Fitting a new radiator

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Electrical, Home repair, Plumbing    by: ITC

Your new radiator will probably have four holes or tappings – one at each corner -and each one will have a female screwed thread. How you connect the radiator up to your system depends on the way in which the old one was fitted. Nowadays it is usual for the flow and return connections to be made to the bottom two holes but. of course. if your system had the flow pipe at a higher level then you’ll have to reconnect it in the same way.

Fit an air-valve into one of the top tappings. First wrap PTFE thread sealing tape anticlockwise round the male thread of the valve and then use a radiator key that grips inside the body of the valve to screw it home. Unless your radiator has a top inlet the other top tapping must be plugged with a blanking off plate. This should also be wrapped with PTFE tape and screwed home in the same way as the air vent.

You’ll then have to fit tail pieces and coupling screws (either new ones, or the ones from the original radiator if you can remove then)) on to the new one. Again wrap each thread with PTFE tape before fitting them. Its a good idea to buy new wail brackets for your replacement radiator. After all. you can’t be sure the old ones will be suitable. You should drill and plug the wall and then fix the brackets in place. Fit the radiator so that the inlet end is a few millimetres higher than the outlet valve. This W make venting easier. You can now fix radiator in place and connect the coup nuts to the hand-valve and Jock-shield va and screw them up tightly.

You’ll have to open the air-valve at the tcc of the radiator so that the air in it car ze displaced as it fills with water. All you oz slowly open the hand-valve and allow 7-S. radiator to fill. When water starts to flow f rd– the air-valve you’ll know all the air has bee- displaced and you should immediately close the valve. Finally, open the lock-shield value by the same number of turns and part turns took originally to close it.

Croydon and Portsmouth ball-valves

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Plumbing    by: ITC

The oldest of the traditional types of ball- valves is the Croydon pattern. You can easily recognise one of these by the position of its piston, which operates vertically, and by the fact that it delivers water to the cistern in two insufferably noisy streams.

Due to their noisiness, Croydon valves are now by and large obsolete, and if you do come across one you will almost certainly want to replace it. The traditional type of valve that superseded the Croydon pattern was the Portsmouth valve (see illustration). You can distinguish it from the former type by the fact that its piston operates horizontally; and as it is still popular with plumbers despite the development of more sophisticated diaphragm type valves, it is a pattern that you may well find in your home.

When one of your ball-valves goes wrong the first thing you will notice is water dripping from an outside overflow pipe. If the valve is a Portsmouth pattern then it is likely to have developed one of three faults. First, it could have jammed partially open as a result of the build-up of scale or the presence of grit; or. secondly, it could need re-washering.

In either of these cases this will necessitate you turning off the water supply so that you can either clean the ball-valve or fit a new washer to it (see step-by-step photographs). Lastly, the valve could have been incorrectly adjusted to maintain the proper water level in the cistern .- which should be about 25mm (1 in) below the overflow pipe. Even modern Portsmouth valves are rarely provided with any specific means of adjusting the water level, so if you need to do so you will have to resort to bending the float arm.

Noise can be a problem with Portsmouth valves. It is caused either by the inrush of water through the valve nozzle, or by vibration created by the float bouncing on ripples on the surface of the water (`water hammer’).

As silencer tubes are now banned by water authorities, you will have to try.other methods to deal with this problem. Reducing the mains pressure by closing the rising main stop- valve slightly may help. and as vibration can be magnified by a loose rising main it is worth making sure that this pipe is properly secured with pipe clips. Another measure you could take would oe to improvise a stabiliser for the float using a submerged plastic flowerpot tied to the float arm with nylon cord. However, if all the above measures fail you will have to consider replacing the Portsmouth valve with one.

Stop-valves, gate-valves and ball-valves

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Plumbing    by: ITC

These are all plumbing fittings that in different ways do precisely the same thing, which is to regulate the flow of water through pipes. Each of the three types of valve performs an important function in your water system, and it is therefore in your interest to know not only what they do and how they do it, but also how to put right any of the faults to which they are prone.


Your main stop-valve is perhaps the single most important plumbing fitting in your house. In the event of almost any plumbing emergency the very first thing that you should do is turn it off. This will stop the flow of water into your house and reduce the extent of any damage. Looking like a very basic brass tap, your main stop-valve will be found set into the rising main not far from the point where this pipe enters your house. Often it will be located under the kitchen sink.

If your house is fairly old then it could be that it won’t be provided with a main stop- valve. If this is the case, then you will have to use the local water authority’s stop-valve instead. You will find it under a hinged metal flap set into your garden path or the pavement outside your property. This sort of stop- valve usually has a specially-shaped handle that can only be turned with one of the water authority’s turnkeys. So that you can deal promptly with any emergency you should make sure that you either have one of these turnkeys. or at least that you have ready access to one. However, both for the sake of convenience and because specialist gadgets like turnkeys have a habit of disappearing when they’re most needed, you may decide to install a main stop-valve yourself – not a difficult task if the rising main is made of copper pipe.

The internal construction of a stop-valve is identical to that of an ordinary tap, and so it is prone to the same types of faults (sees Ready Reference). But one further trouble that may afflict your stop-valve – which doesn’t crop up with ordinary taps – is that of jamming in the open position as a result of disuse. It’s a problem cured simply by applying penetrating oil to the spindle. However, you can prevent this happening by closing and opening the stop-valve regularly, and by leaving it fractionally less than fully open – a quarter turn towards closure will do.


Whereas stop-valves are always fitted to pipes that are under mains pressure, gate- valves are used on pipes that are only subject to low pressure. They are therefore found on hot and cold water distribution pipes and on those of the central heating system. Gate valves differ from stop-valves in as much as they control the flow of water through them, not with a washered valve, but by means of a metal plate or ‘gate’. You can distinguish them from stop-valves by the fact that their valve bodies are bigger, and by their wheel as opposed to crutch – handles. Due to the simplicity of their internal construction gate- valves require little attention (see Ready Reference). Unlike stop-valves, which have to be fitted so that the water flowing through them follows the direction of an arrow stamped on the valve body, you can install a gate- valve either way round.

Mini stop-valves

Mini stop-valves are useful little fittings that you can insert into any pipe run. Their presence enables you to re-washer or renew a tap or ball-valve or repair a water-using appliance such as a washing machine without disrupting the rest of your water system. They can aiso be used to quieten an excessively noisy lavatory flushing cistern that is fed directly from the rising main, since by slowing down the flow of water to the ball-valve you can reduce the noise without materially affecting the cistern’s rate of filling after flushing. You usually fit a mini stop-valve immediately before the appliance that it is to control: and they can be turned off and on either with a screwdriver, or by turning a small handle through 180°.


Ball-valves are really just self-regulating taps designed to maintain a given volume of water in a cistern. While there are a number of different patterns they all have a float-not necessarily a ball these days – at one end of a rigid arm which opens or closes a valve as the water level in the cistern falls or rises. There are basically two types of ball-valves: the traditional type, generally made of brass, in which the water flow is controlled by a washered plug or piston; and the type that has been developed more recently in which the flow is controlled by a large rubber diaphragm housed within a plastic body.

Emergency Pipe Repairs

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Plumbing    by: ITC

• One type of repair kit is based on two- part epoxy resin plastic putty supplied as two strips of differently-colored putty in an airtight pack. When the strips are thoroughly kneaded together the putty is packed firmly round the pipe, where ’twill hardens to form a seal. However, this hardening process takes up to 24 hours and the water supply will have to remain off for this period. (If you don’t need to use all the pack in one goes, reseal it immediately).

Equal amounts of putty should always be used and mixed together thoroughly until a uniform color results, otherwise it won’t harden properly. It’s also essential that the pipe or joint is scrupulously rubbed down and cleaned with ethylated spirit or nail polish remover. This will ensure a good bond between the putty and the metal.

• One of the most valuable aids is a multi-size pipe repair clamp which has the added advantage of being reusable. It consists of a rubber pad which fits over the hole (for this repair it’s not necessary to turn off the water) and a metal clamp which draws the rubber tightly against the pipe when it is screwed in place.

Position the pad and one side of the clamp over the hole, and link the two parts of the clamp together, making sure that the pad is still in place. Tighten the wing nut fully. If the position of the hole makes this difficult, use blocks of wood to hold the pipe away from the wall. This method of repair cannot, of course, be used to mend leaks occurring at fittings.

• Another proprietary product uses a two- part sticky tape system which builds up waterproof layers over the leak — in the true. sense this does form an instant repair. The area round the leak should be dried and cleaned and then the first of the tapes is wrapped tightly round the pipe, covering the leak and 25mm (1in) either side of it. Then 150mm strips of the second tape, with the backing film removed, are stuck to the pipe and stretched as they are wound round, each turn overlapping the previous one by about half the width of the tape. This covering should extend 25mm beyond either end of the first layer of tape. The job is completed by wrapping the first tape over the entire repair.

Where to turn off the water

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Plumbing    by: ITC

1. Cold water supply pipes connected directly to the mains: in the UK these pipes usually only supply the kitchen cold tap. the cold water storage tank and sometimes instantaneous water heaters. In Australia and other countries. the pipes may supply all cold water taps and the hot water storage cylinder. The simple way of deciding whether any pipe or tap is supplied directly by the mains is by the pressure — taps supplied from a tank are what’s known as gravity-fed and the pressure of water is relatively low compared to mains pressure

2. Cold water supply pipes from a cold water storage tank: in the UK these pipes usually supply the bathroom cold taps, the WC cistern and the hot water cylinder.

To close off the water supply in these pipes there’s often a stop-valve immediately alongside the cold water tank where the pipe exits. Turn this off first and then open all cold water taps. They’ll run dry almost immediately. If there isn’t a stop-valve, you have to drain the whole tank. So first you stop water entering the tank by either turning off the mains or by tying up the ball-valve in the tank so that it remains closed. Then you open al the taps in the house.

3. Hot water pipes: these are all supplied from a hot water cylinder, which in turn gets its cold water either from the cold tank or from the mains.

Since hot water leaves the hot water storage cylinder from the top. it’s only the pressure of water going in at the bottom of the cylinder that forces the water out. Turn off the supply of cold water (either at the cold water tank. or at the mains) and you stop the flow. Ir. this sort of situation the hot water cylinder remains full. If for any reason you need tic drain this as well, use the drain cock near the bottom. It’s essential in this case to turn off either the immersion heater or boiler.

To turn off the water, look for the mains stop-valves. There may. in fact, are two: one inside the house where the mains pipe enters under the kitchen sink, in the utility room, or even under the stairs); the other outside – either just inside the boundary of the property (near to a water meter, if you have one), or under the footpath outside the garden fence.

Outdoor stop-valves may be set as much as a meter (3 ft) down beneath a hinged cover or metal plate. and you may need a special ‘key’ which is really just a long rod with a square socket on the end which fits over the tap to turn it. In most cases, however, it’s simply a matter of reaching down to turn it off by hand or with a wrench. Some outdoor stop-valves also control a neighbor’s water supply, so do warn them if you’re turning it off.

The stop-valve inside will either be a wheel type or an ordinary T-shaped type. The only possible complication is if it hasn’t been touched for years and is stuck fast. A little penetrating oil and tapping it with a hammer will usually loosen it sufficiently. (It’s worth closing the stop-valve now and again to see that it doesn’t get stuck.)

Leaks in Plumbing Systems at Your Home

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Plumbing, Remodeling    by: ITC

Leaks in domestic plumbing systems have a nasty habit of happening at the most inconvenient of times, often when it isn’t possible to carry out a proper permanent repair. What you need is a plumbing emergency first aid kit, and there are now several proprietary products available that will at least enable you to make a temporary repair and get the water flowing again.

With any leak. the vital first step is to stop the flow of water. Even a small leak can create a surprisingly large pool of water in no time. Stopping the flow in any pipe is relatively easy provided that you know the locations of the various stop-taps or valves that isolate parts of your water system, or cut it off completely from the mains supply.

Water comes into the house through a pipe known as the rising main, and because water in this pipe (and others leading from it) is under mains pressure, leaks from it will be particularly serious. It enters the house underground, and from there leads either to all the cold taps and a water heating system, or to just the cold tap in the kitchen and to a cold water storage tank.

Leaks can result from a number of causes. Pipe work may have been forced or strained at some point, resulting in a leak at one of the fittings connecting the lengths of pipe together. or in a fracture at a bend.

Corrosion within pipes may lead to pinholes in pipe lengths, while frost damage can lead to bursts and splits in pipes and to leaks at fittings caused by ice forcing the fitting open. Whatever the cause. cutting off the water supply to the affected pipe is the first vital step.

Renewing sash cords

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Redecorating    by: ITC

Whether or not you’ve had to pause in order to repair a sash or to repaint everything, you’re now ready to carry on and fit new sash cords.

The first step is to remove the weights. To get at them, you have to take out the one or two pieces of wood covering each weight compartment — the pocket pieces. These are usually just a push fit, and you pry them out with an old chisel or screwdriver; in somecases, – however, there’s also a retaining screw. Lift out each weight, untie the cord from it, and attach it to the free end of the string, making a complete loop. If there’s rust on the weight, you can rub it off with abrasive paper at this stage. but there’s no need to paint it.

You can buy new sash cord from almost any builder’s merchant or hardware store, but ask for it by name — doesn’t just use any old cord. To fit the new cord, untie the loop of string. tic the cord to it, and use it to thread the cord over the pulley and down into the weight compartment. Then tie the cord to the weight with a strong knot. At this stage don’t try cutting the cord to the correct length — leave it too long.

Most sashes have a groove, near the top of each side, in which the cord is fixed with small galvanized round-head nails. Either nails the cord into the groove and trims off the excess, or marks the groove length on the frame and trims the cord to the mark.

Whichever you do, the weight should hang 50mm (2in) above the base of its compartment when the sash is at the top of the frame. It’s the same for each sash. Note that the cord shouldn’t be fixed right to the top of the groove, or the sash won’t run all the way up. The topmost nail should be as far down from the top as the top of the pulley is from the top of the frame opening.

After fixing the cords at both sides of the outer sash, replace the parting bead. Then repeat the whole process for the inner sash, and lastly replace it and the staff bead in position. When fixing the beads. make sure the sashes have room to slide free.

Home Construction Contracts

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Remodeling, Services    by: ITC

All the work done to convert the attic into living space must comply with the requirements of the Zoning and Building Codes, and before work can begin plans must be drawn up and submitted to your local Building Department for approval. They will be able to advise you on any aspects of the work about which you are unsure, and will probably want to make several checks on the work as it progresses.

The Codes vary so greatly across the country that what may need approval on in one area does not need approval in another. If you feel unsure, check with your local Building Department or consult with a local professional Architect or Engineer before starting.

There are two routes you can take to getting professional help: you can either employ an architect to design the conversion and then get him to supervise the builder who does the work, or approach a specialist re-modeler, who will both design the conversion and carry out the work. In the first instance you will get something that suits your needs exactly, whereas in the latter you may get a variation on one of several standards. plans. However, there may be quite a difference in price, so do get quotes from different companies for comparison.

In many cases the architect or contractor will handle the Building Code side of the job for you, perhaps relieving you of a considerable headache. Both will also be able to tell you if the structure of the roof makes a conversion possible at all. Sometimes it is possible to remove major supporting members which are in the way and support the load they carried by making one of the internal partitions load-bearing or by inserting strong wooden beams in the framework of the walls or floor.

In other areas, essential supporting framing may be left in place and the internal partitions built off them — in some instances the resulting shapes being adapted for bookshelves or storage space, for example. you need more rooms and there is simply no other way you can get more room from the existing layout, the answer may be to build on an extra room or rooms at the side or rear of the house.

As with an attic conversion you will need a building permit for an extension, but it is as well to check with the local Building Department. In some areas the Building Code requires that any addition is built in the same style and in matching materials as the main part of the house. In this situation, even if the extension is within the permitted size and does not project above the roof line or beyond the front of the building, you would still need a building permit.

Regardless of the Zoning situation, all the work must comply with the Building Code, so early contact with your local Building Inspector is essential. He will want to see plans of the extension, being particularly interested in the foundations and will advise you on the requirements for your specific situation. He will also want to inspect the work as it progresses.

With a purpose built extension you should employ an architect to design it and take care of the Building Code matters. He will also supervise the building work. This should be done by a competent builder, but you may be able to reduce the cost if he will agree to you doing the less critical parts of the job.

A standard contract should be taken out with the builder that defines his responsibilities, specifies costs, starting and completion dates and gives details of how payment will be made.

Prefabricated extensions are often designed for assembly by the purchaser, although the manufacturer can send his own erection team to do it for you; he may even insist on this if the extension is above a certain size.

Obviously, any extension will be costly and you should give considerable thought as to how you will pay for it. In some cases you may qualify for a guaranteed loan through the federal government. You may be able to extend your mortgage, or get a loan from a bank or finance company. It is worth shopping around to get the best terms.

In addition to the Building Code your house may be part of a residential community or association which also places restrictions or limitations on the type of alterations that may be made to the property. Generally this extends only to the type and style of fences or a ban on blacktop drive ways, but in some areas — a neighborhood of Victorian gingerbread houses for example — it may restrict the architectural style of any new work.

Further restrictions to the type of alteration you may make to your home may be made by the mortgage holder or by the house insurer. Always check with your insurance agent to make sure that your home owner’s policy is not invalidated by the construction work. Some insurers will insist that at least part of the work — usually the electrics or plumbing and heating — is carried out by professionals.

Houses built before the Building Code took effect are not required to comply to the Code unless they are altered.

Fitting a Dormer Window

Filed Under: DIY Outdoor, Do it yourself, Home repair, Remodeling    by: ITC

In converting an attic the installation of one or more dormer windows will not only provide essential natural light but also increase the headroom over areas of floor that were previously unusable.

In addition to providing windows and extra floor space, with a dormer built up from eaves level, you can site a staircase immediately below it fixed to the external wall of the house, whereas normally it would have to run through the center for there to be enough headroom at the top.

Since several rafters will have to be cut through make the doliner, the framework must be strong enough to support the load previously borne by the cut rafters. It must also have support at floor level unless it is possible to set the framing directly on top of a loadbearing wall. The original attic joists would certainly not be strong enough. However, since a dormer will be put in as part of an attic conversion this is not really a problem. A strengthening framework and extra joists will have to be put in for the new attic floor and this can be made to support the claimer framework as well. This new framework is built directly onto the house load- bearing walls and is completely independent of the original attic joists and ceiling below.

Calculating the loads involved and designing the supporting framework is specialist work for an architect, engineer or a contractor.

The construction of the donuer framework would follow on from constructing the floor support structure. Once the dormer is complete, do the rest of the conversion work. Access to the roof will be needed so that bulky materials can be passed through from the outside after removing a few tiles or slates and cutting an opening in the roofing felt. An access tower and roof ladder are essential.

The first job is to build the framework of the dormer, making sure it is secure before cutting through the original rafters and removing them.

The first sections of framework to be erected are the two corner posts for the outer end of the dormer. There is no need to strip off all the roofing within the dormer area for this initial construction work; remove

only small sections of tiles and pass the framework through. In this way the roof can be kept reasonably weathertight for most of the time.

The corner posts stand on the supporting floor joists below and are linked immediately below rafter level by a horizontal beam. Short wooden studs are nailed between the purlin and the supporting floor beam. The purlin has two purposes: to tie the bottoms of the corner posts together and to support the lower ends of the original rafters when they are cut through. All the construction is toe-nailed to fit.

Next, nail a horizontal beam across the tops of the corner posts. The joists for the top of the dormer can then be fitted: nail their outer ends to the top of the header and pass them right through the roof and bolt them to the rafters on each side for stability.

If the roof of the dormer is to be flat, tapered wooden slats, called furring pieces, are nailed to the tops of the joists so that the roof will have a fall to the front for drainage. If the dormer is to have a pitched roof, a ridge board and additional rafters are installed above the joists.

Before removing the roof from within the dormer framework, fit additional trimmer rafters between the corner posts and the roof ridge bar (or hip rafter if the dormer is a wide one on a hipped roof). Cut shallow notches in the sides of the corner posts to take the ends of these trimmers, and nail in place.

To complete the framework, the roofing must be stripped off. Lift the tiles or slates from the battens, cut out the felt and saw through the battens to expose the joists: cut these off flush with the undersides of the dormer joists and level with the inner face of the new supporting purlin.

Nail vertical studs between the trimmer rafters and the joists above to provide support for the side “cheek” cladding of the dormer, spacing them to take account of the width of the cladding sheets so that their edges always fall on the centerline of a stud.

Complete the framework by adding a wooden subframe to support the window itself. This is usually a horizontal beam set between the corner posts and supported below by short studs nailed to the top of the new purlin, and possibly to the sides of the cut rafters as well. The window will be narrower than the distance between the corner posts, so nail additional studs between the horizontal beam and header to support it at the sides.

The roof is covered first and if it is flat, it is decked with exterior grade plywood, butting the sheets together and nailing them to the supporting joists. To provide support for the flashing, slip a narrow strip of board under the roof at the junction with the dormer and nail it to the original rafters. To provide a certain degree of protection until the job is completed, you can add the first two layers of felt at this stage, taking them up under the original roof and leaving overlaps at the sides and front for finishing off.

Next the sides and front of the framework on either side of the window opening can be paneled in: you can use foil-backed gypsum board for the cheeks. Nail it to the outside of the framework with the foil side outei inost to prevent moisture penetration.

Fit lead soakers beneath the tiles on each side of the dormer; it may actually be easier to do this before cladding the sides, since they will slip in from the ends of the courses without the removal of the tiles.

Before finishing off cladding the sides, add flashing to the front of the dormer below the window-opening, taking it over the top of the frame-supporting beam and down over the roof tiles or slates below.

If tiles are to be used for cladding, nail narrow battens horizontally around the dormer (the spacing being dictated by the tile size). If boarding is used, nail the battens on vertically. Overlapping tiles and boards are nailed on in pattern to keep out rainwater.

Fit window frames made from seasoned wood. A gutter is fixed along the front fascia board with a short down-pipe at one end which can be led down the corner of the dormer to discharge its contents over the roof below.

Having clad the outside of the dormer and glazed the window, finish off inside — this can be done at the same time as building the interior of the attic room.

While the framework is still exposed, however, glass fiber or polystyrene insulation can be fixed between the various frame members at the sides and in the roof before they are clad with drywall or whatever internal wall cladding is being used.

Remodeling Your Home

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Home repair, Redecorating, Remodeling    by: ITC

When space becomes cramped at home, it is not always necessary to move to a larger house to solve the problem. Often, more usable space can be arranged using the resources already at your disposal – and usually at a much lower cost and less frustrating than that of moving.

There are several ways in which you can gain a substantial amount of extra living space in your home – from simply partitioning off larger rooms to making two or more smaller rooms, opening up under-stair areas, or removing a wall to enlarge a room to converting attic space and building a single-storey, ground floor extension.

Room divisions, and very often attic conversions, can be carried out without the need for filing with your local building department, but a permit may be required to build a separate extension. As local laws can vary considerably in different locations, it is always best to check first with your local building code.

The size of a room, its shape, and the number of rooms you have can each present particular problems – a growing family may mean you could do with more bedrooms, or an additional bathroom to ease that early morning traffic jam, perhaps even separate dens for the older and younger elements of the family. Many people have also to look after elderly or infirm relatives, in which case an extra powder room or bathroom and bedroom can be very useful if not a full-scale extension.

Extra rooms can be provided by partitioning off larger ones with wood-framed walls complete with access doors. In the same way, large open-plan rooms can be divided into smaller, cozier rooms if that is what you prefer. In the latter case, a partial or half-height partition would provide an effective division between, say, the dining and living areas of a room while retaining the spacious, airy feel of an open-plan layout.

Using similar skills, you can improve the light of gloomy rooms by installing larger windows and, perhaps, even more than one.

Converting an attic to provide extra living space may be the answer to solving the needs of a growing family and their interests. It will obviously involve more expense than a simple room division, (particularly if you need to install a window and staircase) but it is worth remembering that such a conversion will add greatly to the overall value of your house.