Is Your Home Prepared For Winter?

The days are getting shorter and cold weather is drawing in; winter is coming. Are you prepared?

Winter is one of the toughest times of the year for your home, with adverse conditions potentially leading to a range of costly and troublesome issues.

The good news is that with a bit of preparation and some relatively simple improvements, you can ward off the ill-effects of snow, rain and sub-zero temperatures and enjoy a warm and prosperous winter in your home.

Check your windows and doors

Windows and doors are the gateways through which most of the heat in your home will escape. Even if you heat your home 24 hours a day at full blast, a single-pane window or a draughty door will allow that heat to escape. Essentially, you’re throwing away money!

There are a couple of actions you can take to limit the escape of heat in your home. The easiest and cheapest is to install draught excluders at the bottom of every door in your home; you can pick up draught excluders for relatively cheap at most DIY stores and installing them is as simple screwing the excluder to the bottom of your door. You might need to measure and saw the excluder to size but again, this is quite easy.

Most new homes come with double-glazed windows, although older homes will feature single pane windows. If you have the budget, upgrade to double-glazing; the savings you’ll make will far outweigh the initial expense.

If you do have double-glazing but still feel a draught, invest in some foam excluder strips. Although they are cheap and won’t last as long as metal excluders, they are easy to install and easy enough to remove in the warm summer months.

It is necessary to retain some ventilation in your home, however, so don’t close up absolutely every connection to the outside world. Extractor fans and wall vents help to reduce the level of moisture in your home. Having your windows open for short periods of time (in the middle of the day at the weekend when it’s warmer outside, for example) can also help with reducing damp and mold.

Loft and wall insulation

Loft and wall insulation are essential for trapping heat that would otherwise escape from your home, although installing this kind of insulation is a lot more difficult and expensive. The best way to determine whether your home has loft and wall insulation to call an expert to conduct a survey of your home although there are a couple of other tell tale signs, such as small drill holes on the outer wall of your home.

The installation of loft and wall insulation is a job best left to a professional, although the costs of doing calling in an expert will be more than justified by the savings you make in the long run.

Check your gutters

A lot of people only think about the inside of their home when undertaking winter improvements, but the effects of winter on the outside of your home can lead to just as much adversity. One area that can be particularly troublesome is the gutters.

Gutters are susceptible to blockages from fallen leaves; these blockages lead to water becoming trapped and pooling. In sub-zero temperatures, this pooled water freezes and this can lead to the gutter cracking.

As such, it’s important to check that your gutters aren’t blocked on a regular basis. Installing a leaf guard is also a good idea, as it reduces the amount of time you have to spend cleaning!

Check your boiler and pipes

A broken boiler is one of the worst things that can happen in winter, leaving you without hot water and heating. The cost of repairing a boiler can also make a serious dent in your bank account!

The boiler checks you should carry out include:

* Making sure that your boiler servicing is up to date.

* Insulating the condensate pipe with lagging.

* Checking the pressure of your boiler.

You should also run your heating on a regular basis to ensure that the boiler’s pipework doesn’t freeze up and crack. If you’re unsure about the operation of your boiler, call in an expert to help.

Winter can be an arduous time for a homeowner, but as demonstrated in this post, preparing for winter doesn’t take too much time or cost too much money. Be prepared, and you should enjoy a trouble-free winter. 

Christopher Smith is writing on behalf of Excel Compressors, who sell a large range of used air compressors for DIY purposes

The importance of service and maintenance for commercial washing machines

When a business buys a commercial washing machine it expects that this valuable asset will contribute to their business fully and for many years. 

Typically a commercial washing machine should have a life of over 10 years. This is of course dependent upon a number of factors.

  • How much the machine is used
  • How it is used by the operators
  • The frequency and nature of the service and maintenance schedule

This article focuses on service and maintenance, and how this contributes to the good function and longevity of a commercial washing machine.

What is a service and maintenance contract? 

When a washing machine is purchased new there is a warranty period which will either include parts and labour, or just parts. Most warranties have exclusion clauses and only come into effect when the machine has failed. And when a warranty claim is made it may take between 24 hours to a week to fix your washer (depending on the supplier). 

Unlike a warranty, a service and maintenance contract is designed to prevent breakdowns and avoid the associated inconvenience and costs to the organisation. Which can be considerable.

Why would a service and maintenance contract be required?

Firstly, working parts wear out, even on high specification high quality models.  This is especially true when the machine is being used in high usage environments, or if the machine is not being used properly. Some more advanced washing machines are able to detect issues that may lead to part failure and therefore machine failure. These machines are the able to inform the user via error or information notifications prior to the machine actually breaking down. In these cases, the user will still in most cases have to obtain the services of a qualified engineer to interpret the error and then do something about it.

Secondly, machines are used by people. Many washing machines built by reputable manufacturers are designed to be used in hard working environments. That said improper use can shorten the life of a machine. And unfortunately the occasional or even habitual improper use of a machine can be the norm if operators forget their training or if staff are changed regularly. 

What can you expect on a service and maintenance contract?

Typically a service and maintenance contract is tailored to the machine and how often it is used. So a machine service may only be required every six months for an average machine with average usage. In more intensive washing environments a higher frequency may be required, such as quarterly.

What is important when buying a maintenance contract is to ensure that you are getting a genuine check and a price which includes all labour, staff re-training and if possible consumable parts.

A genuine service check should follow a multiple point checklist which covers all aspects of the machines ‘health’ and function. The service provider should be prepared to give you this before the event and after every service. Complete with a report of what they have found and any other further remedial work required. If they are unable to to do this or are vague about what you are getting for your money. Look elsewhere.

Given users matter in the function of machine, tailored staff training should be part of this service too.

The onward benefits

If you get a service and maintenance contract from the supplier of the machine there is a strong likelihood that you will be in a good position to get an extended warranty from the supplier as they will have a full service record of the machine.

Finally 

A meaningful service and maintenance package tailored to your business needs can increase your chances that your washing equipment give will give your business uninterrupted service for many years.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Styling a Grade 2 Listed Property [Guest Post]

 

Grade 2 listed buildings are one of those rare property types that people either yearn for, or avoid like the plague. The character seeking house hunters in the first camp love the idea of a home steeped in history and period features, while the cynics run a mile when they think their hands will be forever tied on changing even the smallest elements of a listed property.

While there is a modicum of truth in the belief you have to preserve and protect the original features of a grade 2 listed property, it’s fair to say for many people those simple listed credentials have them signing on the dotted line quicker than you can say ‘exposed beams’. It’s romantic, it’s historical, it’s quintessentially English.

So what actually defines a listed property? Listed properties are generally given their status because they are considerable to be architecturally significant or interesting in some way. Exceptional buildings can be given grade 1 status but 92% of listed buildings in the UK are grade 2 (or in some cases 2* for really significant examples). All properties built post 1700 that retain original features are given listed status with the majority of listed buildings dating between 1700 and 1840.

While traditional views of listed buildings are often of a fine country house or a thatched cottage, a property doesn’t have to be quaint and beautiful to be listed. Just look at Park Hill in Sheffield, brutal and imposing 1960’s flats, yet still listed because of its architectural significance as a social project. Listed city centre gems are also in abundance, especially in places like Manchester that team with mill and warehouse conversions. Modern projects certainly aren’t completely exempt of listed status, but generally, listed buildings are more than 30 years old.

Legal obligations

It’s illegal to seriously alter a listed building without consent from the local planning authority and the consequences of carrying out work without permission can cost thousands in fines and restoration costs. Generally anything other than simple repairs is likely to require listed building consent, so if waiting up to eight weeks for a decision to change something on your home is likely to frustrate you, a listed property may not be the best option!

But owners shouldn’t be trapped into thinking that they can’t do anything with their property, alterations such as extensions aren’t out of the question as long as planning permission and consent is sought. While I’ve heard people state that owning a grade 2 listed building essentially makes you the house caretaker for previous generations, loving owners generally find they appreciate the period features to such an extent that they wouldn’t even consider altering them. It essentially boils down to how much flexibility you expect to have with your property, but bear in mind, installing a porch on a 1990’s house will probably require planning permission too. The constraints around altering your property exist whether your home is 200 or 20 years old.

Be aware that structures on your land can also be listed before you make any major alterations. Many owners find this can be frustrating, especially if they don’t see a dilapidated old outhouse as worthy of preserving! Consider the extra costs that may be involved in restoring outside structures, often fixing stone walls will require skilled workmanship and the use of original construction materials.

Styling a period Property

While you may not be able to alter the exterior of your property without consent, with interior design the general rule is that you can be flexible as long as you don’t tamper with original features. It’s always worth checking with your local planning department before any essential maintenance needs to be carried out as often specialist window fitters or materials will be required to preserve the original style of the property. The philosophy of repair rather than replace is very much central to grade 2 listed building maintenance and your local planning department should be able to give you details of builders specialising in old buildings.

Usually painting the exterior of a building will require consent to ensure the building’s character isn’t affected by the colour or texture of the paint, but painting internal walls rarely requires you to seek permission. Painting over exposed brickwork, engravings and beams is generally best avoided in a grade 2 listed building and sandblasting or power washing is prohibited.

Neutral tones are generally recommended when styling a grade 2 listed property as bold, rich tones combined with a low beam ceiling can make a room appear smaller than it really is. If deep colours really do appeal to you though, painting the walls either side of a chimney breast can inject a splash of colour without overpowering the space. Trawling through antique shops for furniture and trinkets is also useful when furnishing your period property for both authenticity and cutting down on costs. Many owners of grade 2 listed properties also find that uneven floors and ceilings are common place in old houses! Although this may be slightly annoying, as long as the house is structurally secure it’s nothing to worry about but can make finding flooring tough. If your property has stunning original flagstones you’ll want to preserve them, but for home-owners opting for carpet, sisal carpet is a popular choice for uneven floors because of its strong, rough weave.

Victoria is writing on behalf of Shepherd Gilmour properties, specialists in Manchester city centre letting and estates.

Why You Might Not Be Sleeping As Well As You Could Be

After a long day, there’s nothing quite like falling into a soft, warm bed and drifting off to sleep. Unless of course, the drifting off doesn’t come. There are many different reasons we might not be getting a full night’s sleep. Stress, loud noises, that scary movie that’s still on our mind. However, a common contributing factor is light.

Circadian Rhythm

If you haven’t heard of circadian rhythm, here’s the low-down. Most living things, including humans, have a light-related rhythm, meaning we sleep at night and stay awake during the day. This relates to the body’s master clock, which tells the brain to make melatonin when there’s less light, which then makes you sleepy. So, whether it’s natural or artificial light, if there’s anything interfering with that melatonin-inducing darkness, it’s going to be that much harder to fall asleep.

Blackout blinds  

Luckily, there’s a simple solution to this problem. You can probably guess what it is. The right pair of blinds can help dim outside light, and in the case of our blackout blinds, can completely block it out. Elegant Roman blinds and neat Roller blinds have a soft fabric lining, come in a range of neutral colours, and can be fitted to cover the whole window. No street lights illuminating your room, no morning light shining in your eyes. Just a snug, peaceful room that’s designed for sleep.

Dim-out blinds  

If the idea of total darkness feels a little extreme, dim-out blinds might be a good alternative. These blinds prevent glares and soften any outside light, meaning they’ll let in the morning rays, but not in the same blinding, sleep interrupting way. If you don’t have a lot of excess light outside your bedroom, then try a dim-out blind. Otherwise, stick to the robust blackout blinds.

Finally, a good night’s sleep

As we all know, a good night’s sleep is vital. It helps improve our memory, fight back against illnesses, sharpen our attention, and stops us shouting at traffic and crying at TV adverts. All in all, a necessity in the modern world. To find the perfect blind for heavenly sleep, take a look at blind ranges on makemyblinds.co.uk today.

Pouring Concrete in Cold Weather

Pouring concrete at any time requires care and attention, but doing so in cold weather means there’s other factors that need to be taken into account if the pouring project is to be a success. In this article, the team at Total Concrete will be detailing the ways you can ensure that your cold-weather concrete pour goes smoothly.

Schedule the delivery in advance

Cold weather can cause havoc on the roads, and there’s nothing worse than a project being delayed because a delivery is held up by traffic. Make sure your concrete delivery is scheduled in good time – being organised will only serve you well in the colder months, and getting your concrete on time will help you avoid any last minute transportation issues.

Wear the right clothing

The right clothing is important for two reasons: it will help keep you warm in the cold weather, and it will also protect you from damage to skin that can occur when coming into contact with wet concrete. Wear plenty of layers, and make sure to wear protective gloves and goggles if you’re handling the concrete yourself.

Do not pour on frozen ground

Pouring concrete on frozen ground will cause the fresh concrete to freeze if the temperature is below -4°c. Concrete companies can include hot water in their mixes to raise the temperature of the concrete, preventing it from freezing upon contact with the ground. As well as hot water, you can use portable heaters on the ground to thaw the surface and make it more accommodating for your concrete before you pour it.

Use the right concrete grade

Using the right grade of concrete is crucial to the success of the project, especially if it’s ready mix concrete. A winter mix of ingredients is required for a cold-weather pour, including accelerants to speed up the curing and setting of the concrete, warm water for the mix and avoiding ingredients such as slag or fly ash.

Have help where possible

The more people you have on hand to help you, the quicker the project will be, and the quicker the project is, the less time there is for the concrete to potentially freeze and disrupt the process. This is particularly pertinent to offloading the concrete from the truck.

As you can see, there are a number of precautions to take when carrying out a concrete pour in cold weather. If you follow these tips, you’re much more likely to avoid any mishaps due to frosty weather, and your concrete project will progress as you’d hoped.

Total Concrete Ltd are experts in the delivery and pumping of the highest quality concrete mixes throughout Surrey and Woking. For more information about the work we do, get in touch with us today.

6 Repainting Projects that Can Give Your Property a Curb Appeal Boost

There’s no shame in living in an old house. However, years of existence and the ever-changing weather can cause your home’s beauty to fade gradually.

Whether you’re thinking about selling down the line or you simply wish to give your property’s curb appeal a healthy boost, painting certain parts of its exterior is the best way to go. Paint can do wonders for a house, especially in bringing back its former glory. When combined with creativity and resourcefulness, you can easily liven up your old home and turn it into an attractive real estate investment.

To get you started, here are six features and fixtures outside your home that a fresh coat of paint can enhance:

1. The Front Door

Replacing your front door is an excellent starting point for a home makeover. In fact, a study conducted by a door manufacturer revealed that upgrading this part of the house can increase the perceived value of a property, on top of a return on investment of over 50 percent of the money used for the renovation.

Of course, changing the door isn’t your only option. If you don’t have the sufficient budget for replacing the entire door, you can have it painted instead.

Base your color choice on trends and how the door complements the rest of the house. Better yet, walk around the neighborhood to gather inspiration on the tones that appeal to your community and work well with the surroundings.

Neutral hues can do the job most of the time, especially in terms of matching colors with the rest of the house. But if you’re looking to sell and want your home to stand out, you should consider choosing bolder and more vibrant tones.

2. The Fence

If you have a fence that doesn’t stand out, or no fence at all, real estate investors may have second thoughts on buying your property no matter how beautiful your house is. Because of this, you should also use your resources to provide your house with a fence that will complete

that homey feel most people seek. Having a lovely, newly painted fence also sends a message to potential buyers that your property is well-maintained.

3. The Mailbox

Although mailboxes are made to store and secure your correspondence and subscriptions, they can also give your home’s curb appeal a good boost when repainted.

Believe it or not, this nifty item is one of the first elements that attract people to a property. What’s more, it’s probably one of the simplest repainting projects you can DIY. Even if you don’t plan on selling your house, ensuring that your mailbox looks pristine also shows how much you take care of your property (much like the fence).

In choosing a color, you can have your mailbox painted in the same hue as your main door, or choose a tone that pops up from the rest of the property. Of course, you can also opt for a more neutral color scheme to achieve that classic, timeless look.

4. The Porch or Deck

Porches and decks extend the living space of any home. They also offer added value to the property and enhance its appeal to help attract potential buyers. Plus, ensuring that these extensions are well-maintained can help with the longevity of the entire house. To freshen up your deck or porch, only use high-quality exterior paint products that are made for specific types of surfaces. You can also check the ratings of certain products based on their resistance to color change, cracking, mildew growth, and dirt.

5. The Exterior Window Trim

While these may seem like small details, exterior window trims can actually enhance the overall aesthetic of a house. Leaving this element out of your repainting project can prove to be a big mistake as it is bound to stand out from the rest of the structure.

Although many people choose different shades of white for this part of the house, you can also have it painted the same color as your front door. This will lend a unified effect throughout the property and effectively achieve that curb appeal boost that inspired you to repaint your house in the first place.

6. The Plant Boxes

Plant boxes are decorative and functional elements of the exterior of the house. These fixtures help enhance the impact of the presence of plants on your property.

With that said, you should also consider having your plant boxes repainted according to your chosen color scheme for the house. Matching it with fitting outdoor hues will also have a good effect on the property’s overall aesthetic.

A Final Thought

A fresh coat of paint for the exterior of your house can help in enhancing your property’s curb appeal and increasing its selling value. If you’re thinking about doing this for your home, but don’t have the budget for redoing the entire structure, you can try combining two or more of the repainting projects listed in this article to achieve your desired effect.

 

5 Important Factors to Consider Before Hiring a Self-erecting Crane

Self-erecting cranes are indispensable items of equipment used on construction sites that are of short duration and often with space restrictions. They are designed to lift and move heavy supplies and equipment that are too hefty and bulky for other machines to carry.

A self-erecting crane is  one of the most expensive pieces of equipment around and you may have to shell out extra money for additional features.

The good news is that if you need a self-erecting crane for a construction project, you do not have to empty your bank account or apply for several loans to get one. The total self-erecting  crane rental cost is more manageable than its sale price and, as such, is a better option, especially if you only typically need this machine for the short term.

Renting the Right Self-erecting Crane for Your Project

While hiring a self-erecting crane is indeed a more cost-effective option, note that it will still require a considerable investment. To be sure that you will rent the best self-erecting crane to fulfill your requirements, consider these factors first before hiring the equipment:

  1. The work or project site

Having a clear picture of the location and environment where the self-erecting crane will be used will help you understand which type will fulfill your requirements.

Some of the more important details about the work area where the equipment will be placed that you should take note of are:

  • The overall size of the area
  • Number of Building floors, as well as each one’s height
  • Possible causes of obstruction
  • Capability of the crane to move in a 360-degree radius
  • Ground and typical weather conditions

2. The primary use or uses of the equipment

When shopping around for a self-erecting crane to hire, think about the kind of materials it will need to lift and move frequently. It will also help if you already know if the equipment will be used to lift and move large numbers of small loads regularly or only once or twice for really heavy and bulky supplies or machinery.

There are different types of self-erecting cranes and anticipating the load capacity that the crane will be lifting regularly, as well as the height it has to cover, will help you choose the best one. This, in turn, will enable you to get the most out of the machinery, and your investment.

3. The reputation of the crane rental company

Although self-erecting cranes are made of durable materials and are built to last, poor maintenance can cause them to sustain damage and make safety a concern.

As such, before hiring a crane from a particular company, read up on the most trusted brands and types of self-erecting cranes. Look into their safety records or history. When dealing with the crane rental company’s sales staff, ask for access and go over the equipment maintenance and safety records.

If you will be hiring an operator from the company, check their operators’ credentials, background, and safety record as well. See if their team of operators regularly take related health and safety courses; this would mean that they work on staying updated with the best and latest industry practices.

Take the time to visit the company’s office or warehouse to inspect the equipment as well. It is important that you see for yourself how well-maintained and fully functional their self-erecting cranes are.

4. The type of control suitable for your operator’s work style

In case you already have a crane operator, consider your employee’s experience and preference in operating the equipment. Some operators prefer using a crane with a fixed control station. Other operators prefer the remote control features of the newer models of these cranes.

To be certain you will hire a crane that your operator can properly and comfortably handle and will thus be useful in your worksite, talk to your employee first.

5. The cost

Lastly, make sure you will hire a machine that you can afford. Many companies charge self-erecting crane rental by the week. You can try negotiating with the company, though; they might give you a better price, especially if you will be hiring the equipment for a longer period.

Although you may have set a budget for the rental cost, you still need to be flexible. Keep in mind that when it comes to hiring specialized machinery, you get what you pay for.

AUTHOR BIO

Hermann Buchberger is the Founder and CEO of Active Crane Hire. He’s taken the company from start-up to Industry Leader offering the largest fleet of construction cranes in Australia. ACH launched a new type of crane previously unheard of in the Australian market: electric tower cranes. The company’s infrastructure and associated services now comprise a fleet of trucks and trailers, a crane-rigging team, mobile crane technicians, a fleet of service vehicles, and an extensive range of crane spare parts.