Category Archives: Interior Tips

real-estate-1686336_960_720

Decorating Your Rental House or Flat: What You Can and Can’t Do

It’s a fact of modern life that renting is on the increase. Property prices keep creeping up, as does the cost of living. For most people, saving a deposit for even a small starter home feels like a fantasy.

But living in a borrowed house is not always ideal; especially when rented house décor can be painfully bland. Cream walls, beige carpet – many rental properties can feel like a symphony of magnolia. This isn’t just disappointing for people who can’t even dream of owning their own home – it’s depressing.

Luckily, there are some steps you can take to stamp your individuality on a property you don’t quite own.

Can I decorate a rented house?

This question can only be answered by your landlord.

They are not legally obliged to let you decorate and some tenancy agreements will forbid it outright. You may feel like you are doing your landlord a favour by brightening their boring magnolia with a splash of colour, but that isn’t always the case.

Magnolia is neutral – it appeals to (or at least, doesn’t offend) most people. Any bold colour statements or decor could scare off future tenants.

Ask your landlord – they may see your redecorating as a positive thing since it saves them having to do it themselves. If they seem reluctant at first, you can always suggest a temporary change. Offer to return the house to a neutral colour before your departure and incentivise your landlord with a property that is refreshed and ready to rent as soon as you leave.

If your landlord does agree, make sure you get that permission in writing. If you don’t, your deposit could be in jeopardy if they change their mind at a later date – and they may even call it a breach of contract.

Decorating can also be more extensive than just changing the colour of the walls. You may want to install fitted furniture, shelving or even change the internal doors – but don’t rush into making drastic changes. Anything that will make a lasting impact on the property, including screws in the plasterwork, will still need to be approved by your landlord. It can also be costly, so think carefully about what you want to do – will you be living in the property long enough to enjoy the full benefits of your investments?

If you do decide a personalised property will be reward enough, then read on for some simple ideas to decorate rental homes without incurring too much cost.

How to decorate your rented house

Decorating a rented house doesn’t have to mean making grand or permanent changes. Colours, textures and even light can be introduced in subtle ways that can still transform a bland rented space into a warm, happy home.

Below are some rented house hacks to decorate your rental property and help you live in a place you are proud to call home.

Ways to decorate a rented kitchen

Moroccan 15cm x 15cm PVC Peel & Stick Mosaic Tile

PVC Peel & Stick Mosaic Tile from Wayfair

Removable ‘peel and stick’ tile paper will allow you to add colour and texture to your kitchen without the commitment of ceramic tiles.

  • Create your own display spaces

With a little careful arranging, open shelving allows you to turn your kitchenware into decoration. If this option doesn’t currently exist in your kitchen, you can always remove the doors of one or two cupboards to turn their interiors into a display.

windowsill herb garden

For decoration that is as functional as it is visually pleasing, pot a couple of herbs and place them on a sun-drenched windowsill. Thyme, rosemary, mint and parsley grow well indoors and are inexpensive in garden centres. The positive effects of having plants inside will be further enhanced when you are able to scatter fresh herbs into every meal.

Ways to decorate a rented bedroom

  • Invest in a new floor covering

A large rug can change the look of any room. It’s also cheaper than a carpet, with the added benefit that you can take it with you when you leave.

gallery wall

Turn your own friends and family into a feature wall using this tutorial. Just make sure to talk to your landlord before putting any picture hooks into the plasterwork, as this may count as damage.

  • Put a decal on the wall

These large, transferable stickers are easy to find online and can be used to add a simple silhouette or text-based design to your walls.

Ways to decorate a rented bathroom

The Harpster Home shows how doubling up your shower curtains can create an impact. Something this attention grabbing will detract from old tiles or stained grouting, as well as actively hide a substantial portion of it.

  • Bold beautiful towels

Another small change that makes a massive difference. Stack towels in bright, complementary colours and create a focal point for your bathroom that you completely control.

Transform plain wooden storage crates into unique bathroom furniture using this tutorial from Home Depot. The open fronts will allow you to turn each space in to an artful display as well.

Ways to decorate a rented lounge

  • Use throws and cushions

sofa with throw

It might seem an obvious suggestion, but it’s easy to underestimate the impact that a bright, bold throw can have on an old sofa or chair. As well as covering any worn patches, the block of colour will make a beautiful contrast to magnolia walls.

Customise a plain bookcase using paint, self-adhesive coverings, and even wooden trim. Artfully arrange vases and photos among the books and you’ll have feature furniture that will lift the whole room.

  • DIY Wall Art

You may not be able to commit to a whole wall, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use wallpaper at all. Buy two or three blank canvases from an art supply shop and cover them instead. A lot of wallpaper brands offer self-adhesive paper these days, or you can use a can of spray mount for a lasting fix.

Frequently Asked Questions about Decorating Rented Properties

How often should my landlord redecorate?

There is no legal requirement for landlords to redecorate their properties. Good practice suggests that it is done every 3-5 years but no one actually enforces that. If you are concerned that your rented home is looking worn, you should definitely approach your landlord with a polite request for redecoration. Just remember that it is up to them to make the final decision.

Can I paint my rented property?

This is entirely up to your landlord. Your tenancy agreement may have specific terms that state you can or can’t redecorate, so consult that first. Of course, even if the document forbids it, you can still choose to put the proposition to your landlord. If they are initially hesitant to hear you out, offer to retain a neutral colour scheme or to repaint in magnolia before you leave, and they may be persuaded.

Can I wallpaper a rented house?

If you wish to use wallpaper, ensure you make this clear to your landlord. This can be a contentious issue. Despite claims made by certain manufacturers, removing wallpaper is rarely an easy job. The walls may even need to be resurfaced before they can be repainted.

What’s the best way to hang pictures in my rented house?

Bluetack, tape and Velcro can all damage plasterwork and your tenancy agreement may have a clause forbidding their use. This is another thing to ask your landlord, who may agree that if you promise to rectify any damage you cause before moving out. If they say yes, try using ‘damage free hanging strips’, which use a removable adhesive to attach a hook to the wall. Just be sure to check the ‘load’ weight before use.

Hopefully this post will have demonstrated that life in a rented house does not have to mean living in shades of beige. Just remember to keep your touches superficial and easy to rectify, and you can confidently conduct your own rented house makeover!

repute-white-primed-4-panel-1

Guide to Trimming Hollow Core Doors

Do you know what type of doors you have in your house? Most likely, they’re hollow core doors, since these are the most popular internal doors in use today. Even so, the phrase ‘hollow core door’ may not mean anything to you.

Read on for more information on how hollow core doors are structured, the pros and cons of hollow core doors, as well as some tips on how to resize hollow core doors.

What is a Hollow Core Door?

Wooden doors come in three types: solid wood, solid core and hollow core.

As you would expect, solid wood doors are made from thick slabs of wood. They are strong, secure and are good insulators. They are also rather costly which makes them a natural choice for external doors.

Solid core doors have a thin veneer of high-quality natural wood fixed over a core of engineered wood, such as HDF.

Hollow core doors, contrary to their name, do not have an empty void at their centre. Instead they have a thick solid frame, and a core made of plastic or cardboard. This core is usually constructed in a hexagonal ‘honeycomb’ pattern; one of the strongest structures found in nature. This makes the doors more solid, robust, and soundproof.

Hollow core doors are lightweight, easy to fit and inexpensive, which makes them a popular choice for internal doors. They are also very versatile. This honeycomb core can be contained within a variety of veneers that can be matched to any decor. They can even be made to resemble far more expensive solid wood doors.

Why Might You Need to Trim Your Hollow Core Door?

There are a number of reasons you might want to trim a door. You might have an awkward door frame in a non-standard size that makes purchasing a new door incredibly difficult. You could estimate the size or even misread your tape measure. Mistakes do happen, and can mean that when your new door turns up it’s an inch too tall for its frame.

You may even need to resize old doors. After installing a plush new carpet with a deep shaggy pile, you’ll probably notice your doors start to catch. The thicker the carpet, the more clearance it will need, but a new door might seem a daunting expense after replacing flooring.

Could it be quicker, cheaper and easier just to trim the existing doors instead?

Can Hollow Core Doors Be Trimmed?

The short answer is yes, hollow core doors can be trimmed.

Hollow core doors have a strong block outer frame, which leaves a couple of inches of solid wood at the top, bottom and sides of the door. When it comes to allowing for alterations, this frame makes them a lot more forgiving than you might think. This counts for the sides as well as the bottom and top of the door.

This answer does come with a ‘but’ though.

While it is possible to trim hollow core doors, it isn’t always advisable. Removing an inch or two to allow for a thicker carpet or misread tape measure is fine, but cut off too much and you may notice that the bottom of the door is no longer solid.

When this happens, the structural integrity of the door can be compromised. This can be fixed by reinserting a block from the bottom of the door, inside the veneer using glue. Though this may sound simple, it can be fiddly. There is a lot of potential for it to go wrong, leaving you with a door that is even more unsuitable than it was before. In general, it’s advisable to avoid going to these extremes.

That said, if all you’re looking to lose is a thin layer from your door, then read on for a quick guide on how to trim hollow core doors.

How to Trim a Hollow Core Door

What you need to trim hollow core doors:

  • Sheets or paper to protect the surface of the door
  • Tape measure
  • Masking tape
  • Guide wood
  • Utility knife
  • Jigsaw or circular saw

Instructions:

  1. Measure up

Measure how much you want to shave off the door. Make sure you measure the door frame in three places: both sides as well as the middle. This will give you the truest possible reading and minimises the risk of mistakes.

Remember, you only have about an inch and a half available to lose from the average hollow core door. If you need to take off more than that, think about replacing the door instead.

  1. Mark the door

Start by drawing a pencil line to show where you’re cutting, then grab a knife and a guide and score the surface of the door. This helps stop the door splintering when you start sawing it.

  1. Mask the door

Wrapping masking tape around the bottom of the door will also help prevent chipping or splintering. Another tip is to wrap the foot of a circular saw with tape, as this can protect the surface of the door from damage as well.

  1. Cut the door

The big moment. Use a guide and keep the saw steady to ensure a clean straight edge and minimise the risk to the door.

  1. Sand the door

Use a fine grit paper to smooth off any rough patches on the cut edge. A hand sander will obviously make this job quicker and easier, but try to be gentle and restrained, or you may wind up losing more height on the door.

  1. Finish

Obviously, what you do here will depend on the door’s appearance. You may need to repaint the bottom of the door, or simply stain and varnish it. Whichever way you need to finish your doors, ensure they are completely dry before you re-hang them. This will benefit your door and your carpet.

Trimming hollow core doors is possible, but not always easy. It can take a seasoned DIYer, particularly if you’re trying to lose a lot of width or height, and it can be intimidating if you don’t have the right tools. Hopefully this post will have helped you decide if it’s a task you are ready to tackle.

Folding doors

Different Door Styles, Finishes and Compositions Explained

There are many variables to doors. From the structure, to the style, to the finish, there are options at every stage of construction. Cost, appearance and customisation will all play a role in deciding which doors you need. This post will give you some guidance on the technical terms involved so that you can make an informed (and correct!) choice.

What Are the Different Cores and What Do They Mean?

The biggest difference between doors is the kind of core they have. This will affect how effective the door is at soundproofing and insulating, and has the biggest cost impact.

What is a Solid Core Door?

A solid core door has a thin veneer of higher quality wood, glued to a thicker piece of composite wood such as HDF or particle-board.

They are a good middle ground between solid doors and hollow core doors, so they share many of the benefits of the other two door types. They insulate quite well and provide good soundproofing qualities. The interior composite wood can also be treated to make it flame-retardant – most fire doors will be solid core.

What is a Solid Door?

A solid door is formed from solid slabs of wood, with no veneer or separate core. The type of wood used can differ, from hardwoods such as oak, to softwoods like pine.

Solid doors are the most robust type of door you can buy. Strong, secure and effective heat and sound insulators, solid doors are most often used as external doors. They should last a long time, even against the onslaught of the weather. Their main drawback, of course, is cost. They are very expensive in comparison to other door types, meaning they are impractical to use as internal doors.

What is a Hollow Core Door?

A hollow core door has a thin veneer of higher quality wood, just like a solid core door. They do have a core, but that core is made of paper or plastic (usually in a honeycomb pattern).

Hollow core doors are the most common choice for internal doors. They are lightweight, easy to fit, and affordable. This is usually the determining factor when you consider how many doors the average 3-bed house might need. However, this type of door can feel quite flimsy, and will not do a great job at insulating or soundproofing.

What Are the Different Styles of Internal Door?

Visually, the core of a door doesn’t make much difference. All doors can come in a range of styles. Here are a few of the most common styles you could choose between.

What is a Flush Door?

A flush door has a completely flat surface. Commonly, this style of door is used internally and has a hollow core. They are often painted, rather than stained, and have a contemporary, minimalist feel. For this reason, they are popular in modern properties and may look out of place amongst more traditional décors.

What is a Panel Door?

Panel doors are so-called because they have ‘panel’ shapes indented into their surface. These doors can be highly versatile, from the number of panels featured to the materials used in them. The panels do not have to be rigidly square shaped, and can feature glass panels or arch-shapes for more individuality.

This variety means you can find a panel door to match most interiors. From modern, minimalist to classic cottage, you will find a panel door that suits.

What is a Ledge Door?

A ledge door (also known as a cottage door) is made from full height vertical boards which are braced with horizontal rails across the length of the top, bottom and centre of the door. A good quality wood is often used to make these, and then simply stained or varnished to show it to its best advantage.

These doors are not particularly versatile but are beautifully rustic and make a perfect feature as part of a traditional country cottage décor.

What Are the Different Internal Door Finishes?

Once you’ve chosen the core of your door, and the style of your door, your final decision is what finish you want. There are three main finishes you can choose from, depending on how much work you personally want to put into perfecting your door.

Unfinished

An unfinished door will arrive sanded but otherwise untreated. It offers the most flexibility, as you can chose which products to use at every step of the painting process.

Primed

A primed door will have also been treated with an undercoat to minimise the work you have to do at home. They will be ready to paint from arrival and are a good middle ground if you want a door in a specific colour, with as little hassle as possible.

Find out how to paint a door here.

Pre-Finished, Finished, or Fully Finished

A finished door arrives ready to hang. It will have been treated with a primer undercoat, then painted, stained or varnished, depending on the look. It is the most expensive finish and is the least customisable, but it is easy and hassle-free.

Learn more about the differences between prefinished and unfinished doors here.

With so many variables involved, choosing a new door can be daunting. Now you should be better placed to make an informed decision to find doors that are as effective as they are attractive in your home.

Maximising Energy Efficiency with Windows & Doors

The cost of gas and electricity seems to be constantly increasing, and at the same time we are becoming more aware of the impact that our energy use is having on the environment. The government has put a lot of rules in place regarding how newly-built homes should be as energy efficient as possible. Sadly, those of us who live in homes that were built a few decades ago may have some work to do to bring our properties up to modern standards.

making your home more energy efficient

How Your Home Loses Heat

Heat escapes our houses by several means – convection, radiation and conduction. The main areas where the average house loses heat are the walls, windows, roof and doors. Heat rises, and if you do not have good loft insulation then a large portion of the heat that your home loses will be passed out through the roof. After that, draughty windows and doors are a major contributor to heat loss.

If you still have single glazing, then you will be losing a lot of heat through your windows. If your doors have single-glazed panes, are hollow-core doors, or do not fit in the frame properly, then they will be letting a lot of heat out too, and there is also a high chance that the door is not as secure as it could be. A good external door should be solid-cored, fit snugly in the frame so that it locks securely, and be at least 44mm thick.

Understanding Energy Ratings

Doors and windows are rated according to their U-Value. The U-value is he rate at which heat is able to escape through the window or door. It is expressed in the form of Watts per square metre, and lower numbers are considered to be more energy-efficient.

Some companies will use the alphabetical energy efficiency scale to rate windows, with A+ being the most energy efficient, and G being the least energy efficient. Standard quality double glazing is usually rated as a B on that scale, and is a massive improvement over single-glazed windows. In fact, it can cut the heat lost through windows in half.

External doors can be a major source of heat loss, especially if they are not draught-proofed. The best doors, in terms of U-Value, are uPVC doors. These doors require more energy to manufacture, and are less environmentally friendly to dispose of, but they have a U-Value of 1.8, compared to a solid hardwood door which has a U-Value of 3.0. It is up to each individual home owner whether the improved energy efficiency is worth the pollution and increased energy expenditure involved with making uPVC doors.

Metal doors and insulated solid wood doors are available. They tend to be more expensive, and will require more maintenance over their lifetime. If you opt for a metal door, make sure that it is at least 44mm thick, and that it is reinforced, as lower quality metal doors can often be forced open using a crowbar. If your doors have glass panes in them, make sure that the glass is toughened, and at least double-glazed. This will prevent heat escaping, and make the windows harder to break as well. Consider getting some decorative metal piping over the panes, for added security.

Tips for Cutting Your Heating Bill

Around ten percent of the heat that is lost from your home passes through the windows. If you have single-glazed windows, then you will see massive benefits from installing double glazing, and even more benefits if the double-glazed windows you choose are coated with a Low-E coating and have argon or a similar gas in between the panes. If you already have double glazing, however, then you will see diminishing returns for investing in triple glazing. It may be more cost-effective to improve or add insulation in other parts of your home.

Whatever type of door you decide to opt for, you can make it more energy efficient by fitting a draught-proof letterbox and using a draught excluder at the bottom of the door. When the door is fitted, make sure that it is weatherproofed and that the frame is completely snug in the opening, and the door itself fits the frame perfectly. With pre-hung doors this is usually a non-issue, but if the door is not hung properly there can be some sizeable gaps which can let heat out as well as pose problems from a security point of view.

Affordable Home Improvements

In a bid to encourage homeowners to make energy-efficiency improvements for their homes, the government has launched a scheme that will give households up to £7,600 back when they invest in home improvements such as double glazing, new energy-efficient boilers and double glazing.

The scheme, called the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund is being offered to homeowners who are aiming to make eligible home improvements that will provide clear energy-related savings over the lifespan of the improvement. People who have moved into a new home within the last 12 months can claim up to £500 towards such projects.

In addition to this Green Deal, there are other funds available via the Energy Companies Obligation. These funds are aimed at low-income households and those that are classed as vulnerable, but anyone may apply for consideration. Each energy company has its own rules and policies, so it is a good idea to get in touch with your supplier and see what they are able to offer

If you live in Scotland, then instead of the Green Deal you will fall under something called the Green Homes Cashback Scheme. While the name is different, the way the scheme works is quite similar to the Green Deal.

Before you can get any new insulation, windows or doors, you will need to have your property assessed. It costs £120 to apply for a Green Deal Assessment, but if you implement any of the recommendations that you are given following the assessment you will get a £100 rebate, so it is well worth doing.

Improving Home Energy Efficiency on a Budget

Energy bills are always increasing, and the average household is under a lot of financial pressure these days, so it makes sense to try to find ways to cut your expenditure. Investing in double glazing, insulation and a new boiler could save you a lot of money in the long term, but if you don’t have the funds for such an up-front cost today, there are other ways that you can make your home more energy efficient, without spending any money. Here are eight simple things that will help you to cut your energy useage.

Saving energy in the home

1 – Turn Down the Thermostat By One Degree

If you turn your thermostat down by just one degree, you are unlikely to notice a difference in how warm the room feels, but you will be running your heating less during the winter. Get in the habit of wearing long-sleeved tops, and you will be able to turn the heating down even further.

2 – Shut Your Doors and Windows

Get into the habit of closing your doors each time you leave a room. This will keep frequently used rooms at the temperature you want them, rather than letting heat escape, wasting energy heating rooms that are almost never used. Don’t forget to adjust the radiator settings for each room, too, so that you aren’t using energy to heat the spare bedroom every day!

3 – Unplug Appliances Instead of Leaving Them on Standby

While it is true that most modern appliances are quite energy efficient, it still doesn’t make sense to keep something plugged in and on standby if you know you won’t be using it for a long time. Get into the habit of either unplugging appliances that you aren’t using, or turning them off at the wall.  The energy savings will be minimal, but even a few pence here and there will add up. Many energy suppliers now offer smart meters that will show you how much energy each socket or room is using, so you can see for yourself what the savings will be.

4 – Fix Leaking Taps

Leaking taps waste a lot of water over the course of the year, and if you are paying for water on a meter then you will save a lot of money if you fix the leak. If the leaking tap is the hot water tap, and your boiler prepares hot water in advance, then you will save money there too. Every year, UK households waste a total of 989 million gallons of water because of unfixed leaking taps and pipes. A leaking hot water tap, depending on how severe the leak is, could cost up to £900 per year in wasted gas and water. Considering the fix is usually a two minute job, it makes sense to take care of the problem as soon as it is noticed. Leaking pipes should be examined by a qualified plumber as quickly as possible, to determine the cause and prevent damp taking hold.

5 – Keep Your Freezer Well Stocked

Freezers and fridges are more efficient when they are decently well stocked. Take advantage of this and save energy while saving money on your groceries too by buying in bulk and freezing food whenever possible. Of course, this works only if you buy foods that you were planning on eating anyway, and don’t waste the extras or just ‘eat more’ because you bought more. For those who like to meal plan, however, this is a good energy saving strategy.

6 – Only Do Laundry With a Full Load

Try to schedule your laundry day so that you wash full loads each time, instead of running several half-load washing cycles. If you need to use a tumble-drier instead of air drying your clothes, take the clothes out of the drier a little earlier than you normally would and then iron them while they are still very damp. This will save you time, since damp clothing is much easier to get the creases out of, and it will save you energy too. Opt for a cool wash unless the clothing is heavily soiled.

You can employ a similar strategy with your dishwasher. There is usually no need to pre-wash your dishes with hot water. Simply scrape solids off the plate and into the compost bin, and then load the dishwasher and let that do the work.

7 – Use the Right Part of the Oven or Stove When Cooking

Use small rings to heat small pans, and big rings to heat big pans. If you have a twin grill and are only cooking one thing, just turn one side of the grill on. If you have a small oven and a larger oven, use the right size and section for the job. There is no need to heat up the full-sized oven compartment to cook one small piece of pizza.

Get into the habit of selecting the right tool for the job and you will find that your cooking costs decrease significantly.

8 – Take Advantage of Government Funding

If you own your home, you may be able to get solar panels at no cost to yourself, and you may qualify for either long-term loans (attached to your energy bill) or cash back up to £7,600 on home improvements that will offer significant energy savings. Double glazing, new boilers, cavity wall insulation and loft insulation are all eligible for some form of funding. Many energy companies offer financial aid to low income families that are looking to make their homes more energy efficient too.

It’s important to note that most of these schemes are for home owners only, however, many landlords are willing to consider the installation of solar panels. As a tenant you will most likely not be eligible for any payments from the feed in tariffs that energy companies offer, but you will still get the benefit of the reduction in your energy bill, so it is worth talking to your landlord.

As you can see, there are a lot of ways that you can save money on your energy bills.

How to Improve Security at Home

Close up of keys to a house

A good home should be one which not only shelters its occupants and their possessions from the weather, but which also provides protection against intruders. There are a few techniques through which a home can be made more secure. Some of them involve expensive technology; others involve simple changes in behaviour. Let’s look at some of the ways in which the home can be protected.

Advertise Your Security

Burglars, vandals and other would-be trespassers are not stupid. Like any predator, they prefer easy targets to high-risk ones. If one house has a sign outside warning that CCTV is in operation, and another does not, then a burglar will, in all likelihood, target the apparently weaker property.

When scouting for potential targets, a burglar might look for is a point of entry. This means that substantial-looking doors and windows will dissuade, while flimsy ones will invite. Suffice to say that doors and windows should be kept close where possible – particularly if they are on the ground floor. If security cameras are conspicuously placed, they too can act as a deterrent.   Moreover, you can even invest in cameras which aren’t even real, thereby making your property seem more secure than it actually is.

As well as emphasising the strengths of your security arrangements, it’s also wise to downplay any weaknesses. If you should happen to be leaving the house empty for a while, it’s perhaps best not to advertise the fact over social media. Potential burglars may also look for more subtle indications that a property is empty. A slowly-building pile of post, for example, might give the game away. For this reason it’s often advisable to ask a neighbour, or some other trusted person, to collect your post and milk in order to prevent such a pile from building.

Another strategy employed by many holidaymakers is to leave a light switched on all night in order to give the impression that someone is in. The efficacy of this strategy is somewhat dubious; its ubiquity is such that almost every potential intruder will be familiar with it, and so is less likely to be fooled. A far better strategy is to introduce some automation into your lighting. Automated light switches can be purchased cheaply, and will introduce some rhythm to your lighting which will help to deter intruders.

A Guard Dog

The right breed of dog, given the right training, can make an excellent security system. They hold a number of advantages over technological solutions. Unlike a security camera, they are capable of detecting intruders via sight, smell and hearing, and of moving anywhere on your property. Unlike an alarm system, they can make a tremendous racket without requiring a code to remember or batteries to replace.

Burglars, as we have seen, prefer low-hanging fruit. Anything which might increase the likelihood of being apprehended will likely cause the burglar to turn tail and flee. A barking dog is therefore akin to kryptonite as far as burglars are concerned. Can you imagine trying to sneak around at night when such a racket it going on? Dogs are also uniquely capable of biting an intruder, should it come to it – though most will get the message and flee before it does.

That said, there are a few downsides to investing in a guard dog. The first and most obvious is that you have to care and look after it.  A dog which is large enough to be intimidating will also demand a considerable supply of food, along with regular exercise. The second downside is that guard dogs have to be trained in order to discriminate between strangers, and understand who is an intruder and who isn’t based on the time of day and other circumstances. Teaching a dog to blithely attack anyone other than yourself on sight is obviously not a sensible thing to do. The third barrier to entry is that you have to like dogs in order to own one. For these reasons, a guard dog is a sensible solution only for those who had planned on getting a dog anyway.

Like any security solution, a guard dog will more effective if its presence is advertised. This means that you might invest in a classic ‘beware of the dog’ sign, to proudly affix to your front gate. Of course, you might invest in such a sign even if you don’t yet have a dog!

Sheds and Outbuildings

Securing your home is a difficult task at the best of times. But this is especially in the case of sheds and other outbuildings. Such things are often targeted by burglars, since they combine low risk with potentially high reward.

A shed’s security is invariably less substantial that that of a house or apartment. In most cases, the door is flimsier and can be removed with brute force. In many cases, screws are exposed, allowing an enterprising thief a means of removing the door entirely. A shed is also attractive to burglars as it is removed from the building where people might be – and the risk of detection is therefore lower.

Another thing that makes outbuildings so attractive to intruders is that they often contain high-value goods, like bicycles and lawnmowers. If you’re using a shed to store such items, then it’s best to make sure that they’re hidden from view – drape a blanket over the top of them, and chain them to an anchor. This way, even if someone should gain entry, they will be unable to make off with their ill-gotten gains.

If absolutely must keep particularly high-value equipment in a shed, then it’s wise to check whether your insurance will cover any theft. After all, you certainly wouldn’t want to discover that it doesn’t after the fact! You might also consider investing in a battery-operated intruder alarm. These will emit a loud siren when triggered, and thereby alert you (and the neighbourhood) that an intrusion has occurred.

Interior Design Trends to Look out for in 2016

Potted plants inside

The world of interior design has a great deal in common with clothing – they’re both at the mercy of the ever-changing whims of fashion.  What’s cutting-edge one year will be displaced the next; what’s worthless old hat today might be the summit of design excellence tomorrow.

You could be forgiven for finding the whole business terribly disorientating.  Fortunately, we’re here to help.  Let’s see if we can find out what’s going to be popular in the world of interior design next year.

Repurposing Old Items

For a long time, we’ve seen the so-called ‘boho-chic’ movement gain traction, and the interior design world’s dalliance with all things repurposed, recycled, reused and reinvented looks set to become all a little more serious next year.  In practice, this means that the shelves of homeware purveyors will fill to bursting with things that look as though they were thrown in a landfill in the mid-twenties and forgotten about.

It’s that dilapidated, worn out look that gives boho-chic its unique, unmistakable charm.  It’s a movement that’s struck a chord with both environmentalists, for whom our culture of disposability is increasingly troublesome; traditionalists looking to reconnect with the past; and artists looking for an excuse to fill their homes with beautiful, flawed things. The movement may also seem attractive to those looking to redecorate on a budget, since it affords you with an excuse to shop exclusively in charity and antique shops.

If you’ve a creative streak, then this trend will be an especially welcome one, since it affords you with an excuse to take old – and otherwise worthless – items, and repurpose them into new and wonderful ones.  One simply has to google the word ‘upcycling’ to get an idea of the force behind this trend – it’s one where the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Artisan Goods

A somewhat related trend is the growing preference for artisan furnishings and homeware.  The term ‘artisan’ is enjoying something of a resurgence of late – and largely thanks to the multitude of small, specialist food businesses which have been cropping up, and to an upsurge in   Now anyone with access to vegetables, a blender and a cellarfull of empty jam jars can describe themselves as such.

But the trend is not just restricted to food – it looks set to infiltrate the world of interior design, too, with the work of smaller producers being favoured over that which is mass-produced.  This may prove a boon for the so-called ‘little guys’ of the home furniture world.  But of course, the larger manufacturers have noticed this trend, and so will assuredly release a whole slew of items in the same style.  Either way, we’re about to see a welcome upsurge in unique, hand-crafted and beautifully designed items.

Houseplants

The world of cookery is also influencing the world of interior design in other ways.  Cookery programmes like The Great British Bake-off are among the most popular on television, while town centres across the land are besieged by markets selling all manner of exotic foodstuffs. Herbs like basil, coriander and parsley have gone from being occasional treats to everyday staples.  So much so, in fact, that kitchen windowsills across the land have become well stocked with little rows of potted herbs – particularly those in urban apartments where garden space is at a premium.

This green presence, as well as being useful when it comes to cooking, also has the distinct virtue of looking good – as greenery often does.  It should perhaps come as no surprise therefore that interior designers are looking to build upon the welcome visual impact this new-fangled vegetation has on our kitchens, and spread it to other areas of the house.  The result has been a slew of living rooms, staircases and hallways dominated by plant-life – sometimes to the extent that said plant-life appears to be almost out of control!

Plants can be just the thing to inject some life into an otherwise sterile interior.  But naturally, such things require maintenance.  If you’re prepared spare a few seconds of your day to prune, water and generally look after your plants, you’ll find this new trend to be well worth investigating further.

Bold Colours

The world of home interiors, much like the world of fashion, undergoes cyclical bouts of nostalgia.  There’s a hint of this in the bohemian movement, but much of the time it’s a little more overt.  In 2015, 1950s interiors have enjoyed something of a resurgence – shining chrome was coupled with pink and turquoise to produce a host of kitchens that seemed to be modelled after the diner from Back to the Future.

This trend is set to be superseded by the sorts of bold, garish interior popular in the seventies.  This design school favours simple – or even simplistic – colours and shapes over the more elaborate sort favoured by bohemianism.  Different-coloured tiles are set to enjoy a resurgence, as are fabrics which feature simple, bold geometric patterns.

LED Lighting

As well as a trend toward the old and dilapidated, you’ll also find some hyper-modern interiors, spurred by the growing preponderance of LED lighting.  Dingy interiors across the land are quickly becoming reborn as starkly-lit, futuristic ones.  For this reason, the popularity of glossy, shiny kitchens and bathrooms has swelled, and so lovers of the colours black, white and blue are sure to find something to love in the coming year.

A rooms lighting plays a massive role in the way that it looks.  As LED technology grows steadily more sophisticated, it looks to be playing a larger and larger role in .  As well as possessing considerable practical advantages over its halogen-based antecedents, it can also offer a great deal of aesthetic functionality.  Bulbs can change colour and intensity in response to different times of the day, to the temperature, or even to the mood of the room’s occupant.  To some, this idea may sound like science fiction, but the technology already here – and interior designers are already looking to explore the possibilities it presents.

How to Protect and Maintain Wooden Doors

Aspire doors outside

A properly maintained wooden door should last you for many years, and will add to the aesthetic appeal of your home. If you are thinking of selling your property in the near future, then it is a good idea to look after your doors, because your front door is an important part of your home’s “kerb appeal”. A well-maintained, clean looking front door will create a great first impression for people who come to view the house, and is an easy way to add a lot of value to your property.

Common Problems

The things that do the most damage to your property are moisture, intense sunlight, and wind/dirt damage. These will all degrade the finish on the door, and if you don’t repair the finish then the underlying wood could also get damaged.

Exterior wood doors that are not protected by a porch or even a small overhang will suffer from weather damage more quickly than doors that are partly covered. This means that you should inspect them more regularly. You are looking for the following:

  • Cracks in the finish
  • Peeling paint
  • Bubbles
  • Raised wood grain
  • Dark streaks appearing in the finish

If you identify any of those problems, then you should take measures to repair the finish as quickly as possible. The sooner you treat the problem, the longer your door will last.

Preparing the Door

Before you can do any repair work, the first thing that you should do is clean the door. Remove any visible dirt and dust, and perform a detailed inspection. If there are just a handful of issues on the door, then there is no need to worry about repainting the whole door. Small chips and wear spots can be treated while the door is in place, and there may be no need to repaint the whole door.

However, if the finish is severely damaged then you may need to perform a full finish restoration. This is something that you should remove the door from the frame before you attempt. To do this, carefully tap out the hinge pins, and then move the door. Place it on a flat, level surface and remove all of the hardware (including locksets, door knob or handle and hinges). Place these in a safe place while you work on the door. Note that removing a solid wooden door is really a two person job. These doors can be far heavier than you might expect, so put safety first when you try to move them.

Be sure to strip all six sides of the door to ensure that there’s a nice even finish. After you have removed the existing finish, sand the door using 120 or 150 grit sandpaper, taking care to sand against the grain.

The New Finish

Once you have prepared the door, once again clean it to remove any dust and reside from the sanding. Brush away the dust, then wipe the door clean using a cloth that has been dampened with a mineral spirit solution. Let the door completely dry before you start painting it.

Apply a suitable primer to all sides of the door before you add a new finish. Make sure that you let the primer dry completely before adding a finish. If the door is made of a very porous wood you may need to add more than one coat of primer. Once the primer is dry, you can add the top coat – make sure that the paint you have selected is suitable for use outdoors, and that the primer and topcoat are compatible with each other.

Note that dark colors absorb heat, so they are more likely to degrade quickly – especially in very warm environments. If your door gets a lot of sunlight during the day, consider choosing a lighter color to make it last longer.

You may want to add multiple coats, and use polyurethane that includes a UV inhibitor, because this will help to protect the paint from sun damage. Make sure that the paint dries out completely before you replace the hardware and re-hang the door.

Varnish vs Paint

Some people prefer stains and varnish instead of paint. This can certainly be an option if you pick stains and varnishes that are suitable for use outdoors. It is important that you prepare the door properly if you are going to do this, however, because if the door is damp or there are any air gaps or bubbles in the finish then it will degrade very quickly.

Protecting the Door

Once you have refinished the door, there are a few things that you can do to make sure that the finish lasts as long as possible. Be pro-active about keeping your doors and windows clean. Wipe them down whenever there are signs of dirt or water stains. Be sure to clear up leaves and other seasonal debris when they start to accumulate in your garden. If you notice that your door is starting to stick or jam, make a point of trying to find out why as quickly as possible – it could be a simple slipped hinge, or it could be a sign of a more serious problem that needs fixed.

If a door is well maintained, and you do not live in a place near the sea (wind and saltwater can ruin wood), or in an arid area with extreme weather, then you can expect the door to last 30 years – even more if it is protected by a porch or a patio. The more stress your door is exposed to, the shorter the lifespan will be. Composite and UPVC doors can be quite hardwearing, while doors that are made of steel might only last for a decade, or less. The more proactive you are about keeping the door clean and maintaining the finish, the better. Once decay sets in at all, you will find that the life span of the door is greatly reduced.

The Right Way to Paint a Door

Aspire doors up close

Repainting your doors is a great way to revitalise your property. A fresh coat of paint on an external door can make your home look much more appealing, increasing the all-important “kerb appeal” if you are looking to sell your home. Repainting an internal door can completely change the look of the room and is a low-cost way to revitalise boring or dated décor.

You may think that repainting a door is a rather simple task – after all, a door is just a big rectangle made of wood, but there is a right way to go about the job. If you do it wrong you could end up with a streaky, uneven finish. Here are a few tips to help you make sure your new paint job looks great.

Painting Interior vs Exterior Doors

It is important that you choose the right paint for the type of door you will be working on. Most paints and varnishes are fine for indoor use, but if you will be painting an exterior door then you need to use a weatherproof paint. Another thing to consider is whether the paint is oil or latex based. If you are painting over an existing coat then you must use the right type of paint – latex based paints won’t adhere well to a surface that is covered with oil based paint, for example.

You don’t always have to remove the existing paint coat if you are using the right type of paint (but light sanding and an undercoat will make the finish look nicer), but if you want to put a water based paint on a door that has already been painted with latex paint, you will need to strip the existing coat first.

The most common mistakes and problems with painting doors include:

Paint Bubbles

Paint bubbles form when the paint is unable to adhere to the surface underneath. This can be caused by using the wrong type of paint, or by painting on a surface that is either damp, dusty, or too hot. One common misconception when it comes to painting outdoors is that you should do so on a very, very hot day. While it is good to paint when the weather is warm and dry you should try not to paint something that is directly exposed to the sun. So, wait until the sun is not shining on your front door before you paint it!

Blocking and Sticking

Paint blocking is the term that is used to describe two surfaces that have been freshly painted, and that stick together when they are placed next to each other. This can occur with low quality paints, and it can also happen if you paint a door or window then close it too quickly, not giving it time to dry. Ideally, if you are painting a door you should remove it from the doorway and lay it flat, paint it and then give it plenty of time to dry before re-hanging it.

Take the time to prime and sand the surface that you plan on painting, and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding topcoats and finishes.

Foaming and Cratering

Foaming and cratering is a common issue that can have a huge number of causes.  It is normal for very small bubbles to form while you are painting a surface, but with high quality paints the bubbles will break easily to leave a smooth finish. If you use a low quality paint, bubbles are more likely, and they can also form if you shake a can of paint that is only partially filled, or if you apply paint too quickly using a roller. For best results, purchase the best quality paint you can afford, prime the surface before painting, and work slowly and methodically.

Lap Marks

Lap marks are lines of paint that are denser or darker than other areas of paint. They appear if you apply paint over an area that was painted earlier and has already started to dry. The best way to prevent these unsightly marks is to make sure that there is always a “wet edge”. Try to paint in small segments, working quickly enough that you don’t leave a dry area. Paint “wet to dry”, working towards the unpainted area then back in and over the just-painted section for a smooth and professional finish.

Flashing

Flashing, or poor sheen uniformity, can create dull areas and shiny patches that make your paint job look unprofessional. The best way to avoid this is to seal the wood before you start painting. The primer and undercoat will help to create a uniform surface, so that the final coat looks as smooth as possible.

Roller Marks

Roller marks are the pattern that the paint roller leaves on the painted surface. This is a common problem if you use a lower grade of paint or a low quality roller. Similar “stipple” can occur if you use low quality paint brushes too.  You are more likely to see roller marks when you are painting with latex paint. To prevent this problem, pre-dampen the roller cover and then thoroughly shake out any excess water before starting to paint. Try not to lift the roller from the door too often while painting, and take care not to allow too much paint to collect at the ends of the roller.

As you can see, most of the problems that occur when painting a door are things that can be prevented if you use good quality paint and work methodically and at a steady pace. If you rush the job or keep having to stop because of distractions, that’s where problems will start.  Give yourself plenty of time to complete your paint job, and prime the surface of the door before you start work. As with any other DIY task, taking the time to do it properly first time is much more efficient than rushing the job and ending up needing to re-do it because of unsightly streaks, cracks, bubbles or lap marks.

How to Clean External Doors & Windows Correctly

Aspire clean doors

The first thing that anyone will see when they approach your home is the front door and any nearby windows. If you want to make a good impression then that door should look as clean as possible. Your front door is exposed to the elements all year round, and this means that it gets damaged by the wind and rain, and that it is exposed to dust, soot, petrol fumes and general grime. It’s only natural that it will start to look dirty pretty quickly.

Common Cleaning Challenges

You would think that cleaning doors would be an easy task – simply wash them down with a little water and soap. Unfortunately, it’s not always that easy. Doors and window frames come in a variety of sizes and can be made from several different materials, including solid wood, wood panels, aluminium or steel cored doors with wood coverings, vinyl and UPVC. Many doors have large glass panels, too, and window frames can vary massively in their type and how porous the material is. This means that you need to select the cleaning solution and the cleaning method carefully.

Natural Cleaning Solutions

Commercial cleaners can do a good job on wooden doors and window frames, and are OK for cleaning glass too, but you need to be careful what substances you use to clean glass that has been treated to make it “self cleaning” (something that is common on modern conservatories) and you should be careful with UPVC too. Read the documentation that came with your windows or door to find out what cleaning materials they recommend.

If you aren’t sure what you should be using to clean your property, you can safely assume that home-made cleaners will be OK. It’s easy, and quite inexpensive, to make a cleaning solution that will remove dust, dirt and salt marks from your doors and windows.  A good multi-purpose cleaner can be made from:

  • A teaspoon of baking soda
  • A squirt of liquid soap
  • Four cups of warm water

Simply mix these up in a spray bottle, spray on the window frame, and wipe off with a sponge.

To clean glass, such as your windows, make a solution with a squirt of washing up liquid, six tablespoons of white vinegar, and four cups of warm water. This will do a great job of removing most of the marks that you are likely to get on your windows.

Cleaning Doors

One common mistake that people make when they start cleaning their doors is that they go straight to the washing stage. This can backfire because you may end up with muddy streaks or dirty lines that could have been avoided if you wiped dust away with a soft rag before you did a wet clean.  When you are wiping the door down, make sure that you wipe following the direction of the wood grain.

When the door is clean of debris and dust, use a sponge soaked in all-purpose cleaner to wipe the door down, and then dry it with a clean, soft rag. Use glass cleaner for any small windows, and be sure to clean the brass fixtures or handles too.

Cleaning Glass

You need to clean your windows regularly to get rid of the water spots and other dirty patches that appear over time. The best time to clean your glass is on a warm but slightly cloudy day when there is very little wind. The reason for this is because wind and direct sunlight both cause the cleaning solution to dry up quickly, and this leaves visible streaks. The best way to prevent those unsightly streaks is to keep the glass as wet as possible until you’re done cleaning it.

Spray the glass with your cleaning solution, and then use a scrubber to remove any visible debris, then rinse the surface with plain water. Use a squeegee to clean and dry the glass from the top of the window down to the bottom. You may need to repeat this process more than once to get a sparkling clean window.

Once the outside of the window is clean, you should clean the outside too. Again, to avoid streaks, start at the top of the widow and work your way down. Wipe dust and debris from the window, and make sure that the tracks and sides are clean too. Spray the cleaner onto the glass and then wipe it off using small circular motions. When you have cleaned the entire window, check for any remaining residue from the cleaning solution. If you spot any,  spray some plain water onto that spot and mop it up with a clean cotton cloth.

Why Be Wary of Pressure Washing

Pressure washing is something that you should be very wary of when cleaning UPVC and glass. The force exerted by a pressure washer can be incredibly strong, and it can easily damage your doors and windows if you point the stream of water directly at the door or window and are too close to it at the time. Rather than using a pressure washer, it’s much safer (and generally the same amount of effort) to use a simple telescopic hose to clean windows that are higher up, and clean doors with a simple sponge and chamois cloth.

Keeping Doors and Windows Clean

You should clean your doors and windows regularly to prevent too much debris and dirt from building up.  In addition, try to keep your garden and driveway clean too. Use your pressure washer to keep your pavements free of dirt and weed, and be sure to remove leaves and other seasonal debris from your gutter, paths and garden.

Be sure to oil the hinges on your doors and windows regularly, and replace weather stripping whenever it shows signs of wear and tear. If you start having problems with your locks, replace them promptly – using lubricating sprays to unstuck them will work in the short term but is just a stopgap measure.