Archives for February 2014

Why Converting Your Loft Makes Sound Financial Sense

bed

For many homeowners, the idea of converting a loft or attic space seems practical, but the initial outlay puts them off of ever doing so. According to Trade Advisor, the cost of converting a loft tends to be between somewhere between £20,000 and £40,000, with the average conversion coming in at £32,000.

Certainly, this is a significant investment and not one to be taken lightly. Before carrying out a conversion, many things need to be taken into consideration, including this cost, the cost of decorating and the possibility of obtaining planning permission.

However, converting an attic into an extra bedroom, multiple bedrooms or a bedroom/bathroom combo offers more than just practical benefits and makes great financial sense for several reasons.

Expansion Over Relocation

One way in which converting a loft can make great financial sense is for expanding a house that is currently too small. Expanding families often look to move into a bigger house when all of their existing bedrooms are occupied, but loft conversion offers a viable, cost-effective alternative.

For instance, in London, many houses have as much as a quarter of their total floor space in the attic and much of this floor space is often completely unused. By converting a loft area into a useful extra bedroom, these families can remove the need to move house and therefore eliminate the related costs, such as solicitor fees and estate agent fees and avoid the risk involved in moving house in the current economic climate.

When removal costs and stamp duty are added, moving house in London may cost somewhere in the region of £100,000, whereas converting a loft into an extra bedroom is possible for a third of that price and is far more economic than adding extensions to the house or creating a basement.

Increased Property Value

In addition to the obvious practicalities, such as offering you a new usable area of the house, converting your loft makes sound financial sense if you are looking to sell the house in the future, or in the short term.

The mere presence of a converted loft in a home will significantly add to its value, especially if a bathroom is included in the loft space. Statistics show that loft conversions tend to increase the value off a house by 20 per cent and as an example, a £17,500 loft or attic conversion can add 20.9 per cent to the value of a house worth £162,000, making it a sound financial investment.

Put simply, a converted loft is the cheapest and easiest way to add value to a property, ahead of other common examples, such as installing a new kitchen. If you are looking to sell a house and want to get the highest price possible, loft conversions can be an extremely astute financial decision.

Conclusion

Whether you are looking to stay in your current home and expand it in order to suit your needs, or sell the property for the highest possible price, converting a loft makes great financial sense.

Attic conversions are economic compared to other expansion options, offer a far cheaper alternative to moving into a bigger house and will significantly add to the value of a property before it is placed onto the market.

The Basic Principles of Making Fresh Coffee in a Hurry

cafe

When your craving for a great cup of coffee conflicts with your busy schedule, there are some alternatives to the jar of instant you’ve had in your kitchen cupboard for months. No, it’s not a trip to the local coffee shop; it involves becoming a barista in the comfort of your own home. Whether you want a creamy latte or the intensity of an espresso shot, a little knowledge of the coffee-making process and an espresso machine from the Lavazza A Modo Mio range is all you need to satisfy your cravings.

Get the water right

Water is a critical component to a great espresso-based beverage. Wherever possible, you should be using filtered water – particularly if you live in an area that has hard water. It is widely accepted that the optimum temperature for quality espresso is anything between 190F to 200F. Stray too far from that range, and your coffee will either be too weak or have an unpleasant, burnt taste.

Get some quality coffee

Coffee blends made predominantly with Arabica bends usually make the best espresso, but this is a matter of personal taste, and you should experiment with different espresso blends until you find something you like. Latin American and Indonesian blends are known for producing exceptional lattes and cappuccinos.

Perfect the grind

The grind is every bit as important as the water and quality of coffee, so you should ensure that the coffee you’re using in your chosen espresso machine has been ground accordingly. Too fine a grind will result in more contact time with water, and that will lead to bitter, overly strong beverages. However, too fine a grind will result in weak and flavourless coffee. While some machines have integrated grinding facilities, a cheaper option involves asking your coffee supplier for a grind appropriate for your machine – or buying a ready-made capsule of espresso coffee from the Lavazza A Modo Mio range.

Enjoy your home-made coffee in style

If you want to control all of the variables involved in making a great espresso-based beverage, you can. However, if you want a stunning cup of coffee in a hurry, using an espresso machine from Lavazza range is a great idea. All you need is a ready-ground capsule of coffee and a supply of water. And because these sophisticated machines have integrated steaming wands, you are assured of a delicious latte or cappuccino every time.

 

Beginner’s Country Living Guide

Beginner's Country Living Guide

Moving from the city to the countryside means always finding a place to park, listening to nature instead of car horns, and peace and tranquility.

But, moving from an area where there are 24-hour mini marts and coffee shops on every corner to a place where the nearest large grocery store is an hour long trek means learning a new way of life.

Here is a beginner’s guide to country living:

Be Secure:

Living in the country means neighbors are few and far between, or at least a few miles down the road. With such open surroundings, having a security system can offer peace of mind. Home alarm systems are worth the expense with the security they offer a homeowner. If a burglar was to break in, an alarm would cause them to hightail it out of there for fear of being caught.

Find a family pet that can patrol the grounds. With a lot of open acres, it can be difficult to keep a watchful eye on all areas. Dogs are loyal companions, love romping around open areas, and are watchful protectors.

Be A Smart Shopper:

When living in the country, forgetting an item at the grocery store means doing without it for the time being. While it can take time to get used to purchasing groceries in bulk, once it is learned and perfected, it will save gas, time, and headaches.

Plan meals a couple of weeks in advance. Knowing ahead of time what each meal consists of means knowing what ingredients need to be purchased at the store.

Stock up on meat, canned goods, and root vegetables that last a while. Most everything can be frozen and defrosted later so do not be afraid to purchase items like bread in large quantities.

For fresh fruits and vegetables, learn how to garden. While frozen fruits and vegetables are generally all natural, sometimes the taste of fresh fruit and veggies cannot be beat. Having a supply of frozen fruit and veggies on hand is smart, but try out being a green thumb.

With available sunny acreage, plant an herb garden, grow tomatoes, strawberries, and plant some fruit trees. Depending upon what area you are located in, different fruits and veggies thrive in different areas. Citrus fruit trees and avocado trees grow well in warm, sunny areas such as California while apple trees need a deep cold snap to grow well.

Landscape:

When living in such a remote area, it is important to appreciate the view and immediate surrounding areas. Part of enjoying the peace and tranquility is enjoying the environment. Landscape the space in a way that is beautiful to you, but that also does not require hours upon hours of maintenance labor.

Sitting on the front porch reading a book while staring at undeveloped, plain land can be uninspiring and boring. But, spending evenings looking over grassy fields with majestic trees softly blowing in the breeze makes country living’s beauty worth the extra effort of not living the city life.

Ditch the hectic city and enjoy the simple country living.

Image Source: www.sarahbarksdaledesign.com

You’ve got some front

todd doors

 by  inkknife_2000 

Asides from its obvious functionality, the front door of a house is useful in the respect that it says so much about people and their property: it is the gateway in to and out of your space and, if you want to get all Feng shui about it, your soul.

No one front door will look the same, even if they come from the same manufacturer. Yes they all open and shut, (well, at least you hope so) but it’s likely that a north-facing door will look different – more weather-beaten, for example, than one that points the opposite way, where the paintwork might be slightly faded from its exposure to the sun.

How people dress their front door says much about their personalities too. A holly wreath at Christmas suggests a warm, kind person occupies the premises, whilst notes declaring, ‘no junk mail’, crudely stuck on with sellotape point to a more abrupt and less receptive homeowner.

Of course, you have to choose your front door first and that can be an absolute minefield. After taking the measurements to make sure you’ve got the right size, you then have to decide on what you want the door to be made of. Good solid oak, if you can afford it, is sound and dependable and blends in nicely with the countryside. Todd Doors is an experienced and reliable provider of timber doors with a wide-range of styles to suit most tastes and oak, judging by the company website, appears to be something of a specialty of theirs.

For some things it’s worth going the extra mile for, and, to me, a front door falls comfortably into that category – especially if you view your property as an investment: a good quality front door is more likely to make an interested purchaser sit up and take notice. After all, house-buying, despite all the dos and don’ts, boils down to one thing: gut instinct. If your front door is in serious need of TLC then it’s likely, in the minds of the viewer, all other areas of the house are going to be neglected.

But what if you view your house for keeps? An energy-efficient door can also save you money, as much as 10 per cent certain reports have suggested, in terms of reduced energy loss. Some wooden doors looks so flimsy they’re probably better off being use for fire wood to keep you warm! The only downside to a good quality timber front door is the upkeep. But varnish it with love and it will stand by your side (or front) for years. If you’re looking for a compromise, fibreglass composite doors are your best bet as they are more affordable and equally durable but without the need for so much maintenance.

doors

by  marc falardeau 

The fun part to any front door purchase is choosing the colour. If they say behind every door there is an opportunity, then surely that applies to the front as well. Aside from the regulation white there are so many different colours to choose from, so don’t be afraid to be bold. Green hints at a community-spirited person; red is generally the accepted colour for extroverts; yellow is for leaders (as in the Tour de France); black is for traditionalists; and purple is the colour of free spirits.

They say don’t judge a book by its cover, but the opposite applies – in my book anyway – to a front door.

Never pay full price again: How discount deals, voucher codes and special offers mean we should always be able to pay less for goods and services

shoppingMost people do know that clipping coupons and shopping around can save them money. If they still stay away from these saving ideas, it’s because they see these activities as a waste of time. They don’t have to waste your time though, if you use the latest technology and go about them in an organized manner.

Shop around to switch to better deals on energy, insurance, phone service and broadband

A large number of British households simply accept whatever price their current suppliers demand for their gas, electricity, car insurance or anything else. It’s understandable that they would do this – regulated, single-supplier prices were the reality that they grew up with. In today’s liberalized market though, shopping around for a better deal is important for reasonable prices in nearly every kind of daily need. When you compare gas and electricity prices at UK Power, for instance, you can easily end up saving hundreds on your energy bills.

Here are other ways to save.

Get grocery coupons

Shop Scan Save: This is a free smartphone app (available for iOS and Android) that gives you discounts on products at grocery stores that have PayPoint machines (Spar and Cost-Cutter, for example). Once you install the app on a device, it gives you a regularly updated list of possible discounts at stores near you. You usually get about 30p to £1 off on various food staples like ketchup, beans and tea. When you select a product, you get a barcode to scan at the PayPoint machine at the store’s checkout. If the checkout clerk doesn’t know about Shop Scan Save barcode discount coupons, the app comes with an introduction video for store personnel.

Shopitize: This coupon app is even better than Shop Scan Save. It gives you 50% cashback on several grocery store brands at major chains like Tesco and Asda. Your cashback arrives in your Shopitize account a few days after each purchase. You get to withdraw it by cheque.

Store magazines can be a rich source of store-specific discount coupons. If you have a couple of stores that you go to regularly, getting their store magazine can be a good idea. The following ideas can make sense, too.

.   Find a coupon recommending service to send you coupons on a regular basis.

.   Subscribe to as many store newsletters as you can. To make sure that they don’t clutter up your inbox, you can sign-up to these newsletters with a separate email account. You can then set up alerts to make sure that you don’t waste your time scanning through all of them each day. Each time a newsletter mentions a product, you’ll get an alert.

Finally, if a store is out of a product that your coupon entitles you to a discount on, you should ask for a raincheck voucher – permission to access the same deal on another day.

Set up price alerts

Since the prices on many items constantly change with product cycles, times of the year and store policies, waiting for lower prices is often a good idea. If you need a new computer, clothes or anything else, you can use a price alert website such as camelcamelcamel.com or prispy.com and set up an alert for it. The site will automatically set up a regular check on the item and inform you when prices come to your level.

Harry Lawrance is a money-conscious consumer and often writes about techniques to live well on a tight budget..

Top Tips to Guarantee You look Amazing on Ladies Day at Cheltenham

Ladies Day

Horse racing is a popular sport that is enjoyed by millions, and even if you have never sat on a horse, there is something appealing about this competitive event. It is thought that horse racing became a professional event in the 12th century when the English Knights raced their Arabian horses. The thoroughbreds that are raced today are often descendants of Arabian Stallions.

Newmarket was the first venue for horse racing; however, today there are numerous different race courses that are used on a regular basis. Although initially horse racing was considered a gentleman’s sport, over the years more women have got involved. Today one of the largest events in the horse racing calendar is ladies day at Cheltenham.

Woman from all over the country get dressed up and excited about this popular spring event, and you will want to ensure that you choose the perfect outfit. The racing is considered an extra alongside the fashion, and if you want to place a bet you can easily use William Hill horse racing betting online.

This event provides the perfect opportunity to get dressed up, and mingle with the celebrities; however, you need to ensure that you choose the correct outfit. There is a strict dress code for ladies day, and you need to ensure that you dress to impress, and do not get noticed for the wrong reasons. Every part of your outfit needs to be considered from your shoes to your hat, and of course the dress must be spectacular.

Dresses should be classic and classy, never showing too much as this is considered tasteless. The hemline should not be too short, and the colour perfect for the occasion. You need to remember that you are at the horse races, and not a local nightclub. Attending ladies day is the perfect opportunity to choose a dress that you might not typically wear.

Shoes are an area that you need to consider carefully as heels will look sensational until you see the terrain. If the ground is waterlogged in areas, you may sink in your stilettos, and end up losing your shoes altogether. You should consider chunkier heels and a pair of shoes that you find comfortable as you will be in them all day.

Hats are vital for ladies day, and even if you have never worn one this is the chance to display your fun side. If you prefer smaller head accessories fascinators have become a popular choice, and there are some excellent styles to choose. If you want to make a statement with your hat, ensure that you keep your dress modest and simple.

Accessories are a girl’s best friend, and you can make an outfit shine by choosing the right accessories for the day. Oversized clutch bags are excellent, and will allow you to carry everything you need in one place. Stylish sunglasses are another fashion accessory that will look excellent, and ensure that you fit in the celebrities. 

Compelling Reasons to Move to the Country With Your Family

Living on an estate, main road, or in a city can be a drag sometimes. There doesn’t seem to be enough room for all of us does there? From the regular traffic jams that snarl up our roads to the crowded supermarkets we are forced to endure as we gather our supplies. Our population hasn’t increased massively, but it certainly seems like it has as we fight our way through the day.

Link

Getting away from it all with your family has never seemed such an attractive proposition. Here are some great reasons why you should take the leap and leave suburbia in the rear view mirror.

Air Quality

We often don’t even notice the quality of the air in which we are living. Heavy traffic pollution is commonplace. Poor air quality is damaging to our health. It is only when we get away from heavily populated areas that we can smell the difference. Taking a deep breath you can smell nature instead of car exhausts. Invaluable!

Land

Are your children lacking places to play? Well, there is no shortage in the country. Let their imagination run wild as they enjoy the wide open spaces and hedgerows. The countryside is a natural play area where the imagination of children can drive them on many exciting adventures. They could have their friends around to play and what a great time they would have.

Peace and Quiet

No more traffic noise or being awoken by roadworks. The worst you will get is the local farmer on his tractor. Your nearest neighbour could be a ten minute walk down the lane. For some of us, this is bliss. I would advise purchasing a top quality suite in the Alexander Rose garden furniture sale or elsewhere online, to relax in comfort outside, and soak up nature at its best.

Work From Home

Now we are in the age of the internet, the sky’s the limit with regards to homeworking. A small office in your new country cottage can keep you in touch and productive. Great if you are your own boss. An office in the cloud is the order of the day here.

You may be spurred on to change careers if your current job prohibits homeworking.

Nature

Flora and Fauna. Experience nature as it should be and not see it rummaging through our dustbins for scraps of food, because we have destroyed its natural habitat.

Of course, living in the countryside will include living with mother nature’s smaller creatures. You may find that you occasionally have little guests move into your home. Some people may be happy to live with the odd field mouse in your skirting board but things like wasp nests should be dealt with immediately.

Self Sufficiency

If you have managed to bag a nice bit of land, why not try to become self sufficient. You may not make it the whole way, but growing your own fruit and veg is both healthy, cheap and ultimately rewarding.

It is easy to keep chickens too. We are so often restricted from doing that in our two bed semi’s because of the noise affecting the neighbours. There is nothing like fresh eggs for breakfast every morning.

So there we have it. I can’t think of a single bad thing to say about a beautiful country life. In fact, after writing this, it has stirred my imagination, and I am off to look for cottages to rent for the weekend. Adios my friends.

Having Trouble With Your Water Pressure?

water

If you are suffering from low water pressure problems, then there could be a number of different causes.  In this article we will look at some of the issues involved and ways that you can improve the water pressure in your home.

Check What Could Be Causing The Problem

The majority of low pressure problems are directly related to and caused by clogged up pipes.  However, if you have already replaced or hired someone to replace the clogged pipes for you, you need to try the most obvious things first.  You need to ensure that the shutoff valves nearest to the water meter are opened fully.  Although this may sound very basic, plumbers will always charge their basic callout charge at the very least, just to turn a valve.  Once you have done this, check the water pressure level.  If your house is connected up to the main city water supply, you should phone and ask the water department for a pressure reading.  Ideally the water should have a pressure of between 45 and 55 psi.

Rather than calling the water department you could test the water pressure yourself using a pressure gauge.  These are widely available in home ware and DIY stores.  All you need to do is hook the water pressure gauge to a water spigot outside your house, turn the water on and then you will get an instant reading on the gauge.  If it turns out that the reading is low, it could be that the city you live in is delivering water at a very low pressure, i.e. Less than 40 psi.  If it doesn’t seem like the city will increase the pressure, you should consider increasing the water pressure in your home with a booster pumpA water pressure booster pump is used to increase the water pressure into your home.  There is normally a dial on top of the pump that you can adjust the pressure so it is set to the right level.  The average water pressure that homes should have is, as previously mentioned, anything between 45 and 55 psi.

If however, the water pressure reading is fine, it could be that there are obstructions or some pipes that are smaller than they should be.  In order to understand the problem more accurately you should call out a qualified plumber to evaluate your system and give his expert advice on what action you should take next.

In the unlikely, but still possible, situation that none of the above helps you to figure out why your home has low water pressure, you should refer to and seek advice from a an extremely well trained plumber, particularly one who has a good reputation as you know that you will not get ripped off.  The easiest ways to find out whether a particular plumber is as good as he says he is, is by checking impartial and unbiased review sites.  Another great way is by word of mouth, because if a particular plumber was recommended to you by your parents or friends, you trust their opinion and know that if they had a good experience and was happy with the plumbers work, so will you.

Things To Think About When Buying Family Photo Prints!

photo printUndoubtedly one of the best ways to put your family’s own stamp on a new home or to make your current home feel more homely when you are redecorating or renovating, is to display family photos in all of the rooms.  Nowadays it is a lot easier to have photographs printed, particularly if like most people you have a digital camera.  There are many websites that offer affordable printing services where you simply upload the chosen pictures, they develop them to sizes you want and send them out to you in the post.

If you are new to this way of printing photographs you be concerned about getting ripped off or ordering incorrectly.  In the following article we will help you by discussing some of the important things you should be aware of when using these kinds of services.

Shop Around

There are many different photograph printing companies out there and all have flashy and functional websites.  However, it is important to shop around rather than just using the first one listed by a search engine.  At different times during the year, different companies have special deals and offers running so you should check out a few websites before choosing one to use – particularly if this is your very first time.

Choose A Reputable Company

It is also a good idea when you are going to use services from a company that is new to you, that you choose one that comes with good recommendations.  If a relative or friend has recommended one because they had a good experience, you know that you are likely to have a similar experience.  Failing that, there are many impartial review sites that you can find real customer reviews of these websites.  Choose one of the companies that has more positive reviews than negative ones, though don’t be put off if a company a couple of negative reviews, as businesses can’t please everybody all the time.

Be Aware Of Delivery And Extra Charges

It is important to review any purchase you make or to check the FAQ of a website to ensure that you are aware of all the charges involved with purchasing through a particular website.  While many sites offer free delivery, this may only be after buy a certain number of prints.  Other sites may offer reductions in price for bulk buying of prints, so this is something you should consider if you are looking to save as much money as possible.

Check The Quality Offered

As well as there being a wide selection of print sizes to choose from, many companies also offer their customers a wide selection of print qualities to choose from.  It is a general rule of thumb that the better the quality of the print, the more expensive it will be.  With that in mind, don’t simply pick the cheapest deal possible as this may not actually be the best value for money when you receive your prints in the post and they don’t look very good!

You will of course, want to make sure that you are taking a decent photograph  to begin with. Check out http://cameras.about.com/od/photoprintingtips/ for some tips!

Quiz time!

For your chance to win a £40 Amazon voucher can you answer the following question? Please leave your answer in the comments below.

Question: Add baking powder to your cake and it rises. What is in baking powder that makes this happen?

  • yeast
  • baking soda plus cornstarch
  • baking soda, an acid, and cornstarch

The competition closes on the 9th of February.

Good luck!