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Energy Efficiency and your Properties

lightbulbAs of April 2018 the government will place restrictions on any private rented accommodation that has an energy efficiency rating of F or G, meaning that landlords will not be allowed to rent out their properties until they are improved. Furthermore, as of 2016 landlords will no longer be allowed to refuse any “reasonable request” from tenants to improve the energy efficiency of their properties. Therefore it is wise for landlords to start improving their properties now, but where is the best place to start?

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Renovating to Let

for sale to let signBack when the property market was booming, buying a wreck and doing it up was seen by many as a sure fire way to make some money. Even if the cost of renovating your wreck ended up being more than you predicted (as, of course, it usually does!), the steady increase in property prices would (hopefully) make up the shortfall.

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Do It Yourself

Today we’re thinking about DIY. It’s something you either love or hate and more often than not it can be an argument maker and a key area of dispute between couples. We’ve all been there, whether it’s witnessing your parents arguing about how to fit a toilet seat, or whether you’re the one arguing with your partner about the best way to paint a wall…it’s a common occurrence and one we can all relate to.

New Flat

Having moved into a new flat I didn’t expect to be doing any DIY – for a start it’s rented and I didn’t think the landlord would be happy with me making changes to her beautiful property. And, don’t get me wrong, it is a very beautiful property and I wouldn’t change a thing, however, upon moving in, the first thing I noticed was that the bedroom and bathroom doors didn’t actually close. Now that to me is a bit of problem, especially if someone requires privacy in the bathroom!

What to do?

So, I thought I better contact the landlord in order to inform them and to seek advice and guidance about steps to take as I didn’t want to set about breaching any contract I had just signed, or any landlord insurance policy the landlord had taken out, by hacking away at the doors to make them fit.

The landlord, however, was rather relaxed about the whole thing and advised me to have a go at fixing them myself, providing I knew what I was doing. I settled any doubts they had by telling them I have an A-Level in Design & Technology (without sounding too Del-Boy and Rodney-esque) and that I would be able to sort the doors out without a problem. The landlord was so relaxed about it because they intended to get some new doors in the property at some point in the near future anyway.

Having a go

So I went out, bought the right tools, and got to work. It was NOT as simple as I first thought it might be. Basically I wanted to plane the sides of the doors whilst they were still attached to the hinges. Whilst it was indeed do-able, it was a bit of a hassle and I would advise anyone else to take the doors off the hinges first.

That’s not rocket science but I thought, why bother taking them off the hinges when it would only be a thirty second job? Well, it wasn’t a thirty second job as I soon found out. It took a while and after I had planed the doors I decided to smooth them down with sandpaper. It was easy enough, but it still didn’t stop an argument between me and my girlfriend. She was of course, as usual, correct when she advised me to take the doors off the hinges, but I just didn’t listen did I?!

This is a bit of mild example of a DIY tiff but an example nonetheless, and I’m sure over coming years there will be many more arguments as a result of a bit of pesky DIY.

Do you have any amusing examples of DIY you’ve carried out?

Damaged drywall can be easily fixed

Everyone will know how easy it is to accidentally put a hole in drywall; it could be from a door handle, maybe something falling over, or even from children playing. Happily drywall is fairly easy to fix, especially if it is a small hole, It is something that even a novice DIY person can tackle and save paying for a tradesman. If the hole is quite big i.e. anything bigger than 12 inches, it is probably better to replace the whole sheet of drywall rather than making a large patch. Whether the property is rented from a landlord who has good landlord insurance or it is your own property, a hole in the drywall does not mean having to panic.

In the past when there was a hole in drywall, a contractor would arrive, square up the hole and then put in some wooden braces which would support a new square of drywall. However times have moved on and now there are aluminium patches, which will go over the hole without the need to square it up. This aluminium patch is strong enough to fix larger holes, yet it is also thin enough to be covered over with a layer of drywall joint compound. They work in the same way as traditional drywall tape works, where a layer of drywall joint compound is put over the mesh, left to dry, and then 24 hours later a second coat is put on with a larger trowel. The area is then sanded down.

Cracks can quite often occur when the property starts to settle, so it is not that strange to find cracks in a drywall in new and old houses. A crack is very easy to fix by taking a utility knife and make a v-shaped channel along the length of the crack. Fill the crack with some drywall joint compound and then apply some mesh tape over the top (unlike a hole where the aluminium patch works well, it is highly recommended that mesh tape is used for cracks). Once the tape is applied, cover it with some drywall joint compound and feather out the ends. When it has dried, keep feathering it out on the second application and when it has dried, sand it to a smooth finish.

The most common reason for fixing the drywall is filling in old screw holes or nail holes from pictures which have been attached to the wall. Again fixing this is very easy.  Take the end of a trowel and tap in the edges of the hole and create a small crater. If the drywall is loose, screw in a new fastener just underneath the hole, then spackle and trowel over the hole, making sure it is filled completely. Wait until it has dried then sand until smooth.

Easy ways to achieve a smaller footprint

Each person can do many things to slow down the effects of global warming. This collective impact of many people all working together will make a difference. There are simple ways to save energy. For example cutting down on waste and buying energy efficient products can help preserve the planet from further warming.

Recycle as much as possible. At the moment there is too much consumer waste ending up in landfills that could be reused. Most of us are now recycling plastic, glass, paper and cans, but not everyone knows that they can recycle other products. For example, electronic items, carpets and furniture can all be recycled.

More and more property owners in the private sector are renting their fully furnished houses complete with as many items as possible that will help to reduce a carbon footprint. They have landlord insurance for protection but they also care about the planet. Cutting down on a carbon footprint should not be seen as a threat to lifestyle. Basically it is about trying to cut down energy usage and as energy is not going to get any cheaper it will be a case of saving money directly whilst helping to save the world. Of the 12 tonnes that it is estimated to be the average person’s footprint; about 6 tonnes comes from around the house or choices in how travel is made. Improving the footprint does not necessarily mean giving anything up.

Use bags for life; they have become popular over the last few years. The number of plastic bags a person will use during the year will really add up. Buy energy efficient appliances; buying these will make a huge difference to a carbon footprint. Become a lover of local food by only eating food grown within 100 miles of the home. This will not be possible for everyone and it will not work everywhere all year-round. By only eating foods that are grown locally, it helps the local economy and cuts back on the amount of fuel that is needed to bring the food to the supermarket. If it is possible, plant and grow fruit and vegetables as this is one of the most cost-effective ways to eat, and nothing is more local than home grown, just remember to use organic or natural fertilizers and pesticides.

Living in the 21st century has brought many comforts. Where our forefathers would have walked many miles to reach their destination, we can easily jump into many types of carbon-emitting vehicles and get across the country in no time at all. Where candles were once used as lighting we now use many climate-destroying lighting options. Yes, these ‘modern comforts’ have made life a lot easier for everyone, but there is now a need to change over to eco-friendly solutions.

Do not ignore a water damaged wall

Having water damage to the plaster in the home can look very unsightly. Not to mention that once the plaster gets wet there will be an increased potential for mould problems in the future. Repairing the plaster that has been damaged can be easy if the correct materials are used. The cost of this depends on the size of the damaged area but normally the job will not be too expensive.

When the plaster gets wet the water will activate the lime, causing bubbling on the surface. The damage could be small with just surface bubbling or it can involve the whole plaster coat. The problems often start as the plaster dries, then the putty coat may form a rock hard shell. Always inform the landlord if the property is privately rented as they will have landlord insurance and will want to look after the property.

To repair plaster damage, all of the loose wall material must be removed by scraping the area using a putty knife. This will include all the bubbles and peeling paint. Then draw a square around the water damaged area using a pencil and a carpenter’s square making sure that a couple of inches extra on all sides of the damage is allowed, this will make sure all the damaged plaster is repaired. Cut out and remove all the plaster within the affected area with a utility knife. This could need doing a few times to remove all the plaster, doing this will insure the job will be completed better. Place a fan by the open area on the wall and run until the wall surface feels completely dry. If the wall is not completely dry moisture may get trapped in the wall and this could cause mould problems in the future. Smooth some joint compound into the area using steady and even strokes with the trowel. Make sure that there are no low or high areas and definitely no air pockets. Then let the compound dry for a full 24 hours.

Finally sand the area lightly with some drywall sandpaper which will smooth out the ridges or high spots that could have appeared during the 24 hours drying process. Use a damp cloth to remove any drywall dust that was made from sanding and re-paint the area.

Woodworms can cause a hole lot of trouble

There are a few words that a property owner with landlord insurance will not want to hear. One of them is woodworm. When a problem has been diagnosed as woodworm, it is normal to think of a lot of worms eating the wood. In fact they are not a worm at all they are insects that bore into wood, causing damage to furniture and flooring.

It is very unlikely to see a wood boring insect in the home, because the adults will lay their eggs on wood and the larvae will then bore into the wood and stay for years before boring out of the wood again. Signs that they are there are small holes in the wood and very occasionally the dust as they emerge from the wood. These holes are in fact exit holes meaning that the beetle has emerged from and left the wood after spending time tunnelling through it as a grub. The most common woodworm is the furniture beetle. This beetle attacks softwood leaving 1-2mm exit holes. It prefers damp, rather than dry wood and the grub will head for plywood and then stay there for longer than any other type of wood. Any damp floorboards, loft timbers and old furniture are all good targets for the beetle. Woodworms work slowly, so it is a good idea to not rush out as soon as it is suspected they are in the home. Get the home properly surveyed by three or four firms who will go through with the best treatments with you and give a quote. They will not only check the infestation, they will be able to tell how much damage has already been done.

When the holes are first noticed the first thing to do is establish if the woodworm holes are a result of a past infestation that has been successfully treated, or if it is a new problem that will need treating. If it is an active infestation there will be will some fresh wood dust and holes. There are a number of DIY treatments that can be used on furniture infested by the furniture beetle. If it is going to be a DIY job, fluid will need injecting into a few holes with a special injector and, as an extra precaution, there is also an insecticidal polish to use. Remember to keep your tenant fully informed on the matter as they are the ones living in the property.

Trying a DIY method to cure the problem will not always work because a lot of the most effective insecticides can only be obtained by certified professionals. Some are very toxic and potentially damaging to the environment. It may be very tempting to go for a blanket treatment, but this is not the greenest choice. A safe and highly effective treatment is borax, this is available as a crystalline powder, which is dissolved as a 15% solution in water and then is applied to the timber that is affected. There are no health hazards with this treatment, and borax will inhibit fungal growth and kill the woodworm.

A phone extension can make life easier

As long as there is a working master phone socket in the home, which has been installed by a service provider, it is possible to connect extra phone points in different rooms around the house to the master socket. With the help of a kit which is available to buy in DIY stores, phone retailers or any electrical store this is a job most landlords can accomplish on their own. If the master socket is a very old one, it may need replacing with an updated version that will accept the new plugs. As a safety measure the master socket should be less than 50m (which is more than enough for the average home) away from the first extension socket. Also, the furthest extension socket should be no more than 100m away from the master socket. Other safety measures to consider are; never fit an extension in a bathroom and phone wiring should be kept at least 2in/5cms away from any other electrical wiring. Landlords will be aware that landlord insurance is always a good thing to have when jobs like this are undertaken.

To install the first extension socket, cut  the phone wire long enough to go from the master socket to the first extension socket, remember to leave about leaving 3in excess as it is better to have too much instead of not enough. Plan the route for the wire to go from the master socket to the extension socket. There will be a converter on one end of the cable and this should be placed by the master socket, ready for it to be connected later.

The next job is to fix the cable wire along the skirting board, securing it with little tacks at regular intervals. Take the extension socket and unscrew the face-plate. Push out the little tab that is covering the entry hole for the cable. Position the extension box against the wall and with a pencil mark where the screw holes will be going, then drill the holes and place plugs into them. The box will be screwed to the wall after it has been wired because doing it this way is much easier.

The wire in the cable must now be exposed, it will need stripping 1 1/4in from the end with a sharp knife, then separate the colour coded conductors. These conductors will be connected to the phone extension box by pushing the conductors into brass blade terminals. The conductors will need to be connected as follows. Terminal 1- Green conductor with white rings. Terminal 2- Blue with white rings. Terminal 3- Orange with white rings. Next going from bottom upwards, the white connector with orange rings will go into terminal 4, white with blue rings will go into Terminal 5 and finally the white with green rings goes into Terminal 6. Sometimes there will only be four conductors, if this is the case then leave terminals 1 and 6 empty.

Now fix the extension box to the wall and fix the face-plate onto it, plug the converter into the master socket.     And the extension is ready to use.

Spruce up your kitchen

With autumn on its way, it is a great time for landlords to give any property’s they have enduring void periods a fresh new look. Tenants probably spend more time in the kitchen than you think and if money is tight you can still give the kitchen cabinets a makeover without it costing the earth. Very little skill is required for this job; all you will need is a screwdriver, some sandpaper, paint and some creativity. You do not even have to replace the door furniture, and it could easily secure you a new tenant.

Painting your kitchen cabinets is the least expensive way of giving old cabinets a fresher new look. Empty everything out of the cabinets and store away safely. The cabinets will most likely have a build up of grease, grime and dust particles so they will all need a clean with a warm water and soap solution, depending on how often you clean your cabinets, you may want to do this twice to ensure it is thoroughly clean. Use the screwdriver to remove the doors and the door furniture, when you do be sure to make a note of which one goes where.

Use sandpaper on each cabinet door, medium grit sandpaper is best to use for this job as it will get rid of any varnish on the wood. Then re-sand all of the cabinets with fine grain sandpaper, this will leave a surface that is ready to be painted, also a smooth surface will allow the new paint to stick to the cabinet surface much better. Clean up all the dust created by the sandpaper immediately, if it gets blown onto the paint you will just be making more work for yourself.

Now you are ready to start painting, and with the money saved by taking the job on personally you can afford to buy paint that will give your kitchen that fresh look. Make sure you have used sheets or newspaper to protect objects close by from being splashed with paint, it would be a shame to have to claim on your landlord insurance policy for a needless accident. Each of the kitchen cabinets will need two coats of paint on each side of the door, as will the cabinet frame. Allow this to dry for at least a full day to get the best results.

It is always better to use a top-quality paint brush to apply your paint as less bristles will come off and leave their tell tale marks on your work, and always apply in multiple thin coats. After 24 hours when the paint is dry, sand very lightly with fine grit sandpaper. If you apply two thin coats of paint it should look great, just using one coat could see the paint peel off quickly.

Like any other job if you are patient and take your time to do it correctly, the results will be so much better. While the second coat is drying you can soak the door furniture in a soapy mixture to bring them out sparkling clean. Along with the freshly painted cabinets your kitchen will have a great fresh new look. It is so much cheaper than buying brand new cabinets. All that remains now is to screw the doors and the handles back on and a money saving DIY job is finished.