A building project can be daunting, and you may have lots of questions. Ask the experts (Seamus or Barbara Carr) your questions via Zoom. We’ve shown some typical scenarios below of the wide range of topics we can help you with. To get the most out of your session, please have open on your computer any relevant information, such as photos, maps or drawings.
'We’ve seen a house with windows that we love, and want to replace the windows on our own house, which are dark and draughty. But there are so many window manufacturers out there, that it’s difficult to know where to start, or how to make comparisons. We’re thinking of triple glazed, but don’t know if that’s possible with lots of divisions in the window. We don’t like the proportions of some of our windows - how difficult is it to change their shape? Do we go for timber, PVC or aluclad? Why do some windows cost so much more than others - what’s the difference between them?'
We’ll go through your questions step by step, giving you advice and suggestions.
'I want one of those fancy heat pumps’ was the wish of an owner of a sprawling 1970s bungalow who wanted to change her old oil boiler. She’d heard they were highly efficient and cheap to run, and wondered why more people didn’t install them.
They are indeed efficient and cost effective in operation - in the right house. It needs to be highly insulated, with good airtightness to prevent heat being lost by draughts. The heat pump works by compressing outside air using electricity, raising the temperature which is then transferred to water, ideal for underfloor heating which operates at a lower temperature than radiators. If the house is poorly insulated, or the water temperature expected to supply radiators, the pump has to use a lot more electricity, which is a costly way to heat. An upgrade of the fabric of the house - adding insulation, new windows, improving airtightness - would be one approach, that is currently grant aided. Alternatively,
consider a different heating system. In this case, the size and layout of the bungalow would be suited to a large pellet stove.
'Colours confuse me, as there’s such a choice out there. I pick up a colour card, but a lot of the colours seem very similar, yet when I buy a can of paint and put it up on the wall, it’s not at all what I thought it would be. I never seem to get it right - how should I go about it?.'
We always advise that the first thing to select when doing any colour scheme is the item with the least number of choices. For instance, the floor tiles you like may have only three options, but the kitchen units have many colour ways. Paint should be the last thing to be chosen, as there are so many colours to choose from. Painting samples on the walls where they will actually go is crucial - don’t pick a colour based on that seen in a completely different setting, where the light, furniture and orientation are all different to yours. Make the samples with a clean edge as shown, as they are easier to ‘read’ that way. We use the Natural Colour System (NCS) which is a descriptive numbering system to describe colour, that all paint manufacturers can mix.
' My partner is tall and loves the idea of high ceilings, but I’m a bit nervous that spaces won’t feel cosy or will be difficult to heat.'
Higher than average ceilings often enhance a space, but it depends on the context. A very high ceiling can feel uncomfortably vast. What we did in the house above was a play with different ceiling heights, which works really well. The kitchen and dining area feel cosy, and the living area has a higher ceiling which allows more light in, and makes a more interesting, exciting space. The difference in heating cost between this and carrying the lower ceiling height throughout is negligible, more than compensated for by the sense of light and volume.
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