Filling Holes in Walls

Author: dpinning  //  Category: DIY Tips, Home Improvements, How To Guides

In old houses, various pockmarks, divots, cracks and holes in the walls are common. Giving the walls, in a home, a new look before decorating gives the rooms a quick and easy cosmetic upgrade. However, not every hole is a job for the trusty Polyfilla, and knowing which type of filler to use depends on the location, size and shape of the holes.

Spot the Holes

Holes in plasterboard need attention, as soon as possible, to stop the problem from getting worse. Generally, the average size of these types of holes is about the size of a fist. Plaster patches are wonderful products that are applied directly over holes. Simply stick one over the offending area, cover it, and level it out with a small amount of filler prior to painting the wall.

No Hole is Safe

The best way to get rid of large holes, in solid walls, is to fill the holes with a fast-set plaster-based product. Filling wood is another matter entirely, and it is advisable to use a two-part wood filler. The Polyfilla is the best thing to use for quick and easy fixes of tiny, screw-sized holes and thin or hairline cracks. Always note what material in which the hole appears. The difference between plaster, concrete and wood means a separate approach is necessary to successfully remedy the problem. Make sure the mixtures used to patch up the holes are dried properly before decorating over them.

Picture: David Allan Barker

How to restore woodblock flooring

Author: dpinning  //  Category: Home Improvements, How To Guides

When restoring woodblock flooring the first thing to do is check for missing or broken blocks, or blocks that have worked loose. Blocks that have become loose can be reattached, but the black pitch adhesive will first have to be scraped away.

Flooring adhesive is used when fixing blocks onto the floor; it is spread in the spaces where the blocks are missing or where they have become damaged or loose. 5 mm of adhesive should be spread on the floor surface and some needs to be spread on to the bottom of the blocks.

Once the blocks have been fitted the next step is to weight them down to ensure they adhere to the floor. This can be done by first putting a plastic sheet over the floor area. Plywood is then put on top of the sheet and weighed down using bricks. Check the instructions that come with the adhesive for drying times.

Once the adhesive has set, the next task is to sand the entire floor and varnish it. This will ensure a smooth, uniform finish for the entire area.

Picture courtesy of Daniel Slaughter

How to install garden decking

Author: dpinning  //  Category: Garden, Home Improvements, How To Guides

A deck tidies things up and makes it easier to take care of your garden, as well as providing a space for outdoor summer dining or a play area for the kids.


Laying a garden deck need not take much longer than a weekend, although this all depends on the size of the deck and your personal DIY experience. Before you start the job, however, make sure you have planned it out carefully and measured up the area to ensure you buy the correct number of decking packs.

Start by marking out the area to be decked with pegs and string. Make sure the ground has been cleared of any grass or weeds, then level out with a spade and lay a deck fabric over the ground to prevent weeds growing up through the timber; you might also want to consider laying concrete slabs rather than placing your decking on exposed soil.

Making the framework

The outer frame is made from wooden joists cut to the required size. The frame is then filled with the long joists, spaced at 400mm intervals. Once you have cut all the joints to size, lay them out in the correct position on a flat area of garden.

Next, construct the frame by fitting the joists together with rustproof screws. Three screws are required at the end of each joist. Use a spirit level to check everything is level.

Laying the boards

The next job is to lay the deck boards, which run at right angles to the floor joists. Start at the front of the deck and make sure the first board is flush with the outside edge of the frame. Secure the boards to the frame with rustproof screws and predrill your screw holes so as not to split the wood.

Finish the job using extra deck boards to tidy up the exposed cut ends, which should be sealed with wood preservative to avoid rot.

Picture courtesy of Mark Philpott

Building a stud wall

Author: dpinning  //  Category: DIY Tips, Home Improvements, How To Guides

For anyone with a degree of experience in home DIY, building a stud wall is the kind of job you can easily tackle yourself. It is also a very effective means of adding extra rooms to your home, which can be particularly pertinent if a new addition to the family has just arrived.

Dividing a larger room into two smaller ones is a relatively simple task, accomplished with the use of a partition wall. This is really nothing more than a framework of timber over which plasterboard is laid. With no load-bearing areas to worry about, simply place the door frame anywhere you like.

While there is no need to seek planning permission when building a stud wall, it is important to follow regulations, not only to ensure you and other members of your household are safe, but in order to avoid any problems you may encounter later on; for example, when you wish to sell the property.

Remember to measure the space first to calculate not just how many boards you will need, but also to ensure you fit them as economically as you can into the space. Avoid having to cut the boards, as this costs time, as well as money.

As part of the project, how about adding built-in storage space into any available alcoves?

You may need to fit electrical cabling, a water supply or drainage pipes behind the plasterboard, particularly if you are creating a new bathroom. Therefore, to avoid possible problems later, take some time to plan where any pipework and cabling need to go beforehand.

Picture courtesy of ross.grady

Tips for removing a hearth

Author: dpinning  //  Category: DIY Tips, Home Improvements, How To Guides

If you are removing an open fireplace, you may have to remove the hearth as part of the process. Your hearth may be a slab of concrete or several bricks or stones.  If it is a raised hearth, it will be bonded to a concrete slab to make it flush with the floor.  Sometimes, these hearths will jut out into the room.  Regardless of the type, the removal process is fairly similar.

Dealing with the mortar

On these fireplaces, the mortar is typically not very thick.  The weight of the concrete or tile is sufficient to hold the piece in place, so the original builders will not have used much mortar, if they used any.  You can make a hole in it using a hammer and chisel.  Then, insert a crowbar into the hole to lift the hearth. In most cases, once you break the mortar bond, you can lift out the hearth.

Grab a helper

You will need someone to help you lift the hearth as they are quite heavy.  Grab a helper or two as you carry the hearth outside.  There, you can break it up using a sledgehammer.

Dealing with individual stones

If you have a hearth made from individual stones bonded to the constructional hearth, you will need to chip away at the mortar to remove these individually.  Break off enough of the mortar to be able to prise off each individual piece.  Be sure to wear gloves and protective goggles while you do this.

Dealing with the constructional hearth

A constructional hearth should not be removed.  If it is not level with the floor, use a self-levelling compound.  Allow this to settle before adding the floor covering and closing the hole from the fireplace.  Attempting to remove a constructional hearth could damage the home.

Buying and storing plaster

Author: dpinning  //  Category: DIY Tips, How To Guides

If you need to buy plaster for a job at home it is worth trying to slightly over estimate how much you need so that you do not run out at a crucial moment.  Having said that, cost wise it is probably more economical as well as sensible to buy a large bag from your local DIY store.

So that you can re-use the left-over plaster you should store it carefully in a dry place.  Moisture is an issue with plaster so make sure you place plastic sheeting both on the floor and over the bag as this will protect it.  Open bags are more likely to capture moisture which can, over time, reduce the strength of the plaster so make sure the bag is well secured at the top by using adhesive tape.

It can be easier to buy ready-to-use plaster which comes in plastic tubs with self-closing lids.  Although this can be more expensive it will be less time intensive and easier to use.  It will also last for a much longer time.

How to clean a patio

Author: dpinning  //  Category: DIY Tips, Garden, How To Guides

Not only does a clean patio look better when they are kept clean, it is less likely to become wet and slippery in the winter. One of the first things you should do to avoid a patio becoming dirty is to regularly sweep it as it is less likely to collect dirt which in turn encourages moss and slime.

Weeds between the paving stone should be taken out with a knife or a proprietary weed killer will deal with the roots. A really effective way of cleaning the paving slabs is to use a power washer, although they can use quite a lot of water and you will certainly have to use a stiff yard brush to remove some of the more stubborn stains. A more water friendly way is to use one of the numerous stone cleaning chemicals although some scrubbing with the brush may still be necessary. A word of caution, always try a small test area first before embarking on a full scale clean as some materials might react with the chemical, Rinse the chemical away with a hose when you are satisfied it has worked.

If you are feeling particularly energetic, then a strong solution of laundry detergent and a stiff brush should work suing a hose to wash away the detergent when you have finished. Care should be taken when using a stone cleaning chemical or laundry detergent if you have plants in a border close by.

Keeping out the draughts

Author: dpinning  //  Category: DIY Tips, Home Improvements, How To Guides

Perhaps one of the things that can help to keep a home warm is to keep out the draughts form doors and windows. The external doors are the worst offenders and you should at least be prepared to ensure that these are properly draught proofed. Not a lot of skill is needed and as long as you have a few simple tools the job can be easily undertaken by an average DIY person.

The first and most important thing to do is to ensure that you use and external door sealing kit, it is not a good idea to buy cheap internal sealers as they will not function efficiently in the colder weather. These are readily available from most DIY suppliers and are not very expensive. The external door sealer kit should include an aluminium extrusion with a rubber strip that is used in pressing against the external side of the door, across the top and down on both sides which should be trimmed to size using a hack saw.

Standing outside close your door, and hold the extrusion on the top of the door. Press the strip firmly and evenly against the door; make sure that the strip makes a seal with the door and then mark this and secure with the screws provided. Repeat this for the door sides and then peeling off the backing on the flat strip included with the kit, and fit it at the bottom side of the door. Check to see if the door opens and closes properly.

Carpet cleaning

Author: dpinning  //  Category: DIY Tips, Home Improvements, How To Guides

A good carpet is an expensive item, but it always pays to buy high quality carpets, they will outlast cheaper ones and they usually clean and look like new. Hiring a professional using a machine which has the machinery in the van or pick up is the best, but it can be expensive, so why not do it yourself?

If you are precise you cam make a highly professional job of cleaning a carpet and the first thing you must do is to get a good carpet cleaning machine. You should hire a “steam” cleaner for the best results, but be aware that no steam is actually involved, it is hot water. The carpet is pre-treated with a detergent solution, and then a very hot rinse solution under high pressure is forced into your carpet and vacuumed out.

The first rule is to clean your carpets before they get really dirty, this should be done when it starts looking dull in colour. If you wait until the carpet is filthy, cleaning it will be much more difficult, take much longer. Vacuum beforehand to remove large particles of soil. Vacuum again after you have cleaned and the carpet is completely dry to pick up soil that will be of the surface during drying. Pre-treat stains and areas where there has been high traffic such as doorways. It is best to move furniture if possible if not when you have completed the cleaning always put aluminium foil squares, wood blocks or plastic film under and around the legs of all furniture to prevent rust from metal casters transferring to the damp carpet.

Do not over wet the carpet just make one pass with the soap and water solution. Make one pass with the neutralizing rinse solution. After this make at least three passes with the suction on to extract as much water as possible. Allow the carpet to thoroughly dry before using the room, this can take up to 12 hours although normally 6 hours will see it dry enough to use. Then just admire your handy work and do not leave it too long until you clean the carpet again.

Don’t get caught out by the cold

Author: dpinning  //  Category: DIY Tips, How To Guides

The winter months can wreak havoc with any home.  Failing to prepare effectively can lead to costly disasters that could have been prevented.

One of the most damaging and frequent problems winter brings is frozen pipes.  Water expands inside a pipe, causing high pressure and, if you are unlucky, a burst will occur.  If the burst is not immediately discovered, water can pour into the house and cause heavy flooding.  The after effects of a flood are long lasting and far-reaching.  Furniture is likely to be destroyed, and damp often becomes a real issue for years after the event.

A frozen pipe will not necessarily cause a leak.  If a problem is suspected, the water should be turned off, and it can be allowed to thaw naturally.  Call a plumber to be on the safe side, however. Keeping pipes well insulated and protected from the cold reduces the chances of a burst.  Most accessible pipes can easily be insulated using fibreglass material available from DIY stores.  The entire pipe needs to be covered, however, otherwise it will be ineffective.

Water is less likely to freeze if it is flowing.  For this reason, regularly turning taps on and off will also help reduce the likelihood of problems occurring.  Learning where the tap to turn off water is located can help to reduce the impact of a burst by stopping further water escaping.

Houses are most vulnerable when they are left empty.  A burst in an empty house may not be discovered for some time, and is a shocking thing to return to.  Many people get an impulse to turn the heating down when they go away.  However, doing this increases the risk of pipes freezing.  It may save money in the short term, but a burst will be far, far costlier.