Five Home Improvement Trends To Watch In 2019

1. DIYers are more likely to be Millennials.

Nearly a quarter of the population made home improvements in the last year and only 7% of them worked with a professional. “DIYers spend more than 60 hours per week on TV and digital devices, including computers and smartphones,” Peter Katsingris, senior vice president of insights at Neilsen told conference attendees. “The technology and the choices it provides make DIY a realistic option for people.” (A quick search of YouTube shows 252,000 results for home improvement DIY videos, potentially a useful albeit cluttered marketing platform for reaching this massive demographic – or figuring out how to wire your new smart home security system.)

2. Over-inspiration is a key factor in home improvement regret.

More than a third of homeowners who completed a home improvement project in the past year regret not spending more on the project, according to The Regret Factor Study. “Regretters are more likely to have used a wide range of inspirational sources, especially television, magazines and social media,” observed declared Brenda Bryan of RICKI, the Research Institute for Cooking and Kitchen Intelligence, who led the study with Leslie Gillock, vice president, director of insights at Wray Ward. (FOMO, the fear of missing out, has apparently migrated from vacation and party video envy on Facebook to real world remodeling projects. That’s worth considering when planning a remodeling project at the right investment level for your property, or supplying products or services for a client’s.)

3. The rental housing market is on the rise. 

A wave of growth since 2004 has increased the number and share of rental households in the U.S., especially higher-end rentals in urban areas. According to the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University, 40% of recent additions to the rental stock charge $1,500 or more per month. (This insight could lead to greater interest in “portable” home improvement products that tenants can take with them when they move, such as hand-held massaging shower heads and freestanding wine refrigerators.)

4. Remodeling activity isn’t slowing down anytime soon. 

The steady increase in remodeling activity will continue through 2021, HIRI experts predict. (With home prices increasing, new construction harder to find in some areas of the country, and homeowners aging in place, people are staying put and remodeling.) “With the existing house stock averaging 38 years old, much of the inventory is in need of updating,” noted Mark Boud, senior vice president and chief economist at Hanley Wood/Metrostudy.

5. With home wellness on the rise, the lighting industry is leading the way.

“Circadian rhythm lighting is a hot topic,” declared Jie Zhao, Ph.D., senior vice president of research and development at wellness real estate and technology firm Delos. (This new technology, also called human centric or tunable lighting, produces indoor illumination that more closely matches natural light in its warmth and, paired with home automation, shifts through the day with the sun to ease the impact of artificial light on the human body.) “It’s  changing the landscape of the smart home and lighting in general,” added Zhao.





Back to School Organization Ideas for Your Home

It’s back to school time and life gets hectic again. Want to do things differently this year to cut out some of the time wasters and stress? Here are five back to school organization ideas that will help you keep your home organized and running smoothly.

1.      Create a functional entry space to store (and hide) gear

Take control of clutter and chaos right at the entrance of your home, by creating an entry that catches everyone (and everything) before they get inside too far. Designate an area with a bench or seat for removing dirty shoes and other outdoor gear such as rain boots, jackets and umbrellas.

Add plenty of hooks to hang backpacks and jackets. Place labelled or color-coded baskets under the bench for each family member’s smaller items. Getting everyone in the habit of leaving all their stuff in their assigned spot will make leaving the house the next morning a little smoother.

2. Create a designated kid’s breakfast and snack station


So you’ve managed to get the kids to be tidier by putting their things away somewhere they can find them again. But now they’re starving and the chaos moves to the kitchen. Why not designate a spot in the kitchen for their after-school snacks, morning breakfast and lunches?

Depending on the size of your kitchen, it can be as simple as the lower drawer of a cabinet to a full-on pantry or cabinet section complete with a mini fridge for drinks. If possible, choose a spot that isn’t in the way when you’re cooking or washing up. Keep bowls, utensils and lunch boxes in a lower area that’s easy for younger kids to reach. And keep it stocked with their favourite healthy cereals, snacks and drinks.


3. Set up a kitchen homework spot

The kitchen is the heart of the home and also a great area to set up a small homework spot. And you can make sure homework is getting done while you prepare dinner!


4. Get your laundry room sorted


School clothes, towels and sports uniforms pile up fast throughout the week. Organize your laundry space with dirty laundry baskets labelled into darks, colours, lights and an emergency basket for items that are extra dirty and need immediate attention.

Ask everyone to throw their dirty laundry into baskets to save you time having to search under the bed or in gym bags for items that need washing. Save yourself even more time by placing clean items in designated baskets that each child can take back to their room and put away.

5. Set up an operations command centre


Keep your family running like a well-oiled machine by organizing a command centre complete with a calendar, bulletin board, chalk or dry erase board for to-do lists and a place to catch paperwork or mail.



Getting your house ready for Spring

Caring for a property, especially an older property requires a little extra thought, but the maintenance doesn’t have to be hard work. Certain jobs should be undertaken annually or bi-annually to prevent damage to your home, and will prove far less costly than having to remedy serious problems that will occur if the property is not maintained. Regularly checking your home for maintenance will also mean that you will spot issues early, and there will be less of a chance of problems developing.

Use our home maintenance checklist for Spring to make sure your home is properly maintained and cared for, whatever the season.

 External maintenance

·         Clear gutters and gullies of leaves and other debris, and check the state of rainwater goods.

·         Check the roof for excessive moss growth and loose or missing tiles. If the property is thatched, monitor the roof for signs of decay.

·         Fit birdcages to chimney pots, if not already in place, to prevent birds from nesting in them.

·         Use binoculars to check the state of your chimney stack. It may need repointing or the pot may need securing.

·         Assess the state of your exterior paintwork. If you spot blistering or peeling, arrange for the exterior to be decorated when the weather is consistently warmer and drier.

·         Check external walls for cracks in the brickwork or render and assess the state of the pointing.

·         Clear leaves, soil and debris from the bases of walls to help prevent damp occurring.

·         Ensure any air bricks are free from dirt and cobwebs.

·         Clean the windows and check the state of the glass and frames.

·         Take a look around your garden for signs of winter damage, such as cracked walls, decaying fences and plants that have not made it through the cold spells.

·                 Sweep and clean garden paths and maintain any decking,      cleaning it annually to prevent the build up of a slippery moss   surface.

·         Clean external decoration, such as ornate terracotta work or stonework. Use a soft brush to sweep away dirt, only using a stiffer brush or damp cloth for more stubborn grime. Remember, you’re only trying to lift dirt to prevent build-up and overcleaning can cause damage.

Internal maintenance

·         Pull furniture away from walls to air the space and check the walls for damp and mould patches.

·         Open all of your windows and give your home a good air. We tend to block up draughts and hinder ventilation in winter to keep the house warm, making the air stale and raising moisture content, in which mould is more likely to form.

·          Take down curtains and blinds and give them a good dust. You may want to hang them outside to air, too.

·          Check pipes for signs of leaks.

·          Access your loft to check internally for slipped roof tiles and signs of water ingress.


Contact us on for all your home maintenance needs

Christmas Home Tips

1. Light it up!

It's the darkest time of the year so make your home sparkle with some clever lighting.

Everyone loves fairylights on the tree but adding them to your mantelpiece or wrapping them around your stair banisters creates a festive glow that can flow from room to room.

Drape them across the tops of shelves or even above cornicing for a gorgeous glow;

2. Tree to the max

If you're bored of just a large Christmas tree stuck in one corner every year, why not think about getting a few smaller trees to dot around the house?

Artificial, smaller trees are great for adding festive cheer to other areas of your home such as the hallway, upstairs landing and even your bedroom!

3. Use your little helpers

Get the kids involved in making home-made decorations such as wreaths and fireside ornaments.

Wreaths - simply twist a wire coat-hanger into a round base for the wreath, then wrap branches of greenery around them such as pine and fir, securing with wire.

You can then glue in fir cones or plastic red berries.

Kids will love decorating their own fir cones.

Simply bring a few back from a muddy walk, clean up and spray with gold or silver glitter spray and dot around your fireplace or under the tree;

4. Fake it

Nothing says Christmas like candles.

But, with kids and tipsy relations milling about they can be dangerous.

Invest in some flameless battery-operated flicker candles.

Many have scents like the real thing.

Pop them in your window to give a festive glow – without the worry of any accidents;

5. Santa stop here!

Make sure Santa doesn't miss your house by using fun signs and placards.

A 'Santa stop here' sign looks great outside the house or by the chimney – and it's a good way to bribe the kids into behaving well by reminding them Father Christmas is on his way;

6. Change the colour

Everyone associates Christmas with colours such as red and gold.

But why do the same?

A tree covered with different shades of blue baubles and decorations, for example, gives a modern edge – you can complement this with blue accents in your garlands and even hang up different coloured blue stockings by the fire;

7. Pick a theme

Perhaps you're tired of your usual decorations so why not pick a theme this year?

Victorian Christmas decorations look stunning in any home – think Mistletoe balls hanging from ribbon, and small toys, dried fruits and nuts hanging from the tree for a truly historical Christmas;

8. Dine in style

It's the most important meal of the year.

So don't let your table decorations let the turkey down.

A selection of different coloured and sized baubles in a clear vase make a great quirky centrepiece.

Handmade placecards cut into shapes like Christmas trees or sprigs of holly will make your guests feel extra special;

9. Show your cards

Bored of simply stuffing your cards in the windowsill, only to knock them down every time you pull the curtains?

Why not choose a more inventive way to display them.

Cards hanging from strips of ribbon at different heights makes a pretty display, or why not peg cards around a wreath on the wall?

Another way is to hang an empty picture frame with string in lines inside it – hang your cards from the strings to create a 'painting' of cards on your wall;

10. Don't forget outdoors

If you want more than just a few lights hanging from the exterior of your house, why not invest in some freestanding rope lights in festive shapes such as reindeers and Santa to give a festive edge to your front lawn?

Or, instead of the usual wreath on your front door, get one with LED lights that will glow in the darkness, welcoming your guests to the perfect Christmas...

Prepping Your Home For Winter

A 10 point checklist to get your home prepared;

1. Check that your gutters aren’t full of weeds or leaves. Now is the time to do it as all the leaves are down. If they’re blocked and there’s a lot of rain, it’s going to make quite a mess apart from anything else. If the gutters and pipes are full of water that then goes on to freeze, it can cause the pipes to crack and break.

If there are tall trees in the garden, do get them assessed in case weak branches or the whole tree might come down in a winter storm.

2. If you have an open fire or stove, get the chimney swept as a build-up of soot is a fire risk. Even if you don’t use the fire much, there could be lots of twigs or a bird’s nest in there. Get the chimney sweep to check that all is as it should be

3. We lose a lot of heat from our homes from ill-fitting doors and windows. Now is the time to get some of those repaired. Putting a draught excluder by your exterior doors will reduce that cold draught coming in under the door. Pull the curtains on rooms that are used infrequently, for example, a spare bedroom.

4. If your boiler or gas fire hasn’t been serviced for over a year, now is the time to get it done.

5. Any exposed water pipes should be insulated. Was there any work done during the summer and left on the long finger to be finished when you had time?

6. Have a walk around your house and look up at your roof. Do any tiles look loose? The recent storms might have caused some minor damage that you didn’t notice at the time.

7. If you haven’t done so already, put away or cover your patio furniture and children’s play equipment. If you had bedding plants in pots, you can use the spent compost as a mulch on the beds. Wash the pots before putting them away until next year or get fresh compost and create some displays for winter.

8. If the ground is dry enough, give your lawn a final mow. Cut away dead flowers and shrubs. If you have dahlias in the garden, this month is the time to lift them. If you’d like more flowers in the spring, it is time to plant snowdrops, daffodils, tulips and other spring flowers.

9. If you have a holly tree in the garden, cut a few stems that have berries for your Christmas decorating. If you leave them in water in a cold place such as the garage, they should keep until Christmas.

10. Make your home look cosier too by buying a few cosy scatter cushions and a throw for the living room. Adding a couple of table lamps and dimming the main light will create a relaxing atmosphere too.


Improving Your Building's Energy Performance

Anyone who owns or operates an existing building should be scheduling energy audits and/or retro-commissioning. Here’s why:

Improving building energy performance reduces costs, lowers strain on shared community resources, and demonstrates a commitment to environmental stewardship. Local councils nationwide are leading the charge to improve building performance, and many have adopted the LEED Energy and Atmosphere Prerequisite: Commissioning for new buildings as part of their standard requirements.

One result of these standardized requirements is commissioning on new buildings has become more common in the real estate industry. Although standardized commissioning is a critical step in ensuring energy efficient, properly operating new buildings, there is another largely untapped area of energy savings: existing buildings. Energy audits and retro-commissioning are ideal solutions to this problem and can lead to significant savings for the owner.

An energy audit identifies deficiencies and develops strategies to reduce energy waste and improve building performance. Retro-commissioning is simply the follow-up to an audit or the implementation phase of the identified improvements. An energy audit can typically identify 5-20% savings, depending on the building’s current operation level.

After performing retro-commissioning and energy audits for more than five million square feet of existing building real estate, we have developed a list of common low/no-cost Energy Conservation Measures (ECMs) that are identified on the majority of projects.

Here are five of our favourites:

One of the easiest ways to instantly see savings is to establish operating schedules for the HVAC equipment in the building. Modern building automation can schedule when equipment is turned on and off, and prevent the equipment from conditioning the building when it is empty.  Energy savings can be achieved by simply reviewing the lease agreements and adjusting the start times accordingly.

Maintaining temperature set points for the heating and cooling seasons and limiting the user adjustable range is a simple way to provide quick, easy savings without sacrificing tenant comfort.

An uncalibrated sensor can cause equipment to run more often and at a higher capacity, or it can even prevent equipment from entering free cooling operation.

During much of the year, the central systems do not need to operate at their design temperatures and pressures to satisfy the building loads. Building automation systems can usually adjust set points to account for building load conditions. For example, a hot water system would not need to provide the same temperature water to satisfy the heating load on a 40-degree day as it would on a 10 degree day. Similar resets can be implemented on chilled water and air side systems. These types of adjustments can provide good savings, and can require a more complex building automation system

Occupancy sensors can be a relatively low cost option to ensure lights are properly turned off in regularly unoccupied areas (storage closets, bin storage rooms, IT closets) or for office areas in the evenings.

If these five approaches don’t apply to your building, that’s ok! In our experience, we have developed a comprehensive list of best practices, and we add to it regularly. An audit will reveal where you need to focus on changes and tweaks, and will generate a customised list of recommendations that is perfect for your building.


(courtesy: Building Design & Construction)

Painting your house tips

Painting the interior of your home can be an extremely rewarding exercise. In embarking on this kind of project you have the opportunity to change the entire look and feel of each room, the perspective of each area and influence the general mood of its occupants. No mean feat for a few tins of paint.

The first thing that we would recommend is that you determine the various colour schemes of the rooms to be painted. You can do this through an interior designer ( or colour consultant or by yourself if you have a good eye. Regardless of which route you go down there are a few aspects that I would suggest you consider prior to getting started.

Never, ever paint a room without applying a sample of the paint to an area of the room first.

Some colours just go together, others clash. This can be trial and error. To be safe remember that like colours go well together. Reds go with other shades of red, greens go well with other shades of green. This can often extend to similar colours complementing each other for instance greens with yellows.

A colour scheme can effect the perspective of a room. For example dark colours in a small room, such as a bathroom or study, can create a cramped feeling and make the room appear smaller than it actually is. Light, bright colours can make it feel more inviting.

When trying to create a mood take the example of yellow which is considered as being a bright, warm and cheerful colour, while blues are considered restful and cool. There are numerous books and websites where you can get advice on this aspect of colour schemes.

Generally a room has one dominant colour with the option of having complementary subordinate ones. Remember to consider furnishing and fittings in any colour scheme that you choose.

From a project perspective undertaking the painting requires a whole column to itself. Your key to a successful job will be in your preparation. For those who do not want to go down this road, hire a professional painting contractor.

Once you have chosen your preferred colours you will need to pick your paint type. These vary from water based to enamel. Then you will need to measure your paint area to see how much paint you require and remember when calculating surface areas to deduct for windows etc.

It is essential that the surface to be painted is smooth. Make sure you fill any blemishes with interior filler. If the surface is already painted then you will need to make a call as to whether you need to strip it.

If painting on to plaster then sand it and apply undercoat before applying paint.

To check out appropriate colours with which to create a mood, or to complement each other, give us a call here at Urban and we would love to help out any way we can (Tel: 012544488).

(source onlinetradesmen)


Getting your Garden ready for Summer

If you spend a lot of time in your garden, or at least a lot of time looking after your garden, then you might want to consider some sort of garden structure. Certain garden structures can add an ornamental design feature to your home but more importantly they can be useful structures for housing tools, providing shade and shelter, offering a room separate from the house and encouraging plants to grow (courtesy of Houzz).

What garden structures are available?

The classic garden structure is, of course, the humble garden shed. If you simply need a place to store garden tools, a lawnmower, bikes and other miscellaneous items, then a shed is a simple solution. You no longer have to stick with the basic plywood shed as there are plenty of more modern and up-to-date designs available. If you have the space and the budget, a converted garden shed cum garden room will be a great place in which to relax, work or be creative, so consider building something a bit bigger if you can. For the green fingered amongst you, a greenhouse will naturally help you to grow plants that like a warmer climate, or if you want a beautiful way to display your plants, look at pergolas, arbours and trellises. For sunny spots, you might want to look at awnings and canopies. These can either be freestanding or attached to the side of a wall or another structure. Tents and gazebos are the perfect structures for putting up just in the summer months as a place to cool down in, relax and host BBQs or garden parties.

What should I consider when adding a garden structure?

The first thing to consider should be your need for a garden structure: is it to have storage, to grow plants or to have a living area? If you're sure on what you want a garden structure for, you'll next need to think about space and positioning. You'll need the best sunlight spot for greenhouses and other structures that support sun-loving plants, but for gazebos and canopies you may want to try and find a more shaded area so they don't have to do much work to give you respite from the sun (if that's what you want!) You might also want to think about the view you'll have from inside the structure. If you're using a shed or larger structure as a garden room then it will be much more appealing if the front opens up or uses glass to look out upon the house, the rest of the garden or a suitably picturesque view (if you have one), rather than a garden wall or fence. Finally, think about materials and styles. A traditional wooden shed may look out of place in a very contemporary garden and vice versa, so consider the other materials used in your garden, and potentially your house, before diving in and purchasing that elaborate Victorian gazebo.

Top tips to add value to your property

If you’re planning on putting your home on the market you need to do everything you can to ensure you get the maximum value. Here are top tips on adding value to your property.


Attic conversion.

Converting your attic is the simplest way to add another room to your property, be that a bedroom, bathroom or study. The work itself is not particularly disruptive so it’s a convenient, value-adding strategy. Simply ensure the attic has easy access and you will reap the rewards.


Planning permission

Securing planning permission is one of the cheapest ways to add value to your property. This planning permission could be for an attic or an extension and will immediately spark a buyer’s imagination about the work they can do to customise your property and make it their own.


Convert your garage

Nowadays most garages simply aren’t used, and as a result they are wasted space.  Depending on your property dimensions you can add significantly more habitable space to your property.


Bedroom > Office

Although you may have made use of one of your bedrooms as an office the fact is that in most cases buyers would prefer to see a bedroom rather than an office. Although it’s easy to convert an office to a bedroom remember that many buyers have little imagination so make sure to show them exactly what you think they want to see.


Paint your house

It’s an overused statement, but first impressions are hugely important and buyers start forming opinions the moment they see your property. Ensure the front of your house is freshly painted and clean and stands out in comparison to your neighbours.


Kitchen is key

If you are going to focus on only one room then make it the kitchen. Kitchens are the heartbeat of the home for everything from cooking to entertaining. Ensure that your kitchen is functional, making the best use of available space and that is has up-to-date equipment and fittings.


Acknowledgement: YourBricks


Winter Blues Home Improvements

5 Simple home improvement projects to banish the winter blues of early 2016

If you are dreading the long months of cold weather ahead and the thought of being stuck inside, consider curing cabin fever with some fun, easy and rewarding home improvement projects. 

When choosing projects to tackle first, Jamie O’Hara, Senior Project Manager with Urban suggests focusing on ones that will increase your property value, save money on your utility bills, and, of course, add a smile to your face. Here are five ideas to get you started.

1. Create walls that wow

Since you're stuck inside staring at the walls, why not give them a new look. Adding modern trim work, crown molding and a bold coat of paint can completely change the look of a room without the expense of doing a complete renovation, O’Hara said.

“Contrary to what many homeowners might believe, you can use paint in your home without opening up every window as long it’s an environmentally friendly and waterborne paint, which has virtually no fumes,” he said. “Plus, the dryness of the colder months can actually produce faster results.”

To really add visual interest to your walls, homeowners could go with a new or dramatic paint colour or use painter’s tape to create stripes or patterns. A winter project O’Hara and his wife are actually getting ready to do is hang wallpaper in their bedroom.

“Wallpaper is making a bit of a comeback thanks to home improvement shows,” Bolger said. “It can definitely be a do-it-yourself project or you can get professionals to do it. My wife and I have hung it before in other rooms, so we have some experience on our side.”

“Replacing interior doors is an affordable way to give your home an updated look versus an expensive renovation,” said Conor Dunne, Urban interior design team.

2. Add a “splash” of personality to your kitchen

For homeowners looking to spice up their kitchen without spending a pretty penny, adding a backsplash is a great solution, not to mention the perfect project for a cold winter weekend. 

“For only a couple of hundred euros you can completely change the look of your kitchen, as well as customise it to fit your personality,” said Conor Dunne. 

Just a few years ago tile stores had only about a few styles to choose from. Today, stores have a lot more in stock, in different styles and sizes, ranging from classic subway tile style to natural stone to metal. While adding more functionality to a kitchen, a backsplash can also help accessorise and emphasise countertops, cabinets and appliances.

“Installation is a relatively simple process, but it is very tedious and time intensive,” said Dunne, who recommends making it a weekend project. “There are now other products like the simple peel and stick tiles that save time and eliminate a lot of the mess.”

Two pitfalls he warns do-it-yourselfers about are not taking the time to prep and lay out a template which can result in irregular lines or spaces. And not cleaning off the grout completely, which once dry can result in a nasty haze that is almost impossible to get off.

In addition to tiles, IKEA in Ballymun have really simple acrylic sheets that can be cut to size and stuck on, cheaply, quickly and easily.

3. Lighten up your rooms

What better way to brighten and warm your spirits this winter than with new lights or lamps. Not to mention it’s an easy and affordable way to update the style of any room.

“We get a lot of clients during the winter who are looking at new lighting to get ready for the holidays or to accent kitchen and bathroom renovations,” said Siobhainn Gallagher, Urban architecture team.

LED-style lights, which come in contemporary and bold styles, also provide a money-saving option. Installing dimmers in areas like the family room or dining room saves money, while allowing homeowners to customize the ambiance. 

In addition to pendant lighting, another style that is growing in popularity, said Gallagher, is Steampunk, which is a cross between vintage and industrial designs. But for a softer more romantic feel, a crystal chandelier is still a timeless choice.

“When it comes to installation and dealing with electrical issues my advice is to hire a professional so you know it’s done right,” Gallagher said.

4. Turn dull doors into classy decor

With home improvement projects, sometimes it’s the things that are used the most that are noticed the least. Like all the doors in your home — in and out of rooms, to closets and utility rooms. But after a closer look, the scratches, cracks, old hinges and outdated style can be hard to miss.

“Replacing interior doors is an affordable way to give your home an updated look versus an expensive renovation,” said Donal McCabe, Urban’s one-stop-property-shop Site Manager. “Most of the homeowners that come to us are looking for doors that have a unique or more modern look than what they have.”

According to McCabe, there are a lot of options that many people might not even think about. For example, double doors are a much more functional and attractive alternative to sliding doors and bi-fold doors, while French-style doors can add natural light and architectural detail to a space.

“A big thing with customers right now is not so much the door, but the hardware,” McCabe said. “Homeowners are choosing update hinges and doorknobs with more modern colours like brushed nickel or aged bronze.” 

While installing interior doors can be a job for do-it-yourselfers, McCabe pointed out that it can quickly turn into a bigger job than expected, especially when replacing doors in older homes. 

“Most doors are not going to just fall into place,” McCabe said. “The jobs we do involve cutting, trimming and shaping the door to size, and sometimes replacing the architrave,frames and stop beads.”

McCabe’s advice to homeowners looking to replace interior doors is for them to do their homework, know their budget, and have an idea of what they like.

5. Take your bathroom from drab to fab

There’s no better time than the winter to turn your boring bathroom into a spa retreat. While replacing a tap, re-grouting tile, or repainting are relatively easy for the do-it-yourselfer, more ambitious jobs like replacing the bath tub or adding a tile floor might be better left to a professional.

While a complete renovation might be a bigger investment, it’s worth considering, said Amber Sweeney, Urban building team.

“Many older homes were not built using mold-resistant drywall, so if you’re going to make an investment in upgrading your bathroom, that’s one of the best places to start,” she said. “Knowing what’s going on behind the walls is important before making expensive updates.”

According to Sweeney, there is also a lot of plumbing involved with replacing bathtubs, sinks and toilets, which requires an expert to ensure it’s done right. Once the walls are closed up, a small leak can go unnoticed for a long time, resulting in serious damage and possibly a complete remodel.

“My philosophy is that if you’re going to invest in a project, do it right the first time,” she said.


Contact Urban architecture + construction ONE-STOP-PROPERTY-SHOP via email, twitter, phone, facebook, pinterest, Instagram, or office and see how we can help you, or even if you are only aftersome advice. We are always here to help.



Outdoor Christmas Lights

How to hang outdoor Christmas lights

Hanging your Christmas lights – you either love it or hate it. If you’re unprepared it can be a time-consuming and tricky task, and won’t show off your decorations at their best.

We’ll guide you through the best way to hang string lights outside your home, to help make decorating your home a festive and hassle-free experience this Christmas.

Before you Begin

Most outdoor Christmas decorations are powered by mains electricity. You’ll need access to a safe outdoor power supply to plug your lights in, so check that you have a suitable outdoor socket that will protect the electrics against the elements. Measure the distance from the socket to where you want to hang your lights, and check whether the cable on the lights will be long enough. If it isn’t, consider a different location or opt for a weatherproof extension lead that is safe to leave out of doors.

If you don’t have access to an outdoor socket, or have a larger garden, then battery powered lights are ideal. You won’t need to worry about trailing cables, and they offered greater flexibility if you’re going for a more creative display. Don’t forget to stock up on batteries or keep a charger and rechargeable ones to hand.

Be sure to only use lights which are suitable for outdoor use – these will be weatherproof, ensuring safety and that your display will last the festive season.

Before you start work, plug in your lights at ground level to make sure that everything is working correctly. It will be much harder to replace bulbs or fix problems once the lights are hung, so tackle this first. If you’re bringing lights out of storage check the cables – if these look worn or damaged then replace your decorations, as this could be a sign they are unsafe.

Don’t forget that if you’re working at height, on a ladder, to hang your lights, there are a few simple precautions to take. Make sure that you place your ladder on a solid, level piece of ground and ask another adult to hold the ladder still whilst you’re working. Why not team up with a neighbour to help each other decorate your homes? You’ll also want to make sure that you can reach the highest point you’re hanging lights from without standing on the top step of the ladder.

Cold Weather Tips

When freezing weather arrives you can easily pull on an extra layer or blanket to keep out the chill. But to protect your home, the simple precautions below can help to reduce the risk of serious damage to your property.

Cold weather can often be the cause of maintenance problems around the home, which are not only inconvenient but can be very costly to repair. Insulating your exposed water pipes is an easy and inexpensive first step.

Prevent frozen pipes in winter

  • Insulate your pipes and the loft water storage tank. Put the insulation foam on top of pipes rather than underneath them
  • Turn off any indoor valves on pipes leading to outside taps, then open the outside tap and leave it open to let any water drain out
  • Regularly check all the taps in your home during the winter months. If little or no water flows, there may be frozen water in the pipes
  • If you are away from home in the winter, set the central heating to come on for a short period each day to prevent pipes from freezing
  • Find out where the mains water stopcock is, and ensure it turns off easily. If your pipes do freeze, turn the water off and thaw them out slowly with hot water bottles. Never use a heat gun or blow torch
  • Ask someone to check your home if you're away for a while. This should help ensure leaking or burst pipes are spotted early and damage is kept to a minimum (tell them where the stopcock is)


Get ready with a bit of DIY

  • Save a supply of drinking water for emergencies
  • Repair any dripping taps – if they freeze, they'll block your pipes
  • Clear leaves and debris from gutters to reduce the risk of dams that can turn to ice
  • Insulate pipes in unheated areas like the garage
  • Tidy away or cover garden furniture
  • Check the outside lights are all working, or add a light to make access safer
  • Keep yourself warm – enjoy a hot meal and drinks, and keep active


Improve your energy efficiency

A good start is to fill any draughty gaps and also keep the heat inside your home. This will help save on your fuel bills too.

  • Block draughts from windows, external and internal doors, skirting, loft hatches, and pipes or cables passing through walls
  • Draw the curtains at dusk and close internal doors to unheated rooms
  • Insulate your loft – a quarter of your heat can be lost through the roof
  • Get heating appliances serviced, or your chimneys swept to ensure that the fire burns efficiently
  • Radiator reflectors will direct heat into the room and not out through an external wall (ensure the radiators are not covered by curtains or furniture)
  • Fit a thermal jacket around the hot water cylinder – at least 75mm thick – and check the thermostat isn't set higher than 60 degrees
  • If your radiators have cool spots when the central heating is on, bleed them to improve their efficiency
  • Set your heating to 18–21°C to keep your bills low, and to come on earlier and go off later rather than turning the thermostat up.


Wet Weather - Internal Preparation

Once the outside of your home is prepared, follow these simple tips to make sure that your home is protected from the inside out.

  1. Don't let the outside in

    Check your roof from the inside to be sure there are no issues. Grab a torch and take a trip to the attic to check for any potential problems.

    Things to look for from the inside, are:

    • Places where the roof is sagging
    • Signs of water damage or leaking
    • Dark spots and trails
    • Outside light showing through the roof

    If you stumble across any of the above, it could be an issue. It's worth contacting a professional for some expert advice.

    Draught proofing

    Prevent rain, wind and dirt coming into your home with our range of rain bars and deflectors. Just attach to the bottom of your door to deflect rain and dirt.

    Also available for the bottom of doors, are brush seals. Sealing against smoke, odours, draughts, dust, insects and light, brush seals are attached to the bottom of doors that experience particularly heavy usage, such as front doors. Brush strip sealing is perfect for solving draught problems, and particularly good for retaining heat in the home and lowering heating bills.


    When the rain starts, it's usually a sign that we're entering into a period of bad weather. Some simple rain can soon become gale force winds and thunder storms. Insulating hot water tanks and pipes will help keep your water hot for that nice long bath after a day battling the elements. It will also protect your pipes if you're unlucky enough to experience extreme weather, such as flooding.

    Check that your heating system is working properly; it's a good idea to get it serviced before wet, windy and cold weather sets in.

    Make sure you know how to turn off the water, gas and electricity. You may need to do this in an emergency, so be prepared. If you live in a flat, your water supply may come from outside your flat, so make sure you know where it is.


Wet Weather - External Preparation

A little rain doesn't need to cause worry, it's a valuable resource to keep your garden in bloom. A lot of rain, however, can cause a lot of worry. Extreme weather conditions can cause serious damage to your home and in turn create unexpected costs and hassle. We're here to help with simple steps that can be taken to avoid problems like these.

Protecting the outside of your home from the elements is the first step in preparing for bad weather. Consider the condition of your roof and gutters to evaluate whether any repairs need to be made, and store away garden furniture and tools.

  1. Secure your roof

    Don't wait until water is unexpectedly pouring into your home by way of a leaky roof. Start protecting your home by using some simple observation skills.

    Make sure your roof is in good condition - walk around your home's exterior, inspecting the roof from the ground for signs of damage, sagging, and aging. Take notes of any possible problem areas or areas in need of closer inspection. Check particularly for loose or missing tiles and for any cracks in the chimney. Missing roof tiles means your roof is directly exposed to adverse weather conditions.

    Hire a professional roofing contractor to patch up any gaps you might find.


    Gutters are an essential part of your roofing system. The purpose of the gutter is to collect and funnel away any water that lands on the roof, taking water away from the building's foundations, protecting your exterior surfaces and stopping water from entering the home.

    If water penetrates your home, woodwork can perish, mould will begin to grow, condensation forms and brickwork will erode. Damp patches quickly spread and health problems can become an issue.

    Check the guttering outside your home isn't broken or leaking and clear out any leaves or other debris. This will reduce the risk of blockages during heavy rain, which can cause your guttering to overflow and create all sorts of problems for your home.

    To reduce the risk of blockages there are preventative steps you can take. Tight-fitting wire mesh or plastic caps are available to fit most types of downpipe. They allow water through but trap leaves and dirt.

    Safety first

    Do not use ladders during adverse weather conditions and when you are using a ladder always secure it or have someone holding the ladder at the bottom.

    Top tip

    You might want to consider cutting back any over-hanging trees as the autumn fall of leaves will most likely cause blockages and guttering problems every year.

    If your guttering is broken, or new guttering needs to be installed, we can help with our handy guide to installing guttering.

    Sheds & storage

    Garden equipment and power tools can be seriously damaged by wet weather. To keep your furniture looking its very best for longer, store it in dry conditions and ensure that all pieces are fully dry before putting away.

    If you've already invested in a shed but are concerned about weatherproofing, it's worth checking the condition of felting on the roof. If it looks tired or damaged, consider replacing the felt to help keep garden equipment, tools and other appliances dry.

    We can help you get started with our video guide to felting a shed roof.

    Garden furniture & barbecues

    Garden furniture is often subject to sharp showers and heavy downfalls, which can cause damage over time. Look to apply a waterproofing treatment to wooden garden furniture - which will keep the beautiful look of your wood while also giving it the protection it needs. It will protect your furniture from the liquids outside, in order to avoid splitting, rotting, and warping.

    Barbecue covers

    If your barbecue often sits outside on the patio, rather than tucked away in the shed, consider a waterproof cover. For the best protection, safely store your barbecue, once cool, in a shed or garage to prevent rust occurring.


Fire Safety in the Home

Teach your household these steps to fire safety

  • Teach your family all the dangers of fire, and practice your fire escape plan thoroughly
  • Fit a smoke alarm on each level of your home. Keep them free from dust, test the alarm regularly and replace batteries once a year
  • Be prepared: install an household fire extinguisher in a prominent position, and a fire blanket close to (but not above) the hob
  • Unless a fire is very small and can be put out with a domestic fire extinguisher, do not tackle it yourself. Get out, stay out and call 999
  • Never leave a hot pan with oil in it unattended. If a pan fire starts, contain it by turning off the heat source then covering the pan with a damp tea towel or fire blanket if you have one. Leave it covered for at least 30 minutes while the heat subsides
  • Don't overload electrical sockets. Remember one plug for one socket
  • Keep matches, lighters and candles out of sight and reach of children
  • Never leave lit candles unattended or where children are alone. Ensure candles are in secure holders on a surface that does not burn and are away from any flammable materials
  • Don't plug electric blankets into extension leads or multiway sockets, as this can increase the risk of these being switched on accidentally
  • Never dry clothes or materials near a fire
  • In the event of a fire, make yourself heard and get everyone out. Try to shut all doors behind you if possible to contain the fire and call the fire brigade

How to prevent common fires in the kitchen

  • Do not leave cooking unattended - take pans off the heat
  • Switch off the oven or hob when you have finished cooking
  • Spark devices are safer than matches or lighters to light gas cookers
  • Keep electrical leads, tea towels and cloths away from oven or hob
  • Never leave children alone in the kitchen
  • Take care when wearing loose clothing if cooking - it can easily catch fire

If your clothes catch fire - Stop, drop and roll

  • Don't run
  • Lie down and roll around
  • Smother flames using a heavy material like a coat or blanket
  • Call 999, or ask someone else to, if needed


Easy Summer Plants to get your Summer started

As Summer is officially on the way, we have listed 6 easy plants to get you started this summer. If you want fancy foliage with instant appeal, we can help you see the wood for the trees, helping with handy solutions and quick and easy wins. So even with limited time, you’ll have a garden blooming with beautiful flowers.

For year-round colour and impact, choose evergreen shrubs and conifers, they are ideal for providing the structural backbone of a great garden. Look out for wonderful plants like Photinia Red Robin, Euonymus, Californian Lilac, Hebe Margaret and Golden Choisya Sundance (also known as Mexican Orange Blossom). Look out for multi-coloured or patterned leaves that add more interest than standard green ones.

1) Hebes

Evergreen bushes in diverse shapes, sizes and foliage colours. Beautiful pink, purple and white flowers bloom in mid to late summer and loved by bees and butterflies.

2) Magnolia

Magnolias are the star shrub of spring, bearing gorgeous large blooms before the foliage emerges.

3) Mexican Orange Blossom – Choisya

An evergreen shrub, ideal for hedging or in a border. It bears beautiful, fragrant white flowers from late spring.

4) Euphorbia

Euphorbias are fantastic space fillers, adding structure and interest, they require little maintenance.

5) Californian Lilac – Ceanothus

Californian Lilacs produce an abundance of blue flowers and are perfect in a sunny spot.

6) Photinia Red Robin

Red Robin is a useful evergreen shrub with beautiful bright red shoots. Ideal as hedging or in a large border.


(Source: B&Q)