that any water pipes and tanks are exposed to colder temperatures. You need to make sure that any pipes are cladded and water tanks are well insulated. This will help avoid burst water pipes in the loft.

Drafts are another problem in the winter months. One of the best draft excluders for your door is EPDM rubber. These can be purchased in long rolls, and you simply stick them around your door frames to create a really good seal when doors are closed.

This advice has been brought to you by RT Heating & Plumbing in Tamworth. They specialise in bathroom installations and central heating services / repairs.

 

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Will the end of Help to Buy cause new homes to fall in price?

Posted on 18 October 2016 by editor

A recent study by the financial times has indicated that the Government Help to Buy Scheme has increased the prices of new homes by up to £19,000 in some areas. With the exception to London, where the scheme has had little impact. The aim of the scheme was to help first time buyers onto the property market, but also help out homeowners who want to go up the property ladder and buy something bigger. So what happens now the Help to Buy Scheme is coming to an end? Many homebuilders have asked for the scheme to continue, but Prime Minister Teresa May has reiterated that the scheme will come to an end.

I am currently in the market for a new home in the region of 300,000. I have registered my interest with several homebuilders, expressing my interest in properties that are to be completed towards the end of summer 2017. Where developers normally have a lead time of 6 months, I am getting calls now. This suggests that they are aware that prices of new homes will fall, because the number of people being able to afford the next step up on the ladder will dwindle. So they are trying to secure deals at current market prices. What’s more, the house that I was interested in, had previously sold at £299,000 – this has now risen to £340,000 – a whopping 13% rise in 10 months.

I have no plans to use the Help to Buy Scheme. So I plan to wait until the New Year to see if new homes will fall in price. Think about it logically. You want to buy a home for £100,000. Currently, with Help to Buy, you need a minimum 5% deposit, 75% mortgage and a 20% loan from the Government. Without the 20% loan from the Government, the house would not be affordable. So two things can happen: A) Fewer people will be able to afford to buy, or B) The price of new homes will have to fall to align itself with the reality of mortgage only borrowing. Either way, developers lose out. I am certainly no economist, but if the Help to Buy Scheme has caused the cost of new homes to inflate, the end of the scheme is likely to cause it to deflate.

The Help to Buy Scheme was really a false economy. Some may say it’s irresponsible lending on the Governments part because they are allowing homeowners to achieve greater levels of borrowing, but at a 20% equity stake in their home. What’s more whilst it is billed as interest free, this is not the case. It’s only interest free for 5 years, after this time 1.75% interest is accrued. If you sell your home and you have not repaid the loan, the government will take their 20% stake in your property. Given the rise in house prices over the past 5 years, their 20% stake will be considerably more than the amount you originally borrowed. For example: If you purchased a home for £150,000, borrowing £40,000 from the Government, and it later sold for £210,000, you’d get £168,000 (80% – less any outstanding mortgage) and you’d pay back £42,000 on the loan (20%). You’d need to pay off your mortgage with your share of the money.

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The true cost of selling your home in Birmingham

Posted on 18 May 2015 by editor

There have been many reports in the past year that house prices in Birmingham have increased by around 10%. Which is obviously great for most households who want to see equity in their property. But as house prices increase, so does the lion’s share of commission. Estate agents have cut their fees to as low as 0.5%, but because house prices have increased, it’s really nothing more than a trivial balancing act.

History tells us that the housing market is full of highs and lows. We are all more than aware that most first time buyers are being priced out of the market, and this is further compounded by means testing that puts many mortgages beyond most. The days of borrowing 5 times your salary are gone, and all outgoing expenditure is scrutinised so any mortgages, gym memberships etc are all now deducted from any possible mortgage offer.

So what happens when you need to sell your house but you can’t fund any fees or legal costs. Well, there are plenty of companies out there that will help you sell your house fast. One example is quickpropertypurchase.com whom are based in Kings Heath, Birmingham. They specialise in helping you sell your house fast, and provide a no obligation cash offer within 24 hours after researching your market. They even offer £1000 towards your legal costs. This kind of buying and selling homes is really advantageous for homeowners who want to sell their property, even if your home has sitting tenants, are you on the brink of having your house repossessed, or you simply would like to sell your house, but continue to live in it and pay rent. Having your house purchased for cash is a really quick way to release equity for serving other projects or needs, this is not only ideal for individuals who are perhaps stuck for cash, but great for perhaps landlords who need to reduce their portfolio.

Selling your house via an estate agent when you want a quick sale is near on impossible. The condition and location of your property can cause some real problems; estate agents are notorious at keeping you waiting many months, as well as insisting you have a for sale board outside your home and strangers viewing your property. Companies that specialise in selling your house quick, take all this strain away and in most cases for no more than you would have perhaps paid an estate agent and fees. A cash buyer can give you some real flexibility and security when selling your home, and of course it’s completely chain free. But be careful, there are some unscrupulous businesses out there that will try and take advantage of you perhaps being in financial difficulties.

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Local builder seeks to help raise construction standards

Posted on 05 February 2015 by editor

A local Birmingham builder is seeking to help raise the construction standards and reduce the number of individuals suffering from cowboy builders by increasing the public’s awareness and knowledge of building standards and workmanship.

There is no doubt about it, the industry suffers from cowboy builders and rogues who seek to capitalise on naive and unaware consumers who simply rush into choosing a builder.

“The problem is, not enough people understand good workmanship and what makes a good builder,” explained David Vidgen. “We rely too much on recommendations and referrals, from individuals who simply are not qualified to determine whether a builder has done a good job or not. What’s more, it often takes time for problems and construction issues to come to light, and by this time you have already praised the builder.”

“What consumers should be be doing is arming themselves with some building standards knowledge and go and check out any prospective builders previous work for themselves. Good builders work to high standards, and these standards can often be found by simply looking at a wall. There are some very simple checks, such as checking to see if joints (perpends) are aligned and straight, if joints are full and appropriately finished (joints should not have holes, cracks or concrete bulging from the joint). Another simple way to determine a builders standard is to look at the wall and see if there are issues with colour banding. Colour banding is where you get patches of the same shades of bricks clumped unsightly together in walls; this is caused by using the same pack of bricks instead of alternating and selecting bricks from several packs. When you construct walls and houses you will need a large number of bricks that come in many packs. Each pack often carries slightly different shades of bricks, so to avoid colour banding in walls, you should select bricks from all packs as you progress. A poor builder ignores these guidelines and as a result you end up with unsightly walls.” states David.

“Another very simple way to determine quality of workmanship is to look at the mortar joints themselves, have they dried to be the same colour? Too often we can see walls and houses that have been constructed, but little care has been taken by the builder to ensure that the ratio of sand and cement is consistent throughout the build. Otherwise you end up with different colour mortar every 5 or 6 courses of bricks. Any good bricklayer understands the need to ensure that the cement is mixed to the manufacturers specification, and by applying these rules you also ensure that the mortar joints dry the same colour throughout the build. If you are having a house extension, care should be taken to try and match the existing brickwork and mortar colour. A good builder will perform ratio tests before they commence to ensure they get a good colour match.”

“I’m not saying that references are completely useless” explained David, “they are useful to determine if the builder was clean and tidy, punctual and carried out the work to the agreed schedule with no surprise invoices or requests for money. I also recommend that you don’t just inspect their most recent work, ask to speak and inspect the workmanship that was carried out some time ago (2 years or more). This is to see if problems arose over time.”

All of these recommendations and lots more useful advice to help you find a good local builder can be found on David Vidgen’s website at www.davidvidgen.com – the purpose is to ensure that few individuals instruct the wrong type of builder and they get high standards of workmanship.

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Birmingham unveil £4bn transport plan

Posted on 17 November 2014 by editor

Birmingham City Council has unveiled a £4bn transport plan including new tram lines, high speed bus network and building new train stations. The 20 year plan have yet to be completely financed, but further funding is expected to come from Government and European sources.

Some of the plans being considered are a new super tunnel and an upgraded ring road.

Birmingham is considered to have poor inner city transport systems, and is fraught with congestion. This is primarily caused by the 1 million car journeys made into Birmingham each day. In the next 20 years it is estimated there will be 80,000 more vehicles if alternative transport systems are not put in place.

Some of the plans feature:

  • Rapid Transit Bus routes include a further 9 routes, priority lanes, 20mph average speeds and cashless payments
  • New Metro lines including links to Birmingham Airport, NEC and the new HS2 station in Digbeth

John Peters, who travels into Birmingham each day by car describes the current system as “dire” and welcomes upgraded transport plans. “Changes are urgently required, the current road network is barely sufficient, so with further cars estimated in the future, the road network desperately need to be relieved by improvements in other transport areas.”

For the second year running the Queensway Tunnels have been upgraded during the summer months, with improvements to the lighting and ventilation system.

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LIchfield Estate Agents seeks to transform the market

Posted on 15 May 2014 by editor

The estate agency industry has long attracted an abundance of negative publicity due to unethical trading and poor customer service. Turner Sales and Lettings are a small independent estates and lettings agency based in Lichfield and are about to transform the local industry by offering unrivalled service and competitive fees. They don’t have a traditional bricks and mortar shop front like most agents, instead they have a heavy presence online. With 90% of buyers now using their smart phones and tablets to search for property, the need for a shop front and high newspaper advertising costs are a thing of the past.

Their unrivalled service includes the use of professional photography. You only have to trawl agency websites to see that most if not all photography is undertaken by individuals who have little or no training with the use of a camera. Out of focus, poor exposure, bad composition are just some of the most common errors you see with images taken by estate agents, and this means that your home is not being showcased to it’s full potential.  Because online websites allow multiple images to be displayed for each property, Turner Sales and Lettings believe that professional photography is a very important component when it comes to advertising your home because it’s first impressions that are going to get viewings. Another aspect of their service includes ethical advice, including recommendations to declutter and remove personal items from your home before viewings. This helps those viewing your property to picture themselves living at the address, and if you have a running machine in the living room, this will do very little to convince them your home is perfect for them.

“Viewings are part and parcel of the estate agency industry. What’s alarming is that many agencies don’t provide accompanied viewings, in other words they leave the seller to undertake the appointment and escort the potential buyers around the property.” said Mary Meacham. “We do not do this. In fact we appoint a dedicated property consultant when you instruct us. This individual will be present at all viewings and will be fully responsible for accompany the potential buyer around your home. Because we don’t have rigid opening hours like other agencies, we are available 24/7 and will undertake viewings at times that suit the seller and buyer rather than our own convenience.”

“Communication is an integral part of our business. We always provide continuous follow up and feedback throughout the selling process including the around the crucial completion date. It’s this level of customer service that our clients want. They don’t want to have to pick the phone up and call us because they are left in the dark.” Mary explained.

Lichfield was recently announced as the 17th least affordable city to reside in. One of only 3 cities outside the south east. You can read more in this story here.

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More jobs at Longbridge

Posted on 05 December 2013 by editor

Longbridge the former home of the MG Rover group has confirmed today that it is set to create a further 350 jobs. Phase 1 of the project has already successfully been completed with the development of a new Bournville College, Sainsbury’s, Costa Coffee, Beefeater, Premier Inn, 35,000 sq ft of offices and the £2m Austin Park, a green area named after Lord Austin of Longbridge.  The centre also boasts free parking, with a new park and ride facility due to be open in 2014.

The 350 jobs is subject to planning approval for a new 150,000 sq ft 2-storey Marks & Spencers store. Work is set to start in 2014 summer and be completed by Christmas 2015.

Marks & Spencers regional manager Julie Ridley said it believed the planned store would “cater for the shoppers of south Birmingham and attract new customers from the M5 and M42 corridor”.

St Modwen acquired the 468-acre site after the MG Rover Group collapsed in 2005. Thus far over 3,500 jobs have been created on the site, just over half of the 6000 that MG Rover employed at its peak.

 

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Sheldon DIY unveils new power tools website for small business day

Posted on 02 December 2013 by editor

Sheldon DIY have unveiled a new power tools and hand tools website in time for small business day on Sat 7th Dec 2013. Sheldon DIY have been serving the Birmingham public for over 20 years and has established itself as a major provider of some of the leading DIY brands including Black & Decker, Bahco, Bosch, Stanley and Draper. They also sell other leading brands such as Dewalt, Estwing, Draper and Irwin as well as heating and plumbing, decorating and electrical supplies.

The company which is conveniently located at 128 Garretts Green Lane, Sheldon, Birmingham, B26 2JN – online: 0121 403 3205, in-store: 0121 693 6757 is seeking to expand its online business in time for Christmas and capitalise on the ever growing trend to buy power tools and hand tools as xmas gifts.

Jay Birdi from Sheldon DIY said: “We are delighted to launch our brand new website and grow our business for another 20 years. We work hard with our suppliers to secure the lowest possible prices on Black & Decker Power Tools, Bosch Power Tools, Bahco Hand Tools, Stanley Hand Tools and Draper Hand Tools, so that we can pass the savings onto our customers. We stock most power tools including corded and cordless drills, cordless screwdrivers, circular saws, belt sanders, power files, angle grinders, jigsaws and routers. We also offer free delivery on all orders over £50.00 with guaranteed delivery within 3-5 days.”

Mr Birdi also stated “we are delighted to be launching our website in time for small business day on the Sat 7th Dec 2013. The new website will enables us to move into larger markets and offer our professional and customer orientated service to the whole of the UK, rather than just Birmingham. We’ve identified that now is a good time to expand and the website is an obvious move in todays competitive marketplace.  We are confident that the power tools and hand tools that we have in stock are competitively priced and offer great value to our customers. We are 100% focused on providing the best quality power tools and hand tools by some of the worlds leading DIY brands, at excellent prices.”

Stuart Smith, has been going to Sheldon DIY for over 10 years and gave Birmingham News Plus this comment “For me the reason Sheldon DIY have stood the test of time is because they really care about the customer and often go that extra mile. The power tools and hand tools are well priced, and they go out of their way to ensure that I am always 100% satisfied with my purchases. Now they are online, this means that I can access their shop 24 hours a day 365 days a year.”

Leading Power Tools supplier

Sheldon DIY are a leading online stockist of Black & Decker who are one of the world’s largest producer of power tools and accessories. The brand is well respected and trusted throughout the world; its network of manufacturing facilities is one of the most advanced and cost-efficient in the world.

They also stock Bosch Power Tools which are ideal for the professional, tradesman & DIY market. The Bosch professional range are high quality incorporating innovation and high level features, whilst the DIY range covers most aspects of the market including a 2-year warranty.

The best Hand Tools at the best prices

Sheldon DIY are proud to be a supplier of Bahco hand tools. Bahco design and manufacture hand tools for most demanding professionals. Bahco focus their design on innovation, performance and ergonomics. They’ve been designing tools for over 150 years and now provide some of the most advanced hand tools in the world.

Stanley are one of the worlds most popular DIY brands and are synonymous with the Stanley Knife, as well as FatMax spirit levels. Sheldon DIY have secured some great prices on these essential DIY tools.

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Monarch Aircraft Engineering unveils new maintenance hangar at BHX

Posted on 26 November 2013 by editor

One of the UK’s largest Airlines, Monarch has unveiled its state of the art aircraft maintenance hangar at Birmingham Airport. The firm who provides airline maintenance for some of the worlds largest airlines, has built a facility capable of maintaining two modern day wide bodied aircraft including the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Boeing 777, 747 and Airbus A350. It is expected that up to 40% of its profits will come from maintaining third party aircraft.

It has created over 150 local jobs, particularly for 16+ year old apprentices, roles in Logistics, HR, analytical roles and aircraft engineers and technicians, with a further 150 planned in the future.

Mick Adams, Managing Director of MAEL, said: “Today is a real milestone in the growth and development of MAEL as we officially open our tremendous new state-of-the-art engineering hangar at Birmingham Airport. The hard work and dedication of the whole team involved in this project has been outstanding and has allowed us to ensure it has opened on time and most importantly, within budget.Our own people, the contractors John Sisk & Son Ltd, RPS Group plc and Birmingham Airport have all formed part of the large team involved in this project over the last year and I would like to thank them for their unending commitment. The hangar, together with our existing facilities at London Luton and Manchester further secures our ability to provide both existing and new customers, with a first class maintenance, repair and overhaul service.”

Paul Kehoe, CEO of Birmingham Airport said: “Today’s opening is a major development for Monarch Aircraft Engineering, Birmingham Airport and the Midlands region as a whole. Opening this state-of-the-art facility in Birmingham underpins Monarch’s long-term commitment to the region, creating job opportunities for skilled engineers and young people looking to start a career in aircraft maintenance. We look forward to welcoming the arrival of new aircraft and airlines flying into Birmingham specifically to benefit from this world class facility.”

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