The futures bright, the future’s plastic…and so is your home!

Aspinalls Builders has recently learned about a whole new approach to building homes. This new method goes some way to solving the huge problem of managing the mountains of rubbish we throw away. The latest use of recycled plastic is building family homes.

A company is building three-bedroom houses with frameworks made entirely of recycled waste. And this is all yours, complete with new bathroom, new kitchen and plumbing, for £42,000 – although you will have to provide your own land.

Plastic homeThe homes are made from 18 tonnes of recycled plastic in Swansea. They are fire and waterproof and stronger than concrete

Each house is made up of 18 tonnes of recycled plastic trash that would have been destined for waste tips across the country, which equals 9,000 old televisions or about 7,200 desk top computers.

The special plastic is almost four times as strong as concrete and insulation around the house twice as well, enabling house-holders to cut their heating bills in half.

In addition it is fire, storm and wind proof and, being made of plastic, is naturally waterproof.

The firm, Swansea-based Affresol, uses material that cannot be recycled any other way, to make panels that bolt together to create low carbon homes.

Any plastic, from old patio chairs and tables to building fixtures and fittings, are ground down into small granules that are then fused together in a chemical reaction to make Thermo Poly Rock (TPR).

Managing director of Affresol, Ian McPherson, believes the company is solving the country’s housing and recycling problems at the same time.

On first impression a plastic home might not sound that appealing. Visually a plastic home doesn’t sound great but this has been carefully thought through. Each house can be clad in brick or stone and the interior can be plastered and the painting and decorating is like any other home

Father-of-two Mr McPherson, 60, said: ‘the materials are stronger and lighter than concrete. They are waterproof, fire retardant, do not rot and have great insulation. We estimate the life of the houses at more than 60 years and after that they are recyclable.’

‘We believe there is tremendous potential for this new product particularly with the growing focus on carbon reduction, low energy affordable homes and sustainability.

‘At the moment about 50 to 60 per cent of all plastic is recycled – we take the other 40 to 50 per cent and use it to make something really useful. Individuals can buy houses from us or developers can buy in bulk. This is a new kind of prefabricated house which helps the environment as well’.

‘As a country we put far too much waste into landfill and this goes some way to helping solve the problem of all our rubbish. It’s exciting to build something new out of things we throw away.’

The company has launched a range of eco-friendly homes and portable factory units with £140,000 of backing from the Welsh Assembly Government.

Affresol aims to have a pilot scheme of 19 houses built in Merthyr Tydfil up-and-running in the next few months once they receive accreditation from the Building Research Establishment.

And within three years their target is to build 3,000 homes – mainly for the social housing market – each year using 40,000 tons of waste

There would be a wide variety of homes with a typical construction cost of a semi-detached about £40,000 to £50,000- and taking just four days to erect the framework.

The company claim the eco-friendly homes, like the detached show home at its factory on Swansea West industrial park, could revolutionise the building industry.

Aspinalls Builders Ltd is an experienced family run business. We are London builders who offer a wide range of London building services covering areas such as conversions, extensions, brick work, plastering, painting, decorating, extensions, conversions, kitchens, bathrooms, heating and plumbing.

Planning a loft conversion? Top tips for success!

With the cost of moving home running into many thousands of pounds, it’s not surprising that many families are opting to move up instead of moving on.

A loft conversion is certainly a job for the professionals, but if you get it right you not only gain a fabulous light-filled space, you could also get a handsome return on your investment when you sell. According to the FMB (Federation of Master Builders) a loft extension can add up to 15% to the value of your property.

Can you stand up?

Is your loft suitable for conversion? The easiest way to tell is to see if you can stand upright at its highest point, as this needs to be at least 2.3m. Even if you can stand up, a dormer window extension will maximise headroom throughout the space. Planning requirements often mean that this is put at the back of the house so it doesn’t change the house’s appearance from the street. For this reason, roof windows are commonly used at the front to provide light and ventilation.

Don’t get into hot water

Most people convert their loft to add an extra bedroom and bathroom to their home. The layout will largely be dictated by the position of the staircase and plumbing arrangements for the bathroom, as it can be difficult to put the bathroom at the front of the house as you have to run a soil pipe to the back of the building where the existing bathrooms and toilets are situated. You’ll also need to consider the hot water and heating system. The boiler may not be capable of heating the extra space or providing enough hot water for the extra.

It’s all in the planning

There are also structural considerations. New beams will be needed in the roof and in the new floor to take the floor weight and strengthen the roof when the existing rafters are removed. If you live in a terraced or semi-detached house this work will probably require a Party Wall agreement with your neighbours. This refers to walls, ceilings or floors which are shared with other properties.

The good news is that planning permission is not always necessary, but as with any extension work, you should contact your local planning office and ask if the work can be done within what is known as, permitted development. If the house hasn’t been extended since 1948 this is likely to be the case, but you must find out in advance. Even if your house has not been extended since 1948, you may be next door to a listed building. In some areas this means you will need permission for any changes which affect the appearance of neighbouring listed properties. If planning permission is required and you don’t apply, the authorities can make you remove the extension and return the building to its original state.

All loft conversions must meet Building Regulations. Your architect and structural engineer should be up to date with these but it is best to submit full plans to your local authority building control department so they can advise on any changes needed before work begins. One of the key areas when adding another storey to a property are the fire precautions required. Upgrading the fire resistance of existing ceilings and doors is usually necessary. Building Regulations require high levels of insulation, which will keep your extension warm in winter and prevent overheating in summer.

What on earth do you want?

A loft conversion is a major job and you will need to get architectural plans drawn up. Make sure you know what you want so that you can brief your architect. Are you considering more than one room? Do you want to include a bathroom and if so are you content with a shower or do you need enough space for a bath? What are the rooms to be used for? Have you thought about storage space?

At this stage it is also worth spending time thinking about lighting and other electrical requirements – if you are going to use the loft as a study you are likely to need more electrical sockets, for example. Make sure they are experienced in loft conversion work. Even if you have to compromise on the layout due to structural or cost considerations, many obstacles can be worked round if you really want a particular design.

If you are using a building company specialising in this work they may supply drawings, but you may prefer to use an architect to prepare them and ask three builders to quote for the job against these plans. This will give you a better idea as to which company offers best value for money. But remember cost and value is not the same thing. Check out the builder, look at previous work and talk to past clients to find out if they were happy with the quality of their jobs and the way in which they were carried out.

Protect yourself

The cost of the job will vary depending on its complexity and where you live. A straightforward loft conversion for a three bedroom Victorian house in London will start from £30,000 whereas the same job in Lancashire would be around £20,000. If you are investing this much it makes sense to insure the work. MasterBond is an insurance-backed warranty that doesn’t cost the earth – just £150 per £10,000-worth of work – but does provide the extra reassurance you need if something should go wrong while work is in progress and for 10 years afterwards.

Use the professionals

Getting a recommendation from friends and relatives who have had a loft conversion is a great starting point. But be sure to ask any builder how they will access the loft for the early stages of the work. A good builder will erect scaffolding and bring in all structural materials through the roof. By the time they cut the stairwell out and install the staircase, the new room will be structurally complete and ready to be plastered. Some companies cut costs by taking everything through the house, but this can cause a lot of damage and aggravation.

Contacts

Federation of Master Builders (FMB) – http://www.fmb.org.uk/

Local Authority Building Control – www.labc-services.co.uk

RIBA – (Royal Institute of British Architects) – www.riba.org

RIAS – (Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland) www.rias.org.uk

RICS – (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) www.rics.org.uk

Heating and boilers – Gas Safe – http://www.gassaferegister.co.uk/

Top tips for lofts

  • Do contact your local authority building control and your local planning department to get a full understanding of the rules and regulations
  • Do get in the professionals – you will need an architect and structural engineer, plumbing and heating advice and at least three quotes from reputable builders
  • Do consider a warranty, like the FMB’s MasterBond, to protect your investment
  • Do make sure your builder and designer explain any changes necessary to your existing house to upgrade its fire precautions
  • Do be flexible – you may need to compromise on the position of roof windows and dormers, for example.
  • Don’t ignore a party wall – you may need an agreement with your neighbours if you are affecting it in anyway
  • Don’t rush your decisions, plan carefully this is an important investment
  • Don’t expect this to be over within a week or two – however good your builder is – this is a major job and it will inevitably be disruptive for a while.

Aspinalls Builders Ltd is an experienced family run business. We are London builders who offer a wide range of London building services covering areas such as conversions, extensions, brick work, plastering, painting, decorating, extensions, conversions, kitchens, bathrooms, heating and plumbing.

Cowboy builders force family out of Camden flat

Aspinalls Ltd is saddened to learn that a family with a disabled son face two years in temporary accommodation while their home is rebuilt following ‘cowboy’ building work next door.

Emma Gorman said her neighbour’s decision to dig beneath the basement – despite not having planning permission to do so – ended in disaster for both semi-detached properties.

Hopefully this will help serve a valuable reminder to why the homeowner must take great care in choosing their builders and thinking about the process in detail. For example obtaining planning permission is an absolute must, especially if major work is being carried out on a semi detached, which will affect another family.Cowboy Builders

If major work is being carried out on your home, you would expect that company to be properly qualified or use fully qualified staff, all of which should be checked. In addition to this any builder who has worked on project such as this, you would hope has a track record of success. It is therefore not out of the question to speak with previous customers to get their opinion. A good builder has nothing to hide, so if you meet resistance with these issues, you have been warned!

The work to create another floor undermined both houses’ structures and they are in danger of imminent collapse. Ms Gorman’s family is being housed at the council’s expense while the Victorian-era properties are demolished and then reconstructed.

Ms Gorman, 43, said they were forced to leave their flat in Camden, north London, last July when a large crack appeared in one of their bedroom walls.

‘Our house has had to be braced to stop the front wall bowing out and collapsing. The damage is incredible,’ said Ms Gorman, who lived in the property with partner Neil Smith, their severely disabled 14-year-old son Louis and daughter Bessie, nine.

Creating basements has become a popular home extension method, because of the value it adds to a property. A Camden council spokesman said: ‘We have great sympathy for those who are affected by the demolition of the properties.’

Aspinalls Builders Ltd is an experienced family run business. We are London builders who offer a wide range of London building services covering areas such as conversions, extensions, brick work, plastering, painting, decorating, extensions, conversions, kitchens, bathrooms, heating and plumbing.

UK Home Owners come around to energy efficiency technology

Aspinalls Builders are happy to hear reports now suggesting that home buyers in the UK have started to embrace energy efficient technology in their homes. This news came from research that was done by Pilkington energyiKare. The company’s “MOT Your Home” survey actually showed that 76 percent of buyers now rate energy efficiency as a major factor when choosing to buy a new home.

George Clarke, a TV presenter and architect, said that it is very reassuring to know that more and more people are starting to take their home and carbon footprint seriously. This is good since homes are one of the biggest investments that a person will make during their lifetime. It’s important that people take steps to change their carbon footprint by investing in greener homes. Cost savings due to energy efficiency is a very important part in buying a home now.

Loft InsulationAlmost 80 percent of home buyers look for one thing when they buy a home, and that is loft insulation. Other energy installations that are very high on people’s list when buying a home include efficient boilers, heating, windows and cavity insulation. These are all things that help make peoples’ homes more energy efficient, and thus, saves the home owner a lot of money.

This research went on to show that, once people had settled in a new home, the installation of renewable energy generators were very popular in terms of home improvement. This includes such things as solar panels and mini wind turbines. These are things that actually pay for themselves overtime, unlike a lot f other home projects.

Aspinalls Builders Ltd is an experienced family run business. We are London builders who offer a wide range of London building services covering areas such as conversions, extensions, brick work, plastering, painting, decorating, extensions, conversions, kitchens, bathrooms, heating and plumbing.

Cost of a London Mortgage will be linked with home efficiency score

Aspinalls Builders has for many years been advising customers and businesses that having an energy efficient home or building should be a nationwide priority. It is a delight to hear The National Home Improvement Council (NHIC) has called for London mortgage restrictions on homes that are not efficient with their energy use.

The association said homeowners who are forced to pledge to improve their efficiency before being given a mortgage would be more likely to make adjustments to their energy use.

Andrew Leech, director at the NHIC, says that in the future it may be that potential home buyers will have to prove that they have plans to make certain properties more energy efficient before they can secure a mortgage. Governments across Europe and all over the world are increasingly trying to find ways to improve sustainability and energy efficiency and this proposal will certainly create a much stronger demand for greener homes and a greener economy.

Projects such as this have incredible potential. If the scheme does work as described, the economic benefits are staggering. Homeowners get to save money on their bills and add value to the property, building companies get a chance to win business and recover from a very difficult two years, gas and electricity companies will have an efficient national grid reducing their costs making them more profitable.

“Energy efficiency means covering everything from loft conversion insulation to cavity wall insulation and new boilers, and generally upgrading windows and doors,” he said. “It really is a big project.” If any homeowners do have immediate plans for a new bathroom or, new kitchen or any other home improvements, it is essential that you take into account the impact it will have on your energy needs.

Mr Leech added that the energy efficiency of homes in the country needs to be improved at a rate of around 50,000 a year if government targets are to be met by 2050 which could also encourage homeowners to improve their property’s energy efficiency before it is put onto the market.

Mr Leech states that if this measure is introduced, sellers will find it increasingly difficult to find a buyer for their property, as they may not be able to get a mortgage on the home unless its efficiency is improved by another 50 per cent.

Aspinalls Builders Ltd is an experienced family run business. We are London builders who offer a wide range of London building services covering areas such as conversions, extensions, brick work, plastering, painting, decorating, extensions, conversions, kitchens, bathrooms, heating and plumbing.

Obama leads the fight for home insulation

Barack ObamaHaving an energy efficient home brings so many significant benefits to not only home owners, but an entire country. Barack Obama has quite rightly been championing the cause for some time now. Naturally, and as predictable as the sun rising and setting, his Republican Party opponents have attacked Obama for wasting tax payers money.

However when it comes down to the hard facts there can be no denying that have a well insulated, energy efficient home is a good thing financially for the homeowner because it reduces bills and it is good for the planet because you will need less gas to heat it.

The US President unveiled the $6 billion scheme yesterday, declaring it would create big energy savings and a massive pool of new jobs for the US construction industry where unemployment is close to 25 per cent. Millions of American home owners make their houses more energy efficient with government rebates of up to $3000.

Mr Obama said that two to three million home owners would be eligible for immediate rebates of up to $1500 for upgrading their insulation, ducted heating, boilers, air conditioners, double glazed windows, doors and roofing. If your home has a loft conversion, new extension or conservatory, these can be areas of the house where a lot of heat and subsequently money can be lost.

After struggling to pass legislation in the Senate on health, banking regulation and jobs, there are doubts Mr Obama will gain enough support for this new home energy incentive scheme. But Republicans have shown willingness over the past few days to accept compromise deals on banking rules and a trimmed-down jobs package.

Speaking at Savannah Technical College in Georgia yesterday, Mr Obama said: “All we’ve got to do is create the incentives to make this happen. This is not a Democratic idea or a Republican idea; this is a common sense approach that will help jump-start job creation while making our economy stronger.”

With new employment figures due later this week, the jobless rate in the US remains close to 10 per cent. However, just like in the UK, when there is a mortgage crisis the building industry suffers. This is made even harder in the UK because of the shortage of affordable new homes. The demand for property has well and truly outstripped the supply.

Mr Obama flagged in his State of the Union address in late January that he wanted more Americans building clean-energy facilities, and rebates for home owners who made their homes energy efficient; but he gave no detail.

The new scheme is estimated to save home owners $200 to $300 a year in energy costs. They would be required to receive a full energy rating for their houses before receiving the total $3000 rebate for a whole-house refit.

Mr Obama said in December that home insulation may not be glamorous, but “here’s what’s sexy about it: saving money,”

Aspinalls Builders Ltd is an experienced family run business. We are London builders who offer a wide range of London building services covering areas such as conversions, extensions, brick work, plastering, painting, decorating, extensions, conversions, kitchens, bathrooms, heating and plumbing.

Property drifts towards years of no growth

Nationwide, Britain’s biggest building society has stated that house prices could stay flat or even fall in 2011 and 2012 despite the recent rally, adding to growing fears of a “double dip” in the property market. As a result many homeowners are considering home improvement, extension or loft conversion which will make an even bigger difference if you are looking to sell in 2012/2013.

Figures from Halifax this month showed the recovery started to slacken in January with a 0.6% rise in property values — the lowest monthly increase for six months.

Nationwide’s index was more bullish, saying house prices rose by 1.2% last month and are up 8.6% year-on-year. It thinks house-price inflation could top 10% next month, before falling back as interest-rates start to rise and unemployment ticks up next year.

However, some commentators are more bullish. The Centre for Economic and Business Research (CEBR) has revised up its forecast on house prices from a 4% rise to 6% over 2010, on the basis that interest rates will remain low. It also expects mortgage approvals to rise.

In a research note last week, Capital Economics, the consultant, said mortgage costs would rise for most borrowers by up to one percentage point during 2010, adding: “The full benefit of the 2008-09 rate cuts may now already be behind us.”

Last week, Nationwide cut the amount of deposit required for remortgage customers from 40% to 30%. The move reduced the cost of a two-year fix by 0.81 percentage points for those with a 30% deposit to 4.37%, although this is still shy of the best-buy deal of 3.29% from First Direct, which has a £998 fee.

Tomorrow, HSBC will cut its five-year fix from 4.73% to 4.64%. It will also launch a best-buy lifetime tracker with no switching penalties at 2.49% with a £999 fee for those with a 30% deposit, although this deal is available only to those who take out the bank’s packaged current account.

However, there are warnings that best-buy mortgage rates, which fell along with the cost of wholesale funds, may not come down much further. The Council of Mortgage Lenders (CML) has also warned of an ongoing “mortgage drought” as lenders face a £300 billion funding shortfall. Lending dropped 60% in the past two years, the CML said.

Aspinalls Builders Ltd is an experienced family run business. We are London builders who offer a wide range of London building services covering areas such as conversions, extensions, brick work, plastering, painting, decorating, extensions, conversions, kitchens, bathrooms, heating and plumbing.