Replacing Skirting & Architraves

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

Standard features of all houses, however plain. Although each performs a specific job, they also provide ornamentation and a chance to vary decoration.

As the years pass, they’re bound to come in for a few knocks – and will most likely be covered in several layers of paint, which not only get chipped but also eventually clog up their profiles. Skirting boards, in particular, are also prone to rot if walls or floors are damp. However, since wood trim is in no way part of the house’s structure, repairs and even replacement should create no major problems.

Slight dents and cracks can often be repaired with cellulose filler – or perhaps glass fibre repair paste for larger or more accident-prone areas. In most cases you’ll have difficulty blending in the filler by hand with an ordinary filling knife. Instead, you can use a template cut to the profile of the molding from plastic sheet (a large plastic ice-cream container is ideal), or hardboard or cardboard; run it along to smooth the surface after applying the filler.

If the damage is more serious, you may be able to saw and/or chisel out the bad part to leave clean edges, and glue and pin in a small piece or pieces of prepared molding, or else plain timber shaped to fit.

If patching and filling won’t work, you need a completely new piece. This, however, can be a snag if your existing molding is one of the scores of obsolete types, because you won’t be able to match it off the shelf.

You may occasionally be able to buy something suitable – on site where an old house is being demolished or renovated, or perhaps from a demolition contractor who stocks secondhand timber. Otherwise, many joinery firms will cut a molding specially if you take in a sample of the pattern; but that’s likely to prove very expensive.

Your next option is to substitute a readily available pattern of molding throughout the room. But that’s a pity – not to say a lot of trouble – if most of it is sound. A third possibility, probably the most attractive if you only need a small piece, is to make it yourself. You can mold the shape with a power router, or perhaps a plough plane, combination plane or scratch stock.

A scratch stock consists of a piece of steel (for example part of a hacksaw blade) ground and/or filed to the profile you want. It is then clamped with screws between two pieces of hardwood in an improvised stock, and scraped along the timber till the desired shape emerges.

Externally curved moldings, such as plain chamfered skirting and architrave, can of course usually be formed with an ordinary bench plane and glasspaper. Lastly, it’s sometimes possible to make the molding up in sections from smaller ones, glued together and filled where necessary.

Overflows from gullies

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

Where waste pipes and downpipes discharge into gullies, the first signs of trouble may be when the gully overflows and the surrounding area is flooded as a result. The gully trap has probably become blocked, either by blown leaves or other debris, or by a build-up of grease and scum on the sides of the trap. Raise the gully grid if one is fitted (and get a new one if it’s broken or missing). Then scoop out any debris with a rubber-gloved hand or an improvised scoop, scrub the gully out with caustic soda and flush it through with plenty of clean water before replacing the grid.

A blockage in the underground drains may be shown up by a WC which, when flushed, fills with water almost to the rim and then very slowly subsides, or by dirty water seeping from under a manhole cover. You’ll need a set of drain rods to clear any underground blockage. It is best to hire these from a local tool hire firm if and when the emergency arises. A drain that blocks sufficiently frequently to justify the purchase of a set of rods undoubtedly has a major defect that needs professional advice and attention.

Raising the manhole covers will give you an indication of the position of the blockage. If, for instance, the manhole near your front boundary is empty, but the one beside the house into which the soil pipe and yard gully discharges is flooded, then the blockage must be between these two manholes.

Screw two or three lengths of drain-rod together, add the appropriate accessory to one end and then lower it into the flooded manhole. Feel for the drain half-channel at its base and push the rod end along it and into the drain towards the obstruction. Screw on extra rods as necessary until you reach and clear the blockage. You may find it easier to push the rods into the drain — and to extract them again — if you twist them as you do so. Always twist in a clockwise direction. If you twist anti-clockwise the rods will unscrew and one or more lengths will be left irretrievably in the drain.

Many older houses have intercepting traps. These traps. which were intended to keep sewer gases out of the house drains, are the commonest site of drain blockage. You can see if your drains have an intercepting trap by raising the cover of the manhole nearest to your property boundary before trouble occurs and looking inside. If there is an intercepting trap the half-channel of the gully will fall into what appears to be a hole at the end of the manhole; actually it is the inlet to the trap. Immediately above this hole will be a stoneware stopper. This closes the rodding arm giving access to the length of drain between the intercepting trap and the sewer.

A blockage in the intercepting trap indicated when all the drain inspection chambers are flooded. It can usually be cleared quite easily by plunging. To do this, screw a drain plunger (a 4in or 100mm diameter rubber disc) onto the end of a drain rod. Screw on one or two other rods as necessary and lower the plunger into the flooded manhole. Feel for the half-channel at its base and move the plunger along until you reach the inlet of the intercepting trap. Plunge down sharply three or four times and, unless you are very unlucky. there will be a gurgle and the water level in the manhole will quickly fall.

Very occasionally, there may be a blockage between the intercepting trap and the sewer, and the point must be made that this length of drain is the householder’s responsibility, even though much of it may lie under the public highway. To clear such a blockage the stoneware cap must be the inlet to the rodding arm (this can be done with the drain rods but it isn’t the easiest of jobs) and the rods passed down the rodding arm towards the sewer.

Intercepting traps are also subject to a kind of partial blockage that may go unnoticed for weeks or even months. An increase in pressure on the sewer side of the trap — due to a surge of storm water, for instance — may push the stopper out of the rodding arm. It will fall into the trap below and cause an almost immediate stoppage.

However this will not be noticed because sewage will now be able to escape down the open rodding arm to the sewer. The householder usually becomes aware of a partial blockage of this kind as a result of an unpleasant smell, caused by the decomposition of the sewage in the base of the manhole.

The remedy is, of course. to remove the stopper and to replace it. Where the trouble recurs it is best to discard the stopper and to lightly cement a glass or slate disc in its place. In the very unusual event of a stoppage between the intercepting trap and the sewer, this disc can be broken with a crowbar and replaced after the drain has been cleared.

After any drain clearance the manhole walls should be washed down with a hot soda solution and a garden hose should be used to flush the drain through thoroughly.

Roof rainwater gutters may become obstructed by leaves or other objects_ An overflowing gutter isn’t an instant catastrophe but, if neglected, it will cause dampness to the house walls. An inspection, removal of debris and a hose down of gutters should be a routine part of every householder’s preparations for winter.

Blocked baths and basins

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

Basin and bath wastes are less likely to be totally blocked than sink wastes but, when blockages do occur, they can usually be cleared in the same way. They are, however, very subject to partial blockage. The waste water is often found to run from the bath or basin ever more slowly.

This may be due to a build-up of scum, scale and hair on the inside of the waste pipe, and the use of a proprietary drain-clearing chemical will usually clear it. These frequently have a caustic soda base, so they should be kept away from children and handled with care, strictly in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Before spooning them into the bath or basin waste outlet it is wise to smear petroleum jelly over the rim of the outlet to protect the chromium finish, especially with plastic baths or fittings.

Partial blockage of a wash basin waste may often be caused by hair suspended from the grid of the outlet. This may be all but invisible from above, but probing with a piece of wire (the old standby of a straightened-out wire coathanger is useful) can often produce festoons.

If you can’t clear the hair by this means, unscrew the nut that connects the threaded waste outlet to the trap and pull the trap to one side. Now use a pair of pliers to pull the hair away from beneath the grid.

Clearing Blockages

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

Professional plumbers rarely relish being called out to deal with a blockage. There are specialist drain clearance firms, but they can’t always be contacted quickly in an emergency — and their charges reflect what can sometimes be the unpleasantness of the job. Drain or waste-pipe clearance is usually well within the capacity of the householder, and there are certainly few more cost-effective do-it-yourself jobs about the house.

The outlet of the sink, usually the trap immediately beneath the sink itself, is the commonest site of waste-pipe blockage. Usually the obstruction can be cleared quickly and easily by means of a sink-waste plunger or force cup. This is a very simple plumbing tool obtainable from any do-it-yourself shop, ironmongers or household store. It consists of a rubber or plastic hemisphere, usually mounted on a wooden or plastic handle. Every household should have one.

To use it to clear a sink waste blockage, first press a damp cloth firmly into the overflow outlet, holding it securely with one hand. Then pull out the plug and lower the plunger into the flooded sink so that the cup is positioned over the waste outlet. Plunge it up and down sharply half a dozen or more times. Since water cannot be compressed, the water in the waste between the cup and the obstruction is converted into a ram to clear the blockage. The overflow outlet is sealed to prevent the force being dissipated up the overflow.

If your first efforts at plunging are unsuccessful. persevere. Each thrust may be moving the obstruction a little further along the waste pipe until it is discharged into the drain gully or the main soil and waste stack.

Should plunging prove unsuccessful you’ll have to gain access to the trap. Brass and lead U-shaped traps have a screwed-in plug at the base. With plastic U-shaped and bottle traps the lower part can be unscrewed and removed – see Ready Reference.

Before attempting this, put the plug in the sink and place a bucket under the trap: it will probably be full of water unless the blockage is immediately below the sink outlet, and the chances are that opening the trap will release it. Having done so, probe into the trap, and into the waste pipe itself. You can buy purpose-made sink waste augers for this purpose, but you’ll find that a piece of expanding curtain wire, with a hook on the end. can be equally effective.

Gaining access to the pipes

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

You might find you need access to a particular part of a pipe. In that case you should cut out a section of the cladding and fit it with screws to create what is in effect a little trap door.

If you’re boxing in a length of pipe that has a stop-valve on it you should again make a little trap door, but this time fix it on with hinges so that access can be immediate. You can fix a small handle or touch latch on to it to facilitate opening.

If you find pipes exposed in a number of rooms in your home, one method of concealing them, which will provide you with extra storage space as well, is to install built-in furniture. An ideal location for this is that living room alcove. The pipes would be largely unnoticed if you fitted a waist-high cupboard with book shelves on top, for example. The construction of such a cupboard is straightforward (for further details see Ready Reference).

If the pipes are on the back wall. the shelves can be supported on an adjustable shelving system in which brackets lock into uprights. The uprights should be fitted to vertical battens; that way the shelves will be thrown well clear of the pipes. Alternatively, if you have the pipes running up the side of the chimney breast, you can carefully cut notches out of a corner of each shelf so you won’t disturb any of the pipes.

The bathroom is an obvious place where unsightly plumbing can be concealed behind built-in furniture. A built-in cupboard, beneath the washbasin, for instance, will provide extra storage space as well as acting as a neat disguise. If you live in a flat that has the upstairs neighbour’s soil pipe passing through your bathroom, you can disguise it neatly with shelves at the end of a built-in washbasin unit or with a built-in vanity unit.

Another way of concealing pipes is to construct a false wall. This is especially useful if your plaster is in very poor condition. You simply fix timber cladding, probably match-boarding or veneered plywood, to battens running down edges of the walls. Water pipes will go conveniently behind such cladding providing you never forget their location and try to drive nails into the timber!

A more sophisticated version of this that is especially suited to the kitchen or living room, is done with timber panelling. However, if the pipes are running up and outside the wall, it would be wise to allow for some air holes or a small gap at both the top and the bottom. This will ensure that warm air can circulate.

If you find that for some reason you cannot conceal your pipes then it’s worth thinking about going to the opposite extreme and making a feature out of them. Pipes that have been painted with bright colors, for example, can look extremely attractive in their own right. And copper pipework, polished and lacquered to stop it tarnishing, can be a really eye-catching feature.

You’ll have to make sure that the pipes are in good condition to warrant either painting or polishing up, and that their new color won’t clash with your existing decor. Ideally they should be lightly rubbed down to clean them before being given a coat of special enamel radiator paint. You should also take care not to apply too thick a coat of paint — especially on any vertical pipes, as you could end up with unsightly drips, which would be difficult to get rid of once the paint has dried.

Simple Boxing in

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

For many people a simple boxing-in of their existing pipes to keep them out of sight is all that they require. This is a straightforward task and the materials are easily available.

You’ll need softwood battens, usually 50x25mm (2×1 in), with a cladding of hardboard or 3mm plywood for the simplest job. Before you go ahead. however. you should check whether any hot water passes through the pipes to be hidden.

If this is the case and you’re using hardboard for your cladding, you’ll have to condition it first Of it will warp as the heat in the pipework dries it out. This is riot a difficult technique: all youl have to do is brush water onto the reverse (mesh) side and leave it flat for 48 hours in the room where it is to be fixed. The softwood battens should also be left lying flat in the room for a few days so that they. too. w adjust to the moisture content of the air.

If the wood has been conditioned, the two battens should be screwed to the wall on each side of the pipes and the cladding attached to the battens.

Fixing battens edge-on to the wall is not always the perfect answer but by doing so you’ll be able to cover adequately a few pipes that project up to 25mm (1 in) or so from the wall, and the cladding will, in any case, hold the battens steady.

Remember that you should never use glue to fix the cladding to the battens because you might need access to the pipes for repairs or modification at some stage in the future. Pins punched in at 150mm (6in) centres, with their heads covered with filler, should prove adequate; this way the cladding can be prised off if necessary.

Boxing in pipes running in a corner will require two 25mm (1 in) battens which have been chamfered at the front to provide an angled edge. These are screwed to the two walls and the cladding, also with chamfered edges, is then fixed to the battens. For larger pipes you’ll need just a single larger batten fixed to one of the smaller ones; the cladding will be pinned to this and the smaller batten.

Another method is to use a spring clip attached to a piece of 19mm (s/ain) thick timber. Its edges should be planed and chamfered to allow it to fit neatly into the corner, and the spring clip is then fixed to the pipe itself.

If the pipes are in the alcove of a chimney breast you can box them in and then finish off the boxing so that it looks like an extension of the existing wall (see Ready Reference). The boxing for horizontal pipes down near the floor can often be made to look like wide and deep skirting.

A 25mm (1 in) batten should be fixed to the floor itself and one should also run above, but parallel to, the pipe. To the upper batten an additional 50x25mm (2×1 in) batten should be fixed; the cladding is then attached to this and the batten on the floor.

Boxing and Pipework

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

Every home has a multitude of pipes in it; without them there could be no hot or cold water system, no sewage disposal and no gas supply, but the fact remains that pipework look unsightly if exposed to view. Older houses suffer in this respect far more than modern ones.

Builders used to leave ugly pipes on display all over the place, especially in kitchens and bathrooms. In many older homes, the supply pipes that take water to the bath, basins, sinks and WCs are there for all to see, and there’ll often be waste and soil pipes fully exposed en route from upstairs rooms to the drains.

The demands of modern plumbing in a home can make this problem still more aggravating. It’s amazing, for example, just how much pipework is needed to give even a small home central heating. Just a single pipe running through a room can ruin its appearance.

However, it’s possible to take full advantage of modern plumbing equipment without having an array of ugly, different-sized pipes on view throughout your home, providing you put a little forethought into what you are doing.

Installing and concealing new pipes If you’re installing new pipe runs, you’ll probably find that horizontal ones don’t pose as many problems as vertical ones. Provided you don’t have a solid floor, pipes can usually be run under the floorboards. If, on the other hand. you’re laying a new concrete floor, you could make channels in it to accept the new pipes. You will need to embed some timber battens or, better still, some scaffolding poles in the new floor until it is almost dry.

When they are removed, the pipes can be laid in the channels they have formed. The pipes should then be covered with mortar, ready for the final floorcovering to be laid. It is important in laying such channels to ensure the continuity of the damp-proof membrane in the floor.

Vertical pipes can be more of a headache, and you should aim to conceal these in an understairs cupboard, if you can, or to run them up through the hall. Whatever you do, you’ll want to keep the pipes out of the living room if at all possible.

However, if this proves difficult, a good position for them is at the side of the window: they won’t be immediately visible and you can easily hide them behind ceiling-to-floor curtains extending beyond the sides of the window opening.

The pipes are likely to protrude from the wall by as much as 25mm (1 in) or so, which means the curtains will have to be carefully put up to allow them to operate in front of the pipes. The best solution is to fix a horizontal batten of say, 50x25mm (2×1 in) timber to the wall at ceiling height above the window and each side of the pipes and then screw the track to that. That way the curtains will clear the pipes and hide them from view. Alternatively, you could use a curtain pole, which projects that much further from the wall than the track.

Curtains can conveniently be used elsewhere to conceal pipes. If you’ve had to run vertical pipes through the hall, it’s probably best to keep them to one side of the front door where they are not obvious. Ceiling-tofloor curtains could be used to cover the pipes, as well as to provide extra draught- proofing, comfort and privacy — especially if you have a completely glazed front door.

Another place to site the vertical pipes in the living room is in a group down the side of the chimney breast furthest away from the door. This is one of the last places in the room likely to be noticed by anyone entering it.

Once the pipes reach the first floor concealing them is not so critical, as they may pass within fitted wardrobes; in any case not so many people will be seeing them. You may also be able to keep many of them out of view by running them through the airing cupboard. Even so, a lot of pipes are going to be on view in parts of your home where they’ll look ugly and out of place, and boxing them in is one of the best ways of concealing them.

Using resin coatings

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

Epoxy resin coating for baths comes in a kit consisting of colored rosin, a chemical hardening agent, and a can of special brush cleaner. All you do is mix the resin with the hardener and, following the manufacturer’s instructions closely, brush it on’ There are. though, a number of points to bear in mind.

First, you must be very careful about the preparation. The bath surface must be scrupulously clean, dry, and free from grease: otherwise the coating will simply peel off. Lime scale and hard water staining should be removed as far as possible. and then the bath must be vigorously scrubbed with a warm solution of washing soda. Pay particular attention to soap holders, the tidemark line and the area round the waste outlet where soap deposits tend to be at their worst.

llow the bath to dry and then, as a final precaution against grease, wipe over the surface with a little of the special brush cleaner on a soft. lint-free cloth. Again, allow the bath to dry and tie plastic bags round taps and shower roses to contain any unexpected. and potentially damaging, drips splashing the coating before it is dry.

Secondly, great care must be taken with the application; provided you use a good quality brush, you shouldn’t find it too difficult to achieve a smooth, even coverage — though you might find a second coat necessary. For a really professional finish you might consider using a spray gun. Make sure you mask off areas that you don’t want painted and check that there is nothing plastic in the gun that is likely to be corroded by the mixture.

Finally, always follow the safety rules. Two-part coatings of this type are normally highly inflammable. so be sure to work in a well-ventilated room. Keep naked flames well away from the solution and, of course. don’t smoke while you’re doing the job. If any resin comes into contact with your skin or eyes, wash it off immediately with cold water.

Start on the floor of the bath and work up towards the rim, tackling the half furthest from you first. As soon as you have finished. clean your equipment with the cleaner provided and then rinse the brushes or gun with warm soapy water.

It’s also a good idea to throw away any resin/hardener mixture you have left over as it will set solid. even in a sealed container. Finally, you should ensure that you take good care of the newly coated bath. Don’t use it for at least 48 hours. don’t use acid-based cleaners on it and keep soap in a soap tray or it might stain the surface If you get any coating on your hands. you should use brush cleaner on them and then rinse them in warm, soapy water.

Dealing with stains

Filed Under: Bathroom, Cleaning, Do it yourself, Home repair    by: ITC

A problem with taps and baths is staining just below the taps. This tends to be at its worst in hard water areas and, so far, nobody has come up with a really effective way of removing these stains once they’ve formed. As always, prevention is better than cure, so you should make sure that the staining doesn’t build up in the first place.

Dripping taps and shower roses should be repaired as soon as possible, and if they’re old enough to introduce the additional problem of rust staining you should consider having them replaced.

You can work to minimize the build-up of stains by wiping out the bath immediately after use and cleaning it regularly with a proprietary cleaner. However, if the bath surface has got to the point where even the most thorough cleaning cannot help, then you’ll have to think about giving it a facelift.

Bath enamel – a hard-wearing version of ordinary enamel paint was originally used for covering up badly stained enameled surfaces.

However, over the years this has acquired an unfortunate reputation for failure not only is it unable to withstand the sort of treatment it gets in a bath, but also extreme care is required during both preparation and application in order to produce acceptable and lasting results. It is still available. but usually only in white. and it is worth considering only if you want to touch up the scratched surface of a cooker, fridge or washing machine.

For baths and other bathroom fittings. a recent development has proved to be a better option. This is an epoxy resin coating that will provide a very hard, heat-resistant and chemical-resistant finish on most of the non-porous surfaces to be found in the bathroom. It comes in a number of different colors that will match the coloring of modern bathroom fittings with the excepts of white. It cannot be used on plastics or surfaces that have already been painted.

The only possible disadvantage is that can sometimes work out a bit expensive, though it will obviously be considerably cheaper than buying a new bathroom suite.

Tiling the gap

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

If your bathroom is tiled, or if there is a tiled splashback around the bath, the simplest solution is to bridge the gap with quadrant tiles the ceramic equivalent of wooden quadrant beading.

These are normally available singly as straight lengths with both ends cut square, or with one end finished in a bullnose, and in mitred pairs for coping with internal corners. One drawback with quadrant tiles is that they are becoming difficult to obtain, and it’s worth bearing in mind that not only can they work out quite expensive, but they also come in limited range of colors (designed to existing bathroom suites rather than tile ranges).

If you’re going to seal the gap in course of actually tiling the wall splashback, then you can fix the tiles in position and grout them in the way, 12-24 hours after the last has been pressed into place_ In to accommodate any movement, you should make sure that the Wes bedded in a thick layer of silicone where they rest on the bath’s lip.Onthe hand, if you’re faced with existing round the edge. simply bed the tiles in mastic from start to finish. using instead of grout as well.

Quadrant tiles can be used successfrAl situations where the wall is not hied—pew painted, papered or timber-ciad.

However, in the last case its worth considering the use of timber quadrant beading as an alternative. All you have to do is pin it to the cladding or fix it to clean, bare plaster using an epoxy resin adhesive.

Again, make sure that the timber is bedded in mastic where it rests on the lip of the bath, shower tray or basin. Do remember to treat the timber with a good-quality preservative (one that can be painted or varnished over) and then paint or varnish it all round, including any cut ends, before fixing it in place.