Category Archives: Do it Yourself

Stain Removal

Stains that are not treated at an early stage run the risk of ‘setting’ and becoming permanent. Take immediate action to stop a stain front spreading or sinking deeper into the fibers by blotting up the excess with a clean cloth, absorbent tissues or salt.

Stains generally fall into 4 simple categories:

  • Stains that can be removed with normal washing, such as water-based paints and milk.
  • Those that can be removed by bleaching or a combination of a hot wash and detergent – for example, tea, fruit juice or non-permanent ink.
  • Those requiring a pre-wash treatment and/or soak before washing, such as grass stains or blood.
  • Those requiring special treatments before cleaning, such as gloss paint.

Sometimes a combination of these treatments will be necessary to remove a stain completely, bur remember never to mix more than one-chemical at a time, as toxic fumes can he given off. Always bear in mind the key factor of speed, as stains that have been left too long or have become set by heat can be virtually impossible to remove, and none of the treatments will be likely to succeed without damaging the item they are on.

On garments, even if a care label says that the fabric is color fast, always check this by carrying out a ‘test run’ on a hidden part such as a seam, hem or inside the waistband. Hold a clean, white cloth behind the fabric and dab on the cleaning fluid (whether water, detergent or solvent). If color seeps onto the cloth, the garment should be professionally cleaned.

Carpets and upholstery can be more of a problem, so a sample test is important. Specific carpet and upholstery foams and cleaning fluids are available, but, unless you are confident that you can deal with a stain successfully yourself, it is advisable to call in professional cleaners.

If you arc in the middle of a party and someone spills a drink over the carpet, there is no need to panic. Act quickly by blotting up the liquid, then tackle it more thoroughly once the guests have left or, easier still, remove the carpets before they arrive.

Stain Removal Kit

Keep it stock of as many of the following items as possible, so that you will be prepared to deal with any stain or spillage as soon as it occurs.

  • Thallium powder: use this to blot up grease or oil it’s soon as it is spilled.
  • A blunt knife: this is useful for scraping off matter such as jam or egg.
  • Clean white cloths: keep these at hand to soak up spills or to apply cleaner. A small, natural sea sponge, cotton wool (absorbent cotton) and white paper towels will also be very useful.
  • Detergents: spray pre-wash liquid, a detergent soap bar and liquid biological detergents are all good stain removers.
  • Methylated spirits (denatured alcohol): helpful for removing grass stains on color fast fabrics.
  • Glycerine: this should he diluted with an equal amount of water to soften dried-in stains. Leave it for up to an hour before washing the garment.
  • Acetone or nail-polish remover: good for dealing with nail-varnish stains, but do not use on acetate fabrics.
  • Hydrogen peroxide: test fabrics for color fastness before using. Buy the 20-volume strength and mix 1 part to 9 parts water for soaking dried-in stains before washing.
  • Dry-cleaning fluid or white spirit (paint thinner): pre-test fabrics for color fastness and use near, dabbed on grease or fresh paint stains (not to be used on acetates).
  • White-wine vinegar: vinegar helps to neutralize odors as well as removing pet stains and perspiration marks on garments.
  • Borax: this is a mild alkali and will work to neutralize acid stains such as wine, fruit juice and coffee.

The key factor to removing stains is speed; quickly blot up the excess with a clean cloth or tissues. Soaking or a pre-wash treatment before washing will dissolve many stains, but some need special treatment.


There are 2 types of bleach – chlorine bleach and oxygen bleach. Chlorine bleach deodorizes, accelerates the action of detergents, kills germs and generally cleans. It is not suitable for colored clothes, silk, wool, mohair, leather or Lycra, and should never be poured directly on to clothes. Oxygen bleach is ‘color-safe’ and, although it brightens colors and keeps whites white it is unlikely to make graying nylon whiter. It can be used on colored fabrics and unbleachable white (such as silk and wool).

Specific Stain Removal

When a stain only covers a small area on a garment, you should apply the cleaning solution only to that area, and prevent it from spreading to other areas of the fabric. Place art absorbent cloth or towel underneath the area that is to be cleaned. If the stain is on a trouser leg or sleeve, slide the cloth or towel down the middle to prevent the cleaning solution and stain from working through to the other side.

When a small stain requires saturating in cleaning solution, hold the cloth by the stained area, then twist the unstained area before dipping in the fabric. This will prevent the solid ion from spreading. If the stain requires soaking for a long period, wrap the unstained parts of the garment in a plastic bag and lay them slightly higher than the stained area, or the solution will spread along the fibers.

Check on the following list to find the stain closest to the one that you need to treat, and then follow the instructions given. Once the stain has been removed, wash the item as usual.

Adhesives Stain Removal

Cyanoacrylate or ‘super glues’ should be treated immediately with a little lighter fuel dabbed on before they set. Very hot or boiling water can be effective, but is only recommended for use on cotton or linen. Other glues can he removed with amyl acetate, which is available from chemists (drugstores).

Ballpoint Pen Stain Removal

Use a proprietary cleaner or dab with nail-polish remover or surgical spirit (rubbing alcohol). Surgical spirit (rubbing alcohol) or nail-polish remover will lift ballpoint-pen and ink stains.

Blood Stain Removal

Rinse off under cold running water, and then soak the garment in a solution of biological washing liquid and tepid water. Soak white garments in a mild ammonia/water solution, then wash.

Burn Stain Removal

Scorch marks can sometimes be rubbed off with a blunt knife. Treat fine fabrics with a little dilute glycerin and wash as a usual. Treat more stubborn marks with a hydrogen-peroxide solution of I par to 9 parts water.

Butter Stain Removal

Scrape off as much of the grease as possible, and then apply a biological liquid to the patch. Wash in as high a temperature as the fabric will stand.

Candle Wax Stain Removal

Gently pick or scrape off the cooled wax using a blunt knife. Place blotting paper or paper towels above and beneath the mark, then iron over the top paper, replacing it as soon as it becomes saturated with wax. Repeat until no more wax comes off. Colored wax may leave a deeper mark: treat with methylated spirits (denatured alcohol) before washing.

Car Oil Stain Removal

Dab the mark with a proprietary grease solvent, or treat with a pre-wash aid.

Chewing Gum Stain Removal

Chill the garment in the refrigerator, and then pick off the solid matter. Dab with methylated spirits (denatured alcohol) or dry-cleaning fluid.

Chocolate Stain Removal

Apply neat biological washing liquid to the stain. Sponge the area with warm water, then wash as usual.

Coffee Stain Removal

Wash immediately under cold running water, and then soak in a strong detergent solution. Treat stubborn marks with a dilute hydrogen-peroxide solution (1 part hydrogen peroxide to 9 parts water) before washing.

Crayon Stain Removal

Dab the affected area with white spirit (paint thinner). Use a heavy-duty detergent committing oxygen bleach for the remainder.

Discoloration and Dyes Stain Removal

Use a glycerin solution to soak the area or a dilute solution of household bleach and water on white fabrics only. Alternatively, wash in a heavy-duty detergent containing oxygen bleach.

Egg Stain Removal

Scrape off the excess using a blunt knife, then apply a neat biological washing liquid to the stain. Old stains can he removed by soaking in a solution of 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 9 parts water before washing as usual.

Fats, Grease and Cooking Oils Stain Removal

Dampen the fabric with water and apply a heavy-duty liquid detergent to the stain. Wash immediately in the hottest water the fabric will stand.

Fruit and Fruit Punch Stain Removal

Sprinkle Borax over the stain to absorb the moisture and neutralize the acid. Rinse in cold water, and then wash in a solution of hot water and detergent. Treat stubborn marks with a solution of dilute household bleach and water (1 part bleach to 4 parts water).

Grass Stain Removal

Dab these with methylated spirits (denatured alcohol) (riot to be used on acetate or tri-acetate fabrics), then rinse and wash. Grass stains on school shirts and gym clothes can be removed with methylated spirits (denatured alcohol) before washing.

Heat Ring Stain Removal

Rub along the grain of the wood with a soft cloth dipped in turpentine. Remove heat rings on furniture with a little metal polish rubbed over the affected area before re-polishing.

Inks Stain Removal

Dab unknown inks with nail-varnish remover. Cover blue and black fountain-pen inks with salt and lemon juice, and leave them overnight. Finally, rinse and wash with a biological liquid detergent.

Jam Stain Removal

Scrape off the excess using a blunt knife, and dab with a pre-wash laundry aid. Wash as usual.

Tomato Ketchup Removal

Scrape off the excess, and then hold the garment under cold running water. Dab the area with a little neat biological washing liquid or a detergent soap bar, and then wash as usual. Treat deep stains with a solution of 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 9 parts water.

Lipstick Stain Removal

Dab first with white spirit (paint thinner), then apply a liquid detergent straight on to the mark and work it into the fibers. Wash in water as hot as the fabric will stand.

Milk Stain Removal

Rinse under cold running water, and then wash using a biological detergent.

Mud Stain Removal

Scrape off rile excess using a blunt knife, then apply near biological washing liquid or soap before washing as usual.

Nail Varnish Stain Removal

Dab with nail-varnish remover or acetone before washing as usual. Non-color fast fabrics should be dry cleaned professionally.

Perfume Stain Removal

Rinse in cold water before washing, or, if the perfume stains, dab the area with white spirit (paint thinner) and wash using a biological detergent.

Perspiration Stain Removal

Dab with a solution of 1 part white-wine vinegar to 10 parts water, or treat the affected area with a biological pre-wash detergent, then wash as usual. White cotton and linen can he treated with a dilute household-bleach solution, and silk, wool and synthetics with a hydrogen-peroxide solution.

Shoe Polish Stain Removal

Scrape off polish, and then dab the area either with a grease solvent or methylated spirits (denatured alcohol). Soak in a strong detergent solution, then wash.

Tar and Beach Oil Stain Removal

Scrape off the excess using a blunt knife, and soften the remaining deposit with butter, turpentine or lighter fuel. Wipe away with a clean cloth, and then rub the spot with neat liquid detergent before washing.

Urine Stain Removal

Soak in a gentle solution of cold water and ammonia. Alternatively, soak for a short time with biological washing liquid before washing in the hottest water that the fabric will stand. Urine stains can be soaked in a mild solution of cold water and ammonia or soak in biological washing powder before a hot wash.

Vomit Stain Removal

Scrape off the excess or blot it with old cloths. Scrub with a solution of tepid water and a biological detergent to which a little white-wine vinegar and disinfectant have been added. Rinse and repeat if necessary before washing.

Stain Removal Tips

  • Always follow the manufacturer’s directions before using any stain-removing product.
  • Never mix chemicals — if you do, the resulting fumes could he lethal. Never smoke or have an exposed flame near cleaning fluids, as many are highly flammable. Keep the room well-ventilated while working with them in order to avoid inhaling. Wear household gloves when using solvent and bleach cleaners.

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

Housekeeping Tips

With an average of 2 out of every 3 women working outside the home, research shows that, despite the advent of the ‘new man’, most housework is still done by women. How you tackle the household chores will depend a great deal on your lifestyle. If you have children, keeping the house in order can sometimes seem an impossible task, so perhaps now is the time to become organized and make sure that everyone helps to get the chores done.
Begin by organizing a rota, so that everyone knows what they are expected to do, and make sure that they stick to it by putting up a star every time a job is completed. Try using incentives to get the jobs done rather than punishment if they are not – extra pocket money or a treat means that everyone ends up happy. Encourage young children to tidy up their toys and pull their quilts down to air the beds in the morning, or ask them to help you make your bed so that they learn how it is done properly at the same time. Laying the table and wiping down low cupboard doors are also easy tasks for them to do. Older children can help with dusting, cleaning or washing up. Do not differentiate between boys’ and girls’ jobs, as everyone needs to know how to clean, tidy and wash up.
Keep the mop and cleaning materials together so that no one will have an excuse to say that they could not find the right things. A plastic bucket with dusters, rags and polish is useful – check it regularly and replace contents as containers become empty.
Ask the family to fill in a ‘Weekly Planner’ or to tell you what they are doing, where and when. Keep the planner pinned to the wall where you can see it easily – you will find it invaluable when you need to check that children are safe or whether you will be free to take them to and collect them from an after-school activity. Keep a note of the telephone numbers of their friends to check that children are safe if they do not get home on time.
A year planner takes up wall space, but is useful for jotting down important dates for the family such as birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. A wipeable planner is useful where dates are regularly changed.
When you sit down together in the evening, ask the members of the family whether there are any items of shopping that need to be bought the following day, or appointments for the dentist or doctor to be made. Put letters to be posted near the door so that they will not be forgotten when you leave the house.


Keep a general file with receipts for goods that are under guarantee, and instruction manuals for all electrical appliances in case you need to refer to them.
Keep another file containing all important documents such as birth certificates, driving licences, passports, insurance documents and even your Will in a safe place so that you can find it quickly if necessary.
Keep a working list of jobs that need doing and cross them out as soon as you have dealt with them.
Prevent panics in the morning when clothes cannot be found or homework has not been finished by checking the night before. Even if there is a good programme on the television, the ironing can still be done, shoes polished and clothes mended while it is on. An extra washbasin or shower installed in a bedroom can also help to relieve the morning rush and inevitable queues for the bathroom.
Keep a small notebook and pencil with you at all times so that a job you have overlooked, or a telephone call you must remember to make, is noted down and not forgotten again. If you wake in the night and remember a string of things that you have forgotten to do during the day, a piece of paper and a pencil next to the bed will get them written down for the morning.
Put telephone messages or reminders in one place where everyone is likely to look. Papers with a tacky strip on one side are ideal for sticking on doors at eye-level where they will not be overlooked, or next to the item that needs dealing with.

Garden Gravel

Gravel is an inexpensive and flexible alternative to paving or a lawn, although it is not suitable for a patio. It blends beautifully with plants, needs little maintenance, and can be used in both formal and informal designs. It is also a useful ‘filler’ material to use among other hard surfaces, or in irregularly shaped areas where paving will not easily fit and a lawn would be difficult to mow.

Types of gravel

Gravel comes in many different shapes, sizes and colors. Some types are angular, others rounded, some are white, and others assorted shades of green or red. All of them will look different in sun or shade, when wet or dry. The subtle change of color and mood is one of the appeals of gravel. The gravels available will depend on where you live, and which ones can be transported economically from further afield. Shop around first by going to garden centers and builders merchants to see what is available in your area before making your choice.

Many garden centers and stone merchants sell, or can obtain a wide range of gravels in different sizes and colors. You will find the appearance changes according to the light and whether the stones are wet or dry. Gravel gardens can be a formal or informal shape, but an edging of some kind is required otherwise the gravel will become scattered into surrounding garden beds.

Gravel paths

Gravel is often used for drives, but it is also a good choice for informal paths within the garden. It conforms to any shape so is useful for paths that meander. However, it is not a good choice for paths where you will have to wheel the mower. Fine gravel is an ideal ground covering for a Japanese-style garden design.

  1. Excavate the area to a depth of about10 cm (4 in), with a slight slope to avoid water logging after heavy rain. If the gravel garden is low lying or in a hollow, provide a sump for excess water to drain into.
  2. Make sure the surface is reasonably smooth, then lay thick plastic sheeting over the area (to suppress weed growth).Overlap the joints.
  3. Tip the gravel over the plastic sheet, and rake it level. It can be difficult to judge how deeply or evenly the gravel is being spread once the plastic sheet has been covered, so if necessary carefully scrape back the gravel occasionally to check progress.
  4. If you want to plant through the gravel, scoop back the gravel to expose the plastic sheer. Then make cross-slits through the plastic with a knife.
  5. Make the planting hole with a trowel, enrich the soil with garden compost and fertilizer and plant normally. Fold back the sheet, and replace the gravel without covering the crown if it’s a small plant.

Save Energy at Home

Insulation means saving energy, and that is becoming more and more essential on every level, from the personal to the global. People are increasingly conscious of the importance of environmental issues. One of the greatest contributions that any one household can make is to cut down on the unnecessary wastage of fossil fuels, and so to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by burning them. This means making more efficient use of energy, and insulation has a big part to play in this. It saves money, too.

Insulation is a means of reducing heat transfer from a warm area to a cold one, and substantially reduces heat loss. In temperate countries, the external air temperature is below what most people regard as a comfortable level for much of the year, so heating is needed for fairly long periods and heat is constantly lost to the outside.

All materials conduct heat to a greater or lesser extent. Wood is a good insulator, brick an average one and glass is downright poor, as anyone who has sat next to a window on a cold winters day will testify.

Except in countries which have very cold winters, proper insulation of homes has until recently been a very low priority, both for house builders —who will not pay tot something that provides only a hidden benefit unless they have to — and for the legislators who frame the regulations and codes with which builders must comply. At last, however, the tide is turning, and current building rules call for much higher standards of insulation than ever before. They have also recognized that over-insulation can cause condensation, both inside the rooms and within the building’s structure.

Poor insulation, inadequate ventilation and poor heating levels can, in extreme cases, lead to patches of mould occurring around windows and inside fitted cupboards (closets).

Sources of Moisture

People themselves are a major source of the moisture in the air inside a building. Breath is moist and sweat evaporates; one person gives off 250 ml/1/2 pints of water during 8 hours of sleep: 3 times that during the day.

Domestic activities create even more moisture. cooking, washing up, a hot bath or shower, washing and drying clothes and so on can create as much as a further 10 to 12 litres/3 gallons of water a day, and every litre of fuel burnt in a Clueless oil or paraffin heater gives off toughly another litre of watervapour. The air in the house is expected to soak up all this extra moisture invisibly, but it may not be able to manage unaided. However, a combination of improved insulation and controlled ventilation will go a long way towards eliminating the problem of condensation.

This will not help people living in older properties, many of which were built with no thought to their insulation performance at all. Over the years, various attempts will have been made to insulate houses like these, but what was deemed adequate 20 years ago will he well below par for today.


Condensation is a big problem in many homes. It can lead to serious health problems and can also cause damage to the structure of the home.

The air always contains a certain amount of moisture – a lot on it humid summer’s day, less on a clear winter one. When the air at a particular temperature cannot hold any more moisture, it is said to have reached saturation point, described as a relative humidity of 100 per cent.

Air at saturation point is the key to the problem. If that saturated air is cooled — for example, by corning into contact with a surface SUCH.1 as a windowpane on a chilly day — it can no longer hold so much vapour. The excess moisture vapour in the air condenses into droplets of water, and these are deposited on the cold surface — first as a fine film that mists up the glass burthen, as more moisture is deposited, the droplets combine to form rivulets that run down the surface to create pools of water on the window sill. This can ruin decorations and cause window sills and frames to rot and rust; it can also cause2 further problems, both of which are potentially more serious.

Constant condensation ruins paintwork and will eventually cause wooden window frames and sills to rot.

Fit an extractor fan (exhaust fan) to control ventilation in a steamy room such as a kitchen or bathroom. The type linked to a humidity detector activates automatically.

Fit a special brush draught excluder over a letter-box opening, and also to the bottoms of doors to minimize heat. loss.

If the roof of your house is pitched(sloping), lay blanket insulation over the loft(attic) floor to prevent heat loss.

Glass is an extremely poor insulator. Secondary glazing, known as double glazing, can cut down on heat loss, provided that the inner panes are well-sealed to their tracks.

With a suspended floor, you can lift the floorboards and suspend blanket insulation on netting stapled to the joists. Lay a vapour barrier, such as heavy plastic sheeting, on top.

The first is mould. Apart from moisture vapour, the air also contains millions of tiny spores which float around looking for somewhere to live and multiply. The one thing they need is a damp surface. The result is the patches of black, brown or dark green mould seen especially around windows, in fitted cupboards (closets) and in the upper corners of those rooms that have poor insulation and ventilation and inadequate heating.

The second problem is interstitial condensation. if rho materials used to build walls, roofs and other parts of a building allow water vapour to penetrate, condensation can actually occur inside rho structure. If moisture cannot evaporate to the outside the affected part of the structure remains damp; this can then encourage rot to grow on wood, and may also result in frost damage to masons’ in cold weather, caused by the water expanding as it freezes. What is more, it damp wall has a lower resistance to the passage of heat than a dry one, and therefore becomes colder and encourages yet more condensation.


Always be aware that, no matter how well the home has been insulated, it is vital to ensure that it is well-ventilated too and that air can circulate freely to prevent the problems of condensation. When insulating your home it is essential to make allowances for air circulation by installing, for example, an extra air-brick, an extractor fan(exhaust fan) or window vents in a bathroom or kitchen, and even a cooker hood. Simply opening a window while cooking to allow steam out can make a difference. Fuel-horning appliances such as paraffin heaters, gas cookers, central-heating boilers and fires also require ventilation to work efficiently and to dispel potentially dangerous fumes.

Quick Ways to Insulate

Once icy winds begin to whistle around your home in the winter, you will soon find out where the chill gusts blow in and where all the expensive heat escapes. The following steps will all contribute to keeping your home warmer and energy-efficient.

Sash windows are notorious for draughts, and their sliding action calls for special weatherproofing. A brush seal (with soft bristles) against inside sliding faces and a V-strip seal where sashes close against the top and bottom of the frame are best.

in cold, wet conditions. Seal it with A flexible PVC (vinyl) or brush strip pinned to the outer face.

Keyholes can let in cold air, so put cover plates on the outside.

Fill gaps around overflow and wastepipes that pass through holes in exterior walls with an exterior-grade filler (spackle), mortar or an expanding foam filler.

Fill any gaps in windows that remain closed throughout the winter with flexible, clear sealant. Apply it with a mastic gun and, when you wish to operate the windows again, simply peel off the sealant and discard.

A porch built over a front or backdoor acts as an insulating barrier by preventing cold air from entering the house and keeping warm air in. It will also keep wet boots and coats from dripping over floors.

In addition to traditional sausage-shaped door draught excluders, door curtains are a very effective way of redirecting heat loss, and can also add a decorative finish to rooms.

Insulate the wall immediately behind a radiator by simply placing tinfoil behind it to reflect the heat back

Display Lighting

Most of the lighting schemes concentrated on illuminating individual rooms and providing good task lighting for the various activities carried out in them. However, lighting can also be used as a means of decorating rooms and highlighting their best features. Spotlights offer great flexibility here. They are available as single, double and triple spot units for wall or ceiling mounting, as individual spotlights that is designed to fit on a lighting track, or as recessed ‘eyeball’ ceiling fittings. The beam direction can be adjusted to ‘wash’ walls, curtains (drapes) or ceilings with light, which may be coloured instead of white; or to illuminate an individual area of the room such as a fireplace, an arch, anal cove, a display unit (cabinet) or some other feature.

Small spotlights, especially the recessed eyeball types, can be used to illuminate individual pictures or picture groups. Alternatively, a traditional picture light – a small strip light in a wall-mounted holder maybe set or below the picture.
Shelves or closed cabinets displaying china, glass or other objects can be arranged in several ways. Spotlighting is one, but this can look harsh. What often works better is either backlighting via small tungsten filament strip lights fined beneath the shelves or, where glass shelves are used, a lamp behind a frosted glass panel at the top or bottom of the unit.

The last area of lighting that needs to be considered is indoor security lighting. It is well known that intruders are deterred by good lighting outside the house and this also applies indoors. If a would-be intruder sees an indoor light, he or she can never be sure whether the house is occupied or nor, especially if the curtains are drawn. Even if the owners are out, an intruder will be less keen to break in and risk being seen from outside.

There are several types of programmable controls which can be used to switch on both fixed lighting and plug-in lights, either at preset times or are sternest. Some can then mimic human behaviour by turning lights on and off at random during the night.

Wall Painting Ideas

Paint is a popular decorative finish for walls and ceilings because it is quick and easy to apply, offers a huge range of colours and is relatively inexpensive compared with rival products such as wall coverings. It can be used over plain plaster, or can he applied over embossed relief wall coverings and textured finishes.

Before starring to paint, clear the room and prepare the surfaces. Start by taking down curtains and blinds (drapes and shades). Remove furniture to another room if possible, or else group it in the middle of the room and cover it with clear plastic sheeting. Take down lampshades and pendant light fittings (after turning off the power supply). Unscrew wall-mounted fittings and remove the hardware from doors and windows if they are being repainted at the same time.

Access equipment

Normally most of the surfaces to be painted can be reached front a standing or a kneeling position, but some access equipment is needed for ceilings, the tops of room walls and the upper reaches of stairwells. A simple stepladder, ideally with a top platform big enough to support a paint kettle or roller tray, will be adequate for painting walls and ceilings.

Coverage will be less than is achieved with subsequent coats. Similarly, textured surface will hold more paint, again reducing the paint coverage.

For stairwells, use steps or ladder sections plus secured scaffold boards or the components of a slot-together access tower to set tap a work platform that allows you to get to all the surfaces without over-reaching.


Paint wall and ceilings in a series of overlapping hands. Start painting the ceiling next to the window wall so that deflected light on the wet paint shows if coverage is even. On walls, right-handed people should work front right to left, and vice-versa.

Texture paints

Texture paints are water-based (latex) paints thickened with added filler. Once the paint has been applied to the decorating surface, a range of three-dimensional effects can be created by using various patterning or texturing techniques. These paints arc ideal for covering up surfaces in poor condition. Most are white, but they can be over painted with ordinary wall-based paint for a coloured effect, if desired. Avoid using them in kitchens — the textured surface will trap dirt and grease making it difficult to clean.

Using Texture Paint

1. Start by gradually applying the paint to the wall or ceiling in a series of overlapping random strokes, recharging the roller or brush at intervals.

2. When an area of about l sq in. is covered, go over the whole area with a series of parallel strokes for an even surface texture.

3. Give the textured finish the look of tree bark by drawing a flat-bladed scraper over the surface to flatten off high spots.

4. Use it texturing comb to create overlapping swirls, working across the area. Practise on cardholder first.

5. Twist a sponge before pulling it away front lie wall surface to create small, over-lapping swirls. Rinse the sponge regularly.

6. You can buy patterning roller sleeves in it range of different designs for use with texture paints. This one creates a regular diamond pattern.

7. This patterning sleeve gives a random streaked effect when rolled down the wall. Apply the texture paint to the roller with a brush for fusing a patterning sleeve.

Wall Papering Stair Wells

Paperhanging in stairwells is no different in principle from work in any other room. However, the job is made more difficult by the need to handle longer lengths of wall covering, and also because access to the higher reaches of the stairwell walls can be awkward. It is a job that requires careful planning, and is best tackled with the assistance of a second person.

First of all, work out the starting point. It is best to hang the longest drop – the one that reaches from landing ceiling to hall floor — first of all. Mark its position and check that other joins will not fall awkwardly round the rest of the stairwell, especially if it has a window opening onto it. Adjust if necessary.

The next thing to do is to work out how to gain access to the various wall surfaces involved without obstructing passage up and down the stairwell or blocking off the walls themselves. On a straight flight it may be possible to use components from a hired slot-together scaffold tower to make a suitable working platform. On flights with quarter or frail-landings it will probably be necessary to tailor-make an assembly of ladder sections, stepladders, homemade supports and scaffold boards; two typical arrangements are shown below. Nail scrap wood to stair treads to locate ladder feet securely, and lock scaffold boards together by drilling holes through them where they overlap and dropping a bolt through the holes (no need for a nut). Note that ladders or steps shown resting against wall surfaces will have to be repositioned as the work progresses

Aim to start work by hanging the longest drop first. Then work along the stairwell walls in sequence, turning along the stairwell walls in sequence, turning corners and tackling obstacles as for other rooms.

1. Fold up long lengths of wall covering concertina-fashion with the top end of the length uppermost, and carry them to the end of the length on the stairwell wall

2. Get a helper to support the folds of wall covering while positioning the top end of the length on the stairwell wall against a vertical line

3. When measuring lengths that will meet a dado (chair) rail or skirting (baseboard) at an angle, remember to measure the longer edge of the length.

4. Where the bottom edge of the length nests a shaped skirting, make small release emits in the edge and trim it to allow the curve.


Use a selection of ladders, steps, scaffold boards and homemade supports to construct a platform that allows access to all the wall surfaces being decorated without obstructing the stairs themselves.

Where the end of a handrail fits flush with the wall, cut the lower part of the length into two sit-ups so their edges can he trimmed around the rail and joined edge-to-edge beneath it. Use a similar technique to hide the wall covering around a flush newel post.

Floor Repair

Floorboards suffer more from being lifted for access to pipes and cables beneath them than they do from everyday wear and tear. If the floor has nothing worse than the occasional creak, the trouble can generally be cured by lifting floor coverings and then nailing or better still, screwing the offending board down again. With a chipboard (particle hoard) floor, make sure that the boards are nailed to even joist the cross, not just at the edges; if they are not, the boards can bow upwards and will then hang against the joists when walked on.

Before lifting a section of floor to gain access to services below it, look first of all to see whether someone has already cut an access panel. If they have not, it will be necessary to create one. Locate the joist position closest to where access is needed the positions of the flooring nail will reveal its whereabouts. Then drill a starter hole and use a power jigsaw (saber saw) to make a 45° cut next to the joist. Rise up the cut end and wedge a strip of wood underneath it, then saw through the board over the center of the next joist to free the section. To replace it, nail one end to the joist and either skew nail (toe nail) the other angled end to its neighbor or nail a support block to the side of the joist and nail or screw the board end to that.

With a concrete floor, the only repair that is likely to be needed is the filling of cracks or small potholes that may be revealed when an old floor covering is lifted. Cut back any loose edges, brush away loose material and fill the cracks with a fine mortar mix. If the floor surface is sound but uneven or out of level, lay a self-smoothing compound over it.

Creating an Access Panel

  1. Start by locating an adjacent joist. Drill a starter hole for the saw blade. Cut through the board at 45° next to the joist with a power jigsaw (saber saw).
  2. Use a bolster (stone-cutter’s chisel) or a similar broad-bladed levering tool to rise up the cut end of the board and release its fixing nails.
  3. Slide a length of scrap wood under the raised end of the board to hold it clear of the floor, and saw through the board the center of the next joist.
  4. To replace the panel, simply lay it back in position. Nail the square-cut end to its joist and skew nail (toe nail) the angled end to the neighboring board.
  5. An alternative way of supporting the cut ends of an access panel is to nail small woodblocks to each side in the adjacent joists.
  6. You can also screw down the panel on to the wooden blocks. This will allow easy access without damaging the panel.

Repairing a Concrete Floor

  1. If you discover cracks in a concrete floor after lifting old floor coverings, use a cold (box) chisel and club (spilling) hammer to undercut the edges of the crack.
  2. Brush away all loose material from the crack and use a vacuum cleaner to pick up the dust.
  3. Dilute some PVA building (white general-purpose) adhesive, and brush it along the surface of the crack to help the repair mortar to bond to it securely.
  4. Mix up some pack-setting repair mortar and trowel it into the crack, leveling it with the surrounding concrete. Leave it to harden.
  5. If the floor has noticeable potholes in its surface, pack the hole with some small pieces of stone or other non-compressible filler.
  6. Patch the pothole with quick-setting mortar, using the edge of a steel float to remove excess mortar so that the patch is flush with its surroundings

How to Make Roman Blinds

Blinds are becoming a very popular alternative window dressing to a pair of curtains (drapes). The styles of blind described here, although made using very similar techniques, create very different effects. Choose the softly ruched Austrian blind for a pretty, feminine window treatment and the smartly pleated Roman blind for a room with a modern decor.

Use a light or medium weight fabric to make an Austrian blind, anything from lightweight voile or sheer to standard cotton curtain fabric will be suitable. Avoid heavy brocades and hand woven cottons, as these are too thick to drape well. You will need a special type of track to hang and mount the blind; this is known as Austrian blind track, and is widely available.

A Roman blind, on the other hand, will benefit from being made in a reasonably substantial fabric. You can line this type of blind if you wish, to add body to the pleats and also to retain the warmth of a room. You need a batten (furring strip) and angle irons to mount the blind. Use strips of touch and close fastener to hold the blind in place on the batten. An Austrian blinds are mounted in much the same way, with the cords threaded through rings attached to the track.


  1. Cut out the fabric. Turn, pin and stitch double 12 mm or 1/2 in side hems. Turn, pin and then machine stitch a double 2.5 cm/1 in hens along the top of the fabric. Press all the hems.
  2. Pin and stitch a strip of Roman blind tape close to the side edge, turning under 9 cm at the top. Stitch another strip along the remaining edge, then attach further strips at intervals across the blind, 25-30 cm/10-12 in apart.
  3. At the bottom of the blind, turn over 9mm or 1/8 in and press, then turn over a further 5 cm/2 in to enclose the ends of the tape. Pin and stitch the hem close to the inner fold, leaving the sides open.
  4. Stitch narrow tucks across the width of the blind to correspond with alternate rows of loops or rings on the tape. Make the first tuck level with the second row of loops or rings from the bottom of the blind. To make the tucks, fold the fabric with the wrong sides facing, and stitch 3mm or 1/8 in from the fold.


Roman Blind

To calculate the length, measure the window drop, add 14 cm/ 4I/2 in for hem allowances and a little extra for the horizontal tucks. For the width, measure the window and add 6 cm/ 2 in for side hems. You will need sufficient strips of Roman blind strip to position at 25-30 cm/10-12 in intervals across the width of the blind. Each strip should be the length of the Hind plus 12/1/2 in; make sure there is a loop or ring12 mm/1/2 in up from the bottom of each strip so that they will match across the blind.

Attach the blind to the top of the batten with strips of touch and close fastener. Cut each length of cord to twice the length of the Hind plus the distance of the right-hand edge. Thread each cord through the loops in the tape. Knot each length securely on the bottom loop and thread the other end through the corresponding screw eyes on the batten, ending with all the cord ends on the right hand side of the blind. Knot the cords at the top, cut the ends off level and knot them again.