Why you should plan an annual boiler check

Boiler breakdowns happen, but don’t let them cost you

A five-star hotel or a luxury gym and spa losing its hot water, or the local primary school or district hospital losing heating for the vulnerable isn’t a scenario anyone wants to envision.  Boiler breakdowns happen, but don’t let them cost you business, your customers’ happiness or your reputation.

Mitigate downtime with a temporary boiler

Mitigate the downtime of a boiler breakdown by implementing a schedule to include an annual check.  By preparing in advance, a temporary boiler can be hired for the duration with a cross-over of time to allow for any repairs to problems which may be identified during the check – meaning that you can keep on delivering an uninterrupted service.

Additionally, an annual check will ensure that your boiler is kept in optimal condition, highlighting any potential problems and allowing for the schedule of repairs before disaster strikes.  Planning the check in advance, along with the temporary hire of a boiler, allows time for any issues to be dealt with without the downtime, reducing overall stress and costs.

Having a boiler schedule between the maintenance team which runs throughout the year will not only ensure that the boiler is regularly and routinely checked, but that individual parts and elements are also focused on which will only help to capture early warning signs of potential issues.

Get your temporary needs covered

It’s important when hiring a boiler to get the right size and type for your needs.  Staff at Ideal Heat appreciate that no two building’s needs are the same and we will advise on the perfect package.  With sizes ranging from a 22kW electric boiler up to 1MW gas or oil boilers, the company has something to suit any need. To view the full range of temporary boilers, click here.  If Ideal Heat does not stock it, the company will make it with its bespoke services and take care of the installation.

Using state-of-the-art technology, Ideal Heat can identify problems before they’re evident on site and will fix them remotely, meaning that you can rest assured that your temporary boiler needs are being looked after.  Additionally, if you need adjustments to your hot water or heating temperature during the hire, then a few simple clicks and it’s done.

Don’t leave yourself unprepared.  A planned annual boiler check could save you a major headache, money, disruption to your services and help keep your reputation in check.

Bi-folding versus Sliding Doors

If you’re planning a home renovation project that requires large, glazed door solutions, you’ll most likely be making a decision between bi-folding and sliding doors. Both have grown phenomenally in popularity in recent years, and while they are similar in some respects, they have unique features that may affect their suitability for your home.

Bi-folding doors

Express-bifold-FoldingIt goes without saying that bi-folds create a wow factor – when open, they completely transform the space, bringing the outdoors in. We recommend bi-folding doors for a size up to four metres; within this measurement, bifolds look much more impressive than sliding doors. A greater clear opening can also be achieved, creating more sociability between your indoor space and garden.

Express Bi-folding Doors wholeheartedly encourages bi-fold customers to opt for integral blinds, which are both stylish and functional. Big benefits include no cleaning or maintenance, as well as the blinds fitting perfectly into your bi-folding doors. Less bulk means more light, and that’s exactly what we want to achieve! On the flipside, however, you must remember that with a bi-folding installation comes extra framework, which some may want to avoid. That’s where sliding doors come in…

Sliding doors

Express-bifold-SlidingA more traditional option, sliding doors may be the perfect choice for you. They tend to look better when they’re closed, as the large panels of glass welcome light into the home without being broken up by framework. For installations over the four metre mark, they are the ultimate choice; the wider the door, the wider the clear opening.

Express Bi-folding Doors offers sliding doors with 2, 3, 4 or 6 panels, so you can select the most appropriate one for your home. And of course, as with bi-folds, they come with the same colour options and guarantee, so you can sure they fit into your home seamlessly as well as having peace of mind.


Busting myths about timber windows

It’s a common misconception that timber products are a more expensive option than alternatives like u-PVC. In fact, research shows that because of their longer service life, timber windows actually offer better long-term value than u-PVC. In this article, Tony Pell of JELD-WEN sheds lights on popular misconceptions about timber and advises on making the most of premium timber products.

According to the latest research by Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, window frames made to Wood Window Alliance standards are likely to last, on average, around 60 years with the proper maintenance. They can also be repaired simply and inexpensively – when a fitting on a plastic window breaks, often the whole window is replaced. The Whole Life Cost study also suggested that other timber window types could also be the best option for high-rise buildings, in addition to properties exposed to extreme weather conditions.Timber cottage window

Another popular myth is that timber windows are harder to maintain than other products on the market but the growing trend for factory finished products means that the latest designs come pre-painted. This means that they are finished to such a high standard that the initial maintenance cycle can be extended by a further eight years or more and regular maintenance will further extend their lifespan. These windows can also be easily maintained with a rub down and a single coat of paint. Not only will these products actively save money over their lifetime, but timber windows will need replacing far less frequently than their alternatives.

It is often thought that plastic windows are a more energy efficient choice but this is purely myth. Timber is an excellent insulator and leading window manufacturers can supply a wide range of glazing and energy saving options, incorporating double or triple glazing that can vastly improve a property’s carbon footprint. In addition to thermal performance advantages, there are many security and acoustic benefits to choosing timber windows.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that most homes in the UK were built using wooden windows, so renovating with plastic or metal windows can vastly change a property’s appearance. Property experts suggest that this modernising actively devalues a property, so by upgrading to double-glazed, factory finished timber windows you can actually improve the value of a property while also preserving its character.

For more information about educating your customers on the merits of choosing timber windows for their renovation projects visit the JELD-WEN website

How to create a perfect garden room

An extra room looking on to the garden is a traditional choice for many UK homes, and whether it is a garden room, sunroom or conservatory, the variety available is vast. It’s certainly a great way to add value to your property; the one danger is it can end up looking like something bolted onto the side of the house, rather than an integrated part of the existing structure.

Neil Ginger, CEO at Origin, gives his top tips on how to avoid this, and ways to enhance the flow and overall size, whilst adding value.

What to Look For:

The debate over which material is best is seemingly never ending; we would always recommend an aluminium structure for the glass doors and windows as it is the strongest of the three acclaimed materials (timber, PVCu and aluminium). It’s strong and lightweight, so can support larger glass panels and allows for slimmer frames to let in more natural light. The colour will last too, unlike with PVCu, which can sometimes discolour. Timber will also need to be repainted over its lifetime. Aluminium, however, doesn’t discolour, rust or peel once powder coated, giving it a long-lasting attractive finish.

Origin garden room1Fit Bi-folding Doors

A key feature of bi-folding doors is that they will open up an entire wall – perfect for a garden room feel. When the doors are folded back it will provide flawless transition, as the aperture will be clear, bringing the outside space into the home seamlessly and transforming the property into a functional open space for living, working and entertaining. Roof lights are also a great way to increase the amount of natural daylight in a garden room, and often come hand-in-hand with bi-folding doors.

It Must Match:

The first design rule is to ensure the garden room matches the style of the rest of the house. Don’t make it seem as if it’s in any way separate. You can enhance the feeling of flow and space by installing similar flooring throughout your downstairs living area, leading the eye through so the garden room or conservatory feels part of the rest of the house. If you don’t want the expense of new flooring, increase the sense of continuity between rooms using soft furnishings such as matching blinds or curtains.

Origin bi fold doors openAdd Colour:

Power coated aluminium bi-folding doors come in an extensive range of colours making it easy for homeowners to blend the door frames with their existing colour scheme. Alternatively, you can add a splash of colour by choosing bi-folds in vibrant colours such as Orient Red, Mint Green or bright pink.

If the preference is for timber frames, which most homeowners seek when creating a garden room, the aluminium can be coloured to give a timber effect, giving all the natural beauty of timber, but without the maintenance hassle.

Hang Mirrors In The Wall:

A very easy and clever tip is to hang big mirrors on either side of the walls, reflecting into each other, to magically make the room feel bigger and increase the feel of natural sunlight, which is so important when creating a garden room.


Keeping a garden room warm in winter and cool in summer is a priority for all year round use. Fitting high performance double glazed units with solar properties will provide a secure and thermally efficient ‘glasswall’ that will not impact on your energy bills. The industry standard for double glazing is 24mm and 28mm sealed units, both will help keep your home warm in winter and cool in summer.

Article by Neil Ginger of Origin Easifold Doors


Your Business Premises and Metal Theft: Have You Got What It Takes?

It’s easy to consider your bricks-and-mortar premises as being just that, but actually most buildings contain another vital material – metal.  Whilst it might be just part of the building to you, someone interested in a little recycling of the criminal kind, can quickly and easily remove the metal in and on your premises.  So what can you do about it?

Learn the Facts

Metal theft, defined by the Home Office as “thefts of items for the value of their constituent metals” is a growing crime, which falls within the criminal classifications of burglary and theft. According to Home Office statistics, based on metal theft offences in England and Wales, 61,349 metal thefts were recorded by police between April 2012 and March 2013, justifying concern about increasing incidences of metal theft, the driver behind a Home Office push for legislation to tighten the inadequate and outdated Scrap Metal Dealers Act of 1964.

Learn Why this Crime Pays

Acknowledging metal theft as “a fast growing acquisitive crime with over 7,000 police reported crimes a month” Lord Henley’s legislation, proposed in 2012, aims to remove the biggest motivation behind metal theft – cold, hard cash – by prohibiting anonymous sales of metal for cash.   Additionally, the new legislation makes scrap metal dealers more accountable for any involvement (unwitting or not) with metal theft by increasing the penalties within the existing act.police investigate metal thefts

Learn what they’re After

However, on-going legislation isn’t enough to currently buck this growing trend.  In an economic climate which sees many individuals with a downturn in cash flow but an upturn of metal prices (the cash value of many metals has steadily increased since the start of the Millennium) thieves target any items containing saleable metal: air conditioning units with copper tubing; palladium in catalytic converters; roofing lead; copper from cables, you name it. These desirables, classified by the police in two ways, include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Infrastructure-related items: these directly impact the functioning infrastructure of your premises or machinery, including cabling and tubing for water, electricity, heating and other services; roofing lead; catalytic converters and manhole covers.  Another infrastructural example is railway cabling, the highly publicised theft of which presents major problems for the UK’s railway companies – and their passengers.
  •  Non-Infrastructure-related items: these don’t affect your building, but may affect your business: metal gates; redundant metal; plaques and statues; boat propellers; even steel baking trays from a bakery, for example.

Learn About Your Locality

metal-theft---cableSo how can Home Office interest and intervention in metal theft help you protect your premises?  By monitoring this growing crime, the HO provides statistics which could enable you to identify the extent of the problem in your locality.  For example, those most recent statistics indicate Cleveland, Durham, Lancashire, South Yorkshire, the City of London, Kent and Gwent as having a high prevalence of metal theft, whilst West Yorkshire, Leicestershire and Lincolnshire are not far behind. This knowledge enables you to:

  • Take preventative measures.
  • Check your buildings and contents insurance policies to ensure you have adequate cover and if necessary, update your insurance if you feel your business is high-risk for metal theft.
  • Double-check the small print of all policies to ensure you’re not inadvertently invalidating your cover, for example by having scaffolding up for building works (your insurance company should be informed of this).

Learn About Prevention

Then what can you physically do to prevent costly, inconvenient metal theft from your business premises?

  • Check the crime prevention pages of your local county police service website.  Most of these now offer standard metal theft prevention advice based on how metal thieves operate in your area, so this information is likely to be relevant, as well as useful.
  • Remove anything which thieves can use to gain access: ladders; water butts; outside furniture; tall trees (although check council rules about this).
  • Fit a lockable, gated access to maintain security.  If shared access makes this difficult, see if other business or property owners who share the access know the risks and will share the costs, to improve their own security too.
  • Install warning notices requesting the public to use the police 101 hotline number to report any suspicious activity.
  • Consult with your local council and / or a reputable security company about using additional measures such as anti-climb paint and roof lighting, for security.
  • Mark your property so that it can be identified as stolen if thieves take it.

By learning all you can about preventing metal theft, you’ll have what it takes to minimise risk to your property and business, your insurance premiums and the local crime rate. For more ways to protect your premises against metal theft visit Safe Site Facilities and enquire about one of the many purpose built security products.

Article written by Alex Murray, Community Co-ordinator for Safe Site Facilities

Accounting for subcontractors; what they need to know

The construction industry relies on subcontractor labour, and ensuring that your firm manages its subcontractors appropriately and effectively is crucial if you are to achieve success down the line. How much accounts information should your subcontractors have access to, and how do you limit that access?

Your construction accounting processes will likely involve taking steps to keep your subcontractors safe, happy, paid and compliant, but what are these processes, and how many of them should your subcontractors be made aware of? Different construction accounts management software programs will allow your subcontractors various degrees of access to your accounting processes, although you may feel that it pays to keep some of them confidential. We’ve compiled a short guide to help explain your subcontractor accounts processes and indicate whether or not you should keep your subcontractors informed.

Subcontractor management
The Construction Industry Scheme has introduced a new layer of legislation and regulation to subcontractor management, and in order to remain compliant in the eyes of the government and industry regulators, there’s a lot you need to bear in mind. Compiling timesheets, retaining contact details, monitoring performance and scheduling payment can be a handful at the best of times, but especially so when you take into account HMRC reporting, too. It’s important that your construction firm utilises a construction software system that helps to streamline the above processes, but also provides the appropriate levels of access to your team and your subcontractors. While it’s important that site managers are granted access to all subcontractor management details available, the subcontractors themselves need only access their own timesheets and payment information via your construction software.

Sub contractorsApplications and retentions
Applications and retentions are important when it comes to ensuring that your subcontractors are paid the appropriate sums at the required time. Subcontractors will apply for payment once their work has been completed according to the terms of their contract, but this application will need to be retained for the time being while you determine whether the work has been performed to the required standard. You can set the terms of a retention to release funds after a certain period,

by which time both yourself and your subcontractors should be satisfied that the contract has been fulfilled. It’s important that applications and retentions are made visible to both managers and subcontractors, with transparency guaranteeing that there will be no confusion or misunderstanding.

User permissions
Construction accounts management software can help to perform all of the above processes quickly and easily, but it’s also important in that it allows you to control who has access to what information at any given time. There are some details that you’ll want your subcontractors to know and others that it would be more sensible to keep under wraps; still more will be governed by rules and legislation. When using our construction software, you’ll be given the power to set user permissions for all of the employees in your firm, from subcontractors to senior management. That way, you’ll always be guaranteed the peace of mind that no-one is being allowed access to something they shouldn’t see.

Integrity Software’s construction accounts management software solutions can offer you intuitive, powerful control over your subcontractor management processes, so why not contact us today to find out more about how we can help?

Article written by Richard Boston, Marketing Manager for Integrity Software

Get warm with Insulation before the cold weather arrives

Saving money with insulationWith ever-soaring energy prices and constant reminders about the need to limit CO2 emissions, none of us one can afford to ignore the importance of insulation. New homes are built to high standards of insulation, but older properties will invariably benefit from work to prevent heat loss, leading to lower fuel bills. Continual product innovations mean it is probably worth considering an upgrade even if your home already has a certain amount of insulation. Summer is a good time to do the work.

Where to start? Heat rises, so the biggest loss of heat is often through the roof. For a building with a pitched roof over loft space, laying a thick blanket of glass fibre or mineral wool is the most effective way to insulate and costs can be recouped in lower energy bills within a year or two. Loose-fill material such as vermiculite is another option, but is not as popular because ideally it needs to be thicker than the depth of the joists – so tends to be used only in an awkwardly shaped loft.

Rolls or slabs of insulation material are generally 600mm wide to match standard joist spacing, so it is a fairly simple job, but it is important to wear gloves and long sleeves to prevent skin irritation and a mask to avoid breathing in fibres. Remember to leave the eaves clear for ventilation and to lift electrical cables over the insulation so they do not overheat. Tie insulation around water tanks in the loft but do not insulate underneath them. Wrap a wad of insulation in plastic and secure to the upperside of the loft hatch.

Once the work is done, all those Christmas decorations and other clutter stored in the attic will no longer be bathed in the heat that used to rise through the ceilings below, but the occupants of everywhere apart from the roof space will be a lot warmer!

Pipework is another major source of heat leakage and pipes are at risk of freezing in the roof space if left unlagged. Foam casings are available in various sizes and are easily fitted around pipes. Just join the pieces of foam with PVC tape. For neat joins at corners, cut the ends at 45° using a mitre board and then tape together. Another method of insulating pipes is to box them in using battens and plywood and pouring in loose-fill insulation material. This has the added advantage of concealing unsightly pipes and if the boxing is decorated it will be effectively disguised. Screw, rather than nail the boxing together so the pipework can still be accessed when necessary.

Walls account for a huge surface area in any home and can be the cause of up to 35% heat loss. Cavity wall insulation involves pumping mineral fibres, foam or pellets into the wall space and is a job for an approved contractor. The pay-back period is about five years. External insulation for solid walls is another area for the professionals, but competent DIYers can tackle the interior of solid walls. An economical solution is to dry-line walls with insulated gypsum board, fastened directly to the wall with panel adhesive or nailed to a supporting framework of treated wood strips. Ordinary plasterboard sheets can also be used, combined with insulation blanket and a vapour barrier.

Mark cutting lines on the dry lining board with a pencil before cutting with a fine-toothed saw, on the opposite side to the insulation. Use a padsaw to cut holes for light switches or socket boxes. When nailing the boards in place, hammer them so the nail heads just dimple the surface.

Floors and windows are other places where insulation and draughtproofing can make a big difference to energy bills and to the comfort of the building’s occupants. We’ll come back to those another day.

Capital Allowances for your Business Property

Save money with capital allowancesCapital allowance is not the most easy to understand topic in the world, nor is it the most riveting, but it can save you money. In its simplest form capital allowance is a method of factoring in depreciation for tax purposes. What it means is that you will be able to write off the cost of the asset based on the type of asset and the rate of depreciation.
The following assets are eligible to be claimed as capital allowance:

  • Plant and machinery costs
  • Vehicles, machines, tools, equipment, computers, furniture etc.
  • Some forms of construction i.e. property improvement and converting property above commercial buildings to rent as flats

You can easily find out more about what can and can’t be claimed under capital allowance from the Capital Allowances Act 2001. Capital allowance is most commonly associated with businesses but there are situations where you may be able to claim for items used at a personal property. Safe Site Facilities have a guide detailing those situations that may be of interest. Although be aware that if used on a personal property you will only be able to claim on the portion of the asset that relates to your trade or business.

For Business Property

Now that you understand a bit about capital allowance and how it works we’ll take a look at how it applies to business properties and what it could mean for you if you can claim under one of the following areas.

Renovating Business Premises:
The whole idea behind BPRA or Business Premises Renovation Allowance is to encourage the development of empty business properties located in ‘assisted areas’. The act provides 100% tax allowance for expenses incurred when renovating or converting vacant commercial building located within these disadvantaged areas. You can find more information regarding this act and what constitutes a disadvantaged area by visiting the HMRC website.

Also be aware that in order to receive this tax allowance the business premises must qualify by being from one of the following sectors:

  • Shipbuilding
  • Coal industry
  • Steel industry
  • Fisheries
  • Synthetic fibres
  • Certain agricultural products
  • Milk or milk substitutes

Tax and allowancesProperty Fixtures:
At the time of a property being sold or purchased the assets, for which capital allowances have been claimed, will need to be quantified for their contribution to the overall sale price.

As of April 2012 this portion of the purchase price must be agreed with the other party. The simplest way to do this is via a joint election (a section 198 or 199) which must be communicated to HMRC within a period of 2 years.


Make sure that the election includes:

  • A description of the fixtures and their agreed value
  • Information identifying both the buyer and the seller
  • Details of the property

However if an agreement can’t be reached over the value of these assets then the case can be referred to a First Tier Tribunal. Again this must be done within 2 years.

Hopefully this article has provided some insights into the world of capital allowances. While the documentation can be hard going at times, ultimately there is money to be saved by claiming capital allowance where possible. One of the best places to start your quest is the HMRC website.

Article by Alex Murray – Community Coordinator, Safe Site Facilities.

Should we build houses on Greenfield Sites?

Field withTreeThe Planning Minister, Nick Boles has caused strong reactions amongst environmental campaigners and groups with his radical plans to increase the number of houses across the UK, particularly on Greenfield sites.

New reforms to planning permission laws are due to come into effect today. In particular the rules have been relaxed to allow home owners to build some extensions without the need for full planning permission.

The caveat is that the adjoining neighbours must not object to the development. Plans will still need to be submitted to the council to ensure the dimensions are within the permitted development allowances and details of neighbours must be given.

The council will then notify the neighbours and if no objection is received within 21 days, the development will be permitted.

In addition councils have been instructed to consider new build projects on Greenfield land with a more favourable eye, especially self build projects. The idea being that new and beautiful homes will be developed rather than as Mr Boles describes them, “soulless identikit rabbit hutches”. Not only are environmental campaigners concerned about the protection of the countryside and Greenfield sites, but also whether these new builds will become ‘monsters’ of design on the landscape.

However Mr Boles does not stop there, he also is trying to ease street planning legislation to convert shops back to residential use and allowing more agricultural barns to be converted to homes. Although it is plain to see that the high street today is gradually declining, allowing a free for all with regard to converting shops back to homes does not build the case for local communities to thrive again.

Conservationists are worried that with a relaxation on Greenfield sites that villages and towns will simply sprawl out into our beautiful countryside.

I can understand Nick Boles is trying to look for different solutions to our housing deficit but are his ideas the only way. I don’t think so; there are still plenty of areas within towns and cities which are ripe for redevelopment. The UK still has a plethora of Brownfield sites yet to be taken advantage of.

In my view it is important to redevelop areas which have already been built upon than churning up fields to establish lots of little pockets of houses.

Do all Glass Balustrades need Handrails?

Glass Balustrade with no handrailsWe all see on programmes such as Grand Designs, glossy magazines, glass expanses etc, beautiful glass balustrades, some with handrails and some without.

There is a lot of confusion regarding the requirements for a handrail on glass balustrades and glass railings. So what exactly are the legal requirements? As Managing Director at Volarus Special Projects and having met Kevin McLeod at the Grand Designs show I wanted to investigate the legalities as to what can be achieved with glass balustrades while being mindful of safety, especially when creating inspirational properties or areas around the home.

While developing a new structural glass system I had to consider all the design and safety elements alongside regulations while still creating a spectacular finish and look for clients.

According to British Standards 6180-2011 which have superseded British Standards 6180-1999, glass balustrades can be provided on single structure glass such as toughened as long as it complies with the regulation that states it must have a safety handrail in the event that the glass panel fails.

Glass balustrade with a handrail does not provide un-interrupted views. Although in the event that the toughened glass fails, the handrail will remain in position and top any adult falling over the edge. The same rules may not apply for a young child who is under the height of 1100mm and I strongly believe that anyone investing in structural glass balustrade with young children should seriously think about the risks.

Glass Balcony BalustradeHere at Volarus Special Projects we have developed a unique balustrade system which does not require a handrail and which incorporates the standard channel retaining system but is capable of taking glass up to 25mm thick, the benefits of this system is that glass panels can be laminated together giving a typical overall thickness of 21.5mm thick which makes our system 100% completely safe and fully compliant to British Standards.

In the event that a glass panel is impacted with a localised force the panels will not fail as the lamination and the outer glass panel will retain its rigidity and stop any person falling through. In addition, our system can also incorporate our exclusive LED lighting system which offers various options and furthermore, can be enhanced with feature panels such as “cracked ice” and laminated images for that personal touch.

In order to satisfy modern architectural design while offering the required safety levels my aim was to ensure the product we developed not only looked spectacular but offered clients the full confidence of a safe and secure installation.

Author: Paul Revill, Managing Director at Volarus Special Projects.