Loft Coversions: Guidance for Professionals in Swansea and South Wales

Coverting a loft is not something that you can do anytime you want. There are rules and steps that you need to follow.

PLANNING PERMISSION
Your client will need to obtain planning permission if;

  • There is a change to the maximum roof height.
  • You use materials not in keeping with the property.
  • It exceeds 40m3 for a terrace or 50m3 for a semi or detached house.
  • The slope of the roof is altered.
  • You add a dormer window.
  • If the property is in certain conservation areas or national park.
  • If you add a veranda or balcony.

PARTY WALLS

Before undertaking any loft conversions for either a terrace or semi- detached properties in Swansea, the home builder should check if they are obliged by the terms of The Party Wall Act 1996. This may mean a conversation with your clients’ neighbours. We urge all professional construction companies operating in Swansea to double check with their clients everything is legal before commencing work on a project.

WINDOWS

It is more than likely that your client will wish to install windows on their loft conversion, so you need to ensure that they understand what this entails.

For a loft conversion to comply with Building Regs it needs to have an energy rating of C, as a bare minimum.

A lot of times both homeowners and building contractors in Swansea believe that the only windows that are available are UPVC. This is not the case. Timber windows are not only available, but they can be manufactured to the same standard as UPVC. Nowadays, wood windows may be double or even triple glazed and come with thermal insulation. Additionally, these can be found with a guarantee of 30 years plus. On top of the quality factor, is the simple aesthetics of a timber window, setting it head and shoulders above the run of the mill UPVC which has dominated in recent years.

POPULAR WINDOWS FOR LOFT CONVERSIONS IN SWANSEA

  • DORMER WINDOWS At the top of the list are dormer windows. These are fit into the tilt of the roof. They are popular because they help bring light into a room. They can also be a decent size, for extra lighting and cosmetic appeal. However, these add onto your roof space, which might be pleasant aesthetically, but will cost rather more.
  • ROOF WINDOWS These are the more straightforward choice for homeowners who either don’t have a large budget or just want simplicity. They may also let in a decent amount of light. However, it is worth reminding your client of the need to shut them before going out – as they are literally cut into the slope of the roof and a freak cloudburst means a deluge when it rains!
  • BALCONY WINDOWS Although this is not for everyone, some clients might decide to go with a balcony, in which case French doors can be fitted to a loft conversion. However, as any construction company in Swansea will already be aware, these are not the cheap option!
  • ESCAPE WINDOWS An escape window should be able to let someone exit via it, should it be necessary. This means an opening of 0.33m2 and width of 450mm.

Don’t forget to make your loft conversion tally with all the building regs operating in Swansea council!

The Builders’ Basic of Building a Pitched Roof

Unfortunately in the course of their working life, our professionals have seen a lot of bodged jobs in South Wales!

It seems that some construction companies operating in the Swansea area do not even know the basics. To assist, we put together a glossary and guide to pitched roofs.

INSULATION AND PITCHED ROOFS

Did you know that almost a third of all heat created by central heating escapes through pitched roofs?

This is why it is vital for building contractors everywhere to understand the basics of thermal efficiency when planning or working on a pitched roof .

Insulation is key to the overall warmth retention in a home. Builders should be aware of the risks of condensation and poor ventilation within a pitched roof. This is because warm air can escape easily through the large beams which run along the structure of the roof.

PITCHED ROOFS: A GLOSSARY FOR HOME BUILDERS

BATTENS – these are the pieces of wood nailed to the rafters, which support the covering of the roof.

CEILING HANGERS – these support the ceiling joists.

COLLAR TIE – this is normally in the top third of the roof and situated in the middle of opposing rafters. It is meant to help stabilize a roof in heavy winds.

COMMON RAFTERS – these go from the eaves of the roof to the ridge and must be spaced 30-45 centimetres.

EAVES BOARD – this is the wooden board on which the lower roof materials lean on.

POST PLATES – these are there to support the rafters and are parallel to the wall face.

PURLINES – these are either steel or wood parts by the truss or wall. They help to support the rafters of the roof.

TRUSS – the truss is the frame which supports the top of the roof. It is made from triangular shapes. 

RAFTER TIE – not to be confused with a collar tie, a rafter tie is in the bottom third of the opposite gable rafters. It is there to help the rafters when there’s a heavy load.

RIDGE – this is the very top of the roof which is made by the inclined edges at the pinnacle of the slope.

VALLEY – this is where the two sloping edges converge and has an exterior angle of under 180 degrees.

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VERGE – this is the edge of the roof, which is between the eaves and ridges.

FINALLY: whether you are a construction company or a sole trader builder in Swansea, it is important to know how to deal with a pitched roof.

Quite often existing roofs on clients’ houses will be in a poor condition and prone to leaks or worse.

It is vital to pay attention to the condition of the pitched roof, in all your undertakings.

How to Renovate Your First Building? Guidance for New Contractors

When working on home renovation in Swansea and the South Wales area we would urge all building contractors to pay attention to the following issues.

Planning Permission Home Renovation

Never assume your client has already obtained planning permission. Always double check before getting started!

Remember, planning permission is needed for renovation that are larger than 50m3 (or 40m3 for a terrace property).

It is also needed when the roof tilt is changed or the height of the roof is raised. Additionally, it is required for dormer windows and the installation of a balcony. This is not a comprehensive list. We would urge all home builders to check out the full list of regulations in Swansea here.  

Construction companies are advised to download the simple guidance issued by the council, which clearly sets out what is permitted and what is not. Different councils may vary, so take care to check correctly.

The Roof

There are normally two kinds of roof; trussed rafter roofs and traditional roofs.

Of the two, a traditional roof will be the simplestwhen in renovation. The trussed rafter roof will definitely require the input of a structural engineer, but we would advise all builders to get their recommendations regardless of what type of roof is currently in place.

Access All Areas

Unfortunately, some homeowners seem to think they will be just fine using the same retractable loft ladder they had before undertaking their loft conversion. It falls to the home building companies to set them right about this!

To comply with building regs, a loft conversion must have permanent access, but more than this, it also needs a minimum headroom of two meters for stairs.

Stair types which you may consider include alternating tread stairs, spiral staircases, and of course, conventional staircases.

Since space is so often an issue with resconstruction job, the first two options tend to work the best for most homeowners.

However if your client really doesn’t have the budget or the space for this then a ladder is permissible, just as long as it is a fixed one.

Safety Regulation for Contractor

Naturally, as a building contractor, you will be aware of the structural stability of both the roof and floor, as well as the rest of the property.

But additionally, certain task such as loft conversion will need to be fitted with a mains wired smoke alarm to comply with each state council regulations. And it also needs to have a window which is large enough to escape in a fire.

Bathrooms

A lot of homeowners want to maximise the potential of their loft conversions by adding a bathroom, shower or WC.

As home builders, you probably know the best place for any loft bathroom is situated directly over the top of the main bathroom in the house. This is because drainage and piping already exists, as well as access to water.

Also remember that:

  • Baths can fit nicely under the eaves.
  • Toilets and basins need full headroom wherever possible.
  • The voids in a stud wall can be used for tap mixers and hidden showers.
  • Wet rooms can work in cramped spaces.
  • If there is no soil stack for a loo, you might consider a macerator. This can process the waste so it fits into the existing pipes – however, it can be noisy and needs to be used with caution.

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How To Paint Your Interior Doors In 5 Easy To Follow Steps

Like many other things, doors tend to wear as time goes on. Worn doors can often be an eyesore, however with a little TLC (Tender Loving Care) and some sprucing up yourself or a specialist painter and decorator you can have your interior doors looking as good as you new.

Painting and decorating your own home is definitely not for everyone, if however you’re inclined to have a go yourself and save some of your hard earned pennies then we’ve provided some of the basic steps below to painting your interior doors

It will take some effort, but once you see the end result you will know the effort was well worth it.

1. Remove Door

Before you begin painting remove the door from the hinges as well as doorknobs and locks. Once you’ve done this, lay door flat on the ground. The reason for doing these extra steps is to make the door easier to paint but also prevent paint from running down the door.

Note: While it is recommended to remove your door and lay it on a flat surface, if you have a little more experience of painting and decorating then you can paint your door without removing it from the hinges. If you decide to take this route then you just need to ensure you prepare the area properly. Before you start, place some cardboard or plastic sheeting underneath the bottom of the door to catch any dripping paint, and again as above remove door knobs/handles and locks and store in a safe place

2. Sand down your door.

Use a fine grade of sandpaper to remove any rough edges or pimples on the surfaces of the door. Sanding down the door will help create a smoother finish ensuring the paint can be applied more smoothly and easier as well providing better paint adhesion. Remember to remove all excess dust from the door using a vaccum and a wet rag to finish.

3. Lightly dampen the door.

Dampening down the door surfaces with a sponge or cloth will help ensure the paint will take longer to dry,  allowing you more time to apply the paint and therefore dramaticallyreducing the number of brush marks visible

4. Use a Primer

A primer or as it’s often called ‘undercoat’ is a prepatory coating you apply to the door prior to painting. Adding a primer helps the paint bond better to the surface of the door, makes the paint more durable and also provides added protection to the door

5. Sand Again.

After priming just rub over the door once again with fine sand paper to remove any imperfections that may have appeared on the primer coat

6. Use the Right Tools

The best brushes to use will depend on the type of door you’re painting. If your interior door has no panels then you’d be best served using a a small foam or microfibre roller or a 3/4inch (7-10 cm) brush. If you’re painting a panelled door then we’d suggest you use a 2 inch (5cm) brush

7. Paint the surface of the door.

Start by painting each of the four edges of the door. Evenly apply the paint to the surface of the door and always brush in the same direction as the grain of the wood. Going against the grain is not recommended is this will ruin the finish of your door. When painting panels, use a brush to get the paint into all the groves and corners of each. Then use the roller to quickly coat the panels and then use the brush to to give a smooth finish

You will most likely need to apply two coats of paint in order to have a smooth looking finish.

8. Rehang Your  Door

Once the paint has dried, all you have to do is to rehang your door replace the handles and locks and admire the new look of your door!

Painting your door isn’t that difficult, You just have to follow all of the steps listed above, an you should have a brand new looking door that you can be proud of.

Your 5 Step Guide for an A Star House Clearance

Have you ever walked around your house and realized that you had a lot of stuff that you no longer used? Cloths, equipment, or furniture that you no longer fancied? Well, that is a clear sign that you need to get on an A star house clearance and waste removal project .

Clearing your house may not be as easy as it sounds because, as much as you want to get rid of the junk, your attachment to them may push you to hog even the non-essentials. This is understandable since everything we buy is attached to a memory. To make this process easier, here is a step by step guide on how to clean your house.

1. Create time.

Before you embark on this clearance task, set aside enough time, take two days if you have to, depending on the amount of junk you have. Once you have set a date, allocate each room in the house a specified time limit. For example, set aside about four hours a day for each room then work from one room to the other until you are done. Working in this manner will ensure that there is order and that no room has been forgotten.

2. Label essentials and non-essentials.

Using different colored stickers, label your essentials and your junk stuff. Use different colors for both. For example, you can allocate green for the things you want to keep, and red for something you want to give up. This will make it easier for separation.

Labeling is important as it prevents you from misplacing essential items such as jewelry and state personal documents.

3. Separate your belongings

Once you have labeled all your essentials, separate them according to color. Take the things you are cleaning up (red stickers) outside or to a separate empty room and leave those that you want to keep (green stickers) in their respective rooms.

4. Hire professional cleaners

The minute you decided to clean out your house, you needed to make arrangements on how the junk would be moved from your place. For an A star clearance, seeking the help of a local skip hire in Swansea to help you clear your stuff is the best option.

Skip hiring require you to get a permit if you intend to have a skip on a public road. A license is only valid for 28 days, after which you are required to apply for a new one.

Before ordering a skip, gauge the amount of stuff you need then request a specific size. Direct the local skip hire on where to park then alert your neighbours that you are cleaning your house. This will help prevent misunderstanding, such as them assuming that you are being burgled or informing them of potential noise during the clearance process.

Once the skip is delivered, arrange your items in order of weight and size. Put the heavy stuff at the back of the skip then finish with the lighter things. Arrange appropriately for all items to fit.

5. Clean your house.

After all the junk has been safely packed in the skip, it is now time to get your house back in order. Thoroughly clean your house then arrange the remaining items in their respective rooms. You will find that you have so much space no only in your home but also in your mind without all the clutter. Enjoy the fresh air and newly found space with a fresh brew of your favorite drink.

Building Your Garden Wall Like a Pro Builder

If you’re thinking of doing a spot of garden landscaping and building a small dwarf garden wall, then your first thought will probably be to hire a local general builder in Swansea to get the job done.

However, before you decide to go down that road, read on and you might very well to consider doing it yourself and saving some money

Dwarf garden walls can be constructed with a single wythe. A single wythe means with just one horizontal row of bricks. However such walls are not particularly sturdy and they can easily be pushed over by hand and with little force.

Double-wythe brick walls are much studier, though if they are more than 2 feet high, it’s very unlikely they would be suitably strong enough to act as retaining walls.

When constructing brick walls it’s paramount they are built on a solid concrete footing. Bonds which are a brick pattern that ensures strength and stability of a wall, permit you to construct double-wythe walls that interlock in a number of defferent ways.

Bricks turned sideways to link the wythes together are commonly called headers, while the remainder of the bricks are known in the industry as stretchers. Most bonds require cutting. To assist you keep rhythm and concentration as you handle mortar and lay bricks, cut a sufficient number of bricks beforehand.

Use about one-third of a bag of mortar and combine with an adequate amount of water so it’s of a thick enough texture to hold its shape when you cut ridges in it with a trowel. Another good test is to pop some of mixed mortar on the trowel and turn it over, the mix should hold on the trowel for a couple of seconds.

Constructing a Brick Wall

Prior to you starting laying, make a story pole so you can take a quick measure to determine the appropriate height of the bricks. Next, lay a length of bricks on edge on a flat surface area with approx 10mm spaces in between them. Next lay a length of 1 x 2 or 1 x 4 piece of wood next to the bricks and draw markers with a pen or pencil indicating the centers of each mortar joint.

Lay a Dry Run

Snap chalk lines on the surface of the footing showing the outline of the wall. Place the bricks on the surface of the footing in a dry run, with 19mm dowels in between each brick to represent the joints. Ensure you have a clear understanding how the bricks will be laid out at the corner. You may have to cut a couple of bricks. You may choose to reduce the amount of cutting you have to do by moving one wall over a little. With a pencil, mark the footing for the centers of each joint.

Lay the First Bricks

Take away all the dry-laid bricks. Commencing at a corner or at the end of your dwarf garden wall, lay down enough mortar to bricks you intend to lay.

Set and position the very first brick. Butter one end of each of the other bricks and set them in position along the course. Gently push the bricks together ensuring the joint centres are in line with the pencil marks.

Next you need to use a spirit level to ensure that the bricks form a flat and even surface area in either direction.

Scrape away all excess mortar with your trowal. If you are at a corner, repeat the steps for the second wythe and lay bricks for the beginning of the returning wall.

Construct a Lead

Continue constructing the ‘lead’ (the corner or end of the wall) to approx 7 or 8 bricks high. Ensure you keep checking with a spirit level that the courses are level and the corner is plumb.

Never try to slide bricks to alter their position, unless they were laid within the previous two minutes.

String a Line In Between Leads

Construct a lead at the other end of the wall in the same method and inspect it with the story pole and spirit level. Lay all the bricks in between each lead for the bottom course of both wythes, following the pencil marks as guides.

Hook mason’s blocks and extend a mason’s line from one lead to the other at the center of a joint. The line needs to be tight and approx 3/4mm from the bricks.

Fill in Between the Leads

For each course, move the line blocks up one joint and utilize the line as a guide for the height and for the outer edge of the wall. Make sure to avoid any bricks touching the line. The last brick in the middle of a course, called the closure brick, is buttered with mortar at both ends. Give the closure brick a generous buttering and slowly drop it directly in, ensuring you avoid moving it once in position. You might need to utilize a striking tool to push additional mortar into one joint.

Strike the Joints

In 20 minute intervals and dependent on the weather you need to press your thumb into the joints of the brickwork to see if they are ready for striking.

A rule of thumb ( apologies for the pun) to follow when testing the joints is if your thumbprint retains its shape then you’re ready to bring out your brick jointer. Use the brick jointer to smooth both horizontal and vertical joints.

Having smooth verticals is important as it ensures water will drain effectively. If any mortar exudes out from the jointing tool avoid wiping it as it will smear over the bricks.

Brush and Clean

Once the mortar has actually begun to harden and appears crumbly, brush off all the excess. If the mortar is still smearing the bricks, you should wait a couple of minutes longer for the mortar to dry a little more.

It might be possible to wipe any smears away with a damp thick sponge, but make sure not to get the joints too moist or wet or you will possibly compromise them. Wait at least 24 hrs for the mortar to properly set and then clean the bricks with a mild acid solution.

With little or no experience, building a dwarf garden wall might seem daunting at first, but with the aid of this step-by-step guide, taking your time and simply having a go you might really surprise yourself and produce something that a seasoned bricklayer would be proud of.