Easy ways to make your home warmer this winter

Winter is the time of year when the nights draw in and the weather starts to get much colder. During this season, we’re always looking for ways to make our homes warmer and to save money.

Of course, it helps if you’ve got double-glazing and an efficient boiler to start with. But if you haven’t or want easy ways to make your home warmer this winter, is there anything you can do?

The answer’s yes. So here’s a few suggestions on how you can keep the heat in and the cold out of your home as the annual cold snap hits.

Switch from traditional heating to LPG. If you use electricity, oil or solid fuel to heat your home, great savings can be made simply by switching to LPG. It gives you the advantages of mains gas and is convenient and easy to use. Have a look at Calor for details on how to switch and more about how what savings can be made by heating your home with gas canisters.

warmer home

Seal up draughts. It’s important to seal any gaps in floors, doors and windows. Use insulating tape and draught excluders around edges to prevent heating from escaping. Remember the cat-flap too!

Put up thick curtains. Heavy, full-length curtains are a great insulator. Draw them shut at night in rooms you’re not using, as well as those you are, to keep your whole house cosy.

Let sunlight in. Even though there may not be much of it around in winter, letting as much sunlight as you can into your house will still provide some warmth. Don’t close blinds or curtains until the sun is gone down.

Check your chimney. It’s amazing how much heat is wasted shooting up the chimney, especially ones that aren’t used. You can buy chimney insulators and balloons that block up these spaces for not much money. Just remember to remove them if you ever light your fire! [Read more…]

Easy Ways to Care for your Tree

A tree in your garden or a hedge bordering your perimeter often ends up being a focal point; the first thing that will attract the attention of neighbours and visitors. If you don’t keep on top of caring for your trees and hedges they can soon become unruly and no matter how much time you spend taking care of your lawn and bedding areas they will be blighted by an untidy hedge.

Ways in which you should take care of your trees and hedges varies both throughout the seasons and depending on the type of trees. Fruit and blossoming trees for instance should only be pruned at certain times during the year to ensure a bountiful crop year after year.

Although you may be tempted to trim your trees during the autumn in order to prepare for the winter ahead this should be avoided. Damp weather and low temperatures and the prominence of fungi spores during autumn may increase the risk of disease for your trees. The best time for most trees to be pruned is actually at the end of winter, approaching spring. It is imperative that this is done before any buds start appearing on the branches otherwise you run the risk of cutting these off.

tree care

When pruning your trees the easiest way to keep the growth consistent and maintainable in the following years is to maintain the natural shape of the tree. Younger trees, and species such as the weeping willow will require more of a dedicated pruning schedule. Although it is tempting not to prune trees that have seen growth slowdown, or ones which you would like to grow faster you will find that a regularly pruning will stimulate the growth of the branches and can offer a fuller tree.

One of the most important tree tips you should consider is just how to cut the branches off the tree. Pruning itself is actually “wounding” the tree, a wound which the tree seals before growing a new branch elsewhere. If you prune your tree in the wrong manner you may find that future growth slows. Avoid cutting too close to the trunk of the tree where you may potentially damage the branch collar or the branch bark ridge.

Winter of course can be a particularly dangerous period of time for trees, especially during periods of heavy storms where damage and uprooting may occur. If your tree gets damaged it is imperative that you address this as soon as possible. Treating minor damage may save the tree’s life, any major damage which may pose a risk such as uprooting should be addressed by a professionally trained arborist (we suggest using treesurgeon.org.uk if you’re looking for a local arborist).

Regularly check your trees for signs of pests or disease, especially if you’re in the locality of a prominent pest or disease issue, or have a tree prone to diseases. Being on top of the potential threats may help you nip any problems in the bud before they take hold or spread throughout the garden. The Forestry Commission and related official bodies within your area will keep you up to date with the latest threats through releases on their website.

Gardeners Top 5 Tips

I have been gardening for around 10 years now and each year I still learn something new and develop new practices in the garden. Part of the excitement and the enjoyment of gardening lies in the fact that you never know everything and that the best gardeners are not afraid to try anything! Some of my top tips are as follows, but in truth, most of what I do relies upon spur of the moment decisions, a ‘have a go’ attitude and judging things by how they look – plants that is, not people! If it looks right, it probably IS right, is a good motto to garden by. I hope these help.

1) Get outside as much as you can – know you garden in all the seasons and know exactly how it reacts. It is a ‘room’ in effect; it just doesn’t have a roof. You wouldn’t abandon your kitchen, living room or spare bedroom – so don’t neglect the garden. Always wrap up warm and try to get out in the winter too. Kit up, get out and get gardening.


2) Buy good tools. This is explained in more detail in the ‘Tools’ articles on the site, but purchasing tools couldn’t be more important. When I choose a new tool, be it a spade, fork, pair of Secateurs or even gloves – it doesn’t matter what are most expensive, nor whose are shiniest or even who they are made by, I go for comfort time and again. If I can hold it well, I can use it well. A poor gardener blames the tools. A good gardener avoids those which give them blisters or are heavy!

3) Buy cheap plants and seeds by shopping around… quality doesn’t always come with high prices. If I’m after seeds, I shop for them at the end of the summer, when they are often on sale. If I am planning on purchasing plug plants I always order early to avoid disappointment and also to pick up on the special deals that many companies offer. If it’s shrubs that I’m looking to buy, then I seldom visit the garden centre. I would initially call in at a friend who has a good specimen during the summer and try to persuade them to relinquish some cuttings, and propagate them myself! If not, then visit your local market or car boot sale, as many good quality growers will be offering good plants at low prices. Here, choose plants without flowers, and with good leaves and root growth, gently knock the plant out of the pot and examine it if you are in doubt. If the grower objects, then it’s probably a bad plant.

4) Research your purchases and problems. Some of my most productive escapades have involved little or no monetary investment, but instead relied upon researching a little from the internet, on sites such as Organic Vegetable Gardening and then having a go in the fresh air. Big problems that might set you back hundreds of pounds in labour and costs, are far cheaper when conducted at a weekend with a group of friends. Keep some wine available and you have a pre-formed gardening team!

5) Enjoy it… I cannot stress this enough. If you are working in the frosty damp winters you’ll need a cuppa and a good sense of well being. It’s not a chore; it’s getting stuck in, getting fit, getting tanned and serving a multitude of purposes. Don’t knock it, have fun with it!

Keeping up with the latest window dressing trends

Like virtually every other aspect of interior design, window blinds and curtains are subject to changing trends and fashions. Here is what is currently hot in the world of window dressing.

Current window blind design trends

The first thing to note is that more and more households are selecting window blinds and shutters over more traditional window dressing options like curtains. Opting for made to measure blinds creates a tidier appearance of windows and reduces the amount of room needed to “store” coverings when not in use. The cleaner lines of made to measure blinds creates a neat finish to your rooms as a whole.

blind design

Made to measure fabric window blinds are in great demand, and wooden shutters are also experiencing a resurgence in popularity as people look to add a touch of glamour to their homes. Increasingly homeowners are spending more on their window coverings to create an elegant look that will last for years to come.

Many people are also now selecting multi-layer window blinds that incorporate blackout layers to reduce light seepage at night, while a sheer fabric layer allows sunlight into the room during the day. Simple and sleek designs are still by far the most popular however.

Current window blind fabric trends

An ever-increasing range of fabrics offer buyers a virtually unlimited choice of colours and designs for use with window blinds. Finding fabrics that match colour schemes for rooms is now as easy as finding good fabric for curtains has always been. Bold prints can create a focal point for rooms, whilst subtle pastel shades and stripes blend seamlessly into their surroundings. Striped designs are still the most popular of all fabric prints, although younger buyers are increasingly choosing bright, bold geometric or floral prints.

According to interior design experts, the most popular colours for use in window blinds at the moment are various hues of blue. Teal, aquamarine and soft green have all been identified as ‘in’. Brown on the other hand is the new basic, providing the common trend for the majority of current designs. Demand for luxury fabrics like silks, velvet and damask are also on the increase, but the overall design trend is still firmly towards more basic window blind fabrics like cotton. [Read more…]

Keeping Your Pool Clean and Safe For Children

Summer is on its way and it is the time when most people let their children play outside or when you spend time by the pool as a family. However, there are a few rules one must follow in order to keep the garden pool safe for children to use and avoid any accidents or potential health hazards.

Ensure the children are using the right equipment

Making sure the children are using the appropriate equipment before going for a swim is essential and can avoid many accidents. For example a child who cannot swim must wear their armbands or use their flotation device in order to stay safe.

cleaning the swimming pool

Make sure they cannot access the pool on their own

It is best children are supervised when using the pool in order to avoid any form of accident. Children should never be able to access the pool on their own. You can prevent that by fitting a fence all around the pool. A standard picket fence will often be sufficient enough and is relatively easy to put up.

You may also want to incorporate a gate with a key to the fence in order to further limit unsupervised access. That way the children can only access the pool when accompanied by a grown-up.

Keep the pool clean

Keeping your garden swimming pool is a must as it will avoid germs being spread and ensure the pool is safe to swim in.

Keep the pool covered throughout the winter months and clear the cover of any leaves so they cannot get into contact with the water.

Make sure the swimming pool pump is in working order as it will eliminate any dirty particles which might be present in the water.  However for pumping efficiency, it is best to limit the time at which the pump runs for improved pumping efficiency and lower energy bills.

Use an automatic pool cleaner in order to clear the dirt and grime that can be found at the bottom of the pool.

Troubleshooting Pressure Washer Parts

Faulty pressure washer parts may be the cause of your pressure washer malfunctioning. There are some parts that typically cause certain problems with pressure washers and these parts should be checked in order to fully repair your pressure washer. The following is a checklist of pressure washer parts that should be examined to make sure your pressure washer is repaired correctly.

Obviously, the first thing to check is the engine and fuel switches; make sure they are in the “on” position. If the power washer still will not start there could be defective wiring or a bad switch that needs to be replaced. Other rather apparent things to check is fuel and oil levels, make sure the water tap is open and working properly. Check that the choke and throttle levers are in the correct positions and are functioning properly. Make sure you have the proper nozzle attached for the type of pressure washing you want to do, and that the water screen is not clogged. Priming the engine by pull starting it several times may make starting easier and help keep the pressure washer running properly. Couplers or O-rings in the lance where the nozzle is set may be worn and need replacement. If you have a steam pressure washer, be sure to checking the heating mechanism to ensure it is working properly. And finally, the gun trigger should be held open when pull starting the pressure washer.

If you are experiencing low water pressure this may indicate an air leak or dirty pump valves that need to be cleaned. These valves may become worn over time or the valve spring may break and should be replaced. The nozzle may be causing low water pressure; check the nozzle’s settings and be sure it is set to high pressure. If not, this is a simple adjustment that could solve the issue.

Pressure washers that vibrate or feel unstable may have dirty pump valve that need to be cleaned before it will work effectively. The air may need to be blown out of the water supply. Any clogged filters and a clogged or damaged spray nozzle or tip may also cause the unit to vibrate and should be cleaned or replaced, if necessary. It is important to remember when replacing pressure washer parts that the replacement parts are made by the manufacturer of your pressure washer or are at least compatible with your machine.

How to Maintain a Metal Carport Shelter

Most consumers pay very little attention to their metal carport shelter once it has been installed. In order to extend the life of aluminum carports, it is important to handle repairs as soon as a problem occurs. This is easier said than done in most cases because unless you look at the shelter closely, you probably won’t see any problems until they become major. It takes about five minutes to do a good inspection of all of the components of your carport. Begin by first checking all of the joints and fasteners. You should immediately tighten any fasteners that are loose. If a joint is not sealed properly, leaks can occur causing even more damage than is necessary.

Next, you should check the roof for damage such as dents or cracks that could have been caused by a storm or other weather related event. Cracks pose the largest problem because they are the most likely to cause leaks to the surface below. Dents to the material on top of the shelter can cause water to puddle and in turn, the moisture may cause rust and deterioration of the material in that area.

Finally, you should check the beams and overall integrity of the metal carport shelter. Make sure beams and posts are level. A level shelter will stand up better to weather and overall exposure to the elements. If you find that your shelter is off kilt, it is important to remedy the problem immediately. If you are unsure of how to go about fixing such a problem, consult or hire a contractor to fix the problem.

Luckily most problems can be easily remedied without the help of a professional. Even rust can easily be sanded down and removed. Once done, the area can then be refinished with a protective outdoor paint or sealant. The same can be said for cracks. You can fill in the area with a caulking and then apply a protective finish to prevent more problems in the future. Dents on the roof top tend to be a little more difficult but again, if you find trouble doing the repairs yourself, don’t hesitate to consult with a professional contractor or builder. Carports don’t last forever, but if you take just a few minutes, every once in a while, to take a close inspection of the parts, you can easily add many more years of function to your aluminum carport.

Eliminate The Danger Of Your Old Garage Door With A Roller Garage Door

Are you one of those families that are still stuck with those old, heavy and dangerous garage doors? Fret no more! You can search and compare replacements from the comfort of your home through online garage doors retailers without having to break a sweat. A great option to go for is a roller garage door as they have many benefits.

Oftentimes, our very busy schedules prevent us from doing home repairs we committed to do months ago. I am sure that just like I, you have some friends that have been planning of changing their old garage doors due to the inherent danger and discomfort they had to endure all along. But then, because the old one is still functional, and urgent matters just keep on popping up from nowhere, this critical task gets relegated to the back burner more often than what one wanted.

To get the motivation to pin this reality down, let us go over the hassles of the old garage doors. First, they are very heavy to lift. It is so troublesome to open and close those doors. If one is not fit or healthy at the moment, another person will have to be called to help in the task. Second, it will always require conscious effort when one has to enter or leave one’s house. Whatever one’s physical condition is, he or she will need to go down off the vehicle to open the garage. Third, there is always the possibility that the garage door will be left unlocked, causing worry to the homeowner. Fourth, it is risky. While it is being lifted or closed down, miscalculation could hit something in its path. Or an unwitting adult or worse, an innocent child or an older member of the family may get in the way, causing damage and more trouble to everyone! Nobody wants an accident that is waiting to happen to keep on hanging over our heads, right? So, let us check out what can be done about this predicament-fast!

To beat this situation, it is best that we go through online shopping for the best garage door that fits our needs and our budget. There are different models and features to choose from. Generally, roll up garage doors are convenient to use because they are mechanically operated. It would only require a little push or pull, the press to a button which could be attached near the garage, or by remote control which is conveniently carried by the homeowner. Throw into this the beautiful colors, different materials and prices that fits your budget, and we are sure to get one that will not only eliminate the danger of the old garage, but will bring a new sight that is pleasing to the eyes and a comfort to everyone in the family.

Caulking Tips For A Professional Finish

Caulking doesn’t sound like a hard thing to do. And it really isn’t, but the effort you put into it can have huge rewards when done right. I consider caulking one of the basic home repair jobs that every aspiring handyman should learn how to do correctly. As with anything else, there is a right way and a wrong way to caulk.
Caulking Tips For The Home Handyman

First off, I can’t stress how important it is to make sure any surface or surfaces that you’re cleaning be dry and clean. Proper prepping is very important to how well your caulk job will perform.

If you’re caulking two painted edges, like at window corners, make sure you clean any loose or old paint at the edges to be caulked.

When caulking tight corners, if you’re not good at freehanding, then use a piece of painters tape and apply it horizontally, leaving just a bit of the material exposed at the corner for the caulk to adhere to. Wipe the caulk away while it’s wet (you can use a wet finger to do this), the caulk should be pressed into the deep recesses of the corner when you wipe the excess away.

When you remove the tape, it should leave a neat bead in the corner.

Here’s another tip for caulking corners. Always cut the tip at a 45 degree corner. I will then mark the top of the 45 somehow so that I always know where the top is. You can use a pencil or scratch awl. I personally prefer a Sharpie. Now you have no excuse for making a crappy caulk line.

Finally, before putting the caulk gun and caulk up for the day, I prefer to leave a small glob at the tip. When this dries, it acts as an air tight seal so that air will not cause the whole tube to set up. Plus, when you get ready to use the tube again, you just pull this glob off and you’re ready to go. No digging old, dried up caulk out of the nozzle.

I hope this caulking tips will help you do a better and more professional looking job the next time your break the caulk gun out!

Professional Drywall Tips For The DIY’er

If it’s one thing that a lot of DIY’ers get into trouble with it comes to drywall home repairs. It looks easy enough on YouTube or in a book, but once you start slinging the mud, weird things can happen. No one told the drywall, tape and mud that it was suppose to be easy and trouble free. Then when you start talking about matching texture, the home DIY’er quickly realizes they may have bit off more than they bargained for. Hopefully, these drywall tips will help you become better at repairing drywall.

A good repair job will start by how you cut the piece that is to be repaired. I know some people who’ve tried to repair drywall between the studs. This is just ridiculous! I prefer that I have some type of backer between each side of the drywall patch. Preferably studs. If I can’t use a stud, there are commercial products designed to stiffen the new piece of drywall while you patch it. I myself will just use a 1×4 slid up behind the drywall patch and screw the edges in place. Make sure all edges are flush or you’ll have a noticeable repair on your hands.

The first thing you’ll need to make sure of is that you get the right kind of drywall mud. Most homeowners will find that the premixed all purpose drywall compound will be fine for repair work.

Mesh or Drywall tape? Again, I prefer the mesh for home repair work. Some will go with the adhesive backed mesh, but I haven’t had much luck with it when trying to repair a large section. I normally just get the non adhesive mesh and make it stick with just small amounts of compound.

I also like to use two strips of mesh overlapping. I think this gives the edges of the repair more strength.

Another mistake a lot of people make is putting too much mud on the seam or repair. More mud does not make for a better repair, actually it weakens the repair! Use as thin of a mud joint as you can. I prefer to let the joint set overnight and thoroughly dry. If you live in the SouthWest where the humidity is virtually nil, then you might be able to apply a second coat within a few hours.

For the best results, let the first coat dry thoroughly and sand it. Apply another thin coat and let it also dry thoroughly and sand it. The edges of your repair should be flush and blend in with the rest of the wall. If not, it’s your repair, if you can live with it, fine. If not, you can either start over or sand down the high spots and fill the low spots until they’re not noticeable, but I haven’t had much luck with this.

Once you have the edges flush, then comes the next part. Some people will just throw texture up on a piece of sheetrockk and then paint it. I’m a little different. I guess it’s because I’m a perfectionist. This is how I do it.

I will prime the new sheetrock with a good primer. Original Kilz is my favorite if you can stand the smell. I then let the primer dry completely. Then I’ll texture the patched area. Just make sure you match the texture first. Don’t use Orange peel if you have a knock down texture. I know this may sound elementary, but you’d be surprised at how often this happens.

Also, I shy away from that texture in a can stuff. I’ve tried every brand I could find and just haven’t found any I thought was acceptable. Save yourself the trouble and pass on it. For repair jobs, I use a Wagoner Power Tex texture gun. This little gem works wonders on repair jobs. You can choose the type of texture you want to apply by changing the nozzles. It’s also very easy to clean up afterwards.

The Wagoner Power Tex is not an air operated texture gun. It operates on electric and has a small motor at the rear that blows the air through the gun. It’s very effective for small areas.

As for texture, I’ve used the powdered texture you mix up. But I really prefer premixed joint compound for repairs. I add just a little bit of water to thin the compound up. If it’s too thick, it won’t work in the Wagoner.

You’ll do yourself a favor it you practice with the Wagoner Power Tex on a scrap piece of cardboard before you try it on your wall. Practice until your results look like the texture on your wall and then spray the repaired area. After I’ve sprayed the repaired area, I let the texture set 10 to 15 minutes so it can start setting up (for knockdown texture). I’ll then knock it down and call it a day.

Just like my joints, I let the texture set over night and dry completely before doing anything else. Once they are completely dry, I might ever so lightly hit the area with a fine sander if I think it needs it. I clean the area up, prime it once again before painting. After that coat of primer has dried, I’ll then paint the area. If it’s a large area, you may have to repaint the whole wall to get it to match. Hey, it was about time you repainted that room anyway. Right?

I hope this will help you on your next drywall repair job!