How To Avoid Driveway Cowboys

granite sett driveEnsure a quality finish with a professional driveway contractor

Many people fall prey to unscrupulous contractors who leave behind unfinished or poor quality work. Here are our tips for avoiding these ‘driveway cowboys’.

So-called “cowboy builders” are a growing problem across the UK, with driveways appearing to be a magnet for these unscrupulous contractors. Work carried out by driveway cowboys is not guaranteed, and many people find themselves out of pocket and left with poor quality or unfinished work.

However, these types of contractors can be very persuasive, and it can seem like they’re offering you a great deal. But our hints and tips will help you avoid being taken in by driveway cowboys.

Don’t hire on the doorstep

One of the best ways to avoid driveway cowboys is to avoid hiring anybody who just shows up on your doorstep offering to start work there and then. Reputable contractors tend to be busy and so don’t need to solicit work in this way, and they will need a couple of weeks to plan the job and order in materials. Somebody who can start work ‘tomorrow’ is a sure sign of a cowboy, particularly if they ask for cash up front. Remember to stay firm – don’t be afraid to tell them to go away and close the door. If they become intimidating or start harassing you, call the police.

Ask For A Quality Finish

If you do need work doing on your driveway, take the time to search for a professional and trusted builder who will source their materials from a trusted stone supplier. This will give you access to better and more varied materials, such as different types of granite. For example, reclaimed granite setts offer a rustic look that is much more attractive than the bland block paving usually offered by driveway cowboys.

Get everything in writing

Don’t accept verbal estimates – if there are any disputes down the line you won’t have any proof of what was originally agreed. Ask for a written quote on headed paper that includes the business address and landline telephone number. Beware of anyone with just a mobile number as they can be difficult to trace if anything goes wrong. Ideally, before agreeing to any work, you should get written quotes from three different companies so that you can compare them with each other.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Commissioning work on your home is a big commitment, and any reputable contractor will be happy to help put your mind at ease. Ask them if they are prepared to provide a long term written guarantee of their work – and be wary of anyone who refuses or seems reluctant to do this. Contracting companies should also have a minimum of £1 million worth of public liability insurance, so make sure you also cover this in your list of questions. It’s also worth checking if the contractor is a member of a professional organisation or trade association. This in itself is no guarantee of quality, but it can often be an indicator that the contractor takes his trade seriously.

Do some digging

No, we’re not suggesting you pick up some tools and start working on your driveway yourself. What we are suggesting is that you take time to do some background research into the contractor. Search for them online to find out if they have a registered business address. If they have a website, you can also look for testimonials from satisfied customers. This search is also a good opportunity to check if the contractor or business is linked with any negative news stories – this can be a big warning flag!

If the contractor has told you that they are a member of a trade association, call up the association to check they are telling the truth. It’s also a good idea to ask the contractor for two references so that you can speak with previous customers and see examples of their work. Anyone who is reluctant to provide this information could well have something to hide.

Cheapest isn’t always best

Driveway contractors who show up on your doorstep often claim to be offering great value for money. But, remember, if a deal seems too good to be true, it usually is, so be careful not to fall into their trap.

By taking the time and effort to find a reputable contractor, you can be confident of getting a quality finish and a driveway that you can be proud of.

Metal Ice And Fire in the Garden

brompton fire ice set for 6Garden furniture for alfresco entertaining

Summer days are made for spending time outdoors, and whether you prefer entertaining or soaking up the sun, the right furniture can really elevate your garden.

It may feel like we’re still in the deepest clutches of winter, but it’s never too early to start planning for warmer weather. As the days grow longer and temperatures start to rise, we all look forward to spending time outdoors, so now’s the time to start thinking about how you can make the most of your garden in the months ahead.

Garden Furniture

One of easiest ways to give your garden a makeover is to replace your garden furniture. When it comes to furnishing your garden, there is a huge array of options out there, and you can choose from different furniture styles, such as sun loungers and dining sets, and a number of different materials, including wood, rattan, plastic and metal garden furniture.

With so many options available, it’s important to do some forward planning to decide which style best suits your garden. The right furniture for you will depend on a number of factors – the size and layout of your outside space, your personal taste, how much you want to spend, and how you like to use your garden. For example, if you love soaking up the sun, you might want to invest in some recliners or a rattan sofa. Alternatively, if you enjoy an alfresco glass of wine in the evening but have limited outside space, a stylish bistro set could fit your requirements.

Ice and Fire

Over the summer months, many of us love to use our garden as an additional entertaining space. If outdoor entertaining is a key priority for you, you should definitely check out the new Brompton metal ice and fire garden furniture set. This quality metal dining set seats six and is made from solid cast aluminium with a stylish design. But that’s not all – this innovative piece of furniture has a special surprise in the centre.

At the centre of the spacious table is a hollow well, which can be used as an ice reservoir to keep your drinks cold during the heat of a summer afternoon. Usefully, this hollow can also be used as a fire pit, enabling you to extend the party and keep your guests warm even after the sun and temperatures have dropped.

Extra touches

If we’ve whetted your appetite for the summer months, you might want to add some extra little touches to your garden to ensure you have the perfect setting in which to enjoy your stylish new furniture.

Injecting colour is a great way of revitalising your garden, so if you’re green-fingered, now is the time to get planting. Opt for bright, vibrant blooms such as delphiniums, gladioli and marigolds, or create space for a wildflower garden which will also have the added bonus of attracting birds and wildlife. If gardening isn’t your thing, a coat of brightly coloured paint on a garden shed or wooden fence can have a similar impact.

If feasible, you might also want to consider upgrading your surfacing. Giving your patio a jet wash to make it look as good as new, or installing wooden decking or a practical artificial lawn, will help improve your garden and really show off your new furniture.

Finally, don’t underestimate importance of finishing touches – interesting shrubs, garden lights and colourful plant pots can all make a big impact without breaking the bank.

Whatever your taste, lifestyle or budget, quality garden furniture can make a big impact on your garden. And with products such as the metal ice and fire dining set, alfresco entertaining is easier than ever before. So, hit the shops, spruce up your garden, call your friends and start planning those summer parties. Winter will be over before you know it!

Inspiring Celebrity Kitchens

Getting ideas for your new bespoke kitchen from the rich and famous

Keith Richards' kitchen
Keith Richards’ kitchen

These days, the type of kitchen you can have in your home is limited only by your own imagination. By taking the bespoke kitchen design and installation route, you can create your ideal area for cooking, entertaining and generally relaxing.

Getting ideas and inspiration can sometimes be a challenge, but many celebrities have created some remarkable and – at times – weird and funky kitchens that you may find can provide the inspirational spark to set you on the way to your perfect kitchen design.

The importance of the kitchen

The kitchen is becoming more of a focal point in many homes, so getting it ‘just so’ is important and – with the help of an experienced bespoke kitchen designer and fitter – easily possible. If fitting a new kitchen isn’t on the agenda but you feel something of an upgrade or refresh is called for, again this is easily possible with the right help and materials.

For example, replacing your counter tops with a natural stone alternative such as quartz or granite can add a touch of luxury and style to an existing kitchen.

How celebrities can help

You may think it’s different for many well-known celebrities thanks to their usually fortunate financial circumstances, but checking any number of style and design websites and magazines containing photos of celebrities’ homes in general and their kitchens in particular can get those creative juices flowing.

You’ll quickly notice just by a quick glance at a page like this that celebrities use a myriad of styles, designs, colour schemes, materials and design flourishes. Celebrities often use the services of top designers and interior specialists, and in many ways this is where you can draw inspiration for your own kitchen.

A good designer is adept at combining the owner’s tastes and style with the space and property type the kitchen occupies, and their skills might help you with ideas when you examine various photos of their designs.

Styles and themes

Many strive for a coordinated style, and this may be expressed in the form of a ‘traditional’ look as in the case of actress Angela Lansbury’s traditional wooden look for her farmhouse-style retreat in Ireland. The classic look is completed with what look like dark natural stone worktops and a large, heavy looking wooden table as a focal point of the space.

Angela Lansbury kitchen
Angela Lansbury’s kitchen

Contrast this with designer Lauren Conrad’s striking all-white vintage style kitchen complete with retro sink and plain white wall tiles in her Beverly Hills penthouse, and you can easily see the welter of options and styles open to you.

Lauren Conrad’s kitchen
Lauren Conrad’s kitchen

Accessories and wall art

Along with the kitchen itself, detail touches can make a big difference. Wall art commensurate with the decor and style of the kitchen is an obvious way to personalise a space; you’ll notice some celebrities take this a stage further by having memorabilia and items from their travels and career. For example, it’s not uncommon for some musicians to have a guitar or a mandolin or two hanging up somewhere in their kitchen.

Combining your ideas with the expert

Expert kitchen designers and installers can take your ideas and preferences and help you create a kitchen to your budget. There’s no harm at all in drawing inspiration from the myriad of kitchen designs celebrities enjoy in their own homes whether you’re installing from scratch or revising your existing space.

The Ultimate Home Extension

Markilux conservatory

A modern conservatory can add a new dimension to your property

There’s practically no end to the flexibility and style of modern conservatories, so it’s entirely possible to install one that complements the design of your property and suits your particular needs. Whether you wish to add space to one or more rooms, extend the kitchen and dining area, create an airy home office, or make more of your garden the sky really is the limit.

Conservatories to suit your property

Almost regardless of the type and period of property you live in, a conservatory can likely be built to complement it. You’d need the services of a conservatory designers who can design and create a conservatory in a bespoke fashion, as different people have different needs from their conservatory.

Examples of differing requirements and how they might be met:

Insulated glass – if you wish to spend time in your conservatory during the colder months, then certain types of heat insulating glass may be specified to keep things as warm as possible.

Privacy – maybe you’re overlooked by neighbours? If so, frosted roof glass or maybe a solid roof may be favoured.

Flexibility – bi-folding doors can offer security yet be easily opened up to create a large space connecting the outside with the inside quickly and easily.

Adjustable – when the sun is in a certain position modern blinds systems can be easily adjusted (often electrically) to ensure the conservatory is habitable throughout the day and evening.

Matching the period of the property

A key concern is that the conservatory blends with the style of the property, and this is very important with period homes. There have been cases of conservatory companies being able to replicate the design of an old conservatory previously attached to a property and modernise it.

The new conservatory can benefit from modern advances such as double glazed and heat insulating glass, UPVc frames and secure, smooth operating doors and windows yet look as if it was built at the same time as the rest of the property.

Glass

For a space dominated by glass, the right type is very important. Gone are the days where basic single panes of glass had to do; nowadays various glazing options are available to suit the demands made on the space.

Glass is one of the main ways heat can escape from inside a property, so there are options to make a glass-dominated space more comfortable even in chillier weather.

Thermally efficient – stops heat escaping. Double glazed panels filled with an energy efficient gas such as argon is one method as is glass with a heat retaining coating.

Tinted – ideal for reducing the sun’s glare and beneficial if your conservatory faces the sun most of the day.

Self-cleaning – a coating helps break down dirt by reacting with sunlight, so reducing cleaning frequency. This glass works best with more steeply pitched roofing.

Laminated – strong and hard to break so offers more security.

Toughened – resilient and will break into small pieces when broken.

Georgian bars and smaller paned glass – to match existing property period aesthetics, Georgian bars can be created but would be expensive due to the time and likely specialist manufacturing of certain materials. A Georgian UPVc bar can be inserted between panes of glass making for a less costly but convincing looking option.

Frosted – mentioned above, frosted glass can be specified in various patterns and tint strengths and may be specified for privacy or simply for its aesthetic value.

Gain more benefit from the garden

A top class conservatory is a great way of benefiting from and enjoying the outside and the garden, even in the winter and in the evening.

A modern and comfortable space enables you to enjoy natural light and the surroundings of your garden. This can be the case even in the winter and in the evening; judicious use of lighting in the garden can create a very relaxing and attractive environment.

The all year round addition

Modern conservatories are definitely viable as an all year round living area, not just in the spring and summer when temperatures rise. The variety of types as created by bespoke conservatory design specialists mean you can make the most of and extend your property in various ways.