Category Archives: Do it Yourself

Wall Fixings

Before making fixings into solid masonry, make a couple of test drillings to find out whether the wall is built of brick or lightweight blocks. It brick is identified from red or yellow bore dust, use ordinary plastic wall plugs; but if grey dust suggests lightweight blocks it is better to use a proprietary block plug which has larger ‘wings’ to grip the softer material. In either case the screw must be long enough to penetrate at least 38 mm long into the masonry behind plaster, so use screws are at least 62 mm/21/2 in. long for a plastered wall. Increase this 1.0 75 mm/3 in for fixings that will carry heavy loads. Screw gauge 8 will be adequate for normal loads; increase this to gauge10 for 75 mm/3 in screws. Make sure, too, that the screw and wall plug sizes are compatible, and take care to drill the holes are right angles to the wall surface, deep enough to accept the screw length.

Making fixings to stud (dry) walls poses fixing problems. Cavity fixing devices such as spring or gravity toggles and cavity anchors can be used only for fixings that will carry the lightest loads. For any other use, the fixing must be made either to a horizontal twigging (cross bridging)fixed between adjacent scuds difficult to fir except during construction of the wall framework — or directly to the vertical studs themselves. These will have to be located with an electronic stud finder or, less satisfactorily, by wrapping and test drilling — they are usually at 400 mm/16 in or 600 min/24 in centres. Make sure that pilot holes are drilled into the centre of the stud, not near its edge, since this could result in a weak fixing. Use screws 50 mm/2 in long for medium loads, 75 mm/3 in long for heavy ones.


1. Mark where the fixing is to go and use a masonry drill, sized to match the wall slip. Wind tape around the drill bit to act as a depth guide.

2. If the drill has an adjustable depth stop attachment, use it instead of the tape to set the drilling depth. Drill until the stop touches the wall surface.


1. If the fixing must be between joists or studs rather than into them, drill a clearance hole for tile fixing device through the plasterboard

2. Push a cavity anchor into the hole so it can expand against the hack of the board, and drive in the screw. Using toggles, thread the screw through the object first.

3. Choose a wall plug sized to match the screw being used, and push it into the hole, insert its rim is flush with the wall. Tip it with a hammer if necessary.

4. Thread the screw through a clearance hole drilled in the object being fixed, insert it in the mouth of the wall plug and drive it home.

5. Alternatively, use long-sleeved frame plugs. Drill holes through the wood and into the wall, insert the plug and tighten the screw to make the fixing.


1. Use an electronic stud finder to locate the stud or ceiling joist positions. It works by detecting the nails which secure the plasterboard (gypsum board).

2. When the stud or joist positions are marked, drill clearance holes in the object to be fixed at matching centres. Check these for accuracy.

3. Drill pilot holes through the board surface and into the stud or joist. Make sure that the drill bit is at right angles to the surface of the wall.

4. Insert screws into the clearance holes, then offer up the object to be fixed, align ii with the pre-drilled pilot holes and drive the screws home.

Lawn Weed Control

The only place where weeds are acceptable is in a wildlife corner, although some people find daisies in the lawn a very attractive feature. Generally, however, weeds have to be controlled.
Any perennials that arise from small pieces of root left in the soil should be dug out, as should any suckers, and any seedlings should be hoed off.

It is inevitable that there will be some annual weeds appearing from time to time around plants, such as climbers, but, if these are removed before they set their seed, their numbers will gradually drop as the reserve of seed in the soil is used up.

There are two main weapons if you want to cut down on weeding: mulching, which uses no chemicals, and herbicides.

Killing weeds in beds and borders

Although there are herbicides that will kill some problem grasses growing among broad-leaved plants, generally you can’t use selective weed killers in beds and borders. Most herbicides will kill or damage whatever they come into contact with, but there are ways in which you can use herbicides around ornamental plants to minimize the amount of hand weeding necessary.

You may be able to treat areas in a shrub border with a watered-on weed-killer simply by shielding the cultivated plants. If deep-rooted perennials are not a problem you can use a contact weed killer that will act rather like a chemical hoe (a real hoe may be an easier alternative to mixing and applying a weed-killer if the area is small enough).

Deep-rooted perennial ‘problem’ weeds, such as bindweed, are best treated by painting on a trans-located weed-killer such as one based on glyphosate. Ordinary contact weed-killers may not kill all the roots, but this chemical is moved by the plant to all parts. Even so, you may have to treat really difficult weeds a number of times for long term eradication. Use a gel formulation to paint on where watering on the weed-killers may cause damage to adjacent ornamentals.


Once the soil is clean, applying a mulch will do a great deal to help to keep weeds under control. It will not prevent perennial weeds that are already established from coming up but it will prevent any further germination from the seed in the soil. It will also reduce the amount of moisture lost to evaporation. A wide variety of materials can be used.
The main advantages of loose organic mulches are that they look attractive, can often be homemade (and are therefore inexpensive), and are gradually incorporated into the soil by the activity of worms, adding to the organic-matter content. It is important to top them up every year if they are to remain effective.

Inorganic mulches, such as black plastic and woven membranes, are less pleasing to the eye but provide a much more effective barrier against weeds. They are most useful in shrub beds that can be left undisturbed for some years, and are best used when the bed or border is newly planted. When using inorganic mulches, always prepare the ground as thoroughly as you would if not using a mulching sheet.
It is possible to use a combination of both types of mulch. Lay the artificial material, then cover it with an even layer of bark or gravel. This creates the best of both worlds, providing good protection against weeds and a pleasing appearance in the garden.

Weeds in lawns are best controlled by a selective hormone weed-killer, ideally applied in mid- or late spring. These are usually applied as a liquid, using a dribble bar attached to a watering-can. To ensure even application you should mark out lines with string, spacing them the width of the dribble bar apart.

Always mix and apply the weed-killer as recommended by the manufacturer. There are a number of different plant hormones used in those products, some killing certain weeds better than others, so always check that it is recommended for the weeds you most want to control. If your lawn also needs feeding, you can save time by using a combined weed and feed. The most efficient way to apply these — which are likely to be granular rather than liquid— is with a fertilizer spreader. Check with your local nursery, if unsure.
If you have just a few troublesome weeds in a small area, it is a waste of time and money treating the whole lawn. For this job, a spot weeder that you dab or wipe onto the offending weed will work well.

Mulching with grass cuttings

Grass cuttings are readily available in most gardens. They are not the most attractive form of mulch but can be used effectively at the back of borders, where they are not easily seen. Do not heap them on thicker than 5 cm/2 in or they may heat up too much as they decompose, harming the plant. Do not use cuttings from lawns that have recently been treated with a lawn herbicide which might harm the plant


  1. The advantage of hand-weeding is that you can thoroughly check which weeds are present and can take more rigorous action if perennials are spotted. At the same time, it also enables you to spot any seedlings produced by plants that you may want to transplant or pot up.
  2. Hoeing is quicker than hand weeding and allows you to get round more frequently. It is very effective against annual weeds but chopping the top off a perennial does not kill it and it will soon re-emerge. Do not dig too deeply with the hoe or you may disturb the plant’s roots.


First, prepare the ground thoroughly, digging it over and working in plenty of organic material such as rotted manure or garden compost if the soil is impoverished. Dig up deep-rooted perennial weeds, otherwise they could grow through.

Then water the ground thoroughly. Do not apply a mulch to dry ground. Finally, spread the mulch, such as the hark mulch shown here, thickly over the ground.


  1. Make a slit around the edge of the bed with a spade, and push the sheet into this. For a vegetable plot you can use special plastic pegs, but these are too conspicuous for an ornamental position.
  2. Make cross-shaped planting slits in the sheet with a knife or scissors. If planting a shrub you will probably have to make slits large enough to take a spade for planting. This won’t matter as the sheet can be folded back into place.
  3. Small plants can be planted with a trowel, but for shrubs you will need to use a spade. Provided the ground has been well prepared before the sheet was laid, it should be easy to dig out the planting hole.
  4. Although most of the sheer mulch will be hidden as the plants grow, it will be very conspicuous initially. A layer of a decorative mulch such as chipped-bark or gravel will make it much more acceptable.

Wall Decorating Ideas

The first involves finishing off apart-riled wall with a band of narrow tiles in a colour or design that complements or contrasts with the main riled area, to form a decorative border. These tiles are available in lengths that match standard rile widths, and are usually 50-75 minimum 2-3 in wide. They are cur and fixed just like any other tile.

The second method is to incorporate a group of patterned tiles as a feature panel within a larger area of plain riling. The group may simply be contrasting patterned tiles, or may be a multi-tile motif a group of four, six or more tiles that fit together to form one large design when they are fixed in position. Tile manufacturers offer a range of mass-produced designs you can choose from, or a motif panel can he commissioned from a specialist tile supplier. Plan the motif’s position on the wall carefully, and build it in the usual way as tiling progresses.

I. Use a tiling gauge to mark the position of the first row of tiles on the wall surface. Put up a support batten (furring strip) if necessary then spread some tile adhesive on the wall, and place any plain tiles that will be below the decorative panel. Start placing the first tiles that will form the decorative panel. Here the tiles are being laid at an angle of 45°, so half-tiles are placed first.

2 .Continuous adding whole and half-tiles to build up the pattern, checking is you work that the edges of the panel are uniformly horizontal and vertical.

3. Here the panel is being surrounded by slim border tiles. Add whole border riles to the top of the panel first, working from the centre line outwards.

4. At the corners of the panel, fit an over-long horizontal border tile and hold another vertically over it so you can mark a 45° cutting line on each tile.

5. Make the 45° cuts on the end of each corner tile, then bed the horizontal tile in place. Check that the CUE end is precisely aligned with the panel comer. Repeat the process at the other end of the horizontal section of the border. The pieces should be the same length, as the border is centred.

6. Fit the border riles up each side of the decorative panel, then mark the position of the mitre cut on the final tiles, cut them and fit them in place.

Door Repair

A well-fitted door should have a long and trouble-free life. If it does start to misbehave, the problem is likely to be the door binding against its frame and, in extreme cases, failing to shut properly.

There are 3 possible causes:

  1. A build-up of paint on the door and frame surfaces after years of re-painting, expansion due to atmospheric conditions – the door sticks in damp weather as moisture causes it to swell slightly, but shrinks and closes freely in dry weather; and hinge faults caused either by wear and tear or had fitting.
  2. Where a paint build-up is to blame, the remedy is quite simple: strip off the old paint from the door edge back to hare wood, and re-paint from scratch. If atmospheric conditions are to blame, the solution is to plane down the door edges slightly to increase the clearance between door and frame. You will have to take the door off its hinges to do this unless it is only the leading edge that is binding.
  3. Hinge faults that can cause binding include hinge screws standing proud or working loose, and hinge recesses being cut too deep or too shallow. In each case the cure is relatively simple; the biggest problem is often trying to undo the old hinge screws, especially if they have become encrusted with paint over the years. Clean out the slots in the screw heads thoroughly before trying to remove the screws; paint remover is useful for this. Then position the screwdriver in the slot and give the handle a sharp blow with a hammer in order to help free the grip of the threads in the wood.

How to Repair a Door

  1. If the hinge screws show signs of pulling out, remove them, drill out the screw holes and hammer in glued dowels. Then drill new pilot holes.
  2. If the door is sulked in the frame because it has expanded over time, close it and mark a pencil line on the door face against the edge of the frame.
  3. Take the door off its hinges, remove the handles and the latch mechanism, and plane down the leading edge of the door until the pencil line has disappeared.
  4. If the door is binding either at the top or bottom, take this opportunity to plane oft a little wood there too. Plane inwards from the corners to avoid causing splits
  5. If the door binds on the hinge side of the frame, the hinge recesses may be room deep. Remove the hinge and pin some packing into the recess.
  6. Drill fresh pilot holes for the screws through the packing piece, and drive the fixing screws back into place. Make sure that their heads fir in the countersinks.
  7. Alternatively, re-locate the hinges in a new position. Chisel out the new recesses and re-fit the hinges.
  8. If the hinge recesses are too shallow, the hinge leaves will hind and prevent the door from closing. Remove the hinges and chisel the recesses slightly.

Last Day Before Holiday

Taking a holiday is all about relaxing, not about worrying that you have left the oven on, the door open or have forgotten to take out insurance cover.

Moving home, on the other hand, is considered to be one of the most stressful and exhausting experiences that we have to face. You can, however, make it less of an ordeal by ensuring that you are well-prepared before the day itself, to minimize the risk of anything going wrong.

Holiday preparations

Whether you will be travelling by air, sea or car, choose the best luggage that you can afford, as cheap suitcases will soon weaken. Tie round a coloured tape or buy straps with your name woven on them to help you to identify your luggage quickly at an airport. Never write your name and home address on luggage labels where they can easily be seen – anyone dishonest will instantly know where their next ‘job’ is to be.

Several weeks before you are due to travel, check that all passports are up to date and will not expire while you are away. You will also need to find out well in advance whether you need visas for the countries to which you will be travelling, and, if so, to organize them with the relevant authorities, which can take some time.
Take out holiday insurance and make sure that, in the event of having to cancel at the last moment, you will be given a refund.

Holidays in which sports are involved may require additional cover. Always check that, in the case of an accident, you will be flown back home: for long or specialist treatment. Check with your doctor whether any vaccinations or a course of tablets are required for the country or countries that you will be visiting.

Order some currency and arrange traveller’s cheques for the remainder of the money – this is both safer in case of loss or theft, and more convenient.

Lock ladders to a garage or shed wall so that would-be burglars cannot use them to gain entry to your home.

Mark all your valuables with an engraver and stencil or ultra-violet pen so that, in the event of a burglary while you are on holiday, the items can be identified should they be recovered. Many stolen items such as hi-fi (stereo) equipment are found by the police, but cannot be returned because of lack of identification.

Home security

Giving a little thought to security before you go on holiday will greatly reduce the chances of a burglary while you are away. Some of these suggestions may seem obvious, but it is surprising how often they are forgotten.

Ask a neighbour to call in every day to remove flyers and letters from the mat, as a pile of these is a good indication that you are away. Cancel milk and paper deliveries, as these can alert any passerby to the fact that no one is at home, if they are stacked upon the doorstep. Keeping house plants watered is also a good way of ensuring that the house looks occupied.

Fit door and window locks if you have not already done so (this may be a requirement of your insurance policy in any case, so you must do this or your policy could be invalidated in the event of a burglary). Padlock ladders to a wall and lock up the garden shed if you have one so that tools cannot be used by burglars to gain entry. Buy time switches to operate the television and some lights to give the impression that people are in the house.
Leaving washing up on the drainer and a couple of magazines scattered around will also make it look as if the house is occupied.

Travelling with children

Stop boredom from setting in by taking a selection of games and toys with you. Guessing games and stories also help to pass the time enjoyably. Acupressure wristbands and travel-sickness tablets are useful for long journeys. Another remedy is to eat crystallized (preserved) ginger, which prevents nausea.


This should include the following:

  • Sun-screen lotion.
  • After-Sun lotion.
  • Insect repellent.
  • Antiseptic wipes.
  • Sticking plasters and bandages.
  • Upset-stomach tablets or medicine.
  • Tweezers.
  • Thermometer.
  • Paracetamol or other pain-relief tablets for adults and children.
  • Dehydration packs for diarrhoea.

Plant Decoration

Herbaceous borders bring wonderful colour in summer but die down to next to nothing in the winter, so it is good to provide an evergreen structure of plants to get you through all the seasons. These can also contribute to the ‘architecture’ of the garden, creating levels, screens, and even sculpture. You can plan to have taller shrubs at the back of the borders, slowly graduating toward the front, or you can make more structured steps. You can arrange rows of small, lightly screening plants across the garden to create a living screen, and you can use specimen trees or neatly trimmed topiary as living sculpture.

The colour scheme can he planned against this basic structure. The decorative garden room is at its prettiest with plenty of colour. The structural shrubs and trees also can be chosen to make certain there is some colour all the year round — fruit trees for blossom in spring; shrub roses for summer colour and late-flowering clematis and wonderful berries, such as those of the pyracantha, in autumn, and of holly in winter. This display can he complemented by autumn-flowering bulbs such as colchicum, schizostylis, and cyclamen.

But the most variety of colours can be added with pots and containers. There is always a choice of seasonal colour at garden centres. By planting up in movable pots, you can easily put the colour where you want it and replant with new seasonal colour as the old blooms die.

Colour creates much more impact if it is kept to a theme — of blues and pinks, perhaps, or oranges and yellows. This theme can be strengthened with the use of paint and stain on nearby fences, garden buildings, furniture, or even the pots themselves.

Adding decorative colour

In a decorative garden, colour is very important. Not only can the paint you choose suggest mood and ambience, just as it does indoors, it can emphasize the colour scheme of the planting.

The surfaces you paint may be the house walls, walls of outside buildings, or the garden walls. Maybe you have a hopscotch of fencing and trellis work, all of slightly different woods and ages, that has resulted in a visual muddle. Paint them all in the same decorative finish, and you will have a much more coherent look. Or you may have newly erected trellis work that has a year or more to wait for a verdant covering of creepers. Paint it, and you will have a reasonable finish while you wait.

Colour can also be used to highlight areas. You may pinpoint an area destined for a particular colour scheme or you may wish to highlight the planting. Burnt-orange fencing would provide a stunning background for marigolds, while yellow picket would highlight the nodding heads of pansies. Painted fences and surfaces also lend colour throughout the year. They are particularly valuable in winter when many plants have died down.

Ideas with paint

Whether you want to paint your garden wall or a house wall that makes up part of the garden, there is plenty of inspiration to be had. Experiment not only with colour but with technique.

As well as straight colour, you can create depth by layering the colour. Try to add effects such as marble, stone, slate, or moss or by stenciling to a wall. The trick is to consider the scale of the garden.

These effects will have to be seen from much further away than they would be if used inside the house. Even a 10 m/30 ft garden is much larger than the average room, so everything has to be exaggerated a little.

An enchanting little pond, complete with fountain and cherub, adds colour and interest to a shady corner of the garden.

Although you may spend less time in the front garden, colourful plants growing by the door will create a welcoming impression.

Paint Practicalities

Any outdoor paint job has to be able to withstand a lot of beating from the weather, such as frosts, strong winds, torrential rain and the summer sun.

For this reason, it is best to use exterior-quality products. They are less likely to peel and flake, their colours are less likely to fade and they are specifically designed to protect the surface they are covering.

Alternatively, when decorating items such as pots and containers, which are not crucial to the garden structure, you can achieve a reasonably hard-wearing finish using a wider variety of paints over a primer, finished with a varnish.

Whatever you plan to paint or stain, it is important to use primers and varnishes that are compatible with each other, otherwise they may react adversely. Remember too that, if you have the patience and time, several thin layers of paint always produce a more enduring and better-looking finish than one thick one

Removing Old Finishes

If the wall or ceiling to be given a new covering is painted or wallpapered, preparing the surface for its new finish is quite straightforward. However, if it was previously covered with materials such as texture paint, ceramic or polystyrene (plastic foam) riles or wall panelling, more work will he needed to remove the old finishes and return the surface to its original condition.

Textured finishes are tackled indifferent ways, depending on their type. Texture paints arc basically thick water-based (latex) paints, normally used to create relatively low-relief effects, and can be removed with specially formulated paint removers. Some textured effects formed with a powder or ready-mixed compound are best removed with a steam wallpaper stripper, which softens the compound so that it can he easily scraped away from the wall.

Never attempt to sand off a textured finish. There are two reasons. The first is that it will create huge quantities of very fine dust; the second is that older versions of this product contained asbestos fibres as a filler, and any action that might release these into the atmosphere as inhalable dust must be avoided at all costs.

For tiles and wall panelling, complete removal or a cover-up with plasterboard (gypsum board) are the two options available. The former will leave a surface in need of considerable renovation, while the latter will cause a slight loss of space within the room, as well as some complications at door and window openings.

Removing Textured Finishes

1. Strip texture paint by brushing on a generous coat of proprietary texture paint remover. When the paint has softened, scrape generous coat of a proprietary texture off with a broad-bladed scraper. Wear paint remover. Stipple it well into the paint and leave it to penetrate.

2. When the paint has softened, scrape it off with a broad bladed scraper. Wear gloves, and also safety goggles if working on a ceiling.

3. Once the bulk of the coating has been removed, use wire wool dipped in the paint remover to strip off any remaining fleck of paints

4. Remove powder-based or ready-mixed types using a steam stripper, which will soften the finish. Never try to sand off this type of finish.

Removing Ceramic Tiles

1. On a completely riled wall, use a hammer to crack a tile and create a starring point for the stripping. On partly tiled walls, always start at the tile edge.

2. Use a broad bolster (stonecutter’s)chisel and a club(Tailing) hammer to chip the old riles off the wall. Have the wall replastered afterwards rather than trying to patch the surface.

Removing Polysterene (Plastic Foam) Tiles

1. Lever the tiles away front the ceiling with a scraper. If they were fixed with a continuous coat of adhesive, consider temporarily covering the tiles with heavy lining paper. Fur the best finish, fit a new plasterboard(gypsum board)ceiling, nailing through to the ceiling joists.

2. If the tiles were fixed in place with blobs of adhesive, use a heat gun to soften the old adhesive so it can be removed with abroad-bladed scraper.

Removing Wall Paneling

1. The last board to be fixed will have been nailed to the fixing grounds through its face. Use a nail punch to drive the nails in and free the board.

2. The other boards will have been secret-nailed through their tongues. Use a crowbar (wrecking bar) to prise them away from their grounds.

3. Finally, prise the grounds off the wall, and use a claw hammer or crowbar with some protective packing to lever the fixing nails out of the wall

Choosing Plants for Landscaping

Before making the journey to select plants for your garden make sure you have a clear idea of where you would like to plant them, and the type of soil with which you will be working. Read the label and examine each plant before you buy it to make sure it is right for the spot you have in mind. Buying the wrong plant could waste an entire growing season.

Always check the plant’s label for information about final height and spread and how long it will take to grow to full size. Ask for help if the label doesn’t tell you. Then consider the situation you have in mind for the plant and whether the fully grown specimen will be in scale, and in keeping with its surroundings.

Be sure to check when the plant’s optimal growth season is, or whether the plant has the added bonus of a second season.

Many evergreen variegated plants, such as Elaeagnus x ebbingei ‘Gilt Edge’, are an excellent addition to any garden. This shrub has bright golden-yellow markings on leaves which are retained on the plant throughout the year, and do not easily succumb to weather damage. Cotinuscoggygyia ‘Royal Purple’ is a tall, handsome shrub that, though leafless during the winter, has fluffy pink flowers in summer and rich plum-purple leaves throughout the spring and summer. The leaves turn a dazzling red color in the autumn before they fall.

The small, upright flowering cherry tree, Prunus `Amanogawa’, produces masses of soft pink flowers in the spring and a spectacular show of color in the autumn, as the leaves turn to fiery reds, oranges and yellows, making the tree resemble a bright flame.

Any plant should earn its keep and reward you for your efforts, but no where more so than in a smaller garden, where space is at a premium.

Dwarf conifers are a good choice in a small garden as they will mature without becoming a danger to nearby buildings.

Site Preferences

Every plant has a preference for the ideal conditions it needs in order to grow well, whether it is hot or shady, acid or alkaline, dry or damp, and most will have the greatest of difficulty growing in the wrong position.

Many conditions can be modified, at least to some extent, to extend the range of plants which can be grown. Improve the drainage of a localized wet spot, for example, by incorporating sharp sand or gravel into the soil, and by adding organic matter, such as well-rotted farmyard manure, to encourage worm activity. Dry areas will also benefit from the addition of organic matter, which will hold moisture during the vital summer months. The use of a mulch will also reduce the amount of moisture lost by evaporation and reduce competition from weeds.

Acidic conditions can be modified by the addition of ground limestone or chalk, to raise the pH. It is difficult to lower the pH if the soil is alkaline, however. Flowers of sulphur will have some effect on alkalinity but the difference is only very slight and you will have to repeat the treatment every year. On the whole, it is better to choose plants that will thrive in your soil rather than laboring to change its pH, which may involve a lot of effort for little reward; indeed a great range of plants will not mind a slight alkalinity. If your soil is alkaline, it would be best to stick with growing acid-lovers in containers, and this can he very successful and suitable for many of them. Many fascinating and attractive plants also enjoy growing in acidic conditions, so choose wisely and watch your plants thrive.

Kitchen Organize Tips

Successful meal preparation is as much dependent on a good working environment and organization as on culinary skills. It is worth spending some time ensuring your kitchen is arranged and equipped for convenient and safe movement and access between all the key areas. Once it is arranged to your satisfaction, you will be able to undertake the daily tasks of planning and cooking in the minimum of time.

Decide how the various contents of your kitchen can be grouped and where they should be stored in relation to how you use them. Roasting and cake tins (pans), saucepans, cooking utensils, china and glassware, cutlery, fresh and packaged food all need to be sited nearest to where they will be used.

Make sure that equipment is always stored in its allotted place so that it is easily found whenever required. In cupboards (cabinets), plan shelving so that everything is accessible; don’t put items that are in daily use in difficult to reach corners. You may prefer to keep items that are used everyday readily accessible, either on racks, open shelves or standing in large pots. But remember, they will be on display and so may create cluttered look or get in the way. Where open shelving is used to display items such as jars and pots decoratively, it will attract dust and grease so increasing your cleaning load.

Work surfaces need to he kept as clear of clutter as possible so that you can work on them at any time without having to make space first. Wash utensils immediately after use and put them away. Clear and wipe work surfaces down after every activity to keep them spotless and ready for use.

Site large appliances such as the cooker (stove) and refrigerator in relation to the sink area and work surfaces to minimize time-consuming travel in the kitchen. Keep appliances clean and in good working order – wiping them down or washing them after each use and before storing them away.

Always read and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for any kitchen appliance; misusing an appliance may lead to damage and may nullify any guarantees. Keep instruction booklets together with the phone numbers or addresses of service agents.


Good lighting is essential in any working environment and the kitchen, where sharp knives and scalding hot pans are handled, is no different. Shadow-free general lighting needs to be supplemented by focused lighting for areas of more intense activity , that is the sink, the cooker (stove), the refrigerator and all preparation surfaces.

Avoid a central fluorescent strip as it can be harsh and gives poor colour rendering (when preparing food it is important to be able to see that your ingredients are fresh). However, consider fixing concealed fluorescent strips on top of wall-mounted units (cabinets), against the wall at the back; these will cast light upwards which, if reflected by a white ceiling, can create a pleasing glow. Strip lights can also be fixed to the underside of a unit, behind a baffle, deflecting the light, to cast an even light on the work surface below.

Spotlights or down-lighters can be used to create pools of general light. Down-lighters are a useful solution to kitchen lighting because, being recessed they attract less dirt and grease and so require less cleaning. They can be placed to shed light in specific areas. Wall-mounted adjustable spotlights can be angled to shine light wherever you want.

A well-lit kitchen is essential. Natural lighting is always best, but wall mounted units can provide focused lighting in work areas.


Kitchen safety is paramount. Not only for the cook, but for anyone else visiting the kitchen, especially children and even pets, both of which should probably be discouraged from being there. Being closer to the ground, both could trip you up when you are carrying a pan of hot water or a knife.

The oven door gets hot when the oven is on and so can burn the unwary visitors. Pan handles protruding over the edge of the hob (burner) can tempt small hands with disastrous results. Adults, too, can knock into them, so always get into the habit of turning handles inwards.

Install a fire blanket, available in neat packs and designed for kitchen use, next to the hob (burner). In case of a far fire, this can be released and thrown over the flames to put them out. A kitchen fire extinguisher is also a good idea.

Kitchen knives need to be kept sharp if they are to be of any use in the kitchen, so store them carefully. This will help to preserve their edges and to avoid the risk of getting cut. Either keep them in a knife block or use a magnetic holder; never leave them loose in a drawer.


A regular programme of cleaning and disinfecting will ensure that all the work surfaces and sink are kept clear of germs. Wash up as soon as you have used items; not only do piles of dirty dishes look unsightly but the warm atmosphere of a kitchen encourages germs to breed.

The refrigerator is probably one of the most overlooked areas when it comes to kitchen hygiene. Check all the contents regularly so that you can discard food that is past its best and before it starts to rot or go mouldy. Wipe down all the surfaces with a clean cloth. If you disinfect, wipe the surfaces with clean water to remove the smell. For more information on how to store fresh foods in the refrigerator, see Getting the Most From Fresh Ingredients.

Planning a meal

Successful meal preparation is as much dependent on organization as on culinary skills. Try to include a good range of flavours, colours and textures, as well as a balance in protein, fat, fibre and other healthy considerations. Consider what you can prepare ahead, and what remains to be done at the last minute so that all is ready together.
Clean, uncluttered work surfaces not only are more hygienic, they are also pleasing to the eye.

The first step is to read all the recipes before making a final choice. The main dish, with simple accompaniments such as a salad and bread, is a good starting point. Serve that with a cold starter (if there is to be one) and a cold dessert that can he made ahead of time. This way you can concentrate your efforts.

If you do choose two or more hot dishes, consider their cooking times and oven temperatures. If you have only one oven, and the temperatures required for the two dishes are different, this will present difficulties.

Next, make a shopping list and check that you have all the equipment you require. Read each recipe through again so you know what lies ahead, and try to estimate how long each preparation stage will take. Review techniques in the preparation that are unfamiliar. Set the time you want to serve the meal, and work back from there so you know when to start the preparation.

If you are serving a starter, you’ll need to plan what can be cooked unattended while you are at the table. If your chosen dessert is frozen, it may need some time out of the freezer before serving, so decide when to do that.

Remember to allow time for the final draining of vegetables, or carving of meat, or seasoning of a sauce. It is usually the case that all of these need to be done at the same time — but you only have one pair of hands. So decide what can wait and what will keep hot.
If any recipe requires the oven to be preheated or tins to be prepared, do this first. Pots of boiling salted water for cooking vegetables or pasta can be brought to the boil while you are doing the chopping and slicing. Set out all the ingredients required and prepare them as specified in the recipe. If more than one dish calls for the same ingredients, say chopped onion, you can prepare the total amount at the same time.

Paint Effects

Many paint effects are based on a few simple techniques. These can be used on their own or combined to produce an infinite variety of paint effects. The techniques shown here all use ultramarine blue emulsion (latex) paint mixed with acrylic scumble glaze and/or water to be able to compare the different effects possible. Two coats of silk finish white emulsion paint were rollered on as a base. Before you start a project practise these techniques first.


Dilute a little paint with a some water in a paint tray or saucer. Dip a damp, natural sponge into the paint and wipe off the excess on kitchen paper (paper towels). Dab the sponge on to the surface in different directions.


Dilute the paint with water and brush on randomly with cross-hatched brushstrokes, using a large decorator’s brush. A damp sponge will give a similar effect.


Dilute the paint with water or scumble. Apply paint with cross-hatched brushstrokes, then press a piece of tissue paper over the wet surface and peel it off.


Mix paint with scumble glaze and brush on with cross-hatched brushstrokes. Drag a flat decorator’s brush through the glaze. The soft effect is achieved by going over the glaze again to break up the lines.


Mix paint with acrylic scumble and brush on with cross-hatched brushstrokes. Run a metal or rubber graining comb through the wet glaze.


This soft, patchy wall finish is pure country. It is traditionally achieved using either a very runny colourwash or an oil-based glaze tinted with oil colour, over eggshell paint. The technique below gives the same effect but is easier to achieve. Wallpaper paste adds a translucency to the colour and PVA (white) glue seals the surface when dry.

  1. Paint the wall with a plain, light emulsion (latex) colour. Mix the glaze, using 1 part PVA (white) glue, 5 parts water and 1 part wallpaper paste. Tint it with three 20 cm/8 in squirts from an acrylic or gouache tube, or about 15 ml/1 tbsp of powder paint. Vary the intensity of colour to your own taste. Get the feel of the glaze and brush, and adjust the colour at this stage if necessary.
  2. Begin applying the glaze in an area of the room that will he hidden by furniture or pictures; as your technique improves you will be painting the more obvious areas. Start near the top of the wall, dabbing glaze on with the brush and then sweeping it over the surface with random strokes.
  3. The effect will be streaky and the brushstrokes will show. So after about 5 minutes, brush the surface lightly with your brush but don’t use any glaze. The brush will pick up any surplus glaze on the surface and leave a softer, less streaky effect. When working on edges and corners, apply the glaze and then brush it away from the corner or edge.


Brush on a coat of water-based crackle glaze and leave to dry. Using a well-laden brush, apply paint carefully on top so that you lay, rather than brush, it over the surface. Work quickly and do not over-brush an area already painted. If you have missed an area, touch it in when the paint has dried. Seal with acrylic varnish.


  1. Paint the wall with cream emulsion (latex). Leave to dry and then mix a glaze of 1 part raw umber acrylic paint to 6 parts scumble. Stipple this on to the wall. Leave to dry. Mix a glaze with the white acrylic paint in the same way. Dampen a sponge and apply the glaze over the stippling, varying your hand position
  2. Using a softening brush, skim gently over the white glaze while it is still wet. Now mix a glaze with the yellow ochre paint as in step 1, but this time rub it into the wall with a cloth. Leave some areas of white glaze showing. Using another dampened cloth, rub some areas to disperse the paint. Leave to dry.


This paint finish imitates the opaque, soft colour and powdery bloom of distemper, the wall finish most used an oil-based glaze tinted with oil colour, over eggshell paint. The technique below gives the same effect but is easier

  1. Prepare the walls by stripping off any wallpaper down to the bare plaster. Spread filler irregularly with a spatula to simulate the uneven texture of old plaster. Use thin layers and apply randomly from different directions. Don’t worry about overdoing the effect; you can always rub it back with sandpaper when it’s dry, after an hour.
  2. Blend the dried filler into the original wall surface using rough-grade sandpaper, leaving rougher areas for a more obvious distressed effect. Mix water-based paint with water in the ratio 2 parts water to1 part paint. Stir the paint well: it should have the consistency of single cream.
  3. Begin painting at ceiling height. The paint is likely to splash a bit, so protect any surfaces. Use the paintbrush randomly rather than in straight lines, and expect a patchy effect — it will fade as the paint dries. The second coat needs to be stronger, so use less water in the mixture. Apply the second coat in the same way, working the brush into any cracks or rough plaster areas. Two hours later, the ‘bloom’ of the powdery finish will appear.