Home Truths

In the swim

I am thinking about building an indoor swimming pool. How much maintenance does a pool need? Could you give further information on the subject?

G Lassam-Jones, Chelmsley Wood, Solihull

Swimming pools require regular maintenance and can be quite a commitment. Daily tasks include treating the pool with chlorine or another sanitiser, cleaning the filters and checking the water level. On a weekly basis, you will need to clean the waterline and test the pH, or acidity, level. But the advantages of having a pool are many; contact a local swimming pool supplier for details.

Energy boost

I see a Bill is being read in the House of Commons concerning home energy. As the managing director of a building and installation company, this interests me. Could you give me any further information?

I Evans, Ashford, Kent

The Energy Efficiency Bill had its second reading in Parliament in February. Its main aim is to ensure that home owners are given information about the energy efficiency of their property. An energy survey will be carried out at the same time as the valuation, when people are buying a property. The survey will show where energy efficiency could be improved and may include the savings this would allow, plus an estimate of the time it would take for costs to be repaid. The survey will use government-set standards to ensure consistent results. Some mortgage providers already offer this service for new customers. But as it has only just had its second reading, it will be some time before it is made law.

Extension tension

I'm thinking of building an extension to my house, but do not know where to begin. How do I find a reputable architect and builder and who else do I need to speak to?

I Wilkinson, Andover

Look in your local business directory for architects and builders, and contact those registered with a trade association such as The Federation of Master Builders - the largest building trade association - and the Royal Institute of British Architects, which has a code of conduct. Choosing the architect and builder is probably the most important decision you make, and it must be an informed choice. Get a number of quotes from tradesmen, and speak to people who have had building work carried out in your area, as they will be able to recommend builders.

You will need to contact your council planning department, which will advise you whether formal planning permission is needed. If it is you will first need to submit copies of plans that show how your property will change, along with a standard council fee of pounds 95. Your neighbours will be approached by the council for their opinions. Any comments will be taken into account when planning permission is considered. Although you do not legally have to wait until you receive planning permission before starting to build, I strongly recommend that you do; should permission be refused you would have to knock down anything that has been built.

q George Wise is managing director of NatWest UK Mortgage Services.

q Send your queries on practical property issues to the following address: Home Truths, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL, fax: 0171 293 2043; e-mail: sundayproperty@independent.co.uk

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