Melissa Porter's aspect.co.uk Column

In my column for aspect.co.uk, I cover all sorts of property and maintenance related subjects and any other hot topics that I or the aspect.co.uk team think might be of interest.

I hope you enjoy reading my column, and if there's anything in particular you'd like to hear about, do send me an email.

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Melissa Porter white top landscape

29th May 2013

Are You Ready For Summer?

After such a long and hard winter, we’re yet to see any decent periods of sun and warmth. If, like me, you’re wondering if summer will ever arrive, it's best to be prepared for when it does...

When the rain and cold eventually eases up it’ll be time to make sure you get outside to treat your decking, fences, gates  and garden furniture - ready for use this summer.

Irrigate your gardens to avoid weeds and sow seeds to fill in any bald spots. And don't forget to get the weed killer down on the garden paths and driveways to welcome your guests for leisurely ‘sunny’ Sunday afternoons al fresco.

Word on the weather front is that it may be a scorcher this summer. Did you know that home air conditioning is a modern, economic and efficient way to heat or cool your home throughout all seasons and changing weather conditions?

aspect.co.uk installs residential and commercial air conditioning units from as little as £1,100 for a room sized at around 20 sq.ft.

12th February, 2013

A Cold Snap in February

We have just come out of the January cold snap, and it seems the early part of February is going the same way! Let’s see what weather the next few weeks bring... 

The snow and ice last month caused huge disruption – as it always does. Then we saw flooding – our weather patterns are just so unpredictable!

What we shouldn’t underestimate is the impact all the bad weather is having on our precious homes...

Imagine walking outside in your bikini or swim shorts today (bbbbrrrr chilly) – that’s how non-insulated pipes would feel in these freezing cold temperatures! Make sure you insulate your pipes, and keep your heating on at regular intervals, to ensure they don’t freeze over.

Prime, paint and protect your drainpipes to prevent them from cracking or - worse still – breaking and leaking. And keep gutters cleared of leaves and stones, to prevent them from clogging up.

Have ample supplies of wood, coal and oil delivered in case of possible power outages in the winter weather.  And make sure you store candles and additional blankets in easy to access places. Get the hot chocolate on in case of an emergency!

All in all, the message is – be prepared, because you don’t know what bad weather is in store this winter!

Melissa

6th July, 2012

The Olympics are upon us!

Can you believe The Olympics are only around the corner? With all the hype and build up over the last few years, the time has finally come – we are well and truly going to be in the global spotlight. It’s going to be such an exciting few weeks, and a real morale boost for London and the UK, particularly in light of the current economic doom and gloom.

I really wanted to win tickets to go and see the gymnastics, but I left it too late to apply – a real shame. I am excited about the prospect of going to see the opening ceremony – yes, I lucked out! But I am not thrilled about the journey to the Olympic village – there are going to be a lot of frazzled travellers and commuters out there.

Which brings me to the peace and sanctuary of your home; where many of you will be watching the Games on TV. Just make sure you have given your house a full MOT before the Olympics, whilst companies like aspect.co.uk will do all they can to make sure your needs are looked after during the Games, it will be so much harder for them to reach you.

Happy Games watching...

Mel

20th December 2011

Don't get caught out this Christmas

One year, I invited a colourful collection of 20 wonderful friends and family members over for Christmas dinner chez mois.  What a dastardly disaster of the worst design.  I spent days planning the menu, creating the most sophisticated table settings, my wine was chilled and ready for mass consumption and the boldest of red wines corked and ready to be savoured.  Did I have the guest from hell, cork the vino or burn the pigs in blankets?  Wrong!   My oven blew up mid way through cooking the turkey.  Thank goodness for great wine and Christmas cake!

Yes we laughed, particularly at me, but maybe this should be a word of warning, check your oven and boilers in the run up to Christmas. I’d hate for you to be caught out – with no turkey, freezing your chops in a chilly house! Can you imagine snuggling up in front of a toasty fire ready to play Deal or No Deal and the heating not working? Those dodgy Christmas jumpers, which seem to be all the rage this year, really will have a use!

In the run up to Christmas, the aspect.co.uk team is hugely busy servicing boilers across the capital. So, if you suspect there may be problems festering with your boiler, then make sure you book it in for a service ASAP! At least you can be reassured that with aspect.co.uk, you’ll be fairly charged vs. overcharged – given the time of year.

And, now the cold weather has finally made its appearance, make sure you keep an eye on your home in general, to ensure the elements don’t wreak havoc. Clear pathways of snow and ice, and grit your driveway to ensure your Christmas guests arrive and leave safely.   Eggnog is not the easiest of liqueurs to wipe clean from a pavement or driveway.  Also, remember to keep an eye on drains and gutters, so they don’t get built up with debris from the heavy winds we have recently had.

Wishing you all a warm, safe and event free Christmas! See you in the New Year...

28 September 2011

Prevention is better than cure

Can you believe autumn and winter are only around the corner? Whose worked out how many shopping days until Christmas? Last count was about 70 something! We’re told that summer 2011 was one of the coldest since 1993, and boy didn’t it feel like it?

Early predictions indicate that we’re likely to experience a cold November and December, with heavy snowfalls . Whether this happens or not it’s vital for you to ensure your homes and properties are properly weatherproofed and ready to take on all the elements. Here are a few pointers to help give you a heads up from the team at aspect.co.uk:

- Make sure you properly insulate your property, from lofts to cavity fillings to exclude draft, prevent heat lost and conserve energy. This should include draft- proofing all windows, doors and letterboxes.

- Check your pipes are insulated to protect from frost and to prevent heat loss.

- Check your roof for missing tiles, and make sure the flashings to the chimney and around any skylight windows also look intact.

- Unblock your drains and clear your guttering of any leaves, moss and vegetation.

- You should have your boiler serviced once every year. When you have this done, it is a good idea to also consider having a powerflush undertaken as this will revitalise the system and increase the longevity of operation. It will allow the system to reach temperature far more quickly, thereby reducing fuel costs and putting less strain on the boiler.

- Make sure all windowsills and door frames are properly coated and protected, with no rotting wood. Get any painting completed as soon as possible, once the wet and cold weather set in, they won’t dry as quickly.

It may be that you only need to tick off one or two of the areas. Just make sure your property is prepared, and keep on top of all maintenance and refurbishment work on an ongoing basis. This will prevent jobs mounting and turning into larger repair bills later on down the line. Remember, prevention is better than cure...

Wrap up warm this winter and keep cosy. Jack Frost’s a comin!

Melissa

Prevention is better than cure

24 June 2011

Be part of the success story

Well, exciting times for aspect.co.uk, as it goes national with the launch of 100 UK franchises.

I’ll bet we’ve all thought about being our own boss at some stage or another, and buying an aspect.co.uk franchise offers just that. Through hard work and dedication, franchisees could have the opportunity to build a prosperous business, just like the original one that is exceeding performance expectations and giving the competition a real run for their money.

The team at aspect.co.uk will support franchisees every step of the way as they set out on their exciting journey. They’ll be provided with systems and management support, by the very people who have already successfully built the original business and understand what it takes to make it a work.

aspect.co.uk has a fully-skilled workforce – from versatile handymen to qualified technicians, including gas engineers, plumbers, decorators and drainage specialists. The company has an impressive list of accreditations and sets new, modern, professional and award-winning standards for property maintenance. The company’s business model is proven and has built up an established client base, who trusts aspect.co.uk to get the job done - one of the main reasons why aspect.co.uk has been awarded numerous  customer service awards.

Co-founders, Will Davies and Nick Bizley, have taken seven years to build a business and a brand they are proud of. And, I am thrilled to be part of something which is honest, has integrity and does what it says on the tin, which – as we know – sadly isn’t always the case in the property maintenance sector.

aspect.co.uk has strived to proactively challenge the way the property maintenance industry works, and searches to find new ways of raising the bar, and improving customer expectations.

So, if you, a colleague or friend is interested in being part of the original success story, then please contact aspect.co.uk by calling 0843 216 3645 or click here for more information. Perhaps you are looking for new challenges and opportunities – well this could be just the break you have been waiting for...

25 March 2011

Love the home we live in

So another long winter has drawn to a close, cross Jack Frost’s fingers! And Spring is on our doorstep - hoorah for some warm, sunny days...well warmer weather at least.

How is your house looking?  I just had a quote to repair my gutters for £7,000 that could have been avoided if I’d been proactive...ugh. I’m by no means perfect but want to share my mistake so you can avoid the same happening to you. The lesson I have learnt is to be proactive. 

Outside

Check your roof – missing slates or tiles can turn into holes that turn into leaks that turn into large pots of cash being spent on repairs. And don’t forget to make sure your gutters aren’t overloaded with leaves and debris.

If you have a garden, then now is the time to give it some TLC – cut back trees, bushes, start the weeding, and give it a good old clear up.  Overgrown areas can be concealing fox dens, hornet nests and if you have children in the house, these issues want to be avoided without exception.

Outdoor deck timbers will need resealing and priming ahead of the summer – ready for BBQ season. And repair patio areas for whiling away the evenings al fresco!  It’s such fun entertaining friends and family at home.

Make sure that front doors, windows and house exteriors are all painted and in tip top condition. Prevention is better than treatment! I’m a huge advocate of this saying, as treatments cost more money than the preventative options!

Inside

Give carpets an intense clean to rid them of trodden in mud and general winter time dirt.

Freshen up rooms with a splash of paint, and take advantage of the warmer weather by leaving the windows open to speed up the paint drying process.

And, be sure to give any fireplaces a thorough clean out, and hire a reputable chimney sweep - the winter time can bring surprise visitors into chimneys and I’m not talking Father Christmas! 

These are just a few tips on getting your property looking the best you can, and ready for the summer ahead.

If you’re looking to increase the space in your home, perhaps you could start exploring the possibility of extending into a loft or basement. Not only will this help you to de-clutter, it’s sure to add more value onto your property in the long-term as well.  Anyone fancy a home office or an extra bedroom – empty lofts are a perfect solution!

We need to LOVE THE HOME WE LIVE IN - Happy Spring cleaning!

9 December 2010

Tips to keep you warm this Winter

Christmas is nearly here! Where did the year go?

So what are your plans for the festive period and the Winter ahead? Whether you are visiting family, or if they are coming to you; get your homes ready!

If you plan to spend time away over Christmas, keep your heating on low so your pipes don’t freeze over. You should also make sure you switch off all electrical applications. And make a note of where your stop-cock is, in case of an emergency. Do you know where yours is?!

Hands up who has opted to entertain this Christmas? We need our guests to be warm, well-fed and well-watered – a broken down boiler would be nothing short of a disaster.

Service your boilers well in advance of Christmas, reducing the chance of a possible break down, escalated costs later on down the line, or even the potential of carbon monoxide poisoning. Scary thought.

Here are my suggestions for other areas of your property you should pay attention to:

  • Draft-proof your windows to reduce heating costs.
  • Properly insulate your property, from lofts to cavity fillings to exclude drafts. This will prevent heat loss, and conserve energy.
  • Check your roof for missing tiles, and the flashings on the chimney
  • Make sure your guttering is clear with no missing sections. Remove pebbles, moss and vegetation that may have built up on your roof.
  • Clean your drains – from inside and do an external check to ensure there aren’t any blockages. It wouldn’t do any harm to blow leaves away from your property.
  • Buy salt and a shovel, and make them readily accessible, in case of heavy snowfall.


And, don’t forget that 2011 will see the introduction of the new VAT rates, so now is the time to consider booking in these routine maintenance checks, to take advantage of the lower costs.

Well, all that’s left from me is to wish you a warm and cosy Christmas! See you in the New Year. Hey, and don’t forget to clear your chimney to ensure easy access for Santa!

Melissa.

23rd September 2010

Winter time property MOT anyone?

Property guru, Melissa Porter, warns homeowners to prepare their properties for Winter 2010

Already our fantastic summer is drawing to a close; and the days are beginning to feel more autumnal.

Here’s hoping that September has more to offer in the way of warmth and sunshine than last month.

But, before the rain and cold weather really do set in, I’d encourage you to take a look at your houses and homes and begin preparing them for the winter ahead. Particularly if it’s going to be nippy like last year.

Go on, give your property a winter MOT – you won’t regret it. Below, I’ve highlighted the areas you may want to consider looking at:

DRAINS & PIPEWORK

  • Rake out any leaves from your drains, this prevents them from becoming clogged, which can lead to overflows and flooding during heavy rain or snow fall.
  • Check that water pipes are insulated to protect from frost and to prevent heat loss.

BOILERS

  • Keep chills at bay, by ensuring you give your boiler its annual, comprehensive service.  Even our boilers need TLC. Keep in mind that Aspect Maintenance are experts in detecting small niggles. We can nip these niggles in the bud and prevent BIGGER problems later on down the line.

PROPERTY FASCIAS

  • Take a good look at your brickwork, roof, window sills and paintwork. Make sure that everything which is exposed to the elements is ticketyboo and keep cracks and holes at bay.


If your property is ready to take on the winter, then you will be too. A proactive approach now, when the weather is milder, is sure to save you time and money in the long-run.


Remember it’s better to prevent than treat.

31st May 2010

Making the most of your garden & property exterior

Summer is finally here and what a welcome sight the glorious sunshine is after our long and cold winter. Yippee! When the temperature rises our thoughts turn to longer days spent outdoors, bikinis, BBQ's and the mandatory tidying up of our properties and gardens. This time of year is made for whiling away lazy days in the garden, entertaining family and friends over a few drinks and our beloved barbecue.

Summer is all about colours and sunshine and at the heart of every garden are the plants and flowers. They can brighten up an otherwise dull area and my favourite Summer flowers include Begonias, Dahlia's and Iris' ñ all wonderfully colourful with glorious perfumes. Or you could add some structure to your garden with creepers, or by creating arches and pathways for interest. Once the garden is taken care of you should think about tackling the rest of your property's exterior.

Our glorious mild Summer weather provides the ideal opportunity to tackle any problems with your roof, draft excluding, or painting window frames and guttering. Now is also the perfect time to replace your boiler as you will certainly get a cheaper deal at this time of year. Think of it like buying your Ski wear in Summer, bargains galore or School Uniforms at Christmas!

Aspect Maintenance is happy to offer you help and advice on any aspect of your property, and to help you resolve any maintenance challenges. We'll even remember the sunscreen!

23rd April 2010

The Politics of Property

I have little patience for politics but when a situation is about to occur that will impact on the housing market, my ears prick up.  From what I can gather, on May 6th General election day, there’s speculation about a hung parliament, basically a situation where no one political party has an outright majority. 

So how does this political shift impact the housing market?  A report from www.rightmove.co.uk found that the housing market could face a double-dip recession, with March showing the slowest rise in prices for eight years.  Experts also predict that the impeding General Election could bring the housing market traditional spring-sales fest to a grinding halt.  Many are concerned that any belt-tightening by the new government – of whatever party – will prolong market uncertainty well into the summer and beyond.  In addition, if a hung parliament situation in May results in a second general election in late 2010, this will further delay house sales and a wider market recovery.

Any change typically makes us all a little cautious initially and as a society we are inclined to sit tight, wait and watch to see how things unfold before reacting.  These same actions are forecast to bring house sales and any plans for us to carry out maintenance to our homes to a screeching halt.   Such delays are speculated to include 8 million homes, eventually causing a backlog of jobs, long waiting times for call outs and jobs escalating from simple tasks turning into major repairs costing tens of thousands of pounds.

I want you all to feel safe and secure in your homes, to be prepared for change and to not suffer financially or emotionally because of our political team’s decisions.  Consider categorising the urgency of your maintenance jobs as I would hate for any of your simple tasks like a leaky tap, to turn into major repairs such as a burst pipe, costing you tens of thousands of pounds. 

Here are a few tips to avoid any maintenance mole hills turning into maintenance mountains!  Let’s save some money together!

When it comes to maintaining your home, think quality and long term after all this is our biggest investment.  Improvements, like a lick of paint and wallpapering give an immediate cosmetic lift but if there are more serious problems we are knowingly ‘patching’ over, I urge you to address them.

Check for water damage; water running down the face of a property exiting via a leaking roof or guttering causes moisture problems and unattended may cause dry and wet rot which will is costly to put right.

Are there stagnant pools of water gathering around your home?  Beware as these may be responsible for subsidence, damp and foundation problems.

The key is to nip things in the bud before they become serious and costly to you. Do call us at Aspect Maintenance, we are happy to offer you help and advice and offer many decades of experience between us. Even if your call serves only to reassure you, we’re here to resolve your maintenance challenges.

1st April 2010

DIY Tips for the Long Weekend

I love Easter, for so many reasons, precious family time together, creamy chocs galore and the decadence of having spare time to spend in my home.

Maybe you, like me, will be having a go at some DIY over the holiday and are looking at how to spring clean and improve your home. The first long weekend of the year tends to be when we make long overdue changes to our homes and is a key time for home improvements.

If you’re thinking of doing some DIY around your home, the Easter weekend means longer days, lighter evenings and balmier temperatures, and offers the perfect opportunity to get on with those long-awaited jobs you may have been putting off over the shorter, colder and darker winter months.

So let’s kick off with a simple to do list:

Begin by assessing what changes you would like to make to your home, in what rooms and decide what materials you will need. Ensure you have enough materials, as it will disrupt your project to run out of paint or to realise that the shelves you have bought aren’t quite long or big enough. Plan ahead!

Firstly, prep your area or room you plan to spruce up, scrub it till it glistens! Cover any furniture with dustsheets to prevent paint splashes and sand down any skirting boards or wood surfaces that you plan to paint.

Be safe, wear protective clothing and goggles, tie back long hair and wear gloves for any messy jobs. If you feel tired, take a short break and have a cup of tea or coffee and crack open one of your Easter eggs – don’t rush jobs.

Try not to cut any corners. A skew wiff shelf will be no use to anyone.

And finally, if your project doesn’t look like you imagined it to look half way through, give up and reach for two crucial things: the Easter egg and a telephone number to call us at Aspect Maintenance and we’ll be over to help. We’ll get on with the job while you put your feet up!

I hope you have found some of these tips useful. If you want some more advice, you can download Aspect’s free Home Maintenance Guide here. And remember, if you’re looking to sell your property in 2010, a few simple improvements can make all the difference.

25th February, 2010

Work your space

We are now well into 2010, and the state of our property market remains front page news. Will prices rise this year? Or are we going to experience a ‘double dip’, and the inevitable price drops? Let’s hope not...

If you’re thinking of moving house this year, then right now is the perfect time to alter the way you think about your current home. It’s no longer the place you first fell in love with – refer to it as space that you need to tweak to encourage potential buyers to
envisage themselves living in. Begin by depersonalising your space – de–clutter, remove floral prints, frills, bright colours and personal trinkets. Your home now needs to be transformed into a ‘Stepford Wives’ style show house!

Create a neutral feeling by painting over murals, and replacing jazzy coloured carpets with beige or sea grass style floor coverings. Keep surfaces clean and tidy, and create an environment where potential buyers can imagine themselves. It’s now all about THEM!

Make sure your space is in tip–top condition; repaint
tired windows and door frames, repair broken gates and fences, clear guttering and drains and check your roof is clear of moss. These are just a few simple areas you
can begin investing in – they’ll make all the difference
in creating that perfect selling environment. And, there’s no better company to help you with these tasks than Aspect Maintenance.

If your home shows well in the summer months, but doesn’t look as good in the winter, then hold off marketing it until the season is right. A house that has just come on the market is more appealing than one that has been sitting around for months – waiting to sell.

I hope you have found some of these tips useful. If you are looking to sell your property in 2010, then best of luck! No one is 100% certain where the market is heading, but one thing is for sure – it’s a buyer’s market, and you need to do all you can to get the most money for your space!