DIY and Decorating Tips and How To’s

Tackling some DIY or decorating projects around the house this month? Whether you’re a novice or seasoned DIYer, here are some tips and tricks for making your jobs that little bit easier…

1) Catch the Dust when Drilling

Drilling a hole, and don’t want to make a mess? Take a small envelope (the sort you send a Christmas card in), squeeze it to open it out a little, and gently stick it to the wall by the flap, beneath the area you’re drilling. It will catch the majority of the dust!

DIY TIp Use an envelope to catch dust

2) Back Butter Your Tiles

If you’re tiling into awkward spaces (such as behind a toilet or sink), then you probably can’t apply the adhesive to the floor. In these instances, apply the adhesive to the back of the tile instead! This is called ‘back buttering.’

Back butter tile with adhesive

3) The ‘Add 10%’ Rule

When it comes to ordering tiles, you probably need more than you think you do. Generally, as a rule, we say to order 10% more. This allows for breakages and cut pieces. It’s far better to over-order and then return some once the project is finished, than to get caught short. You might think ‘Oh, I can just go back and order more later’. However, you might find that the tile is now out of stock, or that a new batch has come in, with a slightly different shade (this is called ‘batch variation’).

When ordering tiles add 10 percent

4) Tile from the Centre Line

Before you start tiling a wall or floor, you should always find the centre line of the surface, and tile outwards from this. That way, when it comes to the cut pieces at either end of the room, they will be an equal size and, thus, symmetrical!

Always tile from the centre of the room

5) Protect Your Bath Tub When Removing Tiles

If your bathroom is long overdue an update, and you have to go through the process of removing the old, tired tiles, then make sure you protect your bath tub or shower tray by covering them with an old sheet! Broken pieces of tile can be incredibly sharp, and when they’re flying everywhere, they’re easily capable of scratching plastic and ceramic – so think ahead, and cover anything that might get damaged.

Protect a bath by using a dust sheet

6) Choose Mosaic Tiles For Awkward Spaces

If you’re having to tile into a tight, awkward space that it full of fixtures and fittings, such as plug sockets or light switches, then mosaic tiles may be the easiest option! They come on an easy-to-cut mesh backing. Using a craft knife, you can easily slice an appropriately-sized rectangle or square into the mosaic sheet, to make it snugly fit around the obstacle at hand!

Use mosaic tiles to tile awkward spaces

7) Removing a Rawl Plug

Sometimes, rawl plugs go wrong, and they end up sticking out of the wall like an unsightly lump. This often happens when hammering a rawl plug into a freshly-drilled hole; sometimes, it doesn’t quite go in straight, and ends up mashed up and useless – and yet, annoyingly, is still wedged in the wall. To remove the rawl plug, drive a screw about a third of the way into it – so that it bites deep into the thread, and yet a fair amount of the screw is still exposed. Now, use a claw hammer to prize the screw out of the wall – the rawl plug should follow.

Screw into rawl plug to remove it

8) Extension Cord Safety

Often, the cables on our power tools aren’t long enough to reach the awkward places where we need them. So out come the extension cords; whether coiled up in fancy spinning discs, or simply wrapped around a plastic brace. And, being lazy, lots of us tend to unravel a couple of metres (as much as we need) and then get to work. But this isn’t the way to do it. Unravel the entire thing before you turn the power on. Power tools use a lot of juice, and coiled cables get very hot – so hot, they become fire hazards.

Unravel extension cord before using

9) Use A Roller and Paint Tray for Wallpaper Paste

The roller and paint tray revolutionized painting. They allow us to cover a large amount of wall space with a nice, even spread of paint. However, when it comes to applying wallpaper paste to a strip of wallpaper, we revert to the old method of using a brush and bucket. But why, when we know the benefits of using a paint tray and roller? It’s half as messy, and takes half the time!

Apply wallpaper paste using a paint tray and roller

10) Magnetize Your Screwdriver

There’s nothing more annoying than trying to drive a screw into a wall or piece of wood, and the screw keeps coming loose from the tip of the screwdriver (often tumbling onto the floor). That’s why most of the newer, more expensive screwdriver sets have magnetized ends – to help keep a hold of the screw in question. However, if you’ve got an old bog standard screwdriver, there’s a simple tip you can action to magnetize the tip! Take a magnet, and brush it over the end of the screwdriver again and again – always moving in the same direction, and always using the same pole. This should give your screwdriver a temporary magnetic charge.

Magnetise a screwdriver using a magnet

11) Protect Your Fingers Whilst Nailing

One of the most common times we get hurt when tackling a spot of DIY is when we’re trying to hit a nail into the wood, and we catch our fingers instead. Why are our fingers in the way? Because we’re having to hold the nail in place, to give it a good whacking with the hammer. The solution? Use something else to hold the nail instead, to keep your fingers well clear. Rip a wedge of cardboard from a box, poke the nail through it, so the tip just shows through, and then hold this up to the wall. Hit the nail with your hammer, and then rip the cardboard free. There you have it – one nail driven into the wall, and no battered fingers.

Nail using cardboard

12) Protect the plasterboard

Most new homes come plasterboard walls throughout. If you want to hang a picture, and you’re nailing into painted plasterboard, sometimes the surface can chip, leaving an unsightly blemish. To help ensure this doesn’t happen, stick a small piece of Scotch tape to the area you’re nailing. When you drive the nail in, this should help to hold the surface together, and prevent it from chipping.

Diy Tip Nailing into Plasterboard

13) The rubber band paint can trick

When using a brush to apply paint directly from the can, there’s one key issue! You’re brushing the excess off the brush on the side of the can. Often, it runs down the outside and makes one hell of a mess. But the other problem is that, by wiping off the excess on the side of the can, the rim becomes filled with paint. When it starts drying it, up becomes almost impossible to get the lid back on. There’s one simple life hack to help fix this problem. Take a rubber band – a strong, thick one – and wrap it vertically around the open can, so that it creates a little high-wire across the top of the can. Now, when you dip your brush in, wipe the excess off on the band. Because the band hangs over the centre of the can, it will drip down into the can, and won’t run down the edges or sit in the rim.

DIY tip wrap rubber band around paint can

14) Wrap the paint tray in clingfilm

When working with a paint tray and roller, there will be times when you need to pause for either a short while, or a few hours, or even overnight. Maybe you’re going for lunch, maybe you’re waiting for the coat to dry, maybe you’re calling it a day and going to bed. Usually, there will be paint left in the tray. To stop it from drying out in your absence, follow this simple trick. Go into the kitchen cupboard, find some clingfilm, and wrap the tray and roller in it. It will keep the air from drying out the paint!

DiY tip paint tray

15) Get the professionals in

If part of your DIY project involves swapping a plug socket or light switch out, you may be tempted to have a go at doing the work yourself. However, if you’re at all unsure, then it’s always best to get a professional electrician in. After all, you don’t want to give yourself a nasty shock!

DiY Tips use a professional electrician

16) Measure twice, cut once

This is the oldest trick in the DIY book, but it’s also one of the truest. You want to be double sure your measurements are correct before you cut your material – be it a piece of wood, or a tile. After all, you can always take more off, but you can’t add some back on!

DIY Tip measure twice cut once

17) How to saw wood straight

In lots of DIY projects throughout the house, sawing wood is a necessity. However, creating a like smooth cut when using a saw is not so easy. To help ensure a straight line, stand to one side of the cut line, so that your sawing arm is perfectly in line with it. You want the saw to be perfectly aligned with your arm; right up to the soldier. Saw with an awkwardly bent arm or wrist, and you’ll end up with an awful hack job.

DIY tip how to saw in a straight line

18) Waterproof your shower

If you’re creating a wet room in your home, or if you’re simply updating the tiles in your shower area, then don’t forget to water proof the wall / floor first! Use a tanking system (waterproofing kit) to make the surface water resistant, and then apply your tiles. Make sure you use a water resistant grout, too, as some grouts are porous. Our Anti-Mould Tile Grout is water resistant and also helps prevent the appearance of any unsightly mould.

DIY tip waterproofing

19) How to fit a wall plug

If you’re fixing something substantial to your walls, such as shelving, then you’ll need to screw into the wall. To do this, you need to use wall plugs, which are essentially little plastic bullets with a thread running through the centre. Once in the wall, in goes your screw. As your screw drives deeper into the plug, the ends split apart; anchoring the plug into the wall. Fitting a wall plug couldn’t be simple. Firstly, ensure you’re using the right wall plugs for your wall type; i.e. brick, hollow, etc. It will tell you the wall type of the packaging. Secondly, match your wall plug to a similar sized drill piece. Thirdly, mark the length of your wall plug on the drill piece using some coloured tape. Fourthly, drill into the wall, and stop when you reach the tape. Fifthly, blow out any dust, and push the wall plug into the hole. If it’s stubborn, give it a gentle tap with a hammer. Finally, screw your screw into the hole!

DIY tip how to fit a rawl plug

20) How many tile in a row?

When tiling a wall or floor, part of the process is calculating how many tiles there will be in a full row. To work this out, lay some tiles side-by-side on the floor with spacers in between. Next, take a batten of wood and lay it beside the tiles you’ve laid out. Take a pencil or a marker pen, and mark the edges of the tiles onto the batten of wood, including the gaps. Now you can use this wood as a guide to determine how many tiles will sit in any single row from one side of the room to the other.

DIY tip how many tiles in a row

21) Save the spare tiles

We tell you to order about 10% more tiles than you think you’ll need. This allows for breakages and cut pieces during the tiling process. However, if you’ve been particularly careful during your tiling project, then at the end of it, you might end up with a few spare tiles. Maybe even an unopened box. So what should you do with them?

Our best advice is to keep them. Stash them away in the shed, or the attic as spares – just in case you need them. Tiles are pretty robust but if you’re doing a spot of DIY one day and you accidentally drop a hammer on your floor tiles and they crack, then guess what – you’ll need a spare tile handy to replace it. Now, you might think ‘oh it’s fine, I don’t need to keep any spare tiles – if I need a replacement one day, I’ll just order more online.’ Tile factories are constantly changing their tiling runs, so ranges are always being discontinued. So, it may be that you come to order a few more of the stylish tile choice you ordered before, and it no longer exists on the website.

Alternatively, you might find that your tile is still there. Great! You order a tile or two, and they turn up at your house. But oh – they’re a different shade entirely, and don’t match the tiles you ordered previously. This is called batch variation, and it happens constantly. Factories will change something in the process – it could be an ink provider, etc – and all of a sudden, the shade looks quite different. So your best bet is to save a few spare tiles.

DIY tip save spare tiles

22) Sink the screw head

If you’re screwing some wood together, and you don’t want the screw-head to protrude from the surface (which can look quite unsightly), then follow this simple tip for sinking the screw head into the wood, which will give your job a nice snug finish. Find a drill piece that matches the width of the head of your screw. Next, find the spot where you’re going to screw. Drill into the wood, with that exact spot central to your drill piece. You only need to go in a few millimeters – just to the height of your screw head. Next, drive your screw into the centre of that hole! When it gets to the end, rather than sitting proud of the surface, the screw head will tuck itself neatly into the wood!

DIY tip hide the screw head

23) Bleeding the radiator

Feeling a bit nippy, even though you’ve got the central heating on? Maybe your radiators need bleeding. To tell whether or not this is the case, carefully put your hand on the radiator. If it feels cold at the top, but warmer towards the bottom, then your rads need bleeding, as there’s trapped air inside, which is stopping the hot hater from filling the radiator efficiently. When bleeding a radiator, ensure you wait until the radiator is cool, otherwise hot water with spray out. Also, when using the bleed key, never use more than one complete turn.

DIY tip how to bleed a radiator

24) Use a tile file

If you’re tackling a tiling project, whether you’re working on a wall or floor, you’ll most likely have to cut some tiles at one point or another. If your tile cutter is getting blunt, or if you’re using the score-and-snap method, you might find that your cut edges come out a little rough. But don’t worry – this is easily rectifiable, due to a tool you might not have heard of called a tile file. Yep – pretty self explanatory. It’s a file… for tiles. Similar to if you were filing a piece of wood or metal, you hold the rough edge of the file square with the tile’s edge, and you gently brush it up and down, working back and forth until the edge is nice and smooth, and ready to be used in your project.

DIY tip use a tile file

25) Insulating and boarding your attic

We all crave that extra bit of storage space in our homes; especially when the shed, cupboards and pantries are all full to the brim. That’s why boarding the loft is such an appealing DIY project. Boarded from one side of the house to the other, an attic offers a lot of extra storage room for Christmas decorations, etc. Usually, DIYers tend to screw boards directly into the existing wooden beams. However, this squashes down any insulation, and makes it less efficient. Most new builds have a fantastic A-grade energy rating, which adds to the value of the house. However, squashing down the insulation will effect this. That’s where loft legs come in handy. You can buy them from the likes of ToolStation. A loft leg is a sturdy piece of hardened plastic with a flat surface on the top and bottom. It’s purpose is to raise the surface that you’re fixing your boards into. You screw the base of the legs into the wooden beams, and you screw your boards into the top of your legs. This leaves plenty of space beneath the boards for your insulation to sit; keeping your house nice and energy efficient.

DIY tip insulating and boarding your attic

26) Fix a squeaky door

If you’re being bugged by an annoying door that squeaks every time it opens or closes, then here’s an age-old trick for silencing it. Take a can of WD40, and spray it onto the hinges. Open and close the door a few times, to help work the oil into all the grooves. After a few minutes, the hinges should start to be a little more quiet.

DIY tip fix a squeaky door

27) Remove troublesome pets from the equation

If you’re painting and decorating, make sure you lock any inquisitive pets out of the room. Otherwise, you might end up with a trail of painted paw prints running throughout the house. Animals are usually curious; they will explore new objects that you bring into the home. But in a decorating or DIY scenario, where you have adhesives, paints, and power tools lying around, it’s best to keep animals in another room, where they’re safe and out of harm’s way.

DIY Tip lock pets out of a room

28) How to remove a stiff bulb

Light bulbs stop working all the time; even the ‘long life’ models. If a bulb has been in place for a particularly long time, it can ‘take root’ and become a little stiff / difficult to remove. Don’t keep clawing at it with your fingers; it might smash and cut you. Instead, try this DIY tip, using duct tape. Cut a length of duct tape that is roughly a foot long. Take it by its ends, and position it so that its centre is stuck to the bulb. Next, fold the two loose ends in half; creating little ‘handles’, with the bulb stuck between then. Take hold of these handles, and give them a counterclockwise tug to help loosen the bulb.

DIY tip how to remove a stuff light bulb

29) Fix a squeaky floor

If you haven’t discovered the miracle of floor tiles yet and you’re burdened with unexciting plain floor boards, then you’ll likely have an annoying squeak or creak every now and then. A certain spot, when trod on, will let out a high-pitched whimper. This is usually because two wooden points are grinding together. As a temporary fix, if it’s driving you mad, pour a little talcum powder into the cracks near the trouble spot. This should help to cushion the impact points, and should muffle or remove the squeak.

DIY Tip how to fix a squeaky floor

30) Buy or hire?

If you’re working on a more ambitious DIY project, then you might end up needing a tool that you don’t have. For example, if you’re fitting a new floor and you need to plain your doors, then you might find yourself needing an electric plain. If none of your friends have one, then you’ll need to pay for one. If you’re only going to use the plain once, then there’s no point buying one – hire it instead. If you can get the work done in one day, you’ll get a cheaper rate. However, if you’re plaining all the doors in the house over several different projects, spread months apart, it may be worth buying one. Sum up the costs.

DIY tip buy or hire tools

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