Posted on July 18, 2014, by flatpackdad

Insulation and the available UK funding


Types of insulation available

Installing home insulation is an easy and cost-efficient energy saving measure for your home. The Energy Saving Trust estimates that over a third of your home’s heat is lost through your walls and around a quarter is lost through an uninsulated roof. By reducing this heat loss you will reduce your carbon footprint, reduce your energy consumption and ultimately reduce your heating bills and make considerable savings every year.

You can insulate your home in many ways, but the main 3 types of insulation that make the biggest difference and have UK Government funding and incentives for is cavity wall insulation, loft insulation and external solid wall insulation.

Government funding and Incentives for insulation

The UK government is pushing for homeowners to ensure their home has sufficient insulation installed because this is the most cost effective way for homes to become more energy efficient. Therefore, to incentivise property owners to install insulation at their property there are multiple Government insulation grants available to UK residents including Green Deal insulation and the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO).

Free cavity wall insulation

Free cavity wall insulation is available to everyone and anyone who has unfilled cavity walls at their home. A cavity wall is made from two layers that have a small gap between them which traps a layer of warm air between the two brick layers. You will typically find unfilled cavity walls at a property that was built between 1924 and 1982. Properties built after 1982 had their cavities filled at time of construction as it became a regulation.

There are multiple benefits for installing cavity wall insulation at your home:

–  Reduce your energy bills of up to £110 a year

–  Cut down on your CO2 emissions

–  Reduces your condensation

–  Can increase your home’s value because it will improve your home’s EPC

The insulation installation is a very simple process but one that needs to be carried out by an accredited installer with valid Public Liability insurance.

Free loft insulation

If your loft isn’t sufficiently insulated then your home will be losing 25% of its heat through the roof. Unlike cavity wall insulation funding, free loft insulation grants with the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) have more specific requirements to be eligible, such as homeowners have been receiving certain benefits, live in a high fuel poverty area or if you have solid walls that external solid wall insulation could be fitted at. Homeowners who are installing external solid wall insulation qualify for free loft insulation as a secondary energy saving measure. You can also claim 95% of the loft insulation grant if you are having cavity wall insulation installed at the same time. Therefore, you will only need to pay £49 for your loft insulation whilst getting free cavity wall insulation.

External solid wall funding

If your home has uninsulated external solid walls then your home will be losing up to 45% of its heat through the walls – this is twice as much as the heat loss through unfilled cavity walls.

There are different levels of external solid wall insulation grants available depending on your heating fuel type. Homeowners can claim up to 100% solid wall insulation grants if they use electricity or solid fuels to heat their home. Property owners who use gas, oil or LPG can get 50% funding. Everyone can qualify for as proportion of the solid wall grant regardless of where you live and your personal finance situation. The Energy Companies Obligation (ECO) funding ensures that any hard-to-treat properties such as solid wall properties (built pre-1930) could be eligible for external or internal solid wall insulation.

Posted on July 17, 2014, by flatpackdad

Six Essentials for a Gentleman Home


As a moustachioed man writing this in a fine dinner jacket, I can tell you that I know a few things about being a gentleman. I seal envelopes with a wax seal, and open them with a kingwood letter opener. I enjoy three fingers of Glenlivet, with a little bit of pepper, and some cheese. My Dumas novels are bound in doublures, I use a pocket-watch and a snuffbox, and all of that makes me qualified to list for you just six articles one must possess in order for one’s abode to constitute a Gentlemanly home.


Personally I sleep flat on my back, head-to-toe in pinstriped silk pyjamas and a nightcap. But for those gentlemen among you that enjoy a night slowly migrating across a linen plateau, all of that superfluous room an emperor-size bed will afford you will keep you from rolling off in your sleep. A handsome headboard and some ornate hand-carved legs are of course preferable.


Fairly essential for any courteous and honourable man, is a stately antique fireplace, into which he can cast detritus. Something upon which one can focus when waiting for inspiration, something to set the mood right on romantic evenings, something over which magnificently painted self-portraits can be hung.



It’s not necessarily what you read; it’s how you read. A gentleman always consumes the written word with careful scepticism and his critical faculties finely tuned. Eschew ugly televisions and Hifi-systems in favour of a grand oaken bookcase, abrim with leather-bound volumes from every decade.


It is completely ungentlemanly to be directly responsible for purposefully, and without good reason, bringing to an end the life of any being. But failing to properly make full use of already dead animals is a waste and therefore equally ungentlemanly. An expertly fashioned article of taxidermy can be a great conversation piece, and subtly reminds you of Nature’s artistry and grace.


A station at which all of a gentleman’s itineraries can be drawn up, correspondents can be corresponded with, and musing can transgress. Remember only these two tips: coasters for whisky tumblers, and secret compartments for valuable documents.



Guests are of course customarily offered drinks upon entrance to one’s home, and there’s nothing that quite sets the tone like fetching their requested beverage from inside a curiously shaped drinks cabinet. Of course you may opt for one in the form of an egg, or treasure chest, but there’s something profoundly symbolic about reaching into the mantle of the Earth and retrieving the elixir you’re both about to imbibe.

But fear not, if the aforementioned articles elude you, a true gentleman’s character will shine through regardless of his furniture. Simply work on your ethos, your philosophies, and permanently be consciously working towards becoming the best version of yourself and it truly won’t matter what material possessions you fill your house with.


Posted on April 21, 2014, by flatpackdad

Warming your Home – Must Have Renovations


It is scary to consider how much energy is wasted in our homes: seeping through roofs, under doors and in between gaps in the windows. It’s no wonder that some houses have energy bills through the roof, quite literally. However, all is not lost; with some (often) simple renovations, you can transform your house into an energy-saving haven.

Double Glazing

Although double glazing is often given a bad rap by pushy salespeople, it is a useful tactic in the fight for energy efficiency. Double glazing works by using two sheets of glass with a gap in between, which creates an insulating barrier. There is also something called triple glazing, which as the name suggests, is where three panes of glass are used, rather than two. Traditionally, the gap between the panes was just a vacuum, but these days more modern techniques are applied, which include filling the space with a heavy inert gas such as Argon or Xenon. Not all double (or triple) glazing works the same, with some more efficient than others; however, determining which is most suitable for you is made easier by the manufacturer’s energy ratings. Double glazing can reduce energy bills fairly substantially, with an approximate saving of £150 per household (based on a typical three bedroomed semi-detached). Double glazing also offers an additional perk: it acts as a sound-proofing mechanism, which means that noise from outside is minimised; ideal if your house is situated next to a busy road.

Loft insulation

As with double glazing, installing loft insulation can save you a hefty amount, with a decrease in energy bills of around £180 a year (again, in the example of a standard three bedroomed semi). Given that a professional loft insulation expert would charge you around £300 to complete the job, this means that it would pay for itself in less than two years. You don’t need to rely on a professional to carry out the work, as it is possible to do it yourself, at a slightly cheaper cost. There are various  methods used for loft insulation, such as blanket, which is a roll of material (the most common type, and probably the easiest if you are installing it yourself) and loose-fill (which is ideal for topping up existing insulation). Other forms include sheet insulation and blown-fibre; however, these are generally more expensive than other methods.

Increase the efficiency of your heating appliances

Those that live in hard water areas (which is more than 60% of the population in the UK), will already be aware of the detrimental effect hard water can have on energy bills. If you live in an area affected by hard water, one way slash energy bills in your home is to install a water softening system. The reason that hard water is such a menace is that it is saturated with minerals, usually calcium and magnesium. These minerals harden when the water is heated, and leave behind  limescale, which results in clogged pipes, and a reduction in efficiency of heating systems and electrical appliances. Installing a water softener will reduce energy bills, saving up to 30% annually in some cases. Not only that, but electrical appliances and heaters will require less maintenance and last longer, and the time (and detergents) needed to remove unsightly limescale marks dramatically reduced.

Cavity wall insulation

It’s not only your loft that can benefit from a little extra padding. A staggering 35% of your heat can be lost through your walls, which translates to a huge saving if you decide to have cavity wall insulation work done. Houses built later than 1920 were commonly constructed with a space in between the interior and exterior walls (to prevent rain seeping inside), and it is this gap that is insulated. Cavity wall insulation also helps reduce condensation (when warm air hits a colder surface), and along with loft insulation, could increase your energy-efficiency rating. All properties either being sold or rented requires an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC); homes with a low rating (often older houses without any insulation) are generally off-putting for potential buyers or tenants. Carrying out insulation is likely to increase your energy rating, which will subsequently attract more interest in your property.

Solar-Energy Panels

The benefits of solar panels are two-pronged: Firstly, installing them will dramatically reduce (or even eliminate entirely) energy costs for your home. Secondly, they are a sustainable, natural resource that is non-polluting and environmentally friendly (they help reduce carbon dioxide emissions and greenhouse gases). Although the initial outlay for costs can be fairly expensive, you will reap the dividends over time: after the initial set up, maintenance costs are low, they will add value to your property, and in some cases, it is even possible to receive a rebate or money for unused, surplus energy generated by your panels.

Other simple energy-saving ideas

Although the above are quite extensive changes, saving energy is often about the small modifications you make around your home. For example, check the gap between your doors and the floor, especially those that lead outside. If you can see sunlight flooding under, you are losing valuable heat through it; ways to combat this include a draught excluder or lengthening the threshold. Check the areas surrounding pipes that lead outside, and seal any gaps with expanding foam. If you have an older house with a chimney, heat could be escaping, even if the flue is closed. To rectify this, you can simply block the airflow with an inflatable chimney balloon, even if your fire is still functional. Energy-saving light-bulbs are becoming more common place in our homes; just replacing five traditional bulbs will low energy alternatives can save up to £32 a year.

Posted on April 14, 2014, by flatpackdad

Why Stop At Wooden Go-Karts?

When I was young’un we had friends of the family with children who owned not just a finely-crafted set of wooden go-karts, but an at-the-time-seemingly nigh vertical grass hill in their back garden upon which many a dramatic race between them could be waged. Even Redbull have cottoned on that flying down a steep incline with glory or death in your crosshairs and handmade plywood chassis rattling against your body is an experience not to be missed.


But that exhilaration induced by DIYing your own vehicle must have heights attainable previously unimagined by man. Haven’t we been not nearly as ambitious as we ought? If we use the prefix ‘Go-’ to mean ‘constructed out of wood at home’, then the possibilities are limited only by our imaginations. The lowly car is destined never to know any other terrain but the very ground we walk around on. It will never know the embrace of the oceanic depths, the cold bite of the sky air, the unforgiving silent void of space…

The Wooden Go-Submarine


It’s not unfathomable (excuse the genius pun); for centuries wooden battleships have spent years at sea sustaining cannonfire and remaining afloat. Surely an expertly-made DIY wooden submarine could survive a plunge. I’m no mariner but I’m certain that knotting around beneath the seven seas would be infinitely more exciting than rolling down an embankment on a crate with wheels. Were the undertow to draw you down into its cold and infinite indigo jaws you need only to whip out your Go-Scuba Snorkel (toilet roll tubes and sellotape) and make for the surface.

Pro-Tip: You could use glass casserole dishes for portholes.

The Wooden Go-Plane


Man has literally dreamed of taking to the skies, since he first laid eyes on the birds. Ancient stories of angels capturing his imagination. How has it not occurred to anyone thus far that it takes only a bit of wood, some elbow grease, and a spot of knowledge on aerodynamics to fashion ourselves a Wright-Brothersesque contraption and make our fantasies a reality!? I can picture it now, every one of its passengers with their own area, the finest pine furniture, an oak chest filled with picnic fodder, a DIY tablecloth parachute. And besides, the money you’d spend on materials and man-hours you’d save in no time never having to take commercial flights again.

Pro-Tip: To save on flying lessons simply fashion a Go-Pilot.

The Wooden Go-Rocket


Space. The Final Frontier. Are you seriously telling me that we landed on the moon in the 60’s, with IT no more powerful than a pocket calculator, and in 2014 it’s not feasible to make your own rocket-ship out of particle-board and pots and pans? Hogwash. Although it is of paramount importance that you do get Blu-Tack wedged in every gap or you’re gonna have a bad time. Now the idea may come off as facetious, but don’t be thrown off by the challenge, it’s only rocket science. Who knows what could come next once everyone’s got a Go-Rocket/Go-Spaceship in their garage? Surely Go-Colonies on Mars at the least, and at the most… Go-Ambassadors conferencing with civilisations from other worlds! Go-Worlds?

Pro-Tip: Watch Gravity for what never to do in space.


Posted on March 27, 2014, by flatpackdad

10 Top Tips for DIY Home Removals


In a slow-moving housing market it makes sense for home movers to achieve cost savings wherever possible in order to realise the maximum value from their sale and minimise the expense of moving from old home to new. Hiring a professional removal company to transfer your worldly possessions can be a costly business.

Depending upon the quantity of possessions you wish to move, the distance between your old and new house and the respective ease of access to both properties arranging and undertaking your own house removal can potentially save you a lot of time, inconvenience and cash.

Here are 10 top tips for safe and successful DIY home removals.

Hire a suitable van for your removals

A standard UK driving licence allows you to drive a vehicle of up to 7.5 tonnes in weight when laden and companies such as National Van Hire offer a range of vans that can be affordably rented. The fewer journeys you need to make between old home and new, the more economical your DIY removals will be, so it’s important to pre-plan your removal in order to hire a van of the appropriate size.

Get as many hands on board to help as possible

Professional removal companies can provide as many personnel as it takes to complete a move swiftly and effectively. Take a leaf out of their book and engage as many friends, relatives and colleagues as you can possibly muster to help you move home. Rewards for helping needn’t necessarily be financial; often a cup of tea and a slice of cake will do the trick.

Don’t move stuff that doesn’t need moving

Moving house presents the perfect opportunity to have a thorough clear out of your possessions. Ask yourself honestly whether an item has a use or a place in your new home and if it doesn’t, discard it. Donating unwanted furniture and other items to charity shops will not only help you but help others too.

Start gathering packing materials before your move

Once you know that you’re moving, start collecting anything that might be useful as packing material. Save any sturdy cardboard boxes you have or obtain more free from your local supermarket. Plastic carrier bags and scrunched up newspaper make good protective wadding when packing boxes, whilst securely wrapping breakable items in clothes, towels, bedding or duvets can help to minimise or avoid damage in transit.

Pack rarely-used and non-essential items well in advance

If, for example, you’re moving in summer you might as well pack the family Christmas tree, decorations, winter clothing, heaters and other stuff that you won’t need for months as early as possible. Not having to worry about having to pack non-essentials as your moving day draws nearer gives you the time to concentrate on packing the more important stuff.

Take the time to pack properly and safely

Make sure that items are properly protected, that boxes are loaded evenly and are not too heavy to be handled safely or without collapsing. Label each box clearly, noting its contents and which room they belong in. Don’t forget to mark boxes as ‘fragile’ or to draw arrows denoting which way up a box should be placed, as appropriate.

Where possible, disassemble larger items

If larger items of furniture such as wardrobes, dining tables or beds can be easily disassembled into smaller parts this not only reduces the risk of damage in transit but will also save valuable space in your removals van, potentially minimising the number of journeys you’ll need to make.

Load your removals van correctly

The accepted way to load a removals van (for the first load) is to place a sofa at the front (behind the drivers cab) with the largest items of furniture, such as wardrobes, tables, chairs, beds and ‘white goods’ placed against the van’s side walls. Blankets or bin bags filled with clothing or bed linen should be used as padding. Any remaining space in the central part of the van should be filled with smaller items or boxes, the heaviest at floor level, the lightest at the top. The most important aspect is to ensure that the items loaded into your removals cannot move around during transit.

If in doubt, transport high-value electrical items by car

If you have worries regarding the safety or wisdom of packing your large-screen plasma TV, state-of-the-art stereo equipment or home computer system into the back of your removals van, items such as these may be transported more securely and at less risk by car.

Drive your removals van with care

Whilst driving a modern van presents little more challenge than driving a car there are still things to be aware of: stopping times will be greater, different speed restrictions apply to vans (50mph on single carriageways and 60mph on dual) and reversing accurately may be less straightforward than usual. Avoid excessive speed and take care on bends and corners; remember – the aim of your DIY removal is to get all of your stuff to the new house in one piece.

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