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What home improvements will you be making in 2017?

Home improvements

From small DIY jobs to large-scale projects, new year is often the time we start thinking aboutย making home improvements. So do you have any jobsย planned for 2017, and do you have all the advice you need?

I believe home really is where the heart is. Itโ€™s your safe haven amidst a frantic world. The place you can relax and enjoy being with friends and family. So itโ€™s no surprise that we want to make it just right for us, and that can cost money.

In 2014, the UK spent around ยฃ33 billion on housing alterations and improvements, according to Barbour ABI, which collects industry data on construction.

Big home improvements, such as loft conversions, conservatories and newly fitted kitchens, can be incredibly disruptive and costly. But there are ways to minimise mess and lower the price.

For example, when we surveyed 2,154 kitchen owners in April/May 2016, a budget kitchen brand came out on top with an impressive customer satisfaction score of 88%.

Get clued-up

But itโ€™s not all about cost; itโ€™s about being armed with the right information, too.

When we spoke to people whoโ€™d had their loft converted many told us about the things they would have done differently if theyโ€™d known more before the work started.

For example, itโ€™s really worth understanding exactly whatโ€™s included in your quote and what the timeline for work will be. This willย help you plan your budget and home life around it, both of which can have a big impact.

Itโ€™s also worth thinking about the value home improvements might add to your home. When we surveyed conservatory owners, 84% said they believed getting one would add value to their home.

If upping the price of your home is important to you, it’s worth asking three estate agents to come to your home before you start any work. It may be that adding a bedroom or an extension wouldย give you more of a return than what you have planned.

Small tasks

But refreshing your home doesnโ€™t mean you have to make major changes. Creating new storage space, giving rooms a fresh lick of paint or sprucing up flooring can make a big difference.

With the right tools and knowledge, you can tackle a wide range of tasks yourself. But if you donโ€™t feel confident, thereโ€™s nothing wrong with calling in a helping hand. You could always assist the tradesperson so you know how to do the job next time.

So, as 2017 dawns, what home improvements do you have planned? Are you aiming to doย the job yourself or get in a tradesperson? Or, if youโ€™ve had work done, what do you wish youโ€™d known first?


Should home improvements be forgot
And never brought to mind
Should home improvements be forgot,
For the sake of peace and mind

For all peace of mind my dear
For all peace of mind
Weโ€™ll look the other way for now
For the sake of peace of mind.
๐ŸŽ‡ ๐ŸŽ†

I like your philosophical outlook, Alfa. Your new kitchen is in our thoughts.

LOL !!! Thanks John.

Things start happening later this week, so hopefully it won’t be too long.

We managed to get our Which? Best Buy Ikea kitchen installed and completed before Christmas. Mind you, we ordered it in August and it’s not been plain sailing. However, the actual installer was outstanding, both in terms of quality of workmanship and dedication. So Ikea probably deserves the plaudits overall.

Having a four year-old house means that there are no major projects to contemplate and we have carried out a lot of minor works to improve the property so now we are feeling we would like to move to a smaller house with a bit more character and some scope to make significant changes for comfort, convenience, and style.

I have done a lot of minor DIY jobs since moving home. I had planned to put in thermostatic valves and other new controls before winter, but ran out of time. I will do this when the weather is warmer.

I would like to have the double glazing replaced during the summer, but that’s a job for the professionals.

A shame all these 2016 Guides are all undated as though one can find the information in the text, if you read through all of them, some readers may prefer to factor in the date before bothering to read the articles . They seem pretty good.

They could be more detailed as they seem to avoid leading to any technical matters. For instance referencing new glass for thermal efficiency and for self-cleaning properties could benefit for a link to an article on modern glazing which named names and discussed the primary suppliers.

I have had a friend install triple-glazed units in 2016 trucked from Poland for the same cost as double-glazed UK units. Perhaps Which? could go deeper into the cost savings – and actually is there a need for triple glazing. The advent of vacuum double-glazing is also of interest as it is phenomenally efficient.

I will be looking at solar panels for both electricity and water heating, ground source and air source heat pumps which I am sure will be of interest to many subscribers.

The advent of aerotherm, the use of shutters and blinds for heat retention, and indeed to stop solar gain are all areas of interest when improving properties.

One thing very rarely discussed is warm air heating which has advanced greatly since being popular in the last century. Its rapid warming and responsiveness to weather conditions must surely make it of interest.

Air exchange units in lofts to maximise the quality and temperature of exchanged fresh-air could also be something that interests anyone who owns a property. Relatively cheap to install and to run there must be some types of houses which would benefit greatly from these devices.

I am conscious from surveys that most people are worried about keeping warm and energy costs so everything that can be done to help people reduce the need for excessive heating must be applauded.

Paint advice wanted….

A ceiling was roller brushed with a matt paint that just rubbed came off with your fingers. Not good for a kitchen ceiling.

We have sponged off all the loose paint and roller brushed a coat of Valspar Premium Walls & Ceilings paint. Roller brush is Screwfix No Nonsense 9″ Short Pile Roller Sleeve.

It is horrible to work with. It seems too thick and dries almost instantly so very difficult to go over and get a smooth finish. Inspecting it this morning it doesn’t look that bad, there were a few ridges and mottled patches that sanded off easily without doing any damage.

The question is what do we do next as it needs another coat. Do we struggle with what we have or go for another paint. Do we stick with the same roller brush or try another one?

Any advice gratefully received.

Hi Alfa – I’ll have a stab at this because I’ve painted a few kitchen ceilings in my time.

The results you will get largely depend on what you are starting with as a surface condition. Kitchen ceilings are particularly prone to grease spots and a film of fine grease so they need to be thoroughly washed over with a sugar soap solution before applying a first coat. I don’t think you need to go back to that point now because what you have put on will have more or less sealed the ceiling and one more coat should cover well. I am a bit surprised by your experience with the Valspar paint but there might be a reaction between that paint and your first coat if that was a different make. Over-quick drying is a nuisance. Turn the heat down would be my initial suggestion.

There are specialist ceiling paints for kitchens and bathrooms that have additional ingredients that are supposed to resist the effects of cooking and dampness and I have found them as easy to apply as ordinary emulsion paint but they have a silk or satin finish. You said you started with a matt finish. Matt is not usually considered a good idea in a kitchen although all new houses are painted with a matt finish and if you have an efficient cooker hood and the ceiling is at a good height I see nothing wrong with matt paint. It is much better at concealing any imperfections in the ceiling than a paint with a shiny finish which will show up any cracks, bulges or depressions.

I can’t believe there is anything wrong with the roller sleeve although I have not used a Screwfix one myself. I usually use Wilko roller sleeves and I can tell no difference between them and the more expensive Harris roller sleeves. The roller can pull the paint if the underlying surface is not good, but so can a brush, and when using a brush to paint an untextured ceiling it is difficult to get a smooth even finish. A roller does a much better job.

If you have enough left of the Valspar paint, and you can work with it OK, I would give it another coat. It should go on easier than the previous coat because the surface is now in a better condition to receive it. The paint should take well but might need a little touching-up in odd places when you look at it in the daylight.

If you want to change to a different paint that should not be a problem and I would say that an ordinary Dulux or Crown emulsion paint should give a satisfactory finish.

Don’t forget to put a knotted hankie on your head.

Thanks John, free hotel shower caps are doing the job of a knotted hankie quite well ๐Ÿ™‚

It is a new ceiling, plastered, primed then the powdery coat. We prefer a very light sheen, but went for the matt for the reasons you give as there were a few imperfections.

5 litres is supposed to cover 50 sq m but was only just enough for our 19 sq m area. I did water down the last bit and it did seem slightly better.

I think you could be right in a second coat going on better than the first coat. I just wish it didn’t dry so quickly but maybe with a less porous surface, it might appear to dry more slowly.

If we swap paint, it will mean another 2 coats whereas with a bit of luck, only one more with Valspar.

I normally do our decorating but recently the whole house needed doing so I got a professional in – who did a better job than I would have done. Expertise is worth paying for. He only used Dulux paint. For ceilings he used white Diamond Matt. I also prefer matt to silk on ceilings.

Which? no longer tests paints. I am rather disappointed because there can be significant difference between paints. My house has textured ceilings which my surveyor said were likely to be original. Thankfully there is no problem with cracking because it is difficult to conceal repairs. The ceilings don’t need any attention and I hope that a roller will be adequate when the time comes to repaint them.

In my experience, gloss paints show big differences between brands. Some are easier to apply without leaving brush marks, some yellow more than others in darker places, some offer better opacity (important if repainting a dark colour with a lighter one, and some fade more than others. I’ve used Dulux gloss but would not touch colours, based on past experience with severe fading. I was given at least 100 litres for use by a charity. Bright red is a particular problem and we now buy specialist paints that are much more fade-resistant. We currently buy International, which has poor opacity and is a challenge to work with but it retains its colour very well. I’m told that there are better exterior paints but they are more expensive.

Looks like Dulux Diamond Matt is a trade paint that we might not be able to get until Monday and we were hoping to have it finished by then.

We seemed to have used Dulux at least a couple of times in the last few years and thought the finish isn’t what it used to be. Don’t know what is different about trade paints, but it could be worth considering.

Bit of a dilemma.

Alfa – If you’ve got enough Valspar I should use it. It is expensive paint and it would be silly to waste it.

I am no longer a fan of Dulux gloss paints – they have had continuing problems with the yellowing of white paint since they had to reformulate the paints to reduce the VOC [volatile organic compounds] content. I think their trade paint is better. I don’t mind using their gloss colour paints because some slight fading is not critical. For recent redecoration we have used Crown emulsion paint for walls but for woodwork they have too many different types of gloss paint and the colours are not always available in every type. Some of their gloss paint has been very thin, slow to dry, and quite fragile.

We have not used brilliant white paint for years now [except in bathrooms] and prefer a cream-white colour on ceilings. Our new house was painted throughout in Dulux trade emulsion in Gardenia colour with brilliant white ceilings. The Gardenia is certainly an attractive colour and makes a pleasant change from Magnolia everywhere which most house-builders still use. Things are about to change now though as it is time to refresh a number of rooms. With 27 panelled doors to paint [including wardrobes and cupboards] I might follow Malcolm’s lead and get a professional in to do the woodwork. It will not be white but what it will be is still under consideration at top management level.

As John says, gloss paints have been reformulated in recent years, and that will apply to most brands. I well remember the first time I tried Crown quick drying gloss and was very disappointed by the fact that the finish was neither smooth or very glossy. I received a refund on the basis that the product was not as described.

Only recent experience is likely to be of much use in choosing gloss paint. Other paints remain water-based, so past experience could be more useful.

Very wise to listen to top management John.

The 5 litre tin should have been enough for 2 coats but only managed one, so very little left. The kitchen has no heating at the moment, so heat is not a problem!!!

We have decided to stick with Valspar to hopefully only have to do one more coat, but now have their trade version which is supposed to be exactly the same.

Too late to do it today as the lights are covered up, so an early start tomorrow.

“Which? no longer tests paints. I am rather disappointed because there can be significant difference between paints. ”

Me too!


I recall some surprises when Which? did test paints. Some of the expensive paints did not do as well as cheaper ones. I’m very glad that they don’t waste time testing electric and magnetic water softeners.

“Iโ€™m very glad that they donโ€™t waste time testing electric and magnetic water softeners.”

Me also – but I think you mean magnetic or electromagnetic devices retailed by mad inventors and con-men with claimed but unverifiable performance for water softening or reducing car fuel consumption or both.

I love the smell of classical electrodynamics in the morning!

When I moved home I was told that the dishwasher was ‘no longer fully effective’ and the vendors would get rid of it. I asked them to leave it in case it could be fixed. All that was needed was to clean the spray arms because the holes were blocked with limescale. The next job was to disconnect the electronic device intended to prevent limescale problems, hidden under the sink. I would not mind if Which? used its authority to expose companies that sell products that don’t work.

I hate pseudoscience at all hours of the day!

Which? do occasionally point at useless products. It always make you sit up and think when you see something that does not make sense – at least at first sight. An advert (DT 28/1) for Sunflow electric heaters claims a saving of up to 40% on energy bills compared with night storage heaters. Looking on their website I cannot see their calculations to justify this claim. Night storage heaters have the disadvantage of not necessarily giving the output needed for the whole time you are up and about, but Sunflow heaters seem to be just variable power electric heaters that will operate during the day on full-price electricity. My simple mind does not see the claim making sense. Can anyone enlighten me? Perhaps a topic for Which? to look at – night storage heaters vs. conventional?

The amount of heat produced from electricity by different forms of heaters will be the same but portable heaters, particularly fan heaters, are more versatile. If you are working and often out in the evening I could see that portable heaters could be more economical than storage heaters. Unless the advert states how the comparison is made then it is misrepresentation, in my view.

I recall we had a Convo about pointless products: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/top-10-pointless-products-to-avoid/

The introduction to this Convo has a link to a list of products best avoided including wash balls, one of my long-term favourite cons.

We’ve been debating Sunflow heating on another forum, and the consensus is that they’re trying it on.

Well, that was a waste of time.

I have come to the conclusion that Valspar is rubbish and will never buy it again.

Tried the trade version with thoroughly washed equipment, rolled it on the ceiling, and there were hard bits all over it. Had to pick them all off then using a small roller and finger, smooth it off as well as I could. The only saving grace, it didnโ€™t dry as fast as the first tin and would have covered better second time.

Thinking perhaps the used old sleeves hadnโ€™t been cleaned as well as we thought, went to Screwfix and bought some more plus a new handle, threw away the first bucket of paint, gave it a good clean and started again. Filled the sleeve, rolled the ceiling and blasted hard bits all over it again.

Off to the trade paint shop tomorrow.


I wonder why Which? review products from Lidl. They are only available in their stores for a couple of days and chances are next time they are on sale in 6 – 12 months time, will be a different model.

What is the point?

I can recommend the Lidl sanding disks, which may not last as long as Bosch ones but are far better value for money. I stock up when they are available. Some of the other hardware items are good value for money but might not be seen for a year or more. I buy several Dundee cakes if I go there before Christmas. I presume that much of the food they sell and household cleaning products etc are available through the year.

Sorry to hear about the paint problem. I suspect that Valspar is popular largely because of the wide choice of colours.

I agree alfa, and Which?do not seem to make any comment on durability, and presumably cannot on reliability when they are only briefly available. Anyone can make cheap toy products, but I think many need to know whether what they buy is likely to do its job for a reasonable time.

However, there are times when something is cheap enough to make the gamble worthwhile. I bought a circular “chop” saw for around ยฃ20 from B&Q; something I don’t need to use a lot but I’ve had it a few years now and it still works well. A drip watering kit – hosepipe adaptor, tubing, connectors and drip ends were about ยฃ6 including p&p.; much cheaper than decent competitiors but they have looked after my hanging baskets for the last 3 years. 5 Lidl fruit trees for around ยฃ4.75 each are doing well and fruiting – apple, pear, cherry and peach.

I’m sorry to hear that you have had a bad time trying to paint your kitchen ceiling, Alfa.

Spending more time than you should have to doing a ceiling is very unrewarding. Do you think the hard bits in the paint are due to it being old stock or a manufacturing defect? – either way you should get your money back or a satisfactory replacement. I know that some professional decorators strain their paint into a paint kettle to eliminate any bits but that would be a tedious and wasteful process if you then had to decant it into a roller tray. In any case, Valspar paint is promoted as a superior brand and is expensive so users should not be having the problems you have experienced.

I have used Valspar gloss paint in exterior work and was surprised how thin it seemed to be needing two coats and some retouching on metalwork that had already been treated with red oxide primer and an undercoat. It was a shiny gloss, though, so the final appearance was satisfactory. Perhaps I am too used to the oil-based paints of old that would take some stirring but produced a deep coating that could be worked in well and didn’t dry too quickly so that it could be brushed in cross directions and then laid off into the previous section without leaving a trace.

B&Q have given over a lot of space in their stores to Valspar and its colour-mixing system and in return have taken certain other brands off their inventory. I think there is usually a close relationship in retailing between store space allocation and profit margin. Removing lower margin and sometimes discounted lines in favour of a ‘premium’ American product might seem like a commercially sound idea but will it work with the UK consumer who is working to a budget? The trade seem to like Valspar paints though; a plasterer recommended it to me recently.

Something I have occasionally wondered about is the enthusiasm for Farrow & Ball paint which is extremely expensive. Estate agents like to mention it, the property pages in newspapers go on about it, home style magazines think it’s fantastic – but what is the reality? I appreciate that they have some ‘authentic’ heritage colours with curious names and that some of their finishes [like dead flat matt] are appropriate for Grade 1 listed buildings but the lines of tins in Homebase and elsewhere suggests that they are very popular paints. Is it just a fashion trend or does the paint perform better than others over time, and is it as easy to apply or do we need to employ an old man in an apron who can do a front door in just under five days? Other manufacturers produce ‘heritage’ colours and with computerised mixing systems any colour can be produced to match a particular shade.

Thanks for your commiserations guys, it is very disheartening and such a waste of time.

I really don’t know what the problem is with the bits in the paint. Other reviews have said Valspar paint is too thin, so I wonder if they have thickened it up…too much perhaps? The trade version was not as thick, maybe they are not the same after all.

I have just found this site of 162 reviews US and UK, where Valspar gets 1 out of 5 stars. One reviewer gives them 5 stars for getting a refund!!!

The attraction is any colour you want, and with taking other brands off the shelves, doesn’t leave a lot of choice.

Just having a mooch and thought I’d reply re f&b. I tried it as wanted an interesting off white for a large light bay window room. It’s expensive but was very nice to use and I noticed the colour varied from greeny to mauvey, depending on whether in sun or artificial light. It seems to have more depth of colour. Mentioned this to shop and they said it’s because has more pigment in than cheap paint. However I still use dulux or crown if I can get the colour I want.
Then another time could only get the purple I wanted in f&b, this time water based exterior door paint, didn’t go on as nicely as the sandtex exterior oil based I’d just used for windows (darn good paint, lasted 15 years last time), but on the other hand it didn’t take 12 hours to dry either so I didn’t have to spend 2 whole days guarding the open front door.

Thanks for that interesting feedback on Farrow & Ball paints, Ruth. I need to repaint our front door, frame and doorcase in April and was contemplating using Sandtex gloss paint. I don’t mid the drying time because we can keep the opening secure but I was glad to read how durable it was so it will probably be my choice now. The colour range is a bit limited but that is not critical.


Whew !!! I was beginning to think I was that bad workman blaming my tools.

We went for Trade Dulux Diamond Matt, (Crown was on offer so out of stock). Opening the tin it was just as thick as the Valspar so I didn’t hold out much hope that it was going to be any better.

But it went on so differently. Didn’t dry almost instantly, didn’t ridge, kept a wet line and I could work it enough to get a smooth finish.

Ceiling is looking good now and one coat might even be enough. ๐Ÿ™‚๐Ÿ™ƒ๐Ÿ™‚๐Ÿ™ƒ๐Ÿ™‚

Well, alfa, I’m sorry we’ve lost the opportunity to come round and help. But now you’ve cracked it had you thought of becoming a Trusted Trader?

Don’t think my neck could stand it Malcolm !!!
Walls to paint tomorrow, and guess what brand we have………

Will try it out where it won’t show and if it is as bad as the other 2 it is going back. Already got a refund on the last pot.

when I had the pro in to do my house it involved removing wallpaper as we wanted all the walls painted. His advice was to use lining paper before painting as the residual paste could damage the painted surface. I would not have thought of doing that but the results are excellent. It also hides minor imperfections in the wall surface that were not filled.

Congratulations Alfa. Painting ceilings is not an enjoyable job.

Thank you Wavechange. ๐Ÿ™‚

It is definitely not enjoyable when you encounter problems, but it is satisfying when you make a good job of it.

Martin says:
4 December 2017

Had a Howdens Kitchen installed a few years ago. The Burford range, cream colour. The laminate on several doors has started to come away/bubble badly. Really badly at sink and dishwasher area (we have two Belfast type sinks fitted side by side). I thought it was down to excessive moisture but another door well away from the sinks and dishwasher area also has the same issue. This does not appear to be an isolated case (several items on internet sites about this same problem). I am surprised that Howdens get such a high rating on Which. For anyone contemplating using this particular range of kitchen units I could not recommend them. I am very disappointed, shouldn’t kitchens be relatively waterproof? I am investigating whether the laminate can be removed and the doors can be rescued by painting with suitable oil based paint.