Rip it up and start again

If you want to revamp your home, beware of amazing offers. Caroline Green reports

MOST of us have seen ads from companies offering new kitchens, floors or windows at amazingly cheap prices. And although everyone knows there's no such thing as a free lunch, when it comes to the expensive business of doing up your home, deals that appear to offer something for nothing can be very tempting.

These companies often say the only catch is that you have to agree to allowing a number of visitors to see the work after the job has been carried out. But Tony Northcott, of the Institute of Trading Standards, says: "We've had a fair number of complaints about these deals. The idea is often that you take out a loan for a deposit and the company promises to send round a certain number of people: you then get paid for each one. But often no one ends up coming and you pay for the lot yourself."

Kitchen companies often say the reason they can offer such amazing deals is that they are saving money by not having a showroom. But Grahame Morrison, of the Kitchen Specialists Association (KSA), says: "It's usually a load of cobblers. You should never ever buy a kitchen from a company that doesn't have a showroom. I just can't stress it enough. There are almost always hidden costs."

For new kitchens, Mr Morrison advises taking out deposit protection insurance, which can be bought via the KSA. This will cover you should the company go under or try to rip you off.

If it's double glazing you're after and you come across what appears to be a brilliant offer, always make sure the company concerned is a member of the Glass and Glazing Federation. This organisation will carry out free conciliation for you should anything go wrong, and your deposit will be automatically protected.

But there are freebies - or at least cheapies - to be had for your home. An excellent way to get a new, cheap kitchen is to buy a display model. It will usually be in good condition and, says Mr Morrison, "the amounts saved that way can be substantial."

Thinking a bit more laterally, you can have your house done up on the cheap by combining it with your 15 minutes of fame; just get yourself and your four walls on one of the home makeover programmes on television.

Allison Edwards, a 34-year-old housewife from Shropshire, is going to appear in the next series of the BBC's daytime show Real Rooms, in which a room in her converted police station is made over by a team of experts. The subject has to pay no more than pounds 500 and the only catch is that you don't get to see what's happening until the grand unveiling at the end. But Ms Edwards was delighted with the results.

"It was breathtaking what they did with the place. It looks fantastic," she says. "We got at least pounds 2,500 worth of work, plus all the expertise, for just pounds 500. And they do really make sure they understand your taste first. There was only one small thing I didn't like and it was easily painted over."

In the BBC's hit series Changing Rooms, where two couples swap houses to decorate them, there's also a pounds 500 budget. But in this case the programme covers it, so it really is a freebie. The producer, Ann Hill, says: "You don't have to pay anything apart from your blood, sweat and tears." There was one famous episode - described by Ms Hill as "truly painful TV" - when the people concerned were horrified by what had been done, but generally the response is very positive.

You will not necessarily get picked if you write in, but as Ms Hill says: "We are always on the look-out and are by no means fully booked up." The criteria are that you must have a room larger than 12 feet by 12 feet, and you and your chosen friends must live no more than five minutes away from each other.

Needless to say, being completely comfortable with their taste is highly recommended.

You could stick with the media approach and also try to get in on a reader make-over in a homes and interiors magazine.

But take care, this is not always the great deal you might imagine. A homes editor on one big women's magazine warns: "There can be loads of hidden problems and it can end up being a real nightmare. You might end up paying more than you'd envisaged, and also you may have to have things done in a way that you don't want."

It can work out well, just as long as you're prepared to be flexible and you have the right kind of room. The new title BBC Good Homes is on the look-out for potential reader homes and editor Julie Savill says there are some good discounts available; kitchens may be up to 40 per cent cheaper and the paint and fabrics used are often free. You have to do the work yourself, but you'll get expert advice along the way. Ms Savill says: "The number of people writing in is building up fast, but a lot of people want their kitchens and bathrooms done. We're interested in other bits of the house such as kids' rooms and hallways."

All you have to do is write to the magazine with a few snapshots, details of what you want and your budget. Buy a copy of the magazine first to make sure you like its style.

Another approach is to get your house used in a photo shoot for some of the upmarket shop catalogues.

Pleun Van Akkerveeken, at Laura Ashley, says: "We try to use real people's homes in our catalogues instead of studios because it's better to have a lived-in look. We don't want `twee', and places have to be both quite unusual and not too small."

The company will decorate the room for free and let you keep fabrics and fittings but not the furniture. All you have to do is send some pictures to the company's creative department.

Habitat is another company that is interested in finding real homes to use for publicity. It shoots its catalogue in France but is always on the look-out for properties that can be used for press launches.

The house in question does not have to be vast, but big enough to hold about 100 people at a time. In return you'll get your house decorated in that season's look.

But be warned, not all companies do it: Marks & Spencer was very sniffy when asked, as was Liberty.

q Contacts: Kitchen Specialists Association, PO Box 311, Worcester WR1 1DR; Glass and Glazing Federation, 44-48 Borough High Street, London SE1 1XB.

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
Sport
Wayne Rooney talks to the media during a press conference
sport
Arts and Entertainment
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

PMO Analyst - Risk - Banking - London - £350-£400

£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: PMO Analyst - Risk - Banking - London - £350 - £4...

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

DevOps Engineer - Linux, Shell, Bash, Solaris, UNIX, Salt-Stack

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: A fast growing Financial Services organisation b...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?