Thursday, December 1, 2022

Autumn Home Improvements Guide 2022

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Summer is but a distant memory, as you stand in the shower and reminisce of when such a simple luxury didn’t cost the earth. Literally!

It seems that for such a small country, we are not all doing our bit to meet the climate change demands, but then again, some of the demands are just that little bit unrealistic.
However, we are not here to debate the issue but rather to help you keep your house in order, keep you warm and healthy and along with the advertisers in this feature, we hope to guide you on saving a few euros by encouraging you to shop and support local businesses for the very best service, prices and after-sales service.

Seasonal Changes

As with all seasons, we annually have to make a few changes to our lifestyle to accommodate the change in temperatures inside and outside the house and prepare for what the weather brings us. We shuffle around the contents of our wardrobes, the contents of our food cupboards and our homes to make life as cosy as possible to see through these next few months. Autumn is the perfect time to make any last minute home improvements, before the real cold and wet weather sets in. You might still have time to get a bit of last minute outdoor painting done, or a new fence up.

Making changes in your home can be a stressful activity at any time of the year, depending on how much work you need to get done before the real cold starts.
Hopefully this feature on Autumn home improvements will get your creative juices flowing and get your home ready and welcoming for the dark months ahead.

Home improvements need not cost the earth; something as simple as a change of cushion covers or some new fresh bedding and towels can make a fresh difference to any home as can re-cycling and up-cycling. Being aware of reusing household items is important so have a look around and give this some thought. For example, don’t be too quick in throwing out old duvets or blankets – stitch them together and make a warm comfy soft bedding blanket for your pet or, add a colourful covering and use them as a warm play rug for the play-room.

Autumn Checklist

When we flick the switch, we anticipate that everything will work and many of us rarely think of the need to check our home gadgets and household items for servicing. Autumn is the perfect time to check things around the house work properly. You might want to call to an elderly family member or neighbour and do a few checks for them also, keeping the following in mind:

1. Get the chimney cleaned

If you use solid fuel in your house, it might be useful to consider getting your chimney cleaned, as soon as possible. Ideally, chimneys should be cleaned every six months. It doesn’t cost much to get your chimney cleaned but it could save your life when you do. It will also be clean for when Santa arrived in a few months’ time!

2. Roof Repairs

Now is the time to get the guttering cleaned and repairs done to your roof before the colder and wetter weather sets in. Topic has regular roofing advertisers listed on our Sales and Services page, that will only be too happy to drop by and give your roof a professional check and quote for repairs.

3. Home Insulation

Proper home insulation is well worth investing in as you can be sure your energy bills will certainly be lower if the house is warmer. These days, home insulation isn’t as big a job as it used to be and with the new injection foam insulation services available, you could be waking up to a much cosier home and bathroom every day. You can insulate the whole house at once or do it in stages, starting with insulating the rooms or even the attic first. Insulation comes at a cost but with such focus on ‘green’ home improvements, there are grants available for insulation and home improvements. Check with your local bank on what financial help they can offer in this regard or avail of one of the SEAI (Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland-www.seai.ie) grants available. There are many so it’s well worth taking time to review which one suits you.

4. Boilers

Your oil or gas boiler may be out of sight but it should not be out of mind and needs regular checking and maintenance, annually, to be on the safe side. This not only picks up on faults but it also prolongs the life of your boiler. Faulty and inefficient boilers cost you much more to run, adding to your already increasing energy bill. Some insurance companies also deny cover where boilers have not been serviced. Beware of paying too much for your boiler servicing and always make sure you use a registered gas / installation company for a comprehensive boiler service.

5. Garden and Outdoor Maintenance

Time to tidy away all your moveable garden furniture and plant pots, do the final weeding in the garden, brush down your patios, decking and driveways and give the outdoor area a power wash before the winter storms arrive. Ensure your fuel shed and fuel storage units have proper secure locking fitted and the same goes for your external or attached garage area.

6. Home Security

No matter what season, burglars never rest. Don’t forget to get your home security alarm system serviced and ensure cameras and recording systems are in order before the darker days arrive. Always use an accredited alarm installer. Don’t forget to give the doorbell and windows a check also and make sure to check on your elderly neighbours home security as well.

Inspiration and Advice for Home Energy Upgrades – attend the talk!

On Sunday, October 16, the award-winning dlr Energy Team are hosting a two-part event to inspire and inform people considering home energy upgrades. The event will be held in the County Hall, Dún Laoghaire and will give attendees the opportunity to ‘Meet the Expert’ from 12pm to 1.30pm, in the Assembly Room, part of the historic 19th century Town Hall area of County Hall.

Attendees can meet Architects and Home Energy One-Stop-Shops, see case studies of residential projects, discuss grants with SEAI representatives and see live demonstrations of the Home Energy Saving Kit.

The event is part of the dlr Open House Dublin architecture festival programme.
Pre-booking is required on openhousedublin.com or through Eventbrite.

What the latest budget means for home owners

Budget 2023 was unveiled last Tuesday, September 27 2022 by Minister for Finance Paschal Donoghue, but what does it mean for your household? Many commentators have referred to the governments spending plan as a ‘giveaway budget’ due to numerous increases in benefits and allowances. So how can your household stand to benefit?

Help with energy costs

€1.2 billion will be allocated for energy supports to help consumers with the costs of utilities in 2022 and 2023. All domestic electricity customers will get €600 credit to help reduce electricity bills.

The 9% VAT rate for gas and electricity is extended to February 28 2023. The reduction of 21 cent per litre tax for petrol, 16 cent per litre for diesel and 5.4 cent per litre for Marked Gas Oil are also extended to February 28 2023.

€340 million will be available to help community groups, schools, health services, sports clubs and other organisations to pay energy bills. €67 million is provided for 12,300 grants to adapt the homes of older people and people with a disability. A further €25 million is allocated for adaptation works to 1,800 existing social homes. Funding of €87 million is provided to retrofit at least 2,400 social homes to bring them to a BER of B2 to make them more energy efficient.

Fuel Allowance

People getting fuel allowance will get a once-off payment of €400 (November 2022). The income threshold for fuel allowance will increase by €80 from €120 to €200. For people aged over 70, it will increase to €500 for a single person and €1,000 for a couple.
Carbon tax

Carbon tax will increase by €7.50 per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted, from €41.00 to €48.50. This applies from October 12 2022 for auto fuels but will be offset by a levy reduction so that it will not result in a price increase. The carbon tax increase will apply to all other fuels (including household fuels) from May 1, 2023.

Energy upgrades

In 2023, €337 million will fund over 37,000 home energy upgrades including upgrades under the Warmer Homes Scheme for households in, or at risk of, energy poverty. €291 million of this funding is being provided from carbon tax revenue. The €5,000 relief towards the private purchase of qualifying electric vehicles (EVs) will continue.

Save Energy in the kitchen by planning ahead

With the price of electricity constantly skyrocketing, we’re all thinking twice about how often we switch on electrical gadgets that have a heating element, as we’re told that anything that creates heat, creates cost. If we do a small bit of planning and organising ourselves, it is possible to keep your costs to a minimum, even in winter.

Making sure your cooking appliances are in good working order and making sure your kitchen is equipped with practical, energy saving items is a must. Our advertisers will be only too happy to guide you on the best kitchen and appliances that work for you. Apart from having a well laid out and stocked kitchen, you can save money and energy as you cook. Here are a few basic helpful tips that we’ve tried and tested and hope you can benefit from them also.

1. Start from scratch

Convenience foods may be convenient but they actually cost more than if you were to start from scratch. While the thought of cooking might not excite you, it will, if you start adding up the financial as well as the health benefits that comes from cooking your own food. Apart from cutting out salt, artificial flavour enhancers and preservatives out of your diet, knowing what goes into your meals brings about a sense of great satisfaction and is a good guide on how much more you can get for your money.

Simple things like pasta sauces and salads can just as easily be assembled at home in a few minutes, often faster than what you’ll get served in a restaurant or supermarket. Keep an eye on Topic’s weekly cookery page for simple, easy, fast recipes that you can make for yourself and the family.

It would be a useful exercise to make a note of any random week’s spending on food you buy, and cook your own meals for a week, and see how much further your euro goes. Keep in mind for the average price of a sandwich (i.e. two slices of bread with a filling) per day, you can buy a full loaf of bread to last you a week, filling to last the week and you’ll probably have money left over!
Start preparing your own food. You know it makes financial sense a treat!

2. Double Up

If you’re turning on your cooker, mainly the oven, choose recipes that use the oven only and not the oven and the hob together for example.

Plan recipes and meals so you can have two or three dishes in the oven at the same time, making the most of the energy being used. Our recipe page this week gives you a main course and dessert course that you can cook in the oven at the same time (on the same temperature), to avoid using extra oven units while cooking. Once you get into the habit of doubling up, it will become second nature to you in a few weeks.

3. Cook Seasonally

While it’s lovely to have strawberries in December, keep in mind strawberry season is traditionally in Summer and buying fruits and vegetables outside their season is neither good for your health or for your pocket. Cooking and eating foods seasonally is always the best option as foodstuffs are in plentiful supply and keep costs low and get to you fresher than what imported, out of season foods would. Our parents and grandparents would have only ate seasonally as they had no other choice and they certainly were healthier than what we are today.

Strategic tips to keep warm and cosy indoors this winter

As you get all those small home improvements checked off your list before Autumn 2022 comes to an end, there are a few simple tips you might want to consider to give your home that touch of freshness, while keeping the theme of warmth and comfort.

Whether it’s changing to heavier curtains or re-sealing your windows and doors, you can never be thorough enough when it comes to ensuring your home is warm this winter.

In this feature, you will come across plenty of advertisers and tips on great ways to keep your home warm during the coming months in ways that won’t break the bank. These improvements will also make your home more energy efficient also.

Insulation

With energy prices set to rise again before the year is out, it’s important to make sure you’re not throwing good money after bad when it comes to heating your home. That’s why a key factor of a warm home is good insulation. Insulation keeps a home warm in the winter and cool in the summer, is one of the most efficient ways to save energy at home, allowing you to keep the desired temperature in your house all year round. Home décor, draft proofing, conscious practical use of heating, and double glazing are all simple measures that can make a difference to your home during winter and help you save money on heating, rather than waste it.

Here are a few more tips for a warmer home this winter:

1. Be strategic

Be strategic with the placement of your furniture – it can make all the difference!
Avoid blocking any heat suppliers such as a radiator. Instead, place your most used pieces of furniture, such as your desk or sofa, around (not up close to) the heat source to ensure you stay warm and toasty when you’re in the room.

2. Consider investing in carpets and rugs

These not only increase the warmth and cosiness within your home but prove to be a very trendy way to modernise and bring your home back to life. Our advertisers in this feature have a large range of carpets on offer, something to suit every space and every budget. A good carpet is definitely worth the investment.

3. Replace ageing windows

Replace ageing windows with energy efficient double or triple-glazed windows for a longer-term investment in your family’s comfort. Fine tune the look with your unique choice of window furnishings, whether you want to create a contemporary, modern, or traditional-style home.

4. Change to heavy curtains

Younger home-owners these days don’t seem to pay much attention to the fact that changing to heavier curtains in winter can save quite a bit of energy in your home. Ideally, heavy, lined, fireproof curtains are ideal and are often on sale at this time of year, to make way for new stock for winter. It’s a highly recommended way to ensure the temperature of every room in the house increases, instead of decreases during the colder months of the year. Many people add a curtain to the inside of their front door; this is also a great, effective way to keep drafts out.

5. Make your own Sausage Dog for the doors!

One way of checking the drafts is to stand next to all your windows and doors and feel the cold coming from the sides or underneath. The main front door (and garage doors) are often culprits in letting the vast amount of heat out and cold in. If replacing your doors is a bit over your budget, invest in a sausage dog to block the draft or better still, make your own. All you need is an old pair of trousers, some heavy filling and a needle and thread – and your imagination. The internet has lots of useful hacks on how to make your own sausage dog – it’s a fun thing to do and the family can also get involved!

6. Book your home improvements early

Tradespeople are very few in numbers these days and those that are in business, are in high demand. Plumbers and electricians are said to be the most sought after for new home projects. So if you can’t manage to make your home improvements now, plan ahead and book a reliable and recommended trades-team to complete your work in 2023.

Drains! Keep them unblocked this winter

It’s a job we all hate doing but it’s one that needs to be kept in check, annually and Autumn is the best time for the drain check up.

The whole purpose of a drainage systems is to dispose of waste water effectively, both inside and outside the house. When pipes get dirty or a build up of waste is present, it makes it hard or impossible for water to pass through to where it needs to go. Before you know it, you’ll have water coming out from underneath your kitchen sink or lots of surface water if your outdoor drainage system is clogged.

Poor drainage can also throw your plumbing pressure off balance, causing quite major issues such as cracked or ruptured pipes.

What Causes Blockage?

The main cause of drain blockages in your kitchen are from grease and food particles. The shower drains are most commonly clogged by greasy soap scum and hair. Toilets get clogged mainly because of an overload of heavy ply toilet paper as well as people attempting to flush all types of heavy sanitary items. Roof drainage, gutters etc should ideally be cleaned out twice a year as they easily get blocked by fallen twigs and leaves. If you neglect clearing them, the weight of the water will cause your gutter pipes to come crashing down, causing damage to your house, your car possibly and to anyone in the vicinity of the falling pipes.

Get your drains checked today to make sure your flow is perfect for the months ahead. The check up should include your sinks, toilets, shower drains, laundry drains, roof gutters and outdoor pipes that often have a build up of leaves, branches and roof moss.

Prevention

There are a few practical ways to keep your drains clear and being conscious of what you attempt to pour or flush is part of the prevention. Use sink screens / sieve covers – these are available in all hardware shops for all sizes of sinks and showers. They help keep soap scum, hair, etc from getting into the drain and depositing themselves causing clogging. Never pour grease down your sink or drains but rather clean all your sink stoppers regularly and pour boiling water down your drains after washing dishes and utensils.

Don’t dump paint, paint thinner or any chemicals down the drain as this often makes things worse. These items should be disposed of properly.

DIY Drain Cleaner

This DIY drain cleaner is recommended by certain shower manufacturers and will help you with minor clogs, until you get a more professional job done. All you need is baking soda, vinegar and a few litres of boiling water!

1. Start by pouring about three to four litres of boiling water down the drain.
2. Pour a cup of baking soda and 1 cup water/1 cup plain white vinegar solution.
3. Cover the drain with the drain plug and wait five to ten minutes.
4. Pour another three to four litres of boiling water down the drain again.

Buyer’s guide to wood-effect tiles

You dream about having beautiful wooden floors, but don’t want the headache of keeping them in mint condition… Enter wood-effect tiles.

Also known as wood-look tiles, these tiles are either made of porcelain or ceramic. First the tiles are fired, then they are printed with the images of wood and sealed. The printing technology used is extremely sophisticated, making it very difficult to distinguish between the tile and real wood, in both look and feel.

Ceramic or porcelain?

Deciding what type of wood-look tile you use is really about functionality.
Porcelain tiles are made with a smaller grain clay. The end result is a harder, denser and more water-resistant product suitable for high traffic environments, as well as wet areas such as bathrooms. All World of Tiles’ porcelain ranges have a matt finish and a slip rating of R10, making them less slippery.

On average, ceramic tiles are more cost-effective and, because they are softer (made with coarser clay), they are easier to cut and install. That same softness, however, makes them less stain resistant and better suited for low traffic areas.
None of the rules above apply to using wood-effect tiles on interior walls. Because walls aren’t load bearing in terms of people and furniture, and are less likely to be exposed to spillage, the choice of the type of tile you use is purely aesthetic. Our extensive Gramercy range in white, cream, grey and brown are suitable for wall applications.

Colour

Wood-effect tiles come in a full range of tones. You can go light and airy with something like our Orso Gris tile – for the perfect Scandi white-washed timber look – or the buttery warmth of Flandes Almond. If you prefer dark and moody, have a look at the coffee-coloured Lakeland Wenge or the age-old lustre of Spanish chestnut of our Timbao Castano tiles.

Finishes

• Natural
This is the closest thing you will find to real wood. The tiles have a 3-dimensional texture that mimics the lines and texture of real wood.

• Matt

A matt finish doesn’t have the depth of texturing of natural finish tiles, but it’s still a realistic imitation of timber.

• Polished

These porcelain wood-effect tiles are the best of both worlds – combining the look of wood with the sheen of tiles.

• Lay pattern

This refers to how the tiles are laid to create the style of your floor. Like natural timber, wood-effect tiles come in different lengths and widths to suit different styles.

• Traditional plank
This is the classic look of parallel boards laid lengthways. Although this pattern can be achieved with any length of wood-look tile, longer ones work better – such as our rustic, industrial Manhattan Summer tile, measuring 20x120cm.

• Herringbone

Shorter wood-effect tiles, such as the Nebraska Elm 10x60cm range, lend themselves to this popular chevron pattern.

Tips and tricks

• Laying wood-look tiles is more about precision than speed. Start by running two rows of tiles along the length of the room. Once you’ve ensured that these are aligned and flat, continue laying the rest of the floor.
• Rectified wood-effect tiles minimise the grout lines and create a more natural look.
• Opting for a longer length tile means you need fewer to install.
• The décor and design of your home will help you determine your wood-effect tile
choice.
• Use grout in a shade lighter than the tiles.

For further information, visit www.worldoftiles.ie

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