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Time for change.

DON''T put off until tomorrow what you can do today - wise words which should strike a chord with home owners everywhere.

Sadly, over many decades we have failed to maintain the fabric of our ageing properties as well as we should have.

Every home ultimately is prone to natural wear and tear as time goes on, but prompt, decisive action can often nip problems in the bud before they can get out of hand.

Experts are urging a change of attitude which would not only save us money in the long run but would also help to protect the environment. Andrew Leech, director of the National Home Improvement Council says: "For the sake of the planet, we are faced with the colossal task of making all existing homes zero-carbon by 2050.

"So from now on we must seriously consider the conservation aspects of our homes and that means all improvements should be carried out against the background of energy saving and water conservation".

The UK has one of the oldest housing stocks in Europe. Much of it has been around for 100 years and will have to survive another century to help meet the housing demands of our burgeoning population.

Even more worrying is that nearly six million privately owned homes in the UK are classified as "non-decent" - in other words, they fall short of certain standards laid down by the Government and, consequently, are in urgent need of repair and modernisation.

It's clearly very important to know how your home is built so you can appreciate what action you need to take. Edwardian and Victorian properties, and other homes built before these periods, need a different approach compared to homes built in subsequent years.

There are several steps that householders living in a whole range of different properties can take to improve the energy efficiency.

If you are planning a new kitchen or bathroom it's essential to make sure that it incorporates everything that's efficient, not only to help reduce the levels of carbon emissions but also to save on running costs in the face of ever increasing utility bills. A high-tech heating and hot water system is crucial.

With the exception of new homes built in the last 10 years, less than 20% of our homes are insulated to the recommended standard, which is 270mm in lofts. And where there are cavity walls, these also should be filled. New interior insulation solutions are emerging for homes without cavity walls.

If you have an integral garage this, too, can soak up heat like a sponge so fit a door with all-round weatherproof seals and PU foam double-skinned sections.

Add together all the gaps around doors and windows in the average semi-detached it can amount to a hole the size of nine bricks, so it's crucial to have efficient draught proofing. Better still, for a more permanent solution, would be to install modern, sealed exterior doors and double-glazed windows with heat-retaining glass.

Up in the roof space look for signs of leaks through tiles or roof linings. Check timbers are sound, dry and free from woodworm. For comfort''s sake, make sure your loft is well insulated to the recommended thickness of 270mm. That's about 12 inches!

Where you have got timber floors check there''s no undue springiness (a sign of rotting or weakened joists), and inspect skirting boards for rot and woodworm.

Check timber or metal windows for rot or corrosion, missing putty and flaking paint, particularly around sills and at the joints of door and window frames, and for missing mastic where frames join the surrounding wall. Make sure doors open and close properly.

Make sure your central heating system gets its annual service -sooner rather than later! The boiler scrappage scheme is worth looking into, as a way to get a new, high-tech version to cut down your heating costs. s

And to be on the safe side your electrical system needs checking every five years by a competent electrician.

Make sure you have a residual current device (RCD) fitted to protect you against electrical accidents.

With all these issues, turning a blind eye now can only store up trouble for the future. It's an unavoidable fact of life that if you don't maintain your home properly, the rot soon sets in.

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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Huddersfield Daily Examiner (Huddersfield, England)
Date:May 29, 2010
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