Q Every autumn our loft becomes inundated with cluster flies to the extent that they can literally be shovelled up. We’ve insulated the loft and taped up a small window. We have hung fly strips and gone in with the fly spray to no avail.
The council have said that they’ll come and “let off a bomb”, but surely that would only stop the problem for a short while. Have you any ideas or suggestions? S C, Gloucestershire
A Many flies, including the true cluster fly Pollenia rudis, get lumped into the same bracket when they swarm together in large numbers seeking winter accommodation. Their choice can seem fairly random in that they will infest the attic of one house, while leaving the one next door completely free.
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Their choice is based on their instinctive need to survive the winter. That means a space where there are no violent temperature fluctuations to wake them up at the wrong time of year and no draughts to blow them out of their crevasses.
The advent of roof insulation may have contributed to the attractiveness of some lofts. You can attempt to block every crack, but it only needs one of a few millimetres wide and they’re in.
You can kill them once they’re in residence, as your council have offered to help you to do, but that only means having shovel-loads of poisoned dead beings in the loft.
I think the best idea is deterrence. I suggest you spread strong smelling plants such as lavender, sage, mint or rosemary in your attic, then replace them every year.
Q We asked a local carpenter to give us a price for fitting a new kitchen and received a written “guide cost”, which we accepted. On completion, we’ve received a bill for twice the original amount and are shocked we’ve been charged an hourly rate for the job.
The carpenter says that he did offer us a fixed price and that his original “guide cost” only related to one week’s work. What do you think? E and M P, Dorset
A I think that the more ambiguous the contract the more ambiguous the result will be.
But there are two sides to every story, of course. Was the precise specification of the kitchen known to the carpenter before he started? If, for example, it was flat-packed, when he was expecting ready-assembled, then that could double his time. All in all, I suspect you’ve been taken in here. If he did spend two weeks working solidly on the kitchen, that seems to be a long time, unless your kitchen is very big or very complicated.
In your area, the hourly rate for a carpenter and joiner is between £18 and £20, assuming he worked alone.
That means that for a five-day week he should expect around £800, which is roughly what I’d expect to pay for this type of work.
I think you have to shoulder some of the blame yourself here for not tying things up properly in the first place.
I would suggest that you set up a meeting with him and tell him that you know the rates he should be charging. See if you can then reach some sort of compromise between you.
Q We’re self-building a vaulted-ceiling bungalow, installing many “green” measures. Two questions: what form of principle construction should we go for and how can we stop the high rooms echoing as we’re having underfloor central heating with timber floors throughout? I and I M, by email
A All of the green measures amount to nothing unless the structure of the building is thermally efficient and airtight.
While not discounting any of the other building methods, I have to say that my own preference, next time, will be for Structurally Insulated Panels (SIPs).
Here, the walling panels are a sandwich of structural boarding, which are bonded to a filling of rigid foam.
Once you have added your furniture along with your rugs and curtains, then I suspect that the echo will disappear.