The convenience of garden office buildings

Garden office buildings are sprouting up all over the place, providing elegant workplace solutions to those who opt for homeworking but do not have the space. More and more people are choosing to work from home. The Live Work Network reported recently that one in twelve Brits work from home. That is nearly three million people, and all those people need a place to work.

Sometimes it just is not practical to use the kitchen table or the spare room to conduct your business affairs. There comes a time when you need to secure your own office space at home.

However, therein lies the problem for many UK homeowners. There just is not the space in our homes for an office. The financial climate has made people cautious about trading up and taking on more debt, so the trend has been to maximise the space in the existing home. Expanding into loft space, basements, adding extensions, all these options have become very popular in recent times.

Yet where do you go once you have maximised all the space in your home? Into the garden, of course!

The growth in popularity of garden office buildings makes perfect sense. You are working in a serene environment, close to nature, only a few steps from your home but far enough away for there to be an element of psychological separation between work and home. No longer do you have to endure the daily commute, saving you time and money and enabling you to achieve a better work/home life balance.

Organising a garden office is easier than you may think. You will find companies that provide a fully guaranteed installation service and offer a selection of models suited to home office working. You will be amazed at the level of comfort, style and finish available. If kept within a certain size, planning regulations are not usually a problem for garden rooms.


Housing Guests and Close Relatives

Having close relatives who want to visit and/or stay with you, or having to care for elderly relatives, can sometimes cause problems when there is not enough room in your home to accommodate them comfortably. With garden rooms, all these problems can be solved in a way that both gives you extra space in your own home and also provides guests and visitors with a comfortable, cosy and modern place to stay.

Garden offices
are secure and safe to stay in, and they are fitted with double glazed windows, heating and almost any other home comfort you feel you need.  This means that whoever you want to have as guests in your home can feel like they have a cosy, warm and luxurious place to stay where they can still enjoy some privacy.

The materials used to build these garden rooms are of the highest quality and can easily withstand the outside elements. They are also built with great care and have sturdy foundations so that you can have complete peace of mind, knowing they are safe and secure. Garden rooms are eco-friendly, and fit in well with your garden environment, making a smart looking feature which only enhances the look and feel of your outdoor space.

Altogether, your garden and your living space can be enhanced with a garden room which ensures that you can also provide your guests and visitors a luxurious stay they will enjoy and remember.


The basics of painting exterior masonry

Protect your home from the elements and keep it looking smart at the same time by freshening up the exterior masonry regularly with paint.

To avoid paint spills, lay out protective dust sheets over plants, paths etc. in the immediate area. It is also advisable to mask windows and pipes with newspaper to protect them from paint splashes.

It is a good idea to apply a stabilising solution if the surface of the brick or render is flaky or chalky. A stabilising solution will seal the surface, giving paint a good ‘key’ to stick to.

If the surface you are painting is high up and a ladder is required, make sure it is on an even surface and that you do not overstretch.

Wear protective mask and goggles whilst using a wire brush to remove bits of flaky masonry and paint from the surface. Use specialist masonry paint that is designed to be used only on exterior walls. Consult the manufacturer’s instructions as to the number of coats required. Bear in mind that an undercoat is not necessary where a surface has been previously painted. Allow plenty of time between coats for paint to dry.

Paint can be applied using a short brush or a roller. Short horizontal and vertical strokes will ensure even coverage. If you are applying paint to a textured surface, a masonry brush can be used and the paint should be applied in a dabbing motion. For tricky-to-reach areas behind pipes and around edges, a smaller brush will make things quicker and easier.


DIY Tips – Laying a Laminate Floor

Laminate flooring has become increasingly popular over the last 15 years or so and is now the preferred choice for many people. As well as being hard wearing, easy to clean and aesthetically pleasing, laminate flooring can easily be laid DIY enthusiasts, without too much difficulty.


•    Laminate floor boards
•    Underlay
•    Stanley knife
•    20 mm wooden bit
•    Spacer blocks
•    Hammer
•    Saw

Laying Method

•    The underlay must be laid out in rows, not overlapping, but meeting to create a complete floor covering. The Stanley knife can be used to cut it to fit around the edges of the room.

•    Position spacers along the edge of your starting wall, at intervals of around 60 cm and then place a full laminate board in the corner of the room.

•    From your first board, work along the length of the room joining the boards together as you go, until you are near the end of the wall. To fit the last board, you will probably have to saw it to the correct length.

•    At the start of the next row, you need to begin with a shorter board. Often this can be the remaining length of the board that you previously cut to complete the first row. The boards need to be staggered in order to create strength. You will need to click the rows in together as you go and may have to use the hammer to gently close any gaps that appear. Hammer into the wooden bit, not directly onto the laminate, as this may cause damage.

•    Continue the process until the room is finished. The last row may need to be cut lengthways in order to fit snugly against the wall.

•    To finish the edges off neatly you can either lay skirting board around the room or fit quadrant edging. Either method produces a clean and tidy finish.


Blinds for Children’s Rooms

When you decorate your child’s bedroom you will have to make some important decisions, for example, what colours and fabrics you’ll be using. However, you’ll also have to think about practicality and the different options for dressing the window.

Simple Blinds

It is better to choose simply decorated blinds with bright bold colours, rather then with an over-complicated pattern or design. This is especially true if your wallpaper choice is busy.

Pleated Blinds

A popular choice for nurseries and children’s rooms is that of pleated blinds. These are good because they come in a variety of colours, add a soft look to the room, and the fabric reflects the sun’s heat and light. Additionally, they can come as blackout blinds, enabling your child to sleep easily at night.

Wipe-Clean Blinds

When you have young children you never know what marks will appear on the blinds. You should therefore choose blinds that can be easily cleaned. So if your child smears grubby fingerprints on the blind you can just wipe the marks away.
Roller Blinds

Roller blinds are easy to fit and use and they come in a range of colours. Additionally, they can be black out.

One important thing to note when fitting blinds into a child’s room is that they come with cords or chains, and this is considered to be a safety risk because there is a hazard of accidental strangling. There are two possible ways of solving this problem. The first is to fit roller blinds with spring mechanisms. This means that they can be operated without a cord. The second is to fit blinds with a motor so that they can either be battery operated or plugged into the mains. Again the need for a cord is eliminated.


Guide to repointing exterior walls

Mortar between bricks can deteriorate over time and require renewing. The joints between bricks need to be refilled with mortar and this is called repointing. Repointing can be tackled as a DIY project if the area to be renewed is relatively small. There can sometimes be problems getting old and new shades of mortar to colour-match in a pleasing way, so if you have a large expanse of repointing to attend to, you may be better advised leaving it to the professionals.

If you have a small area to repoint on a garden wall, for example, this should be a simple job to complete satisfactorily by yourself. Rainy weather conditions are not suited to this job, so if dark clouds are gathering put it off for another time.

If the conditions are fine to go ahead, start off by clearing out the old mortar using a tool known as a mortar rake. Remove mortar up to a depth of about 15cm. If there are any stubborn pieces you can chip them out using a cold chisel. There will be pieces of mortar and dust flying around so a mask and pair of protective goggles are recommended, as well as a tough pair of gloves.

Once you have done this, spray the mortar joints with water to dampen them. Doing this helps the new and old mortar to bond together.

Follow the packet instructions for mixing up the mortar, and then apply between the bricks using a jointing tool. Carefully work the mortar between the bricks into the recesses, creating a smooth finish. Fill vertical joints (beds) first, followed by the horizontal joints (perks) second.

After the mortar has been left for a while to harden you can carefully brush any excess away with a soft brush, and the job is complete.


Asbestos handling

Asbestos, a naturally occurring mineral, has been used for hundreds of years, and for 30 years from World War II it was used extensively in buildings as a fire retardant and material strengthener. It is found in many public buildings, offices and private buildings. Unfortunately, asbestos fibres released when the materials are damaged can be lethal. Asbestos is the biggest cause of work-related deaths, with around 4000 every year in the UK.

The DIY enthusiast should look out for some of the other products that used asbestos prior to its ban: gutters and pipes, garage and shed roofing, wall linings, floor tiles and bath panels. The products are fibrous and, if damaged, those fibres can be inhaled, possibly triggering a lethal disease like mesothelioma and asbestos-related lung cancer.

If asbestos is suspected, it is safer to request an asbestos inspection than take a chance. If it requires removal by a licensed contractor, do not interfere. However, a DIY practitioner may handle certain forms. Wear an asbestos-approved breathing mask and disposable overalls, soak the materials to be recovered, pack in closed and sealed plastic bags and take to an approved hazardous waste facility afterwards.


Essential Six-Monthly Property Checks

In spring and autumn, homeowners should run through a quick checklist of property inspections to prevent household disasters from occurring.

Homeowners should start at the perimeter of the house, at the front. They should check their gates for sticking and squealing and should clear, rub down and lightly oil the gate in the event that they fail to find it functioning as it should. They should look out for damaged fence panels, loose posts and other fittings. If the job is quick, a hammer and nails will solve the problem with ease. Homeowners should make a note of any external paint or preservative jobs to be performed. Weeds and moss on pathways and concrete should be cleared with the use of a water jet.

Airbricks should be cleared of leaves and other debris and so should any heaps that bridge the damp-proof course. Any dripping taps outside and in need fresh washers or other attention should be seen to in order to prevent limescale build-up and excessive water bills. Leaking or damaged downpipes will need attention as that water can damage the building fabric in the long term or even undermine the building’s integrity. Soakaways should also be checked to ensure that water is being carried away efficiently. 

Finally, TV aerials, satellite dishes, their associated cables, and telephone lines ought to be firmly fixed and neatly secured. The wiring can become worn and exposed over time and the fittings can break free if left loose.

Beyond the half-year checklist, homeowners should take a methodical look around the building to look out for any signs of growing problems. Keeping a close eye on a property and getting ahead of any problems can save homeowners unnecessary expense.


Running Cables Under a Floor

Horizontal cable runs are generally laid in the space underneath suspended wooden floors to keep them out of sight and harm’s way.  When a cable is run parallel with floor joists, it needs to be clipped to the sides of the joists or just left alone to lie on the surface of the ceiling below, in cases where access to the joists is impossible.

Where cable is to be run at right angles to the line of the joists, the method is to lift up one board and then to drill holes through the joists, allowing the cable to be easily threaded through them.  This is better than cutting notches into the joists, because in addition to weakening them the cable would lie too close to the surface and might get punctured by a floorboard nail.

The board lying immediately above the cable run should be labelled in some way so that any future accidents can be avoided.  This will also be helpful when the cable run needs to be accessed at a later date.


Getting Rid of Grubby Grout

Even with regular care and cleaning, there will be times when the grout between tiles will need to be removed or repaired.  This is because grout is a porous substance that absorbs dirt over a period of time and, as tile and grout are usually used in areas that get damp and dirty such as kitchens and bathrooms, over time the grout will start to discolour and look grubby.  Re-grouting the top layer or completely replacing the old grout will instantly make any tiled area look cleaner, newer and more appealing.

Your first step is to use masking tape to cover the surrounding tiles for protection, after which you can either re-grout or completely remove and replace the grout.

If you re-grout, you will only need to remove the top three mm of grout around the tiles using an inexpensive tool called a grout rake.  Simply pull the rake’s toothed blade along the existing grout to take off three mm.  You can then cover the remaining grout with new grout.

In most cases, to get rid of all the existing grout you will still use the grout rake.  However, if the rake cannot get rid of all the grout, you will also need to use a grout saw.  Firmly pull the rake or saw over the lines of grout.  Do this a few times until the grout breaks away from the tiles; brush the old grout from the joint until it is completely clear, and then apply the new grout.

Ridding floor tiles of grout will usually require a grout rake and a chisel.  Floor tile grout is stronger than what is used on walls because it is often mixed with sand.