What to keep in mind when turning your loft into a guest bedroom

13 05 2013


This image via Flick creative commons from Holland and Green

Turning the space above your ceiling into a liveable area which can provide extra accommodation for a growing family, or to be used as space for visiting guests, is an increasingly popular idea.

But  although there is likely to be the minimum of formal permissions required – especially if the work involves little, if any, alterations to the outward appearance of a house – it is vital that such a project is planned thoroughly, and all the potential pitfalls considered and discounted before you go ahead.

Whether the space which is freed up by a loft conversion will be used as a ‘livable space’ or not will heavily influence the amount of work which will be needed.

But in any case, there is a long list of aspects of a loft conversion into a bedroom which have to be carefully considered before the work can begin. These include:

– The condition of existing walls and foundations, and their ability to cope with a change in use of part of the area they support.

– What new floors, beams, walls or doors will be needed to be able to support the extra weight of someone using the room?

– The standard of sound insulation. This is a legal requirement between all habitable rooms in a house. And if you are converting the loft in a terraced house, the insulation between your and your neighbour’s roof spaces may have to be upgraded to meet minimum legal standards.

– What will be the means of emergency escape? When the loft space in a typical two-storey house is converted, plans will have to be put in place for an escape route. So while a proper route will have to be established, new fire-resistant doors, and possibly partitions, will have to be put into place to protect the stairway by which the loft is accessed. In nearly all cases, a retractable loft ladder will not be considered sufficient, so a permanent staircase is likely to be needed. There are also minimum standards to which such a staircase must be built.

– You should also consider that your loft area will need to have sufficient headroom to allow it to be used safely by anyone sleeping in the space, and whether someone using it will be able to move around easily and safely.

– Thought will have to be given to the type of furniture which is used in any guest loft bedroom, as it will almost certainly have to be assembled in situ in order to avoid the common difficulty of not being able to get the furniture up the restricted space available for the loft entrance.

– The materials of which the furnishings in the loft are made will also need to be carefully considered. It may not be enough to simply use flame-retardant materials, and instead it might be necessary to go for safer, flame-resistant alternatives.

– Finally, you will need to extend your home’s power supply to the new loft space, so you should also be sure to get all electrical work carried out by a suitably qualified instructor. This is not only important for the safety of the house’s current occupants, but also in the event that the house is sold in order for it to be able to satisfy the needs of those compiling a home buyers’ report or structural survey.

Specialist companies which have a track record of carrying out similar work should also be contacted to obtain more than one quote for the work. Companies such as Econoloft have been planning and executing loft conversions for various purposes for many years, and will be able to give the benefit of the practical experience and knowledge which they have built up over this time.


How To Keep Your Tummy Crop Top Ready

11 05 2013


This image via Flickr creative commons from bloomingleopold

One of the biggest trends this season is the stomach bearing crop top. So if your tummy is more flab than fab, you may want to consider doing some toning exercises to ensure that your abs look as toned as they possibly can be. The trend for tummy flashing crop tops began with celebrities and as women are constantly bombarded with images of taut, lean stomachs, they assume that this is the way their bodies have to look if they want to be considered healthy and good looking. Of course, a little exercise never did anyone any harm and all of the endorphins you’ll release from getting sweaty exercising will leave you looking and feeling great. Here’s how to keep your tummy crop top ready during every season.

In order to maintain a flat stomach and rock hard abdominal muscles there are various workouts to try along with a healthy diet.

Workout for a tight stomach

The best way to embark on your tummy toning is to follow a workout that combines fat-burning cardio with exercises that target your entire core, rather than purely focusing on your abdominal muscles. This will mean you’ll burn more fat whilst toning up and leave you with a washboard stomach rather than large protruding tummy muscles, so you can wear your Missguided crop tops with pride.

Remember to work out three times a week on non-consecutive days to ensure better results faster. If you are planning to do the exercises as a circuit, do one set of each move and rest for 30 seconds in between each move. Once you’ve completed the circuit, rest for a minute before repeating from the beginning. Over time, you’ll be able to do more circuits in one session.

The Mountain Climber

This move works your abs, back, legs and arms.

  1. Begin in the press up position with your hands placed flat on the floor and your legs extended straight behind you, keeping your back straight.
  2. Bend one leg and pull it towards your chest before returning to the starting stance. Repeat with the other leg and continue slowly for one minute.

Arrow Arm Crunch

This move focuses on toning up your waist and your abs.

  1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift your upper body off the floor with the strength of your abdominal muscles and straighten your arms as you do so. Push your hands together in the shape of an arrow pointing to the centre of your legs.
  2. Reach to the left, and then back to the centre. Repeat but this time reach to the right and then back to the centre. Keep repeating this move for 30 seconds.

There are of course many different workouts you can find that focus on increasing the rate of your metabolism, burning fat and toning up your stomach. Many people mistakenly believe that in order to tone their stomach, they need to do hundreds of sit ups every day. This next workout proves otherwise.

Four steps to fab abs

Remember before you begin this four-step workout to get your heart pumping by jogging on the spot or marching to warm up your muscles and avoid the risk of getting cramp.

–          Kneel on the floor with your arms straight down and hands flat. Exhale while pulling your stomach in. Hold the pose for three seconds and relax. Repeat for a minute.

–          Lie on your front in the plank position and contract your stomach muscles for up to ten seconds. Gradually work up to holding your stomach in for a minute.

–          Sit up straight on a chair and raise your arms, bending your elbows at 90-degree angles. Bring together your left elbow and your right knee. Return to your starting position and repeat with your right elbow and left knee. Keep the cycle going for a minute.

–          Sit upright in a chair and hold onto the seat with your hands. Exhale and bring your knees towards your chest at the same time. Hold for three seconds, return to your original position and repeat for a minute.

Healthy diet

Of course, while exercise is important, it is also essential to eat a balanced and healthy diet. Here are the best foods to eat if you want a flat stomach.

Almonds – packed with vitamin E and protein to leave your skin clear and radiant, almonds also contain plenty of fibre which helps to stop you feeling hungry.

Dark green vegetables – think kale, spinach and romaine lettuce for a low calorie side dish that is packed with fibre and minerals but also helps to reduce the effects of bloating and minimises water retention.

Olive oil – olive oil contains poly unsaturated fats which are known for keeping hunger at bay, but it also contains the chemical oleic acid which contributes to the breakdown of excess fat in the body.

The beginners’ guide to resizing clothes

9 05 2013


Image via Flickr creative commons from whologwhy

There’s nothing worse than getting home from the shops and finding that the item you were planning to try on but didn’t have time to, doesn’t actually fit at all. Clothes sizes vary massively between manufacturers and without trying a garment on it can be very hard to tell whether it will actually fit you. For some people however, the search for clothes that fit does not often have a happy ending. It can be that the arms on tops are always a little too long, or perhaps trouser legs always end up in a puddle around the ankles! If you’re always on the lookout for petite dresses or trousers with a short length, then you’re not alone by any means. Some shoppers are always forced to do their own small adjustments at home to create the perfect fit – and here’s a guide on how to get started if you’re looking to make a few alterations of your own.

Hemming pants

One of the best places to start when you are new to making your own adjustments to clothes is with the basics, and there is nothing more straight-forward than adjusting the length of a pair of pants. Of course it might take you a little while to get your first pair exactly the way you want them, but before long you’ll be zipping through the process in no time at all.

Get the right equipment

There’s not much kit you’ll need to adjust the length of a pair of trousers, but it’s worth having the right tools to hand. Along with the pair of trousers that you’re changing, you’ll need to find some good, sharp scissors, some measuring tape, a piece of chalk, a sewing kit or even better a sewing machine, a seam ripper and an iron.

How much do you need to take off?

One of the first things you’ll need to discover is how much you need to take off the trousers. Using your seam ripper, take out the stitching that’s already holding the hem in place and let it hang loose. Now use the iron to put in a ½ inch fold and then repeat with the other leg. Put the pants on, as well as the shoes you’ll wear, and fold the hem up and inside. Once you’ve got the right length, pin the hem in place at the top and bottom.

Mark ’em up

Take off the trousers and turn them inside out carefully. Measure from the bottom fold to the top edge that you folded up and inside the leg and use this measurement to fold and pin the rest of the hem. By measuring in four places around the leg you’ll get an even finish. Chalk is great here for marking up the measurements as it won’t run and damage the material.

Get out the iron again

Iron in a new crease along the bottom edge and remove the pins as you do so. If you’re worried that you’ve made a mistake then try the trousers on again to check. Better to do that now than after you’ve got the needle out!

Start sewing

Now comes the part where you’ll need nerves of steel! Get your needle and thread out, or fire up the sewing machine and sew all the way around the leg, about an eighth of an inch from the top of the hem. And there you are, your first alteration done and dusted! Congratulations!

What Is An Obagi Skin Peel?

7 05 2013


Image via Harley Medical

Nowadays it seems that more and more people are turning to treatments in a bid to delay or reverse the effects of the aging process. From celebrities to the average person, it seems as though we are just not willing to grow old gracefully as long as there is a treatment out there to prevent that from happening. And for those who are serious about wanting to maintain a healthy, youthful appearance, there are plenty of treatments available, most of which do not even involve surgery. One such treatment, used to banish blemishes, acne scars, wrinkles, uneven pigmentation and sun damage, is the obagi skin peel. Never heard of it? Then read on to find out more information.

What happens during the treatment?

If you are due to undergo an obagi skin peel treatment, here is what you can expect to happen on the day of the procedure. The doctor will remove the surface layers of aged and damaged skin using a low concentration of Trichlororoacetic Chemical Acid (TCA) mixed together with a special blue base. The old, dead skin cells will be replaced by newer, healthier ones, which give your skin an overall better clarity and tighten the surface of skin to give a youthful appearance and a healthy glow. The procedure should only ever be performed by a doctor who is highly specialised and has experience of using the skin peel.

And the obagi skin peel is not limited to use on the face either; it can be applied to the neck, chest, hands, back, arms and legs to help dramatically improve the patient’s complexion.

Here is a great resource telling you all you need to know about skin peels.

Other wrinkle remedies you can do at home

Of course, there are other ways in which you can help to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. So here are some wrinkle remedies that you can try yourself at home, if you’re unsure about undergoing an obagi skin peel treatment.

–          Witch hazel

Traditional remedies for wrinkles include applying a witch hazel solution to the skin in the hopes of tightening skin. Studies have shown that the witch hazel plant has anti-inflammatory properties similar to white tea. Those who smoke are likely to experience bouts of skin inflammation as part of the immune system’s response to the tobacco found in cigarettes. This damages skin cells which can eventually lead to wrinkles. It is thought that extracts of rose and pomegranate can also provide similar benefits.

–          Sun cream

It is widely known that too much exposure to the sun can lead to a person developing leathery, wrinkled skin, not to mention can cause uneven pigmentation and in rare cases, can lead to skin cancer. By ensuring that you regularly apply a sufficiently high sun protector factor sun cream to your skin each time you go out in the sun, you can greatly reduce your chance of developing wrinkles early, as well as reduce the risk of developing skin cancer.

Risks of using DIY skin peel treatments

You should however be wary about some DIY home skin treatments, as there is always a risk that something can go wrong. If you do buy a skin peel treatment to use yourself at home, you must ensure that you check the ingredients in case you are allergic to anything, as well as find out whether it is suitable for your skin type. For example, if you have dry or sensitive skin, or your skin is prone to acne breakouts, you may develop painful rashes by using unsuitable skin treatments.

The importance of skin consultations

The same goes for professional skin peel treatments – always ensure that you book a consultation with a trained specialist prior to the treatment so that they can explain each stage to you and you can discuss any fears or concerns. Those who have already had a few skin peel treatments should be wary of becoming obsessed and having too many in such a short space of time, as it could very well do the reverse of what the treatment promises, and cause skin to become too thin. Always discuss previous treatments you’ve had during your pre-procedure consultation to be on the safe side.

Picking out a tent for your festival camping needs

5 05 2013


Image via Flickr creative commons from A%amon

With the festival season approaching, thousands of people will already be gearing up for their big expedition. Of course, we’re all familiar with the big festivals such as Glastonbury, Reading and Leeds, but there are many other events both large and small. A weekend at a festival can leave you with enough memories to last a lifetime, but it certainly helps to make the right preparations. After all, you can’t always rely on the weather to help you out – as anyone who’s experienced a festival mudbath will no doubt testify. It’s a particularly good idea to take the time to pick out the right tent for your needs, and you’ll find an extensive selection of tents at GOOutdoors.co.uk. Here are a few things you should look out for when you come to find a festival tent.

As a post from Puretravel.com observes, you probably don’t need to spend too much on your festival tent. You’ll be spending most of your time exploring the festival site or watching the acts, so all you really need is a tent which is roomy enough and which is sufficiently robust to withstand the rigours of a festival weekend. Of course, this latter point is particularly important. There’s always a chance that you’ll encounter inclement weather during a music festival – even at the height of the summer – so you do need to ensure you buy a tent which is capable of standing up to the wind and rain should it put in an appearance.

Weight is another important consideration when you come to buy a festival tent. The chances are you’ll be facing a fairly lengthy walk to get to your campsite when you arrive, and you’ll probably be carrying quite a lot of other bits and pieces with you at the time. This means that you need to choose a tent which is fairly lightweight and compact so that you can carry it more easily. Naturally, you’ll also want to choose a Pop Up Tent from GO Outdoors which is easy to assemble – you won’t want to be spending hours of your precious festival time trying to put your tent together.

It’s also worth picking a tent which is eye-catching. It can be tricky to spot your tent when it’s among a sea of others – so if you can find one which is of a bright colour or has some other clearly distinguishable features, it should therefore be easier to find when you eventually return to your tent after a day’s revelling. Size is, naturally, another important consideration. You probably won’t want to be squashed up against the other people who’ll be with you, as a lack of sleep can really put a dampener on your festival weekend.

As a guide from GOOutdoors.co.uk notes, the mix of condensation, heat and general moisture can also lead to mould appearing in your tent – so this is something you’ll need to be aware of, particularly when you come to pack the tent away when you’re going home. Make sure you clean the tent down on the same day you leave, so that any mould is washed away. Make sure that any mess and debris has been scraped off properly before you pack your tent up. This should help you get more use out of your tent than you otherwise would.

Don’t Miss Out On Your Childcare Entitlements

3 05 2013


Image via Flickr creative commons from USACE Europe District

A series of entitlements and benefits are available to parents aimed at helping them throughout the time they spend bringing up children, from the ages of 0 to 18.

The best-known example – and during the period of its introduction and bedding-down, one of the most controversial, due to the fact that it replaced a variety of other benefits, and was seen as part of a government drive to get parents back to work – is the childcare tax credit.

Childcare tax credits are paid to single parents or couples who work at least 16 hours a week. Only one partner needs to work this minimum if the other partner is:

– ill or disabled

– in hospital, or

– in prison

Childcare tax credits are designed to pay directly for any childcare which is needed following the end of a period of either parent’s statutory leave.

As the cost of childcare is often seen as a disincentive which deters some parents from returning to work, the UK government has introduced an element of working tax credit, which is designed to meet some of the cost involved.

Parents who earn under a certain threshold can claim up to 70 per cent of the cost of their childcare, these figures being based on a maximum of £175 a week for one child, or £300 a week for two children or more.

The actual amount a single parent or couple receives is assessed on their individual or joint income, the number of hours they work, and the cost of the childcare needed.

Even though this benefit has only been available for a few years, it will be progressively replaced under the government’s plans to move all benefits over to what’s known as a Universal Credit, between 2013 and 2017.

The Universal Credit is designed to consolidate all benefits to which a claimant is entitled into a single monthly payment, comprising a standard allowance and top-ups for childcare.

The National Health Service provides a range of free treatment benefits for children until they reach their 17th birthday, but parents can again enhance the level of treatment received through a private healthcare plan.

A number of means of helping pay for the cost of childcare are also available through an employer, which include:

Co-op childcare vouchers, or similar schemes to which employers can contribute

– direct payment of childcare fees to the childcare provider, and

– a similar arrangement for payment of school fees

Payments are available in a range of other circumstances, which includes for parents who are in full-time higher education, and discretionary learner support which can be paid to parents aged 20 or over, who are studying in further education to help them meet childcare costs.

Young parents, aged under 20, can also apply for ‘Care to Learn’ payments which are paid directly to a childcare provider for the cost of their services.

Even if a parent

When it comes to finding out what help is available, one of the best ways is to simply ask. If the costs for which someone is claiming are legitimate, and the services provided by an accredited person or organisation, the chances are that some form of financial help is available.

Five things that you need to protect your carpets from

1 05 2013


Image via Flickr creative commons from Stephani Spitzer

When you’ve just moved into a new house and forked out hundreds of pounds on a plush new carpet, you are always on full alert for little accidents. Perhaps you are hosting a moving in party and the scene is set with candles and red wine at the ready. To the average eye it may seem innocuous enough – but to the carpet owner it is a potential minefield of disaster, waiting to ruin your beautiful deep-pile piece of luxury.

It is probably a good idea to look into some form of carpet protection before hosting the big event – lest you ruin the ambiance, scouting around your living room all evening, carpet cleaners at the ready. Here are some of the main culprits you need to protect your carpet from.

Red Wine

The arch nemesis of the cream carpet, a splurge of red hidden by a tactically-placed piece of furniture is common in many a home. These stains are acidic and deeply coloured, which will stain carpet terribly. It is important to clean up a red wine spill immediately. Leaving it a long time will mean strong detergents are imperative. Begin by blotting with a clean cloth to remove as much of the wine as possible – do not scrub! You then may need to dab the stain with white wine.


Nobody wants injuries in the home and if someone does start bleeding the carpet should probably be the last thing on your mind. That said, it does stain very badly. As blood is thick and protein based removing it is not easy. Spoon up as much of the blood off the carpet as possible before blotting the stain with a mixture of cold water and enzyme laundry detergent


If your pet has had an accident, you’ll need to act quickly to avoid permanent discolouration. Perhaps the best way of avoiding these is to train your dog to go outside, if not white vinegar is good as it helps get rid of any nasty odours. Hydrogen Peroxide and a little bit of baking soda can work well to remove remnants of urine from the carpet.


It might not be nice to clean up, but vomit on carpet needs immediate attention.

Ammonia works well to clean up sick but it is important you mix it with a little bit of water. Once your solution is made up, be careful not to soak the carpet. Use a spray if possible. Afterwards, you’ll need to get the ammonia out of the carpet very quickly – it is also a pretty tricky stain. A tablespoon of detergent dabbed on the carpet with a cloth can work wonders.

Candle Wax

Perhaps the worst of all carpet stains. When dry, candle wax can be a nightmare to get out. You should let the wax harden before scraping out the bulk with a non-sharp knife. Then place part of a paper bag, a sheet of newspaper, paper towels or a clean cloth over the wax and gently place a hot iron over the top. Do not leave it there for too long or you may burn the carpet, but the paper should soak up what is left of the wax.

If it’s coloured wax, try dabbing the stain with a rag dampened with rubbing alcohol. If this does not work, dry cleaning solvent might.