Green homes: how to shut out the winter cold and save cash

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Some households could be wasting £330 a year because of poor heating and insulation

With storms and snow sweeping much of the country this week, many people’s thoughts will have turned to how to make their home warmer and more energy efficient.

According to research from Nationwide building society, shared with Guardian Money, some households could be wasting as much as £27.50 a month, or £330 a year, because of inefficient heating and poor insulation.

Nationwide's data said homeowners in Llandrindod Wells would save the most by making the suggested improvements

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Crammed with my wife and adult kids into a tiny one-bed flat, I realised I loved my home

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In March, our house was a cold, rubble-strewn building site. As supply chains broke down, it became clear we wouldn’t be moving back any time soon

My wife is a goal-oriented person. When she learns, it is deliberate. For her, lockdown presented an opportunity, so she began learning Danish. I didn’t. I am deeply lazy: as I sit here writing, I am staring at an empty packet of Wotsits that has been sitting by my laptop for three hours; the bin is 6ft away. The notion of actively learning something seemed a bit needless. Why waste all that time when I could be doing nothing?

I did learn something, though. I learned that I love my home, which came as a surprise. I guess there is nothing quite like being trapped outside your house, as we were, to make you appreciate it rather more.

The builders had left a bottle of milk on a box containing my oldest vinyl, but hadn’t secured the lid

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B&Q aims to tempt Instagram generation after UK falls back in love with DIY

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Its owner Kingfisher hopes the tide has permanently turned after decade of decline

New fences, fresh floor coverings and plenty of paint: home improvement has become the national pastime during the coronavirus pandemic as the nation has spent more time at home – and rediscovered a passion for DIY renovations after a decade of decline.

The closure of pubs, restaurants and sporting venues, financial pressures and the need to adapt houses and flats to cope with changed circumstances and working from home, prompted a boom in DIY and gardening this year, particularly among 18-34-year-olds who previously shunned such activities.

Sales of pressure washers soared by 80% at B&Q

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Makeover craze threatens last surviving treasures hidden beneath the wallpaper

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The discovery of Renaissance paintings on a bedroom wall at a Herefordshire farm raises fears about art lost in renovations

A discovery of exceptional Renaissance wall paintings at a Herefordshire farmhouse has prompted a leading expert to warn that the chances of such treasures surviving in domestic settings in Britain are falling because owners are destroying them by modernising their homes.

Stephen Rickerby, who is a consultant to the Getty Conservation Institute and works closely with the Courtauld Institute and English Heritage, was taken aback by the “stunning and extremely high quality” of paintings dating from the late 16th and early 17th centuries that have been uncovered at Church House Farm in Wellington.

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‘It looks great – and covers dodgy plasterwork!’ Readers' cheap, clever five-minute home improvements

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Lockdown could be a good time to address domestic annoyances. Who better to canvas for ingenious solutions – from a knife rack to mask hooks – than Guardian readers?

I framed and hung the art, photographs and posters I had collected over years of travelling, but had never bothered to display (or had been unable to because I was renting). Not only did it make my flat a lot more personal, but I was also able to cover some of the dodgy plasterwork – a win-win. For ages, I was put off by the price of the frames, which were often substantially more expensive than the picture inside. I would recommend shopping around online and having a look in charity shops to save money. Ultimately, though, it is worth it in order to be surrounded by images you love or that provoke happy memories. I am especially glad to have some photos of friends and family on the wall, as I haven’t been able to see many of them in real life lately. Emily, public sector worker, London

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Dual-flush toilets 'wasting more water than they save'

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Thames Water says design is more likely to leak as Waterwise warns 400m litres are being lost from UK toilets a day

Toilets specially designed to save water are wasting more than they conserve, the UK’s largest water firm has warned.

Campaigners have warned for years that dual-flush toilets, introduced as more efficient alternatives that were expected to use less than half the amount of water per flush, are more prone to leaks.

Related: England could run short of water within 25 years

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A plumber charged hundreds without a quote or invoice

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All that was needed was a ballcock replaced and it won’t even explain how it cost that much

On my first post-lockdown visit to my 78-year-old mother who lives alone in Salisbury, I found her visibly upset. It soon emerged that she had asked a plumbing company called Rightio to replace a ballcock in her toilet and it later charged her £329. It also appeared to have signed her up to some kind of care plan costing £9.50 a month.

Rightio is a national firm that appears to subcontract local plumbers. She says that prior to the plumber arriving, Rightio took her debit card details, including her CVC number.

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Shed quarters: how to set up an office in your garden

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With no letup from Covid in sight, we look at how you can get more work space at home

For millions of us, homeworking is here to stay for a while longer at least and some anticipate that they will never return to the office. However, many have struggled to find a satisfactory spot in their home where they can get on with their work undisturbed.

So it’s not surprising that lots of homeowners have been eyeing up their garden as a potential new working environment.

£45 Ikea’s Torkel swivel chair. This month, Expert Reviews called it the best budget office chair.

About £50 Life Carver’s mesh middle back office chair. Available on Amazon and elsewhere.

£120 Argos’s Home Orion swivel chair. It has a faux leather finish and a high back.

£179 Ikea’s Markus swivel chair. It comes with a 10-year guarantee.

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Making a home my own after endless moves is daunting … and thrilling

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After living in 20 rented units over 24 years, I was suddenly a homeowner – and I allowed my emotional detachment with where I live to finally fall away

I owned my first house when I was 10 years old.

My art teacher back then taught my class about different styles of houses, and let us design and make our own out of clay. Mine was a two-story Victorian with a steep roof and a fat gothic tower, with lacy white gingerbread trim that adorned the eaves.

Looking back on all those years of keeping myself to even want to get too comfortable in any of the places I’ve lived, I realize that I always viewed them more as 'shelter' than 'home'

These creaky stairs are my stairs, I thought, these big bright windows are my windows, these new curtains were chosen because they please us

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‘When we can, we’d love to throw a party to show it off’: designers on their lockdown DIY

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What do you do if you are an artist confined mainly to your home? Transform the place, of course

I have spent lockdown with my partner, Luke Morgan, and my dog, Elvis, in our live-work building in London. We moved here in 2005: I had done so much work on my previous house, I couldn’t face another project, so painted the walls white and lived with it. That changed in lockdown; most of my commissions were cancelled, and I was finally able to get going. We don’t have children, my parents are no longer alive and Luke’s parents are shielding in Bristol, so we don’t have the same commitments as many people.

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DIY danger: 'It's just not a sensible thing to do when you get older'

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Trauma researchers have found that even months after falling from a ladder, patients still suffer, and plead that Australians be more cautious

“We see ladder climbing as quite a benign thing to do,” says Dr Helen Ackland, a researcher at the National Trauma Research Institute. “When someone dies in a car accident we hear about it on the news, when someone dies from a ladder, it’s not on the news.”

However, that perception does not match up to reality. In 2018, 22 people died in ladder-related falls in Australia – and for every death, there are dozens of people who suffer from debilitating injuries.

Related: Harm from drinking alcohol at home spikes in Australia amid coronavirus

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Everest double glazing rescue deal saves 1,000 UK jobs

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Deal safeguards existing orders and installations by British brand hit hard by coronavirus lockdown

A rescue deal has been brokered for stricken double glazing firm Everest that will preserve around 1,000 jobs and mean existing orders for windows and conservatories are completed.

The windows firm, based in Cuffley in Hertfordshire, was plunged into crisis in March when the lockdown made it impossible for staff to make sales and installation visits to customers’ homes.

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B&M buoyed by DIY sales boom in UK coronavirus lockdown

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Retailer reports 23% surge in demand for gardening and home improvement items

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The discount retailer B&M has said exceptionally strong demand for DIY and gardening products in the coronavirus lockdown drove a 22.7% jump in underlying UK sales over the last eight weeks.

The group, which has traded throughout, said UK like-for-like sales growth had accelerated from 6.6% in the final quarter of its 2019-20 year, which benefited from a strong grocery performance in March.

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Why don’t paint tins have a pouring spout?

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The long-running series in which readers answer other readers’ questions on subjects ranging from trivial flights of fancy to profound scientific and philosophical concepts

Why don’t tins of paint have a pouring spout? Decanting paint into a roller tray or a smaller tin inevitably ends up with paint all down the side of the tin or worse, elsewhere.

Peter Rance

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Paint, pallets and a chicken coop: how DIY and upcycling can save cash

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Lockdown provides opportunity to start the home improvement projects you have been putting off

After weeks stuck indoors, many of us have a very good idea of which bits of our home we would like to improve. Some have already been moving through their DIY to-do lists but with the bank holiday weekend here and restrictions on lockdown easing in parts of the UK, it is the perfect time to get going on a new project – big or small.

Medina Grillo, an award-winning DIY and home improvement blogger at, says now is an opportunity to tackle projects you may have previously put off. “DIY helps to structure your day a bit more and it keeps you from feeling too bored,” she says. She has painted a small wall in her entrance hall, hung up a few pictures and waxed a coat rail over the past few weeks.

For paint, often the best prices can be found at non-specialist shops

Keep DIY small to start with until your confidence builds. DIY doesn’t always have to mean power tools or large renovation projects. Sometimes it’s as simple as having an idea and following through with it … by yourself. And that could be as basic as screwing a loose door back so it doesn’t creak or adding a coat...

Top coat: the expert guide to painting your house perfectly – from walls to floors to radiators

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Paint sales are up, but it needs to be used carefully if you want to change your home for the better. Here is how to prepare, proceed and get your preferred finish

Over the course of the past year you may have given idle thought to repainting all or part of your home. In lockdown, you might have decided now is the time. If so, you are not alone: paint companies are still delivering and sales are brisk. But is this really the time to embark on such a project? And can you make a success of it, even if you have never done it before? We asked the experts the best way to go about it.

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Perfect shelves and unblocked drains: 10 easy DIY tasks to transform your house quickly

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From hanging pictures to resealing the bath, now is the time to tackle the jobs you have been ignoring – many of them much simpler than you think

While you have been stuck at home staring at the four walls and everything inside them, you may have noticed that some of what you see is broken. Small problems that may not have bothered you when you spent all day at work – a wonky curtain, a creaky door – suddenly demand your attention. But how do you fix things without professional help, armed only with limited tools and even more limited competence? We asked the experts for advice on the 10 simplest DIY tasks you can tackle right now.

For a really big hole, scrunch up bits of newspaper and fill it, so the filler has something to grab on to

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Gran designs: could building my mother an upstairs flat renovate our relationship? | Caroline Baum

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Friends thought we were mad and tried to dissuade us. Despite misgivings, we went ahead

When my elderly mother came to live with us, a granny flat was not an option. She needed more space than the typical one-room studio. Being frail and disabled, logic might have dictated that she take over the ground floor of our home and we build an upper floor extension for ourselves – the kind real estate agents promote as a “parents’ retreat”.

But, as a longtime top-floor apartment dweller used to expansive views, living downstairs did not appeal to her. She wanted her own self-contained area, with more privacy, away from our guest room and frequent visitors.

Related: My relationship with my mother has always been spiky. Now she's coming to live with me | Caroline Baum

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Floor paint and potted herbs: Five inexpensive ways to freshen up your home

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You don’t need to spend money on a statement sofa. Instead, think about your lighting and hunt down vintage pieces in markets and junk shops

It can be tempting – and expensive – to want to furnish a house in one go, but Alexandra Stedman, who runs the interiors and lifestyle site The Frugality, advises living in a space “for as long as possible. The best way of making a house a home is to build things up over time, with things that hold memories. It’s not about buying everything brand new, off the rack. It could be a picture you pick up at a car-boot sale and give a frame six months later, but then it fits that perfect spot on the wall that has been missing something.”

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Why we fell out of love with home improvement shows | Sam Wolfson

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The likes of Changing Rooms were a bulwark against consumer culture. With YouTube tutorials, we’ve lost that DIY radicalism

If I could go back in time and give the participants of 1990s home improvement shows one piece of advice, it would be this: never tell Carol Smillie about your hobbies. Give that woman the slightest inkling that you have a penchant for silent films and she’d turn your room into a monochromatic tribute to Charlie Chaplin. Mention you went on holiday once, and you’d find your house kitted out with deckchairs and beach balls.

The 1990s were a wonderful and bizarre period for factual television. Shows such as Changing Rooms, Ground Force and DIY SOS had, at their peak, millions of viewers. While many of the makeovers now seem horrifying and tasteless, the home improvement format showed how you could change your living space on a small budget – without needing to buy lots of new stuff.

YouTube videos are more useful than the makeover show: they offer specific advice needed to unclog your dishwasher

Related: Fix up, look sharp: how to mend more and buy less

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