Whenever I talk to homeowners about buying a new home, designing a home or just doing some remodeling work I always advise them to THINK MAINTENANCE. Low maintenance homes are generally more efficient and less stressful to manage. Let’s take some tips from the big hotel chains to see how they design with maintenance in mind.
Watch the full video here:
Low maintenance homes
Over the years I’ve done work in thousands of new and old homes in the UK. The one thing I try to get across to folk buying their first home, designing a new home or just doing some remodeling work is:
“Think about what it’ll look like in 5 years time,
not just what it looks like now!”
You wouldn’t believe what I’ve seen over the years, from bath taps that can’t be changed without taking the entire bath out. Through to an overflow pipe on a bath that disintegrated… to change it I had to knock a hole through a solid brick wall so that the plumber could get access.
- Think about things like:
- How to access pipework for leaks?
- How to replace taps?
- How long will floors and walls last?
- How often are you going to have to re-decorate?
- How and who will fix that fancy shower screen when it breaks?
- How will you replace that fancy toilet seat?
By putting a little bit of thought in during the construction and design phase you can make changes that will save you a fortune in the long term. Most of these changes are very cheap to carry out.
How do I get small housebuilders to change their design?
Obviously ideally you want all of this catered for at the design stage, so speak to your architects. If construction has already started or you’re buying on a smaller estate with no input on the design side, most builders are very accommodating to changes such as this. They get a few more pennies for the changes and ultimately it probably makes their lives easier anyway. Ideally they need to know about it’s before construction starts as access locations may have an impact on first fix pipework and electrics. There are important safety considerations such as ensuring access panels don’t impact the spread of fire, so always bear this in mind.
How do I get a big housebuilder to change their ways?
OK, this is a trickier one, however the reason the big names in UK housebuilding don’t implement common sense stuff like this is since NOBODY EVER ASKS FOR IT! Pester your builder at the sales stage. Ask for service panels to be fitted. Ask for service voids with easy access. Have a good look around the show homes and think about how everything listed above can be maintained ’cause you’ve got 3-5 years MAX before things start to break. The reason the quality of houses in the UK hasn’t really improved in the last 50 years, probably more…. is since people buy the houses regardless!
A wish list for easy maintenance
Here’s a few things to ask for:
- Good quality, branded plumbing hardware (taps, shower etc.) -- saving a few pennies here will cost you a fortune later down the line.
- Good quality, branded shower waste, bath waste etc. -- bath wastes do fail and a pain to replace, especially watch for chrome covered plastic.
- Easy access to all taps, everywhere -- taps need to be maintained due to build up of limescale and general wear and tear.
- Easy access to all shower valves -- this can be tricky, especially if the shower is on an outside wall. Just TRY to make access as easy as possible.
- Easy access to waste pipework & traps -- solvent weld joins are generally fine and can be hidden away, but anywhere with compression fit PVC joins is susceptible to leaks and access will be needed. Don’t use push-fit for waste.
- Easy access to toilet cisterns -- if you’re going for a built-in cistern make sure access is easy. Cistern valves often only last 2-3 years before needing replaced.
- Easy access to all boiler pipework.
- Easy access to repair or replace toilet seats -- if possible make sure you can change the toilet seat without having to take the whole toilet out!
- Use good quality, branded and maintainable shower screens -- even on the best shower screens the bearings in the wheels can fail after 5-10 years, sometimes sooner. Before buying shower screens, check you can buy spares for them. Cheapest of the cheap is NOT an option here.
- Fully tile bathrooms or use composite waterproof materials -- tiles have been used as waterproof decor for hundreds of years for good reason. Use good quality adhesive and grout and you should have no problems with mildew. Also consider composite panels -- the less joins, the less chances of a leak.
- Expect to have to re-silicone baths and showers within the first couple of years due to settling -- if you spot a gap in the silicone get this sorted straight away!
Use hotels as a source of inspiration
If you’ve already watched the video above you’ll see what I’m talking about here. Hotels, especially large budget hotel groups, are a great source of inspiration for low maintenance home design. The likes of Travelodge are to low maintenance design what IKEA are to low cost furniture. There’s a good reason Travelodge have splashed out (pardon the pun) on expensive, high quality Hansgrohe bathroom fittings -- they’re less likely to break, they come with a decent warranty and plumbers are more expensive than taps!