Home renovations

In an earlier blog post I mentioned the details that go into building a new home or rebuilding an old home if needed, so I decided to create a new blog post discussing renovating an older home. While it can actually be cheaper to build a new home as opposed to renovating, it can on occasion be cheaper to renovate. For most, it is also easier and better to renovate instead. Building your dream home does not necessarily mean that an older home needs to be destroyed, and in fact the best part of renovating is allowing to keep the better existing features of the home while changing the rest, especially since most people plan our their dream home planned around the parts of the home that you already love. It would actually be the best for both worlds if you built your new one around your old home. But the fact is, you can create your dream home even easier when you are renovating an old property as opposed to building or rebuilding one. So here are a few things that may help you come along this journey in small steps.

Assessing a project

You should always ensure to plan ahead, even if you have a project in mind already. Most old properties have huge renovation potential, but you have to note that the key here is assessing the financial potential and designs before you have committed yourself to a project.

Getting the deal completed

Remember, there is a really high demand for properties which work still has to be done for, and many self-builders that have their own project they want to put their stamp on. So what you need to remember is that the amount of ways to purchase a property are varied, and you can use anything from access auctions and sealed bids to looking at a self-builder renovation mortgage. This always leaves you with the option for financing.

The design process

This was one of the topics that we had focused on in another blog post, but you should note that there are many processes you can use. There is the option of finding a designer for your project to help, who you can use to find out the finances behind the project for yourself. They can also ensure that you avoid the usual renovation design mistakes, and also help with other matters such as planning permission steps and help you consider energy efficiency.

Restoring and repairing existing property fixtures

What attracts many self-builders to renovation projects is building around the original features, as they can be for some very charming. That is why it’s a very smart idea that you keep in mind the renovation, repairing and restoration for these original fixtures also. Adding them into the original budget would be wise planning also, adding in factors such as fixing the windows, wooden beams, doors and roof, as well as the flooring.

Changes to the structure

Again, remembering to factor in such decisions as if you would like to add space or changing spaces that already exist within the property such as the garage, basement or loft is useful. On top of this, you may also decide to change the structure of your home internally, and you must budget these changes in advanced to not go too high over your budget.

Changing your home externally

Remember that most people see your home from the outside first, and you may decide that you want to change some of the external features of your home which will make you feel differently about the home, and in turn make the home feel different. So remember to realistically budget these changes, as it is surprisingly easy to make these changes!

Extensions

If you are able to financially, you may decide to extend your home (the same as adding space) by creating entirely new rooms. You need to make sure that your building can actually be extended by looking into your properties listing, but you should make sure the budget covers extension costs, building regulations, permission and designs.

Heating and electrical updates

You need to make sure that before the project is underway, you can actually do the work itself, and knowing that you can means that you need to ensure that you know what exactly must be done. Many people forget that older houses needed heating and electrical updates, so ensure that you already know this.

Eco-vation

Turning your home or property as eco-friendly and energy efficient as possible is important, and not only has practical implications but also makes your home look more attractive and economical. So make sure that you keep that in mind with the updates!

The finish

Once you have completed the structural work of the property, you can start the furnishings. This will decide how your home looks but can also be expensive, so ensure that you plan exactly what you would like from the flooring, woodwork and walls and not make a mistake!

These are the simple steps for your new renovation, but if you need more information on any subject just let me know!

 

Building a house part 2

So on the last blog post we had discussed the first five steps that have to be taken into consideration and followed before building your future dream home. While many of it is common sense and little things to keep in mind, it is not surprising the amount of times one or two of these steps are looked over. For some it can be a very stressful time so it is easy to forget the little things. Again, my carpenter mate has his own business and he always needs to keep these things in mind too. You need to make sure that you follow these steps however. If you read the first 5 steps of the process then you are on the right track and understand the steps that you need to take before you start building the home, then you have a few more to follow. Try to keep these in mind as well, because they are very important!

Choosing the building route

Most first time builders usually choose to pick a package company to help guide them through the design and building process, since the companies offer customisable standard houses, as well as a bespoke design option for the most part. Many people do suggest this package however since it makes things a lot easier and efficient. However, other self-builders often choose to go with an architect and contractors or professional project managers. This is to get a few different opinions together but also if you have the money to spare, makes things a lot easier. Others prefer to self-manage the project since they can save money and allows them to keep eyes on the labour and materials too. Often times the architect themselves will often favour a particular construction system like timber or brick and block framing. If you don’t agree with the architect do not feel afraid to take the lead and voice your opinion however.

Getting essentials sorted

Before you begin to progress with the project, you must ensure that you have the appropriate consent to build. These can be things from planning permission, approval from building control and even special permissions if necessary. You can also ensure that you keep your investments safe by choosing the right contracts, insurance and warranties. If you contractor has the correct insurance policies, you may still have to take out specialist insurance from providers that offer insurance to self-builders.

Preparing your plot

Once you actually begin the process, preparing the plot is very important. It’s the first step in actually getting the project underway physically on the site for building work. This does mean sorting the ground works, and this is anything from clearing vegetation to levelling the plot if and when required. This also includes accurately setting the trenches out. You will go from the advice of your main contractor or ground working company to deal with this stage. They can also help the drainage and foundation pour.

Begin the building process

This is probably the most exciting time of the whole process, since you will be working on the structural shell of your home! There are two construction methods that are popular for self-builders and their project, which is for cost-effectiveness. Brick and block mortar is the usual favourite, but the timber frame is quite great for predictable, quick construction schedules. There are many other systems that are available to you, including structural insulated panels and concrete formwork, and it is also worth researching whether one of these could actually be better for you and suit your project better!

Enjoy the home!

Once the building work has actually been completed and you have finished with the interiors, you will actually be ready and excited for you to move in to your dream home! I mean, there are a lot more little steps that you have to consider from here from things like ensuring the little snags are sorted, VAT, bedroom taxes etc. But otherwise, now you can just enjoy your home! So have fun and remember to make the most of it!

Building a house

Today’s blog post is going to be a bit of a weird one since the last few posts, but I’m going to talk about building a house of all things! Well, it’s more just little tips about building your dream home. Many don’t realise just what goes into building a house. I actually have a friend who work’s in South London as a Carpenter and we talk about this all of the time! It’s obviously complicated so instead of discussing the exact processes of how to build a house, we are going to talk about little things you need to keep on your mind before you start. So take a read and see if any of these tips will be helpful for you!

Finding the right building plot:

People often take for granted that the plot of land you want to build your home on is the start of building your dream house. You have to consider where you would like to live and if the area is right for you, but you also have to take into mind if the land is the correct size for your dream project. If it’s too big or too small, then you may easily make a mistake and over or under budget. Consider the size of your land being correct for your home, and if you actually enjoy the area it would be in!

Arranging finances

I think this should probably be the first thing on the list, but I still believe location is important. Ensuring that you have the finances available to purchase land is a make or break since you don’t want to get your hopes up on something if you can’t afford to pay for it! You can always take out a mortgage or a loan, since there are many different options like a stage payment basis, but that is only recommended if you do not already have the money to pay for the land.

Setting a realistic budget

If you do not ensure to budget correctly then your custom home could go from reasonably priced to a money pit from Grand Designs. They can afford to spend hundreds of thousands on homes with a hundred over the top features, and if you can and that is what you want then all power to you. However, setting a sensible approach to budgeting for your building and ensuring that your figure stays realistic then you will be fine. It doesn’t hurt however to include a contingency plan in case an issues arise. Always add 10 – 15% of your budget in as contingency. Think of it this way: if you know your project will cost roughly 100,000, then budget for 115,000. You will be thankful if any issues or unexpected costs arise during the project like unavoidable delays or additional requirements being necessary. The worst that could happen is that if you do not spend the entire 115,000 and have the 15% left over, then you could always add extra interior or exterior features, or spend it on a holiday!

Find a designer

Remember that there are many options to choose when it comes to a home designer. You have the option to choose a package supplier, and they will design and build the home for you. You could also hire an architect or even just a house designer to help with the process. What you want however is up to you, but you need to ensure that you choose someone that is understanding towards your requirements for your home and can produce input to your project that is both responsible, helpful and fit towards the budget you have. It doesn’t hurt to speak to these people before you actually hire one either.

Get in touch with the planners

Ensure that if and when you do hire a designer to assist you with the process, that you figure out with them early if your project is viable. This is the best thing that you can do before you continue the entire process. But you can also speak to local authority planners and they will be able to offer some “pre-application advice”, although some do in fact charge you. You can actually get a strong idea and vision of what you can do with your project once your planning officer informs you of what they will and will not accept during the build process. This will include materials used, size and the general style of your project. So make sure you have all of this information at hand once applying for planning permission.

The history of Agriculture in the USA pt. 3.

This time we will be talking about the Golden Era. The Golden Era for agriculture in the US is considered between the years of 1900-1914, just before the First World War. It was prosperous for all American farmers, and actually became the benchmark statistically, and the farmers used this to ensure the government gave the profits and level of prices that the farmers felt that they had deserved.

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Since World War I broke out in a fashion that was unprecedented, the U.S. actually became the critical supplier to Allied nations due to their superior agricultural techniques and large scale of goods they were able to provide. Along with the rapid expansion of farms, the diffusion of trucks and Model T cars and tractors allowed the agricultural market to grow to an unprecedented side during this time, and the prices shot up for goods. This led farmers to buy out their neighbours to expand, however many farmers had to heavily borrow for this to become possible. The issue here is that the bubble had to burst at some point, ensuring that most became very vulnerable to debts once the prices went down. This of course happened during the 1920’s and many farmers had been left with small profits and high debts.

Another issue during the 1920’s is that many younger farm hands left the farms and ended up migrating to smaller cities and nearby towns and villages. On average, they only moved 10 miles away from the farms however, with very little going to cities that had a population of over 100,000. During this time however, farming hard started to become mechanized, with the use of tractors becoming the norm for most farms, as well as other heavy equipment. This was coupled with superior techniques employed by state agricultural colleges and also funded by the federal government at the time. These innovations allowed a rapid expansion of the agricultural economy, and the majority of competition from Europe and Russia had essentially become non-existent. This meant that America had become the world’s main supplier in agricultural goods at this time.

With these new innovations, a more ruthless business style had come into play. The economy of agriculture had grown so large that business firms had begun replacing the ordinary family owned farms who could afford to invest and turn those farms into much more efficient money makers. They were able to raise the productivity from farms using these innovations and the seeds of business firms of buying out families farms had begun.

At this point, as you can imagine, the agricultural economy in the United States had begun to take a hit. While the farmers enjoyed an unprecedented level of prosperity during the expansions, WWI ended and Europe’s agricultural markets had begun to rebound. This meant that the overproduction from American farmers had actually lowered the prices for agricultural goods, essentially stagnating the market conditions and led to many farmers suffering and living standards lowering in general. Since farmers had taken on so much debt from borrowing to pay for neighbours lands via mortgages and loans, they had soon found themselves unable to pay them. They had actually lowered the prices of the lands they had purchased massively due to the overexpansion, and while farmers believed that the decline of foreign markets were the main reason for these unsuccessful years, it is clear that they lived in a bubble they were unaware would burst.

This led to many farmers demanding relief during the agricultural depression that begun, but the government decided to follow a different root. They instead pushed to modernize farming by using more efficient equipment and electricity on farms, and also focusing on better seeds and breeds. This also meant that these farmers would need to be educated better business practices, which the government also backed. Herbert Hoover advocated the creation of a Federal Farm Board which dedicated itself to restricting crop production specifically for domestic demand behind a tariff wall, maintaining that the farmers issues was down to bad distribution, and effectively created the Hoover Plan.

The history of Agriculture in the USA pt. 2.

In the last post we spoke about the history of agriculture in the United States of America. Specifically, we spoke about the history of agriculture in the United States during the colonial periods. In this post we shall be talking about the New Nation (1776-1860) and Railroad Age (1860-1910). As discussed in the previous post, the economy and trade for agriculture and its good became increasingly in demand. During the New Nation period, the United States economy primarily became agricultural. The expansion of land and the building of canals, along with the addition and introduction of steamboats had opened up new areas and possibilities for agriculture for farmers. Although the primary focus on farming and agriculture within this time period was designed to produce food for families, it was also focused on for service and small local markets. However, this allows rapid economic growth, and a farmer could easily expand due to being able to improve the land for far more than it was paid for, and then moving further and further west and repeating the process. This allowed them to not only grow in terms of geographical size, but also allowed them to sell more and more products due to a higher output.

The railroad age brought a dramatic expansion in farming however, with the number of farms tripling in the space of 50 years from 2 million to 6 million. By about 1905, there were 6 million farms with roughly 31 million people living on those lands. Even the values of the farms tripled, from $8 billion to $30 billion in 1906. Because the government had issued 60 tracts so cheaply to 400,000 families in 1862, more than just those families were buying lands from the railroad companies. It was a genius way to create markets around the United States, and many from around Europe flocked to fill that land. The majority came from Germany, attracted by the soil, low priced lands that were available and homes that were offered.

Life however wasn’t as easy as some as it was for others. Rural life was very different for the settlers in the Great Plains. While it wasn’t the desert it was made out to be, it did contain a very rough climate with the amount or tornados, blizzards and floods. Even the amount of grasshoppers were a negative since they damaged crop, ruining entire harvests completely. This meant that these early settlers became financially ruined, and many went back home to Europe. This meant that the same government responsible for the influx then had to create steps for insurance to the new migrant workers in the form of crop insurance, conservation techniques and federal aid when necessary.

Another interesting point about the rural life in these times is that there were very few single men that actually operated one of these farms or ranches. They instead married hard working wives, and their wives and children would be the ones to handle the chores of the house and even some of the other tasks like feeding hired hands and handling all paperwork and finances. Some of these wives even worked out on the farm with their husbands. However, with the rise in sewing machines, washing machines and other appliances, it seems women turned into domestic roles and as a whole the government at the time was happier to promote women as being domestic helpers rather than equal workers. Overall however, this allowed the farming prairies to become a lot more socially responding than those in Europe. Entire communities were built and social events created for the farmers and their families, and all types of activities and functions were created for the families to enjoy.

Ranching also became huge in the Great Plains. Much of the Great Plains was freely used to cattle ranch and there was much trade for these cattle around the plain cities. Some of the cattle was even taken to Europe. However, the ranches never stocked up in case of a possible disaster, which occurred in 1886, and many cattle died from starvation or froze to death.

The history of Agriculture in the USA pt. 1.

The United States of America has many rural areas, but only 46.2 million Americans (roughly 15% of the population in the country) actually live within these rural counties. And while many people are aware of the rural counties and agriculture, the one thing many people forget is the history of agriculture within the United States of America. That is why the first three posts of this blog will be on the agricultural history of the United States of America.

Colonial Farming is a very interesting subject for agricultural historians. For example, many people do not realise that the first time of real agricultural farming began as plantation agriculture. Mainly using slaves, this was developed in Virginia and Maryland to grow tobacco, and South Carolina, to grow rive. After roughly 180+ years, cotton became a major crop for plantations around the “Black Belt” (which was originally named after the colour of the soil within the areas, but then became referred to as the black belt based on the amount of African Americans working within the area). There were farms located in other areas of the United States that people are less aware of however. For example, people are unaware that in the Plymouth Colony, barley and peas were grown from England to feed the families or trade with other colonies. But they also had a focus on growing Maize, which they were taught how to do by Native Americans (specifically the Squanto). More interestingly, they fertilized this crop using small fish.

Although the main ethnicity which comes to mind when considering colonial agriculture is African Americans, people are unaware of the different ethnic farming styles that became practice during those times. Although the English and Scots had already begun practicing their types of agricultural farming techniques to the new world, the German Americans had also brought their own practices that was very different to the English and Scots methods. They had adapted their techniques to a much more abundant supply of land in the new world, and ensured to have a long-term tendency to keep farm within the land as opposed to moving around to other locations and farms. Different ethnic groups focused on different types of farming altogether. While the Germans focused on oxen to pull their plows, the Scots Irish built an entire economy focused on mostly herding with a small focus on farming, and in other cases mixed farming in order to feed both humans and the hogs and other livestock’s that they had. After a while, farmers began using the other techniques and methods as a way to improve their own productivity, in the 1750’s, agricultural innovators replaced their older tools such as hand sickles and scythes with cradle scythes. These little innovations alone had ended up tripling the amount of work completed by farmers in one day. It changed the agricultural game, and those who were even wealthier such as George Washington began using dung and lime to fertilize their fields and even rotate the crops to ensure the soil stayed fertile.

At first, specifically before 1720, most in the mid-Atlantic region worked with small-scale farming, using imported manufactures that they paid for by supplying the West Indies with things such as corn and flour. Even in New York, trade became an extremely wealthy option. The fur-pelt exports to Europe began to flourish and added additional wealth. However, after 1720 there was a huge demand for wheat in Europe due to the population explosion. Not only did the demand for wheat rise, the price of wheat also exploded. It ended up costing twice as much for a grain of wheat in 1770 as it did in 1720. This meant that specifically in the mid-Atlantic area, the production of wheat expanded, as well as the production of Flaxseed and corn since it also rose in demand from the West Indies and the Irish. Farming became extremely lucrative in America within the colonial stages of America.