Storm damage

storm damage fence

Find out what the signs of storm damage to your home really mean 

Only a few weeks ago Storm Brendan hit the UK, unfortunately followed swiftly by Storm Ciara, an even more treacherous storm. Unlike Brendan, this storm has adversely affected the whole of the UK, which has been hit hard with a trail of destruction which will continue for days and in some cases, longer.

Nowhere has been spared and towns and villages in and around Cambridge must now deal with the fallout. Sections of the M11 remain closed, the loss of a beautiful tree from Jesus Green’s iconic walkway and Wisbech Town Football Club’s stand, to name a few, face destruction.

All over the news damage to property is evident and fortunately our tradespeople are able to help Cambridge residents with problems that have come about as a result of the recent storms.  Let’s hope that the worst has passed, but as storms are becoming more frequent, it remains important to make sure you, and your property are safe.

Here we share some of the things you should look out for after the storm has passed. Ignoring some of the signals may result in huge costs and expense.

Roof

Roofs take the brunt of the stress of bad weather and storm damage. Therefore if you notice that you have mising roof tiles, the best short-term solution is to get tarpaulin to secure it down.  Do not use bricks or weights to hold it in place as these can cause serious injury if they fall off. Once secure you will need to find someone to replace the tile.

The signs of damage

  • Debris on the ground means that you have loose tiles, slates or shingles.
  • A leak in your roof/loft space indicates problems with one of a few things includng rusted nails, mould, sagging material and loose sheathing.
  • Internal wall damage can relate to damage to the flashings (the thin pieces of metal positioned to provide a watertight barrier).
  • On flat roofs covered with bituminous felt, cracks, heat bubbles, pooling water, de-lamination and joints between the flat roof and walls can be a sign it need replacing.

Guttering, facia and downpipes

After a heavy storm you should check your guttering.

The signs of damage

  • Sagging gutters, loose brackets nails and rust on the rain gutters may mean the entire gutter needs replacing.
  • Overflowing gutters tell you they are full of debris so the water can’t flow freely into the drains; this can cause expensive water damage elsewhere.
  • Gaps on the fascia boards (the vertical pieces that connect your roof to the house) can unfortunaltey let in moisture, insects or animals into your roof or attic.
  • Broken fixing brackets, that sesure the down-pipes lead straight into drains and soakaways, must be intact and securely attached to the fascia board, otherwise you are prone to leaks.

Fencing

The extreme weather we have just experienced will test any fence.  That is why it is important to use good quality fence posts and make sure they are sunk deeply into the ground and are well secured.

If you find that your fence has fallen over it is because it is rotten and unable to withstand the pressure of a stormy weather. We strongly recommend that you use a reputable company to replace it securely because this will give you with the necessary reassurance and guarantee.  In addition, it is a good investment to replace a broken post with a product which has undergone preservation pressure treatment designed to protect it from the challenges presented by the outside.

Trees

When a tree falls it can cause a lot of damage can to the local landscape or surrounding buildings.  If your tree falls it will need to be cleared as a matter of urgency.

storm damage tree

 

If you have experienced any storm damage you can get in touch with any of our local tradespeople for help with any roofing, gutter repairs, fencing or garden jobs.

Dawn Giesler, is the founder of scuseme Cambridge, an online marketplace that connects you with personally vetted tradespeople in your community.  She has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advice based on her own experiences.  For more information visit scuseme
If you would like to hear more from scuseme you can subscribe here

 

 

 

Protect your home from storms

Protect your home from storms

Storm Brendan: How to protect your home from storms and gale force winds

Storm Brendan has hit the UK and left a trail of destruction in the UK. The East of England has not experienced as much damage as the western half of the UK, but walking around Cambridge, with winds of up to 50mph, the effects of storm damage are evident.

Let’s hope that the worst has passed, as high winds can damage and weaken buildings. Such high winds can result in damage to buildings and risk to life from flying objects, so it is important to make sure you, and your property is safe.

Prevention is better than cure so here are some ways you can protect your home from storms. Carry out regular maintenance to save yourself a lot of hassle and costs. Look at what our experts have to say and get in touch to discuss any problems that have come as a result of the recent adverse weather.

Protect your home from storms 

Roof

The roof is the most vulnerable part of your home, and like anything else, subject to wear and tear. It’s your first line of defence from the elements, so take some time to inspect it carefully before and after a storm. Here are some tell-tale signs to look out for:

  • Debris on the ground – tiles, slates or shingles – indicate a problem.
  • The flashings – the thin pieces of metal positioned to provide a watertight barrier; unchecked they can create rot or contribute to internal wall damage.
  • Standing proud, chimneys are also subject to deterioration so look for signs of damage.
  • Rusted nails, mould, sagging material and loose sheathing are signs of leaking.
  • Check under the eaves and overhangs and around dormers and skylights for water leakage.
  • Flat roofs covered with bituminous felt need regular checking as they are prone to leaks and water damage. Check for cracks, heat bubbles, pooling water, de-lamination and joints between the flat roof and walls.
  • Ensure that the stone chippings (where relevant) have not become displaced as this can expose the felt to the elements, leading to damage.

Get in touch with one of our roofers or handymen if you need help.

Protect your home from storms - the roof

Guttering, facia and downpipes

You should aim to clean out your gutters at least twice a year, and always check them carefully after a heavy storm.

The following are signs of damage:

  • Sagging gutters and loose brackets nails. However, if you see signs of rust on the rain gutters, the entire gutter may need replacing. Your aim is to make sure that the gutters are clear of leaves, twigs and other debris so that the water can flow freely into the drains and prevent expensive water damage elsewhere.
  • Ensure there are no gaps on the fascia boards (the vertical pieces that connect your roof to the house) that can let in moisture, insects or animals into your roof or attic. Left unchecked these can cause expensive damage, so keep in a good state of repair.
  • Check that down-pipes lead straight into drains and soakaways, and that all the fixing brackets are intact and securely attached to the fascia board. Finally, to avoid leaks, secure sections of gutter that have come apart.

Get in touch if you need someone to clean your gutters or you need a handyman to help.

Gardens

Your outdoor space can take a real battering during a storm, but there is a lot you can do as soon as you hear the forecast that will minimise damage. For example, put away garden furniture and equipment, stake plants and secure bins. In addition, put things that are liable to be blown away, such as bird tables, hanging baskets and ornaments.  You may have heard about the trampoline that ended up on the M7 in Limerick.

Invest wisely and don’t opt for cheap solutions when buying a greenhouse. Invest in one with toughened glass and make sure it does not go in an exposed position. Also ensure it is fixed to a stable, secure and level base. The same can be said for sheds. For both, always shut all the doors and vents, so that wind can’t funnel through the greenhouse and blow the glass out from the inside or lift the roof off the shed.

Fencing

To ensure your fencing remains in place, it is important to use good quality fence posts. Make sure they are sunk deeply into the ground and are well secured. Do remember that gates can swing open during high winds so close and lock your gates to prevent damage.

protect your home from storms - the fencing

Trees

Think about the long term and be careful where you plant trees because they can cause extensive damage to your home if they get blown over in storms.

protect your home from storms - trees

Windows

Gale force winds will test your windows and reveal any signs of damage and areas for repair. Keep them closed during the storm and if you are concerned speak to a specialist to check. Windows should not let in draughts and noise, they should not rattle with the wind, but keep it out. The only thing your window should let in, is the light.

You can get in touch with any of our local tradespeople for help with any window repairs, fencing or garden jobs.

Dawn Giesler, is the founder of scuseme Cambridge, an online marketplace that connects you with personally vetted tradespeople in your community.  She has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advice based on her own experiences.  For more information visit scuseme
If you would like to hear more from scuseme you can subscribe here

Plasterer in Cambridge

plastering the rom

Plastering… it’s not for amateurs

I so admire skilled tradespeople and becoming an accomplished plasterer takes years of practice and dedication. One of the things I particularly love about my job is staying in contact with our tradespeople and watching the progress of their jobs.  This connection means that I  am also continually learning and I usually pick up a few handy tips along the way.  But there are limitations to what you can DIY.  There are some jobs I would never recommend that you attempt to do yourself, and plastering is definitely one that should be left to the professionals.

The results of a good plasterer will last for years; the results of a poor job will be revealed pretty much straight away.

Smooth operator

I followed the progress of a Cambridge house extension which our recommended home builders started in November 2019.  When I  met up with the plasterers watching them in action was truly an education.  While we chatted I was mesmerized by Kevin as he moved around the room, effortlessly on stilts. Like a well-rehearsed circus act, he was mixing the plaster, which was smooth as silk, then applying it gracefully to create perfectly smooth walls.

Kevin jokes that he isn’t bad for his second day!  These guys have well over 50 years of experience between them and their professionalism and skill were amazing to watch.

https://youtu.be/X0g9-6CEcJQ

Meanwhile, Chris made the job look so easy as he plastered the walls with total precision and accuracy.

plasterer working the room

I’m looking forward to popping back at the end of the week (weather depending) to see the rendering.

The big cover-up

On the same day, I went along to take some before photos on another plastering job where the Artex ceiling was getting a makeover.  Again the attention to detail in the preparation was so clearly evident.  Chris, another plasterer with years of experience, takes time to carefully protect everything, from the carpets to the furniture and furnishing.

Plastering is a really messy job so it pays to either clear the area to be plastered of all furnishings or at the very least cover it all up properly.

plasterer cover up
plasterer kitchen cover up

 

 

 

 

Chris says: “Whenever I walk into a room I notice the plasterwork. I notice curves where there should be straight lines, and it frustrates me, as I’m a perfectionist.”  Those words are music to my ears.

Here I am with Chris, Kevin, and Chris – all excellent plasterers.

Chris and Dawn at scuseme Chris and Dawn at scuseme     Kevin and Dawn at scuseme

So at scuseme, we’re all about the plastering: smooth walls, straight lines, and perfect angles.

If you are looking for a plasterer, do get in touch here

Dawn Giesler, is the founder of scuseme Cambridge, an online marketplace that connects you with personally vetted tradespeople in your community.  She has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advice based on her own experiences.  For more information visit scuseme
If you would like to hear more from scuseme you can subscribe here

5 ways to be a responsible shopper in Cambridge

responsible shopper

Being a responsible shopper at Christmas makes sense

As we all become increasingly aware of our impact on the environment and the world around us it is good to consider how to shop responsibly this festive season.

Last year I got all my Christmas gifts from the indie shops in and around Cambridge; a very rewarding experience. So I’m happy to introduce Hannah Munby – the owner of Fen Ditton Gallery – who shares her thought on why being a responsible shopper makes sense.

It’s hard to avoid the large chains at Christmas as they dominate the high streets. And when it comes to buying gifts for everyone (and yes, that includes occasional pets) it’s easy to dive straight into the first one that catches your eye and to get it over and done with.

But pause for thought: there may be a way of doing it that supports local communities and economies with less environmental impact.

Five ways to be a responsible shopper this festive season

Give something back

We all love to give and receive gifts; it is after all part of the enjoyment of Christmas. But that doesn’t mean you can’t give something back too. Many independent organisations will often support local charities and causes. Why not ask your local indies about any charities they support?

Support independent businesses

Of course, internet shopping is convenient, but shopping locally, especially from independent businesses has many benefits.

  • You buy from an actual person, who is truly passionate about what they do.
  • You contribute to the local economy – it may seem obvious, but some of the money you spend locally will stay in the local economy.
  • It reinforces communities (…and that seems even more important in the current climate)
  • It’s better for the environment – local businesses may well source locally and don’t require the sheer volume of shipping and packaging in day-to-day running.

Avoid mass-produced ‘everyone’s got them’ gifts

It’s a great feeling when you find a unique gift for a loved one (that you know they will love) and don’t have the worry of everyone else buying them the same thing! By giving a one-off, handmade piece of jewellery or ceramic vase you are giving a little piece of the maker too.

responsible shopper

Contemporary ceramics, woodwork, jewellery, metalwork and woodwork. A selection of some of the works on sale for the Fen Ditton Gallery Christmas exhibition Silver and Green.

Look after the environment

Taking advantage of the local businesses on your doorstep helps the environment too. There’s no shipping and minimal packaging (if any). It’s amazing how creative craftspeople can be when it comes to recycling and reusing materials too.

Know where it’s come from

It’s key for sustainable and responsible shopping to know where these products have come from. Who is the maker? Where are they based? What is this made from? All you have to do is ask.

Your invite for mulled wine as you browse

Fen Ditton Gallery’s Christmas exhibition, Silver & Green, is a relaxed alternative to high-street shopping. Mother and daughter team, Lotte and Hannah, invite you to enjoy a glass of mulled wine as you browse a selection of handcrafted gifts and contemporary art from British artists and makers.  You won’t get that with the big high street shops.  Ends on the 22nd December, find out more here

responsible shopper

Photo Credit: Indie Cambridge

Dawn Giesler, is the founder of scuseme Cambridge, an online marketplace that connects you with personally vetted tradespeople in your community.  She has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advice based on her own experiences.  For more information visit scuseme
If you would like to hear more from scuseme you can subscribe here

20 reasons why you’ll want to have a handyman on speed dial

What does a handyman do? 

We receive lots of enquiries for our handyman services in and around Cambridge and often the question starts with “We are looking for someone who….”

So obviously there is a grey area about exactly what services a handyman can provide.  But the answer is simple. What they do depends on the handyman.

Some only are happy to take on the smaller, short-term jobs, while others – many qualified builders – will be happy doing bigger projects. That’s why we check carefully to match the request with the required skills and qualifications of all our handymen so you can trust our recommendations.  But more importantly, double-check and clearly outline your job when you first talk to them so that neither of you wastes precious time.

Common – and not so common – household problems

I’m pretty sure that once you find a good handyman you will have them on speed dial.  That’s because they can deal with so many common household problems, and even some you may not have even thought of.

Here are some of the enquiries we have dealt with over the last couple of months.

20 reasons to have a handyman on speed dial

Installation

  • Banister and shelf
  • Bike stand
  • Velux blinds
  • Loose roller blinds.

Minor plumbing jobs

  • Repair leak from a bathroom which is dripping into the kitchen & damaged ceiling
  • Tiling and grouting small bathroom
  • Replace white sealant around a shower tray.

Walls

  • Fix screws into a crumbly wall

Drains

  • Unblock and repair outside drain.

Flooring

  • Install linoleum
  • Sand and repair a wooden floor.

Furniture 

  • Mount TV securely with wires hidden
  • Replace a door handle on some sliding doors
  • Move a towel drying rack.

Building

  • Build a simple loft hatch
  • Repair and insulate the glass at the top of the conservatory
  • Repair the inside front doorstep with a big gap which creates a draught.

Garden jobs

  • Install decking over steps to include a space to store garden furniture.
  • Replace rotten windowsill
  • Replace a fence.

And remember….

A handyman can often carry out minor plumbing and small electrical jobs (requiring no certification).  For anything major, or that needs certification you must enlist the services of an accredited plumber, gas engineer or fully qualified electrician.

These are just a few of the jobs that you may want to call out your handyman.  But they are a talented lot and can do so much more.  If you’re in any doubt about what they can do just ask us and we’ll do our best to find a local handyman who can help you.

Dawn Giesler, is the founder of scuseme Cambridge, an online marketplace that connects you with personally vetted tradespeople in your community.  She has lived in Cambridge for over 20 years and offers advice based on her own experiences.  For more information visit scuseme
If you would like to hear more from scuseme you can subscribe here

Better a wet day in the woods than a dry day in the office…

A day in the woods

A Day in the Woods

As an entrepreneur who works from home, I prioritise getting out for fresh air every day. I value this time for the physical benefits I get as well as for my mental well-being.  With two energetic dogs and early morning boot camp (with the fabulous Lisa Zone Fitness), I make the most of the Cambridge countryside and local parks.

My friends Ruth Sapsed and Filipa Pereira-Stubbs were founding members of Cambridge Curiosity and Imagination in 2007.  This arts and well-being charity often works in the pockets of wild spaces we can still find in our local areas, to learn and explore how creativity flourishes there.  This summer, they launched A Day in the Woods – a corporate away day.  I meet with Ruth to discover how this exciting new initiative is providing a breath of fresh air.

Creatively healthy communities

“The work that we do at CCI has been thoughtfully researched and evidenced.  Our backgrounds informs the thinking for this day.  I am a psychologist and Filipa a movement artist.  But also the 15 years of experience we have planning creative adventures in the outdoors.”  Ruth proudly announces some of the supporters of CCI. “Writers including Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Kay have worked and published articles with us and about us.  And closer to home we have an amazing network of skilled artists who nourish creative health in communities.”  One of the artists is the wonderful Hillary Cox Condron who I interviewed last year for a scuseme blog.

Better out than in

“A few months ago, one wet day, I was working from home with the rain lashing down and it reminded me of a t-shirt my daughter used to have.  It said, ‘better a bad day at sea than a good day at school’.”  Ruth continues, “I then thought, wouldn’t a t-shirt that said, ‘better a wet day in the woods than a dry day in the office’ be great?  The seed of an idea had germinated, and we went from there.”

Depressing statistics

The UK was recently described as one of ‘the most nature depleted countries in the world‘, whilst another report found three-quarters of children spend less time outside than prisoners.  Alongside this our mental health issues are spiraling – stress, depression or anxiety account for 44 percent of all work-related ill-health cases in Britain, and 57 percent of all working days lost due to ill health.

“The evidence is clear – time spent in nature is crucial for us but also for our planet.” Ruth confirms, “We feel better when we spend time outdoors and we need to do this to know and love the world around us so that we will care for it.” Ruth tells me there is a short film that captures much of this evidence so well. You can find it here.

The benefits of outdoors

Spending time out in nature, whatever the weather, is life-affirming and even life-changing.  The evidence tells us this time and again – but it is something fewer and fewer of us are doing.  Being outside in the natural environment provides many health and well-being benefits, for example, they

  • stimulate all the senses and makes you feel more energetic and vitalised
  • encourage movement
  • boost your immune system
  • enhance creativity
  • help you overcome seasonal affective disorder
  • provide an important dose of Vitamin D
  • allow you a peaceful space to think, contemplate and work things through, and
  • the sunlight helps mitigate aches and pains.

Well-being in the workplace

“Increasingly we work with businesses to support teams to get them out of their offices.  They join us at our woodland site in South Cambridgeshire for a day we carefully structure around creativity.” Ruth continues, “Deadlines, longer working hours and stress can mean there is little time and space within a business for people to get to know one another.  Addressing this challenge is a key goal of our new initiative, A Day in the Woods.”

A full immersion in nature

Although seemingly a carefree day, A Day in the Woods delivers quality team time without the formal structure and pressure imposed by the more usual corporate days out. Ruth says “Creative activities that take place in our ancient private woodland make up our away days.”   She continues, “These are deal for 12 – 24 people.  And every session is unique because we design it around each organisation’s goals, strategy, and visioning. We also build in time for essential socialising and celebrating.

“We make time for what we call ‘serious play’ and offer space for everyone to reflect and connect with their colleagues.  This builds and reinforces bonds between colleagues. But we are about more than just delivering team-building, these days create the space needed for innovation. People can generate new ideas to take back to the workplace.”

‘We often start our days by deliberately inviting everyone to slow down.  They can then take the time to listen to, and notice the woods around them.  One activity that people particularly appreciate is to cut willow to bake on the fire. They then use it as charcoal for drawing and planning activities later that same day.  The magic of seeing the stalks transformed in this way seems to really capture people’s imagination.’

Sarah Reakes, Managing Director, KISS, reinforces this: “Holding our annual team away day in August 2019 at the woods was a great decision.  It took us out of our comfort zone but in a calm and enabling way. We learned about each other and connected on a deeper level.”   Sarah adds, “Alongside this full immersion in nature there was delicious food, warm fires, and fresh coffee.”

Find our more

For any business looking to find an extraordinary space for their staff away day, somewhere free from distractions and a source of inspirations, then A Day in the Woods, may just be the answer.

To find out more about A Day in the Woods, visit here

You can explore the work of the charity with communities across the county here 

If you would like to hear more from scuseme you can subscribe here

Foodie fun

Cambridge Food Tours

Cambridge Food Tour

I have written much over the last three years about Cambridge’s growing food scene: from butchers to bakers, to innovative and enticing cafes, bars, restaurants and pop us (as well as the personalities behind them). And I have watched this scene continue to grow, such that it’s difficult to keep up with all that’s on offer and which places stand out. There’re the usual advice and listing websites of course and these can be helpful, though I am sometimes disappointed and rather skeptical about how some places rise to the top while others languish.

This week’s guest blog comes from Gerla de Boer. Gerla runs Cambridge Food Tour, which has, since 2012, been taking people to some of the best but often least-known outlets for good food and drink. Gerla tells us a little bit about her tours and about some of the venues that represent the city’s finest foodie destinations. (more…)

Mill Road Bridge Closure

Mill Road Bridge Closure

Mill Road is an iconic part of Cambridge. Steeped in history, diversity, community spirit and plenty of independent traders, it’s no wonder that The Sunday Times (14 April 2019) described it as the ‘mile-long beating heart’ of the area. Today, July 1st, Mill Road Bridge closes for 8 weeks. This is to carry out work to expand the railway below which includes the modification of one of the arches.  Still, the bridge will be open for crossing by pedestrians and cyclists, who must dismount, for all but a handful of days during the period of the works. (more…)

Project manage or not

project manage

Should you project manage your own home building project?

Whether you project manage your own home building project will depend on several things.  The size and scale of the project – particularly the level of major structural work or additions  – and your budget.

Building an extension or a major renovation requires a lot of work, and it would be prudent, for those who can afford it, to invest in a professional project manager to oversee the entire process. You can hire either an architect or an interior designer (or both depending on budget) for your project.  They are likely to offer an ongoing project management service. This option will add additional costs to your project. But you will be paying for a reduced stress experience. (more…)