Grouting your floor tiles

If you have laid ceramic floor tiles you will need to grout them just as you would wall tiles, in exactly the same way, but ensure that the adhesive has had time to dry, this is normally about twenty four hours, but you should always consult the manufacturer of the adhesive, if in doubt leave it for a couple of days if you can.

The grout material itself can come in two forms, either ready mixed in a tub, or in a powder from a bag. The powder style will be the cheaper of the two, but ensure that you follow the manufacturer’s instruction regarding the amount of water to use, it is critical this is right. Normally the grout will be white in colour, but you can get powders to mix in, or if ready mixed, the colour will be already added.

With floor tiles a standard grout will usually be alright, bit if the tiles are in a shower or a bath surround, a waterproof grout should be used. Applying the grout is simple and should be done with a grout spreader; this should be loaded with the grout and applied to the tiles across the face and into the joints. Excess grout should be removed as you are working and when you have covered the entire area, wait about fifteen minutes and then using a clean damp sponge wipe the tile diagonally across the grout line, rinsing out the sponge as you go along.

When the grout has hardened, this will take about two hours, use a grout stick and smooth out the joints which will give it a professional look. When the grout has completely dried, use a clean dry cloth and polish the tiles clean of grout from the surface. Stand back and admire a highly professional job, which has been well done.

The important exterior of your home

It is natural and most of us do it, we improve the inside of our homes usually to improve the appearance, but also the comfort, but what about the exterior. This is particularly important during the winter months, because it is then that the most damage can occur and not just make it unsightly, but potentially give us problems later.

One area that is likely to give the most trouble is if we have wooden windows and doors, rain is the enemy here as it is likely to sit on the sills and glazing bars and if there has been any cracking of the paint caused through the sun in the summer, the moisture will eventually seep under the paint. It is worth a walk round the home to see if these areas are sound, even if this mean using a ladder to check upstairs windows, although this can normally be done by simply looking through the glass, or opening the window.

If any defects have been found, no matter how small or insignificant they may look, take action. Taking temporary action can be all that is needed until good weather comes along to fully rectify it. On a sill or glazing bar which has defective paint, scrape away or sand the paint until you have a sound well adhered paint, then give it a coat of exterior primer, then an undercoat allowing each coat to dry. Painting the wood with a primer creates watertight seals between the two and ensures the paint has a smooth and adhesive surface with which to bond. You can now put some gloss on to complete the repair.

sash window

Picture: P.Flintandco

Integrating environmental friendliness into garden rooms

Environmentally friendly building construction is the buzzword these days and for good reason. The absence of a comprehensive environment protection plan has already started to affect all our lives, wherever in the world we live.

As a home or business owner, you may want to consider incorporating a garden studio that has passed energy assessment tests, with ratings that confirm their environment friendliness. For instance, if you are contemplating constructing your garden office using materials that include timber, be sure to check that they have the backing of the FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council).

Timber garden rooms by Oeco use only certified materials, which are procured and subsequently selected as part of an onerous assessment procedure undertaken by certified forestry professionals.  Timber is used in conjunction with other materials, as part of a manufacturing process that meets global energy standards. Manufacturers of garden structures must also ensure that CO2 emissions are eliminated or drastically curtailed.

Moisture retention is emerging as one of the major challenges confronted by homeowners across the world, because it has the potential to cause permanent damage to walls and furniture. To that end, room construction involving the use of timber should ideally be moisture-free. Such timber-based garden rooms or offices are available in both contemporary and traditional forms, all of which provide adequate protection, thanks to the strategic application of a robust waterproofing system.

garden room

Picture: OECO

Check your radiators

With the onset of some cold weather and the promise of perhaps more to come, it is worthwhile seeing just how well your radiators are functioning. Over a period of time, all radiators begin to become slightly less efficient and this can seriously affect the temperature in your home, it can also mean that your boiler has to work more often to try to keep the demands of your thermostat satisfied.

Two things can happen that may make your radiator function less well, sludge and air in them. Sludge can build up over a period and this usually happens because the system has not had an inhibitor added. What normally happens is that at some time the system has been drained and refilled. When this happens a good inhibitor should always be added to the water. The signs of this are usually that the radiator is cooler at the bottom than elsewhere and the answer is to drain the system and flush this out, this may have to be done several times before it is cleared. Often a sludge removal additive may have to be used, but remember to add the inhibitor before the final fill.

The other cause and the more common one is air in a radiator; this is detected by the top part of the radiator being cooler than the bottom and is easily sorted by using the air bleed valve situated at one top end of the radiator. It pays to check them all whist you are doing it, but it normally only affect one or two and in a house it will be the upstairs ones that are the culprits. When the valve key is turned a hissing sound indicates that air is escaping followed by a tiny jet of water, remember to put a cloth at the vent valve to prevent dirty water squirting on the decorations.

Picture: akasped

Checking Christmas lights

We all know the story, they were working when they were put away carefully in their box and stored, probably in the attic, but they don’t now! The modern lights that we buy today are not as temperamental as the ones of yesteryear but they too can still be faulty. So before you put them on the Christmas tree, and plug them in, you should check the lights carefully.

Firstly unravel them on the floor and make a check for any obvious problems like missing or broken lamps or damaged wire. Check that the plug is securely and correctly fitted. Make sure each lamp is properly fitted. If everything is OK, plug in the lights and switch on.

If they don’t work, switch off at the socket and unplug. Check that the fuse in the plug hasn’t blown by replacing with a suitably rated new one. If they still don’t work, switch off at the socket and unplug. Replace the ‘fuse lamp’ which is usually marked with a white top, with a new fuse lamp.

Now comes the hard part, on older lamps these were wired in series and so it meant that if one bulb failed the circuit was broken and each lamp has to be checked using a simple lamp tester. If you have not got one then you will have to replace each bulb in turn with a new or known working one, remembering to switch off at the socket and unplug after each test. If you cannot get them to work then it can mean that more than one lamp has failed and it is probably a good time to invest in a new set!

As with all electrical items, remember always switch off the socket and unplug before carrying out ANY work on them. If you are in any doubt, consult a professional electrician.

Picture: Stephen Vance

How to choose furniture for a small space

The living room is the hub of the home, the place where the family spend most of their time so choosing the right furniture is key to creating a comfortable and relaxing environment. For those with a small living room this task becomes a bit harder, but with a little thought and imagination even the smallest living room can seem spacious.

Sofas and chairs

Forget about a big and bulky three seat sofa, instead look at getting a smaller two seat sofa or love seat to make the most of the space. Another option is to opt for a more versatile layout of three or four armchairs; these can then be moved around to suit your needs.

Multitasking furniture

If space is at a premium try to choose furniture that has multiple uses such as a coffee table with a shelf underneath or an upholstered bench with a storage compartment inside. A set of nesting tables is also a good option because they can be stacked away when not in use.

Create more natural light

Small rooms generally have small windows making them dark and dingy. Hang a large mirror on the wall, it will not only provide a nice focal point for the room but will also create more natural light making the room seem bigger than it actually is.

Shelves and storage

Shelves are a great way of keeping all of your possessions organised and for mounting all of your entertainment devices. If you have a flat screen TV it is a good idea to mount it to the wall (if you have the space), this will create more space in the living room and keep the TV safe from knocks.

There are plenty of space saving ideas on the internet; sites such as IKEA, Debenhams and Baytree Interiors specialise in supplying innovative furniture designs to suit any style or size of room.

Conservatory blinds

As a place for enjoyment and relaxation, few rooms can beat the conservatory.  From the grand Victorian extensions with their ornate lead work to the modern, more functional designs, the conservatory has increasingly grown in popularity and can be seen attached to most UK homes.

It is important to invest in blinds to cover some of the windows in this room, otherwise you might find yourself coping with problems related to too much sun exposure.  The most important way in which to shield yourself from the damage of powerful UV rays is to make sure that you have either roller or pleated blinds covering the roof. 

Conservatory blinds can also insulate this room and even sound proof it, so if you are entertaining, music and other noises will not escape into your neighbour’s gardens. 

Fabric blinds look pretty and pleated blinds are recommended by the experts to be the best when it comes to ease of use.  Most conservatory blinds are either operated by a remote control or can have a manual cord pull.

Picture: Porphyria Poppins

Installing towel holders

A towel holder or towel rail is a necessary feature in all bathrooms.  There are two different methods of fixing towel holders or rails to the bathroom wall.  This article gives a guide to fixing towel holders to the wall by glueing them.

What you will need

To glue your towel holder to the wall, you will require silicone caulk, a grease pencil, painter’s tape,  spirit level and the towel holder.

Determine the location

You need to decide where you wish to hang your towel holder.  This could be close to the shower, sink or bath depending upon what you will find most convenient.  When you have made your decision, you should mark the wall with a grease pencil.

Measure and mark

Now measure your towel holder.  This is particularly important if it is a rack or rail.  You should mark the location of each of the supports, and make sure it will not get in the way of the opening of the bathroom door.  Use the spirit level to make sure the rail will be hung evenly.

Attach the first support

Use your 100% silicone caulk on the back of the first support.  Push it in place with firm pressure.  In order to hold it in place whilst it dries, you should fix it to the wall with painter’s tape.  After an hour, use the caulk gun and apply caulk around the seam.  This should be smoothed with a wet finger and allowed to dry over night.

Attach the second support and bar

 
When at least 12 hours has past, apply the silicone caulk to the second support and insert the towel bar into the first and then the second supports.  With firm pressure push the second support into place, and use the spirit level to check that it is correct.  Tape the second support into place as you did with the first.  Do not allow water to touch the caulk for at least 12 hours.

Picture: Paul Flint & Company

How to remove watermarks from wood

It’s something that happens to everyone at some point in time – liquid will inevitably find its way out of its container, be it a mug, glass or bowl, and onto your wood surfaces, whether or not you’ve used a coaster. But there’s no need to panic, particularly if the stains are light coloured, as this means that the water has only penetrated the polished or waxed surface and hasn’t damaged the wood. This means that it is still fixable. So here are some tips on treating these water stains.

The best, and easiest, way to remove a water stain is to use something oily to remove it. This could be an oil based furniture polish, petroleum jelly like Vaseline, or even mayonnaise! Rub whatever you’re used over the stain with a cloth in order to displace mark with the oil.

Toothpaste is another method many people use to remove water stains when they have nothing else to hand. It is very mildly abrasive, meaning that it will pull the stain out easily. Use a wet cloth to rub gently at the stain.

If you’ve tried the above and nothing has yet worked, mix the toothpaste with an equal amount of baking powder. This works the same way as toothpaste but is even stronger and more abrasive.

If your stains are still sticking, they are slightly more stubborn or ingrained, so they’ll need a slightly different method. Make sure the area is clean first, then use an old cloth dipped into a mild solvent, for example paint thinner or mineral spirits, rub gently on the stain.  Make sure not to go too far and harm the surface though.

Once the stain is removed, be sure to wax your wood again and polish it with a soft clean cloth. Your furniture will be looking as good as new again!

Picture: Helen Cassidy

Home decorating tips – Brightening up a dark bedroom

Over time, a bedroom can become cluttered and generally begins to look dark and uninviting. The good news is that we have a few tips and tricks to brighten up those dingy bedrooms.

Decorating the walls

Painting or wallpapering the walls with light and warm colours will instantly brighten up the bedroom and will help the natural daylight to radiate throughout the room. Painting the walls with a light yellow or orange paint will instantly have a warming effect in the room, but if you’re looking for a more sophisticated or luxurious theme choose warm tones such as caramel or ivory.

Wallpaper is available in a range of different colours and patterns, but to brighten up a bedroom you should look for patterned wallpaper that features a light background, white and cream work well.

The Ceiling

You would be surprised at how many people paint their bedroom ceiling in a dark colour thinking that it will help them to sleep. In truth the colour of the ceiling doesn’t really matter when trying to get to sleep, but a dark colour can drastically affect the brightness and mood of the room. Use either white or cream for the ceiling to get the most natural light into the room.

De-clutter

Clutter in a bedroom not only makes it unsightly and uninviting but also has a darkening effect, so invest in some bedroom storage to banish the mess. Fitted sliding wardrobes are also a great idea as they can be custom made with shelves, baskets and even shoe racks to store all your item in. Having mirrored doors on your wardrobe also helps to brighten the room.

Blinds instead of curtains

If you can do without curtains, fitting roman blinds to your bedroom windows is a great way of letting light into the room and can be custom made for a perfect fit.

So, what are you waiting for? Turn those dingy bedrooms into luxurious and light masterpieces today!

Picture: Brian Leon