Being able to deal confidently with simple household repairs is an important part of running a home with the minimum of fuss and expense. Many common problems – blocked drains, overflowing cisterns or even noisy pipes – are often very easy to remedy if you are prepared to spend a little time and effort on them. More importantly, you will save a great deal of unnecessary expense by tackling the job yourself rather than calling an expert to deal with it.
Renovating a Bath
Acrylic: use a hard paint such as radiator enamel to paint out marks on this type of bath. Small chips in the surface can also be repaired using a2-part car-repair filler (spackle). Mix the filler following the instruct ions on the packet and mix a little paint colour into the paste to blend with the bath. When the filler is hard, rub it down with wet-and-dry sandpaper, keeping this wet as you work.
Enamel: heavy lime scale deposits can etch into the surface of a bath. Remove these using a chemical limescale remover applied with a brush. Chips in the enamel coating of a bath can lead to the metal rusting. Use limescale remover to shift any rust stains around the chips, and, when dry, sand with an emery cloth to remove loose particles. Re-paint with enamel paint, blending colours if necessary to achieve a perfect match.
Bond simple breaks in pottery with a 2-part epoxy resin or PVA (white) glue. Use cyanoacrylate adhesives for fine breaks and porcelain. Multiple breaks should only be glued piece by piece and allowed to dry between stages. Using acrylic paints, it is possible to ‘hide’ cracks and even to replace parts of a missing pattern if you fill the area with Plaster of Paris arid carefully paint over. Repaired china and pottery will never he as strong as it was formerly, so do not use it in an oven, or to carry hot foods or drinks.
Clean new breaks thoroughly using ethylated spirits and a lint-free cloth before gluing the pieces together with a cyanoacrylate (super glue). Badly repaired breaks will show in time. Start by removing the old glue in hot, soapy water, using an old toothbrush. Apply neat bleach to stains along the crack, using cotton buds (swabs). Rinse and repeat until the stain disappears.
Having cleaned the broken edges thoroughly, apply a cyanoacrylate (superglue), following the manu6ciurer’sIstructions carefully.
Press the broken edges together for a few seconds, then apply strips of masking tape to hold the pieces securely. Leave to dry, and repeat with the other broken pieces.
An Overflowing Cistern
If the ball-float allows too much water into the cistern, the water could start to run out of the overflow pipe. Older-style Portsmouth-type valves can be adjusted by bending the metal float arm down. When full, the cistern’s water level should be about 2.5 cm/I in below the overflow. If the problem is caused by corrosion or scale, the Portsmouth valves may have failed and the washer may have worn away too.
Newer cisterns have plastic diaphragm valves. The float arm can be adjusted by the screw that is secured with a lockout. Release the locknut, then turn the screw towards the valve to reduce the amount of water. Re-tighten the locknut afterwards.
Radiator ‘Cold Spots’
These are usually caused by air becoming locked inside the top of the radiator and preventing the water from reaching the whole of the inside. Hold a rag under the square valve and, using the radiator key gently release it until the air starts to hiss out. When the hissing stops and water starts to dribble out, close it up again. If the air released from the radiator smell of gas, it could be due to corrosion in the system. If this is the case, ask a central-heating engineer for advice. Hold a cloth underneath a radiator valve to catch any drips as the air is released.
Repairing a Diaphragm Valve
- If the rubber diaphragm has worn or its action been disrupted by debris in the water, turn off the water supply. Dismantle the valve and lay out the parts in the order they come off, to make re-assembly easier.
- Clean the diaphragm valve with warm, soapy water or, if it is damaged, replace it with a new one. Turn on the water to flush out any debris and then replace the diaphragm, ensuring that the rim faces inwards. Re-assemble the valve.
Repairing a Portsmouth Valve
- Turn off the water supply and unscrew the cap at the end of the valve. If the cap is tight or rusted, use pliers to loosen before taking it off.
- Dismantle the valve by removing the split pin securing the float arm. If this is nary it may snap, so have a spare split pinto hand.
- Push the valve plug out with a screw-driver and clean it thoroughly, inside and out, using wire wool.
- Screw the valve cap by turning a screwdriver in the slot of the valve plug and remove the washer. Replace the washer with a new one if necessary and re-assemble the plug and valve.
Unclogging a Sink
If the water will not run out of the sink, place a sink plunger over the plug and cover overflow with a damp cloth. Pump the plunger hard up and down a few times to release the blockage.
If the blockage still remains, hold a large dish or other container beneath the U-bend under the sink. Keep the plug in the sink, then unscrew the U-bend, remove it for cleaning and then replace it.
If the obstruction is not in the U-bend, probe a piece of chick wire or an unravelled wire coat hanger into the wastepipe to hook out the blockage.