lights at night if it is to be left on a street. There are specialist waste disposal firms listed in Yellow Pages who will come along, bag the rubbish and take it away ifyou can’t get rid of it yourself.

Urgent Repairs and Hot

Before starting on any improvements, it is important to make sure things aren’t getting worse. Ifwater is getting in from a hole in the roof or a leaking pipe, action should be taken as quickly as possible. Water doesn’t only make a mess and bring the ceilings down, it also leads to timber decay and outbreaks of rot which can be very expensive to put right. If your house has been damp for some time it is possible that some form of rot may have already set in. Woodworm is also often found in older properties although this can normally be treated before it becomes serious. If you have have any ground for concern, arrange for a specialist firm to carry out a survey of your property to obtain their recommendations and an estimate of the cost of carrying out any work they recommend. Their reports are comprehensive and the surveys are usually free so it is worth getting two quotations to compare. You can find wood preservation specialist firms in your area in the yellow pages.

The treatment of timber decay or woodworm may require your carpets to be lifted and in some case the skirting boards and floors may have to come up as well. The chemical sprays used can emit toxic odours: ideally you should arrange for this work to be carried out before you move in. Ifit does involve lifting floors then try to schedule in any rewiring, plumbing and central heating work at the same time before relaying the floors. DIY products are available for the treatment of woodworm, and decayed timber can be cut out and replaced but do some research before starting to make sure you have correctly identified the problem. There are advantages in using a specialist firm as they provide guarantees for their work which can be required when you come to sell the property. A word of warning: the

guarantees only cover the recurrence of the same outbreak of rot and they tend to be fairly tightly worded it doesn’t always mean that new outbreaks won’t occur which could involve you in more expense. Check the details of any quotation that is given to you before proceeding.

If your property is on the ground floor and is damp at floor or skirting level there is probably no damp course or the existing one is defective. Most firms who carry out wood preservation also inject damp proof courses and should be contacted to carry out a survey if required. The installation of the damp proof course is specialist work and again is best carried out before you move in. In some instances it is possible to inject the damp proof course from the outside to avoid damage to the internal decoration.In

extreme cases it is possible that the lack of a damp proof course may cause timber decay to the ground floor joists and floorboards resulting in the whole floor requiring to be replaced.

Plumbing and Wiring

The most common major upgrading carried out is a re-arrangement of the kitchen and bathroom. Ifyou intend to alter these rooms remember to consider the services: water; gas; electricity and drainage. If possible you should leave these in the same position, as moving them can be expensive and time consuming. Often this is not practical or desirable and you have little choice other than to move one or all of them. Most DIY enthusiasts are capable of moving a 13 amp socket or connecting some plumbing and there are good step by step guides in most DIY books. But ifyou are not sure of what you are doing it is best to leave plumbing and wiring to the experts getting either of them wrong can lead to serious problems both for your own prOperty and your neighbours for which you would be responsible. A very large proportion of household fires are caused by faulty wiring. If the house has old cloth-covered wiring, it should be changed as soon as possible as it can be dangerous. Similarly, lead water-pipes or tank should be renewed in copper or PVC as they are a health hazard.

Whatever you want to do make sure you think it all through before starting and try to adapt the services that exist rather than start from scratch. If you intend to alter the drainage remember that drainage must obey the laws of gravity and that the distance from the WC to the vertical waste pipe is limited and critical. There are various regulations Concerning ventilation

from bathrooms which Building Controls enforce and you should check these out before finalising plans. Working out a schedule for the work is also important particularly if you will be living in the premises while alterations are in progress. Kitchens and bathrooms and any work carried out should be programmed around meals etc. You could form a temporary kitchen in another room and wash up in the bathroom if your work is likely to take more than a few days.

Kitchens and Bathrooms

New bathroom fittings come in a variety of shapes, colours and prices or alternatively you could fit second hand Victorian fittings or have your existing bath re-enamelled. Wash basins and WCs are normally manufactured from vitreous china, baths are either enamelled steel or acrylic which is cheaper but less popular as the bath moves when hot or cold. If you are forming an internal bathroom or kitchen you will probably require to instal a vent fan to comply with Building Regulations.

Kitchen units are available from a


variety of DIY stores and at the top of the range from high street specialists who will design and instal quality kitchens. Most kitchen units come flat packed for quick assembly by anyone who can use a screwdriver. Units are made in modular sizes of600 x 600, 500 x 500, 1000 x 600,1000 x 500 with smaller units for end of runs and special units to house hobs and ovens. Units are normally built from a standard carcase with a variety of door and drawer fronts to suit individual tastes. The most basic finish is melamine sprayed onto a chipboard core and is as robust as it sounds. The most common finish used is laminate bonded to a chipboard core which is stronger and more durable. The more expensive units have wooden fronts either veneered or solid with wooden mouldings to the edges of doors. The decision of which units to buy is a matter of shopping around to determine what suits you and your pocket best. The more expensive units do the same job as the cheaper ranges: the difference is in the quality of construction and durability in use. There is a snob value in owning a name kitchen (like driving a BMW or GT1) but don’t write off places like the much maligned ME I whose Hygena range is good value. You can always "customize’ a kitchen by throwing away the cheap and nasty door handles supplied with the units and buying something solid from your local ironmonger. Worktops come in a variety of laminate finishes in standard lengths of 1m, 2m or 3m and can be cut to suit or butted together as required. Edges are either square or rounded, the latter being the more attractive form. Alternatively you could build your own units from wood or laminate-faced board. It is unlikely that this approach will be cheaper than buying units and it will certainly take more time however the end result will be unique. You may consider making your own worktop from marine ply or sealed blockboard and surfacing it in laminate or ceramic tile which is an excellent finish. Wooden worktops are not very practical although they are very attractive. Another alternative is to buy carcase-only units and make fronts to your own design. This can be a very effective and economical way of creating an individual kitchen.

Central Heating

Central heating is usually provided by two methods: hot water in radiators or self contained storage heaters. The water to be heated for a radiator system can be provided by a boiler, Aga or Raeburn cooker or back boiler to a gas or open fire. Gas boilers can be mounted on an external wall or connected to an existing flue. Each radiator requires to be supplied by a water flow pipe which should be hidden under the floor for horizontal pipe runs and within cupboards for vertical runs. If this is not possible you will require to

box in pipework at skirting level and at the corner of rooms where pipes rise and fall. Electric storage heaters can be installed by the SSEB, an electrician or yourself although the installation of the white meter for cheap rate tariff can only be carried out by the SSEB. They work by building up and storing heat at night when electricity is cheap and circulating it during the day when you need it. It is easier to instal than a water based system as each unit is selfcontained and is connected by electrical cable. This can be suitable when you have a solid ground floor or do not wish to undo your good quality of decoration installing pipework. Storage heaters used to be very large ugly looking things but the new slimline range from Dimplex and others are much less clumsy. Have a look round the nearest electrical showroom.

Running costs of either system are similar but gas is often preferred because it can be switched on and off at any time while the storage heaters cannot be so quickly adjusted due to the way they build up heat at night and give out during the day. Both forms of heating can be installed by a DIY enthusiast and some DIY superstores offer free planning and advice and can supply you with all the parts that you will need. Alternatively obtain quotations from a central heating contractor or from the gas or electricity board who can be very competitive with their bulk buying power. When planning your installation remember to consider how you will use the rooms. Radiators should ideally be located under windows to avoid draughts and provide good circulation. This may not be practical if you have low cills or wish to limit pipe runs.


To conserve heat you may consider installing double or secondary glazing. This is worthwhile ifyour house is difficult to heat or your original windows need replaced. Consider the appearance of your house as some forms of window can ruin the character of a house. If your property has an attic which is not insulated apply to your local authority for a grant towards the cost of this work.

Remember to take the insulation over the water tank and lag any pipes that are in the roofspace to avoid freezing. The local authority may have an energy conservation officer who can advise you on the most suitable arrangement for your home. Other simple methods ofconserving heat are to fit heavy lined curtains and seal all draughts around doors and windows. Do not block up ventilators under floors or in the attic as these are designed to provide a cross flow of air to prevent damp which can lead to rot forming on the timber joists. If your house has existing wooden shutters these can be restored to working order and are excellent for conserving heat and providing some security. If they have not been used for some time you will

54 The List 10 - 23 Februa