Choosing a Company to Perform Lime Pointing on Old Stone Walls


If you own a traditional masonry building that has perhaps been standing for a century or more, the techniques and materials needed to repoint the mortar will not be the same as those commonly in use today.

One of the mistakes that less experienced stonemasons often make when working on older buildings is to use cement-based mortars, which do not allow for the transmission of water from your wall.

The trapped water can subsequently freeze in cold weather, causing damage to the surrounding stones and bricks. To avoid the basic mistakes that inexperienced masons make, you should evaluate the firms you are thinking of using very carefully.



Questions to Ask Local Stonemasons

Having gone through the process of selecting a reliable stonemason just a few months ago, I now know what questions you should ask before making your selection and have listed them below in the hope they may help you to identify the best masons in your area.


  1. What Type of Mortar Do You Use? – As mentioned above, cement mortars are not a suitable choice for older buildings constructed from relatively soft stones or bricks. What you want to do is to find a mason that uses lime mortar for old stone walls. The porous nature of lime mortar enables water, and water vapour, to escape from the walls of your home, preventing frost damage during the winter.


  1. How Much Experience Do You Have With Older Buildings? – A masonry firm that has a great deal of experience with older buildings will be familiar with the correct techniques and materials to use whereas one that concentrates mainly on new constructions may not be. For your peace of mind, it is better to hire the former type of firm rather than the latter.


  1. Is Your Work Guaranteed? – While you shouldn’t need to worry about the quality of work performed if you choose wisely, it is nice to have the reassurance that, should anything go wrong, you will be able to rely on your stone mason to return to your property and fix whatever issues you are experiencing.


  1. Are You Fully Insured? – Again, choose the right mason and you will probably not have to worry about insurance but in the event your property is accidentally damaged during the repointing of your walls, you will be pleased that you chose a contractor with insurance to cover such damage.


  1. Can You Supply References? – Unsolicited testimonials from local homeowners who have previously used the same firms you are considering, and were very happy with their work, are a very good sign that the firms in question know what they are doing.


I was left with a choice of 3 local stonemasons after working my way through the questions above and, rather than choosing the one that offered to do the work at the lowest price, I chose the one I felt most comfortable with because I think that it is important to trust your instincts, all other factors aside.

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Making the Most of Advice from Experienced Kitchen Designers

Like many other homeowners in England, when the time came to renovate my kitchen earlier this year, I decided to enlist the help of a team of local professionals.

Whilst I have very clear ideas of what I do and do not like as far as interior design is concerned, I find it difficult to express these ideas in visual terms. I thought that hiring experienced designers would help me to overcome this problem and in the end, I was right.


My Experiences with Kitchen Designers

If you want to make the most of the expertise you are paying for, have a look at the following tips, distilled from my own experiences with local design specialists.


  • Go into Your Meetings Armed with a Firm Budget – One of the first questions I was asked by all the consultants I met with was how much money I was willing to spend. If you have not already come up with a budget for your kitchen renovation, now would be a good time to do so. It is impossible for a designer to give you accurate and useful advice without them knowing how much you wish to spend.
  • Have Some Basic Ideas Ready – A professional designer will be able to translate your ideas into practical, physical models but they need something to start with: ideas of what you want your kitchen to look like and what you want to do in it on a regular basis. For this reason, it is a good idea to think about layouts, colour schemes and the appliances you will need, before you actually meet with a design consultant.
  • Obtain Several Quotations – To make sure that you are getting value for money from your kitchen design team, request detailed quotations from at least three different companies. That way, you will be able to ensure that the team you choose are charging a fair price for the work concerned.


The key to making the most of the help and advice that experienced kitchen designers and elsewhere can provide is to have a good idea of what you want beforehand so that all they have to do is to use their skills to turn your ideas into physical reality. If you don’t know where to start, try taking a look at the kitchen designs you can find online and in good quality home improvement publications.

Do You Need a Boiler Repair Expert?

Do You Need a Boiler Repair Expert?

Unless you have had formal training or are familiar with gas-fired heating appliances for another reason, you may not know what to look out for as far as signs that your boiler is in need of professional attention are concerned. Most homeowners do a little research on the topic when they have a new central heating system fitted then forget everything they learned shortly after. This is perfectly understandable as it is the nature of the human brain to discard information that is not used on a regular basis but it is worth brushing up on the basics of boiler maintenance every once in a while, so you know when to call in the experts.

Time for the Boiler Repair Team to Pay a Visit

In my experience, the following signs should all be heeded and acted upon at the earliest possible opportunity. Failure to do so can sometimes lead to catastrophic failure, as I have learned to my cost in the past.

  1. A Strong Metallic Odour – If you should smell a strong metallic odour coming from your boiler, or any type of strong odour for that matter, you need to contact a repair specialist as soon as possible. In the meantime, it is a good idea to turn of the offending appliance. Such an odour could be a sign there is a gas leak somewhere in your system.
  2. Leaking Water – If there is a pool of water beneath your heating appliance, this is a pretty good indication that it has sprung a leak and needs to be repaired sooner rather than later! In fact, if you notice any kind of leak, even a slow drip that has not had a chance to turn into a large pool of water, you should get on the phone to your local combi boiler repair experts. If there are any electrical sockets in the vicinity, you may need to turn off the mains or the circuit breaker for those particular outlets, until you can staunch the flow of water from your boiler.
  3. Strange Noises – Banging, clanging noises emanating from your boiler could be a sign that iron deposits which have formed on the inside are creating an imbalance in the water flow. This is a problem that should be attended to as a matter of urgency because such an imbalance can lead to internal overheating and, eventually, complete failure of the appliance in question. In addition to the cost implications of such an event, you should also consider the potential safety issues it may present.

Apart from the signs listed above, you should pay attention to any kind of malfunction that may occur with your appliance, such as an inability to produce enough hot water or to maintain your home at a comfortable temperature during the winter months.  If your boiler is particularly old, you may want to think about having it inspected by an independent professional and keeping a closer eye on it in general.


How a CCTV Drain Survey Saved Me a Fortune

If you are like me, drains are probably the last thing on your mind when viewing houses for sale but as I discovered recently, this really shouldn’t be the case. Just like the electrical circuits and indoor plumbing in any property you are thinking of purchasing, domestic drainage systems should be inspected to ensure they are in good condition. In common with electrical circuitry and indoor plumbing, drains can be expensive to repair when they are allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. Anyway, enough of the lecture, let me get on with my story.


What a CCTV Drain Survey Told Me

I had arranged to meet a local estate agent outside a property in which I was interested, late on a sunny Saturday morning in February. At first glance, the house appeared to be as rare as the weather we were experiencing: a period property that was actually in an excellent state of repair. I love older houses but one of the biggest problems with buying such properties is they almost always seem to need major renovation work. This one looked different but, on the advice of a friend who had recently started working for a local plumbing company, I decided to have the drains surveyed before making an offer. This is what the survey uncovered:


1.       Roots – Although there seemed to be no major issues with the plumbing as far as I could tell from running the taps in the kitchen, bathroom and downstairs toilet, this was a house that had secrets to hide. Roots from a large oak tree in the back garden had invaded the drainage system through a crack in the old pipes and were well on their way to causing a major blockage.

2.       Imminent Collapse – In the act of forcing their way through the conveniently located cracks in the drainage pipes the tree roots had made the cracks much larger and, in several places, there were sections of pipe that looked like they could collapse at any minute. These sections were in such bad condition that replacement looked like the only option; repairing the cracks would have been an impossibility.

3.       Build-Up of Waste – At an inadvisably placed elbow in the pipework, decades of grease and household waste had accumulated and was blocking around 75% of the circumference of the elbow joint. On its own, this issue would not have stopped me from making an offer on the house but when coupled with the other problems the survey had uncovered, it was enough to make me reconsider.


The majority of buyers still don’t bother to have drains surveyed but going on my personal experience of a CCTV drain survey, I think this is a big mistake. If you buy a property with a drainage system that is in need of a major overhaul, you could end up spending tens of thousands of pounds on repairs, money that could be much better spent on renovating more visible areas of your new home.


11 Solutions to Enhance Your Backyard Privacy

A good relationship with your neighbors can change your entire living experience. You need them when you`re leaving for holidays and they need you to water their vegetable garden when they`re leaving the country for a week.

You both clear the street when it`s full of snow and you both pretend that the music of the other is pleasant enough, always at a decent level. This level of collaboration requires boundaries to assure comfort and respect.

To make sure that you get to enjoy your yard to the fullest, that you have privacy and comfort in your own backyard, you need to act to obtain privacy. You need your home to actually be private, to obtain that relaxed, normal feeling that allows you to run around in your backyard without feeling watched or visually controlled.

A list of items that can help you achieve this has been constructed and published below, there are mainly solutions that encourage the inclusion of natural, organic elements into the settings like arches, pergolas, arbors and trellises.

Obtaining privacy through green vertical walls and arches of flowers is probably the best options for you. Make sure you take the right decision when you take action on your splendid beautiful background scenery.


1.Use Super Ingenious Decorative Panels

It is important to think before you act, surf the web for solutions and inspiration before hitting your home depot. You can actually obtain very original decorative panels out of various old items that you can up-cycle from your garage or your friends; you can use up-cycled windows, old doors with vegetation or simply tall vegetation.

2.Install Custom Trellis and Install Them For Vines

A common solution that gardeners simply love are trellises. You can craft them at any width, length and height at home. You need a few home depot resources to get going. The trellises already built can also be found in any home improvement store if you don`t have the time. You can find vinyl, wood and metallic options for you installation. The greatest part of all, regardless of options, colors, dimension, is that they will serve as an anchor for beautiful vines, very important.

3.Block Views With Arched Trellis

Today the privacy problem comes from multiple angles, few homes built today have only one level and as a result, suspicious disturbing views can be obtained from the third-fourth level down upon your yard with ease on personal properties. With arched trellises ensembles, this can be changed; you can basically immerse yourself in greenery and vegetation and obtain privacy in a beautiful tunnel. Arches also create a pleasant feeling of appurtenance with the design ensemble.

4.Ivy and Jasmine on Open Structures

A really memorable view can still offer you a great amount of privacy and visual comfort if handled right. You can actually surround yourself with flowers and trees only, using a support you can get flower vines to new heights; you can use a living structure, a tree, for support or a trellis. Obtain you well deserved privacy at home, get comfortable in your own backyard with little to no effort, greenery will do the job.

5.Use Drapes and Curtains to Achieve Visual Comfort

You can go for a classic approach by installing a pergola-like structure in your setup. This can now be protected with curtains or drapes, allowing you to use control the visual privacy line whenever you need, however you want. This option is great because it allows you to customize and change the look of your setup whenever you need it, simply change the drapes and pillows of your outdoor sofa and you won the battle.

6.Build a Green Privacy Wall

Envision a green vertical wall in your backyard; what could work better with your constants than a green vertical plane?  You can realize these vertical planes through multiple methods, one being the up-cycling of plastic bottles into containers that will hold the plants and flowers. This allows you to scale the process with not costs. Install your favorite plants into the planters and the installation will surely be a successful one.

7.Install Garden Planters

If your patio or terrace is all concrete and you cannot reach earth to plant greenery you can still install some raised beds, make your own huge planters to grown vines, climbing roses and small trees; you image will change entirely and the air will be refreshed in no time. The aesthetic values will be intensified beyond belief. Bring lush vegetation into a grey picture and change the view dramatically.

8.Use Bamboo to Your Advantage

A simple, beautiful and inexpensive resource bamboo is; it can be purchased pretty much anywhere around the world and it actually grows insanely fast if you plant to grow it yourself. You can use it to tailor a custom privacy wall for your garden; the wall can actually be living, beautiful and super green if you choose to go for a growth project. The harvested yellow bamboo is also a popular beautiful option if your climate does not allow such experiments.

9.Build a Pergola and Install Arbors

A pergola combines everything that one might need in backyard and it can complement beautifully various other entertaining features like fireplaces, swimming pools and whatnot. You can tailor this pergola in any setup and grow any vines on it, beautifully improving your outdoor experience. It is also recommended to install arbors on the way to the pergola to emphasize the perspective towards it.

How do you treat this problem? Are you lucky enough to be nestled in acres of land filled with vegetation? Please do comment in the section below.


Creating a Kitchen for All Occasions

Creating a Kitchen for All Occasions

Designing a kitchen for your home is no easy task, especially if you want your new kitchen to fulfil a number of different functions. Many homeowners use their kitchens for socialising and eating family meals as well as cooking, which means that style is just as important as usability. Below are some thoughts on finding the perfect work surfaces for a multi-use kitchen, which I noted down when I was renovating the kitchen in my Maidstone home a few months ago.

Quartz, Marble and Granite Worktops in Kent

After doing my homework – searching for useful articles about kitchen design online and talking to local suppliers, I came to the conclusion that the most important feature in any new kitchen was the work surfaces. The layout and colour scheme were best handled by professionals but the choice of materials for kitchen countertops fell to the homeowner every time. Below are my thoughts on the best options currently available.

  • Quartz – Engineered quartz is a very popular choice, owing to the many different choices of colours and patterns available, as well as the fact that it is extremely durable. The higher cost of this material compared to laminate surfaces may put some people off but its durable nature means that once it is installed it could literally last you a lifetime. I decided against quartz purely because I liked the look of granite a little more.
  • Marble – In many cases, marble works out to be just as expensive as quartz, although it is possible to find cheaper deals if you shop around. I like the look of unpolished marble but I eventually dismissed it because of concerns about staining. In retrospect this was a rather hasty decision as when it is properly sealed, staining is not really an issue.
  • Granite – Whether it was because of the availability of good quality granite worktops in Kent at very competitive prices, the fact that it was very stain resistant or the fact that I simply loved the look of the dark grey, mottled surface I found I’m not sure but I now have a kitchen that is perfect for all-day cooking sessions, entertaining friends over a coffee and relaxed family meals at the weekend.

If you are looking for work surfaces that are both stylish and highly practical, I can recommend granite without reservation.


Quality Shop Fitters: The Key to Retail Success

The reasons that one shop manages to generate just enough turnover to pay the running costs whilst another provides its owner with a healthy income can be manifold but one key factor, which can make more difference than all the others put together, is the layout of the shops concerned.

Get this right, and everything else often falls into place, with very little effort required on the part of the store owner. It is for this reason that many shopkeepers place great importance on working with companies that specialise in fitting out retail outlets.


What the Right Shop Fitters Can Do for Your Store

Find the right team and you could transform your store into a money making machine that surpasses your wildest expectations. Among the many benefits you can look forward to enjoying when hiring a professional team are the following:


shop-fitting1.       Expert Advice – Running a retail outlet can be a lonely business, especially for independent concerns. However, when you enlist the help of a team that specialises in refurbishing stores across the United Kingdom, you also gain access to a wealth of knowledge concerning the latest retail trends and the type of store displays that have stood the test of time. Leverage this information effectively and you can make changes to your store that make a real difference to monthly turnover

2.       High Quality Fittings – It may be tempting to try to slash running costs by using the cheapest retail fittings and display units that you can find but in the long run this will almost certainly turn out to be a false economy.  Even if you are opening a discount store, you will want to use sturdy display units, and shelving that is made to last. Installing inferior fittings will result in higher maintenance costs in the future. Reputable shop fitting firms supply good quality fixtures and fittings.

3.       The Right Ambience – Many studies have demonstrated that emotions motivate shoppers to purchase certain goods over others, not logical thought processes. Create an ambience that appeals to your customers at an instinctive level and you could tap into a rich vein. Professional shop fitters have the knowledge and expertise to help you create the perfect ambience in your store.

4.       Ongoing Support – When you work with a reputable firm, you can look forward to ongoing support, long after they have finished refurbishing your store and moved on to pastures new. Good firms know the value of developing long lasting business relationships and will go out of their way to help you.


Whilst you may be able to save a considerable amount of money by purchasing low quality fittings and installing them yourself, the end result will probably reflect the amount that you invested in your shop alterations.

Do yourself and your business a favour by buying the best display units and shelving that you can afford, and by hiring experienced professionals to make sure that they are installed correctly in your store.

downsize your home

Easy tips to downsize your home

Having a big house makes you buy loads of things with which you fill the large spaces in your big house. However, loads of stuff that you accumulate turns into a problem if suddenly you need to shift into a smaller place. Shifting from a big space to a small space calls for downsizing.

It not only enables you to settle in a small space but also gives you freedom from everyday maintenance and expenditure that you do on the loads of stuff that you needlessly accumulate. Downsizing gives you more of manageable living space and makes you and your home well organized. Here are some tips you can follow in case you are planning to shift from your big house to a condo.


Make a list of all the belongings you cannot part with and thin down on the ones you can do without:

It is always hard to say goodbye to things that you had once purchased because you had fallen for them. However, if you follow this tip and note down your dearest belongings and let go of others, probably it will not hurt you much in bidding adieu to the belongings that you did not add in the list. You will forget about the abandoned stuff because of your dearest belongings would still be at your disposal. Make sure you indulge in this process for a minimum of three months prior to your actual shifting date.


Compare room dimensions:

The best way to downsize your present belongings so that you get to have a manageable living space in your condo is to actually compare the room dimensions of your present abode with the new one. For instance, you take up your bedroom and compare its size with the bedroom in your new condo. Now consider the furniture and other things your bed room presently have and try to figure out the possibility, as to how much of your belongings can comfortably fit into your new bedroom.


Take up areas with lesser sentimental value:

It is much easier to get rid of stuff with which you have lesser amount of sentimental feelings attached. For instance, you can cut short the number of plates and bowls in your kitchen, and some tools like shovels and lawn mowers, in the process of downsizing.


Do not throw anything in the garbage:

Believe in recycle and reuse. However, in this case both these terms do not apply, but you can always donate your stuff to needy people instead of throwing it in the garbage. There is always the option of using storage should you choose to go that route.

Remote Unlocking

Kwikset Kevo Plus Adds Remote Unlocking

If you rely on the smart Kwikset Kevo deadbolt lock to secure your door, it’s time to upgrade it to Kevo Plus. With Kevo Plus, you can now check the status of your smart lock using the most recent Kevo app or the web-based interface at

The upgrade, which costs $69.99, comes with a Bluetooth gateway that lets you lock or unlock your Kevo from wherever you are in the world via the updated Kevo app (at least version 1.4 for iOS and 1.1 for Android). This means that you don’t need to be physically near the Kevo to be able to control it. Just connect the gateway to your router to be able to access your locks over the Internet. The gateway then communicates with your Kevo locks via Bluetooth Low Energy.

The latest version of the Kevo mobile app also includes InHome Locking and Unlocking that lets your smartphone lock or unlock your Kevo or Kevo Plus just by being within Bluetooth range. The Touch-to-Open feature is still available; with this function, you can lock or unlock the Kevo or Kevo Plus by touching it, provided that a recognized smartphone is also within range — handy when your arms are full of grocery bags.

The Kevo and Kevo Plus work with mobile devices with Bluetooth LE 4.0 support, including Apple devices running at least iOS 8 (e.g., iPhone 6, 6 Plus, 4s, 5, 5c, 5s, iPod Touch fifth generation or higher and iPad and iPad Mini third generation or higher) and Android devices running at least Android 5.0 Lollipop (including the HTC One M9, Nexus 6 and 9, Samsung Galaxy S5, Galaxy S6, Galaxy S6 Edge, Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Note 4 Edge).


How Do I Choose An Interior Designer?

Sometimes turning your house into the dream abode requires a little bit of work. Whilst the outside may be picturesque, sometimes the inside will need some creativity and perhaps even some manpower. One will find with a lot of older British architecture that exteriors will age well but as the years pass, interiors become outdated. Who do you turn to in order to give the inside of your house a makeover? Why, you look to an interior designer of course!


What is an interior designer?

An interior designer is someone who will be in charge of and organise any interior work. From painting and furnishing spaces to full-on renovations, an interior designer will be able to provide you with a vast array of services. You’ll also find that designers that are knowledgeable and experienced in areas such as structural design are sometimes known as interior architects. Moreover, these designers are able to manage your project from conception to completion. If you wish to carry out interior renovations or change the structure of your chosen space, hiring an interior designer is the way to go.


What service does an interior designer provide?

The work of an interior designer is varied and incredibly versatile. It can cover planning a colour scheme for your space, to purchasing décor and even creating bespoke furniture for you. An interior designer will differ from a decorator or furniture vendor in that they will be able to carry out structural alterations in your house. This makes turning to an interior designer perfect for you if you want to carry out renovations. Additionally, they can oversee your project from start to finish and this is called project management. What that results in is less hassle for you whether you are dealing with your own house or a commercial property.


What should I look for?


Prior to seeking out an interior designer, it’s best to plan what you want exactly – otherwise the designer won’t be as effective in managing the project. If you don’t have some notion of what you want your final completed space to be like, it may not happen otherwise. Secondly, you should ensure that your potential designers are reputable. You can do this by asking your friends and family as well as checking online for their reviews on websites such as Plentific. Ideally, an interior designer should be a member of an accrediting organisation such as SBID or BIID as both enforce professional standards.

Upon settling on an interior designer you should meet with them at the place you wish to renovate and break down your plans to them. It’s important to be clear on your budget and how much you are willing to spend. In turn, the designer will be able to give you an indication of the plausibility of your demands and the work that will entail. Communicating with your designer will ensure that you both know how many people the project will require, how long it will take and how much it will cost. In doing so, you should ultimately be able to avoid encountering any nasty surprises as the project is carried out.


How much does hiring an interior designer cost?


The price of an interior design project will greatly vary depending on the work that is being carried out. A job that doesn’t require any structural changes is going to cost significantly less compared to one where multiple people need to be employed. Your initial quote will most likely be dependent on who is providing the furnishing. Moreover, you should ask whether or not VAT is included in your quote and if the VAT covers the entire project. The next step would be working out and agreeing on a payment plan with your interior designer. This plan should then be written out and included in your contract.

What questions should I ask my interior designer?

  • How much do you charge for an initial consultation?
  • Are you a member of SBID or BIID?
  • Do you carry out project management?
  • Will you need multiple people to carry out this project?
  • How long do you think this project will take?
  • Have you taken on any similar projects in the past?
  • What are the rates that you charge?
  • Are your quotes fixed?
  • Do your quotes include VAT?
  • Can we work out a payment plan for the project?