Recession? Blame it on the Construction Industry

Roof Trusses on HouseThe end of January saw another negative report about the UK construction industry contracting for another month. Although the UK construction industry accounts for less than 7% of Gross Domestic Product, it is consistently blamed for keeping the UK in recession. This may or may not be the case as within every industry there are areas which gain and lose during tough economic times. However I wonder what the real reasons for lack of progress really boils down to. My own opinion hails back to the financial sector.

There were reports that demand was weak and a lack of new project accounted for much of the poor performance. However if we look further down the food chain, in my view it can only be as a result of the financial crisis. Many of the projects promised by government have been scrapped to cut the deficit and  many private housing projects have been abandoned due to lack of finance from banks. All of this harps back to the original sin which the banking sector initiated and which clearly is still ongoing, with fines and punishments being handed out across the globe.

How can the construction sector bolster its output with such ongoing uncertainty and lack of project commitment and funding? Well it can’t but yet it bears the brunt of responsibility for keeping the UK in recession. This financial crisis and economic situation is going to last a very long time; I think we all have to face this fact. As such everyone within the building industry has to look beyond the old means and ways of gaining new business and look towards diversifying and perhaps look at brand new methods and means to keep afloat.

However for me the blame lies firmly with the financial crisis we find ourselves in, reckless trading and funding over many years has now brought us to a decade or two of tough times. This flows through every sector, not just the construction industry and this in my view is what will keep the UK dipping in and out of recession for the foreseeable future. Is it really fair that the construction industry has to bear the brunt of the blame for our ongoing recession!?

What to do with your walls

Feature Wallpaper and DecalsMany people avoid painting the internal walls in their house brilliant white. I for one love it. White walls can be stark and bare but they enable two very flexible opportunities for interior design.

Firstly you can change your theme colours regularly such as cushions, curtains, rugs and pictures – this means if you get fed up with how a space or room looks, it’s not a job for a decorator, it’s a very exciting shopping expedition to find lovely new gorgeous furnishings!

Secondly and this is perhaps something you can’t control as much but white walls do make a room look bigger, if that is what you are aiming for. Even in larger spaces white walls become even more impressive.

There is nothing that doesn’t coordinate with white, which gives you total flexibility with your colour schemes throughout the house. Much as I love colour, I have never found it easy to choose a wall paint or paper which achieves what I hoped in my mind’s eye.

Paint colours in particular are very hard to choose and even when the pot is opened there is no guarantee the colour is exactly what you imagined. Times have moved on however with colour matching services and tester pots I would recommend are essential before committing to buying the paint for the whole area.

Then of course we have the feature wall which can contrast wonderfully with white walls but can also have dramatic effect on a room – both good and bad! In my view you have to be very careful not to choose something with a large pattern if the feature wall space is small or for that matter not too bright. However my caveat here is that there is definitely room for individual taste and boldness with regard the overall desired effect you might want to achieve for the wall.

I love the fact that, there are so many wonderful wallpapers out there now which are incredibly innovative and can be custom made.

The other option which is perhaps less permanent, is to attach decals or wall stickers. Some of these can be patterned, famous quotes or smaller images which you can stick to the wall to provide an effect. Most of these can be removed relatively easily if you want to change or update the design.

Whatever colours and designs you select – your personal taste will always win through and if that works for you – then it’s absolutely the right choice!

Which Kitchen Underfloor Heating?

Electric Underfloor Heating MatWhen it comes to your kitchen floor there is really only one option to go for and that is to install tiles. As an area which receives a lot of footfall, spillages and use, it is essential to have flooring which is hardwearing, easy to clean and stylish.

The variety and type of tiles which you can choose are now far reaching with options for ceramic, natural stone and man-made materials. Not only that but you will need to consider whether you want to invest in underfloor heating. Certainly from my own experience I now wish I had installed heating under my tiles, simply to offer a little warmth to the tiles underfoot. Kitchens tend to be warm places regardless of the heating supplied to the room and although I have a radiator, it is rarely switched on.

What I do miss is a little warmth under my feet and so I have considered pulling up my tiles to add in the underfloor heating. Depending on your surface area will also depend on whether wet or dry underfloor heating is appropriate. The latter is much easier to install but the former much more cost effective but with additional time needed for its installation.

Any ceramic tile will conduct heat from underfloor heating very well. From a cost perspective, if you are using the heating to actually provide warmth to the room, then it is best to opt for wet underfloor heating as it is more economical. However if you simply want a little heat underfoot then electric underfloor heating will definitely suffice.

Garden Makeovers – Pitfalls to watch out for!

Garden View From Above Having had my garden completely revamped last year, I discovered that, despite my own confidence about project management and implementation, there were a few key lessons I learned along the way.

First of all though, I do commend my landscape gardener for a fabulous job and I am very happy with the end result. I was very clear about the design, the garden was to be split into two levels; the lower area for the patio and the upper terrace for a circular area of grass with a tiled border. Fencing was one of the major factors as the upper area would need to be supported by gravel boards to ensure the earth was fully supported. The steps to and from each area were to be wooden sleepers with LED lights to highlight the steps.

I had several meetings with the gardener in the months prior to him starting the job, however the time between meetings and the job starting was about a couple of months. By the time the job was started my gardener was still asking me what products I wanted. Because there was a lot of groundwork to do it was a while before products were going to be needed. The job started at a very fast pace with much of the ground work completed within 5-7 days. I was incredibly impressed with this and this set an expectation for the job to be completed at least within 3 weeks.

It was then that delays began to happen. Having chosen the fencing, patio slabs, front and back doors and relayed my decisions to the gardener it was only once the job had started that he ordered the items. The fencing supplier was local and able to deliver very quickly, which was essential for creating the two height levels of the garden. However then it seemed that everything else halted. The composite door was the very last thing to be installed and from the start of the work it was 2 and half months later. The patio slabs were out of stock and we had to wait 2/3 weeks for those to be delivered. The stable back door was ordered incorrectly and had to be reordered.

Back GardenAs you can imagine from the first week of the job progress being so impressive, to continually be told about ordering delays and errors became very frustrating. However the blame can not entirely lie with my gardener. There were two things which I should have been much clearer about right from the beginning.

Firstly setting out exactly what I wanted whether through printing out products or listing my requirements out. Although my gardener took notes, when it came to the point of ordering, things had obviously been forgotten. I also have to admit to making a couple of changes when the work was going on but which did not impact time frames or work flow. Had I been much more specific and provided my gardener with paperwork about the products I wanted, we may not have had some of the ordering issues which occurred.

My final point is about the ordering of products. Having had our planning meetings back in February and all the necessary measurements taken for my patio and doors, they were clearly not ordered until the job began mid-May. Ordering time frames were not considered by my gardener or the fact that stock might be low. In retrospect I should have chased and checked with him that the items had been ordered in plenty of time.

So my very long winded moral of the tale today is twofold:

  • Ensure you know exactly what you want and provide pictures and specific details to your contractor. Keep copies to return and reference back to during the work.
  • Where necessary push to ensure items are ordered in plenty of time (pay up front for these if required), this then avoids project delays which can be very frustrating and unnecessary for both parties.

These two points, in my view, are critical to a happy and successful relationship with your contractor for any project you might have around the home.

All Fired Up for a Room Revamp

It started off with a decision to replace the windows in the lounge and dining room. This was the final stage of a project to replace all the windows of our 1970s bungalow with more energy efficient ones. Having been happy with the work done previously on other rooms, we called back the same window company for a quote.

The technician explained that in order to remove the existing windows, the teak cladding on the lounge chimney breast would need to be taken off. Immediately, the scale of the redecorating job ahead of us was ramped up. We had never been keen on this dated cladding, or on the fireplace that we inherited when we bought the home, so it was time to bite the bullet and throw the lot out. Rather than replace the fireplace with something more attractive, we decided to block up the chimney, cutting a potential draught source and aiding the never-ending battle against rising heating bills.

But like many people, we still wanted a fire as a focal point. So began the search for a hang-on-the-wall electric version. My husband saw a reasonably-priced one at a local fireplace centre and I duly went along to look – only to dismiss it straight away as far too small for our large living room. On a tour round the rest of the shop, we found one that we both liked and was much better proportioned – but of course it was three times as much as the one we first viewed!

New FireplaceWe went away to spend hours trawling the internet and visiting DIY stores to look at more fires, but eventually came back to the swish but pricey model we had already seen. We had been won over by the slim dimensions and the attractive Corian® surround, which we knew would be hard-wearing. But there were still choices to be made – brick or reed background? Brick. Log effect or pebbles? Logs. (Why have pebbles suddenly become trendy – who burns pebbles?) Then the colours or stone look options. Does anyone really need a mind-boggling choice of 100 colours?

Having placed our order, we needed to make sure we had exact measurements and knowledge of the position of the connections so that the cable trunking could be precisely placed before the now-naked chimney breast was re-plastered.

Fast forward a few weeks and the job is finished. A cosy living area with new windows, wallpaper, wall lights, carpet (needed after removing the hearth) and cushions. The fire flickers, emphasising the warm glow we feel.

Free – 2013 Sporting / Construction Wall Planner

2013 Sporting and Construction Wall Planner
2013 Wall Planner

Back by popular demand, the new 2013 Sporting and Construction Wall Planner is ready to go! This year we have included the Formula 1 motor racing schedule, plus added in the athletics and swimming championships.

As usual we have the key football finals, horseracing, cricket and golf events plus the tennis and 6 nations rugby matches. Intermingled throughout all of these major sporting fixtures are this years building and construction exhibitions.

What more can you ask for – it’s all in one place on one calendar!

If you would like an A3 hardcopy sending to you in the post please email 

Alternatively visit the 2013 Wall Planner on our website where you can print from a PDF.

We hope you find the calendar useful!

Should I Skim or Plasterboard over Artex?

Many homes which have been built over the last 20 years have ceilings which have been covered with Artex. I can understand that a new build needs to settle and cracks can appear which makes Artex a fantastic solution for minimising how visible they are. However the pattern which covers your ceilings can range from small linear dots right up to big meringue style peaks and swirls. In my view, neither of these are really very acceptable, so what are the alternatives? In the main, there are two:

1)    Scrape where necessary and plasterboard over the ceiling then skim with plaster

2)    Scrape and remove as much Artex as possible and then re-plaster the ceiling directly

As you might appreciate both of these jobs are somewhat disruptive and messy and really it can depend on the level and depth of the Artex which can determine which solution is recommended. The clear negative with regard to option one is that a lot of work may need to be done in order to create a flat enough surface on which to attach the plasterboard in order to ensure a smooth finish when skimming.  Also the overall height of the ceiling will be reduced by up to 1-2cm by the time the job is complete. If you live in a small cottage this may be a significant consideration. For most properties the loss of this height is negligible.

With regard to option 2, the scraping and removal phase may take quite a long time to complete and when plastering it is absolutely critical to ensure that it is both smooth and level across the ceiling space; a much harder task without the benefit of plasterboard I’m sure.

I think my advice, in general, would be to head for option 1 in terms of potential timeframes and overall disruption to your home.

Coming soon!

At last we have now created our blog!

We’ll  be bringing you regularly updated news and views about the construction industry, along with some anecdotes and top tips, sprinkled with a little humour and fun!

Check back soon, we’ll go live in January 2013.

The Construction Centre Team