Easy home improvements that don't cost the earth
Big home improvements, like loft conversions and extensions, usually add value. However smaller changes can also increase the value of your home and make it more sellable, writes Julia Gray (PA)
1. Wooden floors are a wonderful addition to any home, whatever its style or period, and are a practical alternative to carpet, especially in hallways and reception rooms. If your home has original floorboards, sanding and varnishing or staining them should add value and create a lovely, hard wearing feature. However, original floorboards aren’t always in good condition and may be rotten, or have been butchered over the years, which can make them hard to restore. Another problem is they can be draughty - on the ground floor, there will be a gap between the floorboards and the earth, which is needed for ventilation but can send cold air up into the room above.
2. If your home doesn’t have original floorboards or the floorboards are in a bad state, solid or engineered-wood flooring gives you a similar look but without the draughts (some underlays help with soundproofing and damp-proofing too). Both solid wood and engineered wood are now widely available in tongue-and-groove boards that click together which is particularly easy for DIYers to fit and some engineered wood has a wonderful woodgrain texture that’s even better than original floorboards. Engineered wood only has a top layer of real wood, which varies in depth, with other layers underneath, so it can’t be sanded as many times as solid wood, but it does have other advantages. “Engineered wood has the appearance of solid wood, but because it’s made in layers, it has good stability, which means it’s not as prone to shrinking or warping with changes in environmental conditions as much as solid wood,” says Sophie Hautekeete from Quick-Step flooring. “This means it can be used across the home, even in rooms with underfloor heating.”
3. Radiators are, of course, very practical, but they also have a decorative function that’s often overlooked. If you’re renovating your home, or even just a room or two, changing old, unattractive radiators makes a big difference to the look (and often improves the heat output too) and if you fit new bog-standard radiators, you’re selling the renovation short. Modern column radiators work well in most interiors because they’re a contemporary take on a classic design. Radiators like these make a renovation extra special and are well worth paying more for.
4. Almost everyone loves a real fire, but open fires are generally only around 15 to 30 per cent efficient, as most of the heat goes up the chimney. Wood-burning stoves are a better investment, as they’re much more efficient and have other advantages, such as keeping smoke and sparks contained. Wood burners come in many different styles, from traditional to contemporary, and are a great addition to your home’s central heating when it’s really cold. Plus, they’re ideal for heating a room or rooms when it’s not cold enough to have the heating on.
5. One of the best improvements you can do is to make a room lighter, but it isn’t always possible to have big windows and glass doors - if there are planning restrictions or your budget’s tight, for example. Although planning permission is sometimes needed for them, roof windows (available for both sloping and flat roofs) can flood a room with light - even one small one can make a big difference, so if you have a dark room directly below a roof, don’t overlook this possibility. Roof windows are more innovative than you might think - Velux (www.velux.co.uk) does skylights with different types of glazing, with remote controls (mains electric or solar powered), that automatically close when they detect rain and even that fold out into balconies.