Our guide to home renovations
We’ve said it once, we’ll say it again: The kitchen is the heart of the home. So take great care and consideration over how you create this space.
This element of a kitchen may seem small (literally), but it makes such a huge difference to how buyers perceive your home when you come to sell. Avoid plastic or cheap fixtures and opt for something more sturdy and secure. Solid fixtures = solid home.
Avoid using small tiles, small patterns, small anything. The smaller they are the more you can see grout, the smaller they are the smaller the room will look. Flooring is really a way of anchoring your kitchen design. It should look like it’s there but not take over the whole kitchen. It’s also worth remembering that the darker the colour the smaller and more claustrophobic the room will look.
Strip lighting is great if it’s inserted into a channel going around the kitchen island and top with opaque glass, as the light diffuses beautifully for an atmospheric look. It’s also great under overhead units as it help with more ‘fiddly’ tasks such as peeling veg. This is especially true when you have deeper than normal worktop.
Lighting under the floor cupboards can also be great for creating a relaxing, ethereal atmosphere when entertaining friends, for example. However, if you decide to go for this lighting technique be very aware that your floor will need to remain somewhat spotless, as these will also act as spotlights on dirt!
Don’t forget about natural light too. Floor to ceiling windows or glazed doors maximise daylight hours in the kitchen.
This is where the most attention should be paid. High quality drawers and hinges mean ease and durability (and no aggressive slamming!) and trust us, these will be tested by prospective buyers when you come to selling your home. For cabinet interiors, wood veneer is more durable than melamine, laminate, MDF or particleboard.
If you have high ceilings, choose cabinets that go to the ceiling. They offer more storage and enable you to use extra wall space for pictures or inbuilt shelves. When it comes to island cabinets and worktops, be wary of installing anything too invasive for the room’s size.
White marble and stained wood tend to add elegance and warmth, and slate and limestone tend to communicate more of a sophisticated look. Go to a few different show rooms and get a real feel for what’s out there before you make your decision, because there are many more options than you may think!
The bathroom involves a lot of design considerations from lighting, to plumbing and heating, flooring to fixtures and fittings as well as windows and wall coverings. So unfortunately you have to start with the more mundane bits – the functional stuff, before you get to the more pleasurable element of the project such as the colour scheme, the materials to choose and the other finishing touches.
Plots, graphs and plans
First of all you need to measure your existing bathroom, plot it on a graph paper. Note where the existing toilet, sink and bath/showers are. Include the window – measure where it is and also don’t forget to measure how high it is off the floor. You will need to know this in case you want to re-site a heater there or a storage cupboard or even move the bath.
Armed with all the info you can ask the contractors that will do the work: electrician, tiler, bathroom installer, etc. to give you some quotes. This will give you a guide on what you can expect to pay. It is then easier to trim down on what you do not really need and what the essentials are.
No sockets are allowed in the bathroom (with the exception of an electric shaver point) – but you need to plan ahead before plastering or tiling so that this can be chased into the wall.
The bathroom is divided into “electrical” zones. Zones 0 to 2 are the wettest areas and any electrical object must not have a higher voltage of 12V with an IPX7 against factors such as condensation, humidity, steam, drops of water or sprays from showers.
The choice of tiles is vast, so before you head out and get a headache with the myriad choices, distinguish between floor tiles and there are wall tiles (they are not the same thing).
Floor tiles are thicker than wall tiles – it’s a question of weight and a question of usage. Thinner wall tiles are hung vertically so less weight is better and since it has relatively less wear it makes sense.
As a general rule, light coloured grout for light coloured tiles and dark for darker ones. And remember you need to seal the grout if it gets a lot of use, otherwise it will get dirty, especially the lighter ones.
And when you come to choosing the size of your tiles, remember that the bigger the tile, the bigger the room will feel.
Choosing a suite
When you come to choosing your bathroom suite, it’s important to bear in mind the style of the rest of your house. For example, if you live in a lovely cottage in Dorset, a black, shimmery, high-tech bathroom might not quite fit in..
For the sake of the time when you come to sell, you should also think outside of your personal style choices when kitting out this room. Don’t choose a suite that’s totally bland, but don’t go too wacky with it either. Try and keep the colours as neutral as possible and PLEASE stay well away from a toilet seat in the shape of a sea shell!
Lastly, use this opportunity to fill in missing gaps of your property. For example, is this the only bathroom, or do the other bathrooms not have a bath in? Then try your best to accommodate a bathtub in this room (as long as it doesn’t hugely sacrifice space).
Soften and condition your water
Although water softeners and conditioners work in slightly different ways, their main function is the same – a large reduction in the build-up of limescale. They are now easier to install and can be fitted anywhere in the house. They will not only save you money in the long run, they’re also likely to improve the quality of your shower, because the water will be softer.
Avoid cowboy plumbers
Ensure that the plumber you employ is registered with the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineers (CIPHE). Currently, the industry is not properly regulated, which means some ‘plumbers’ have simply completed a short online course, had a few business cards printed, and then called themselves a plumber.
If you’re adding an extension, there’s no point in doing a small one for the sake of saving a few quid. Make the extension as big as you can afford (and that planning permission will allow!) as long as it doesn’t compromise the quality of your house or the size of your garden.
Extensions can vastly increase the value of your home, create some often much needed space, and open up the opportunity to create a great new room. This is especially something to consider if you plan on expanding your family in this home, and it’s always better to get it done before a new addition is brought into your family and things are somewhat calmer.
If a new bathroom, bedroom or kitchen space isn’t what you had in mind, a conservatory adds both space and light to a property. If you decide to add a conservatory, make sure that it is well suited to the existing style of your home which you can help ensure through smaller aspects such as installing the same flooring as is in the adjoining room.