Screening a solid floor

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

Screening your floor gives vital protection to a new layer of damp proofing and is an essential preparation before replacing floor covering.

It can be done in two ways. If the unevenness is slight, or you want to cover the existing flooring without lifting it, the best method to use is a self-leveling flooring compound. Make sure your floor is clean, dry and dust-free. If it is at all dusty, you should treat it with a proprietary concrete sealer before applying the flooring compound.

Mix the compound with water until it has a creamy consistency, and then pours enough on the floor to cover an area just under 1 sq m (1sq yd). Using a steel float smooth it out so that nowhere is the layer thicker than 3mm (Vain).

Then move onto the next square. Remembering that the compound will level itself out, so removing float marks and producing an acceptable finish. Leave it for a week or longer before laying the flooring. A second application, to smooth out slight lumps and bumps, can be applied after two or three days, but no more than three coats should be used otherwise there will be a risk of cracking at a later date.

The second method of leveling, using a mortar screed, is slightly more arduous but it does give the damp-proof membrane greater protection. Working from the far end of the room towards the door, divide the flood into strips about 1m (3ft) wide using 50 25rnrn (2 x line) softwood battens, and use more battens around the walls. Make sure that they are level with a spirit level, and if they aren’t, pack them out with scrap wood.

It is vital that you get all the battens level because they serve to guide you when you start laying the screed. If you don’t have them level, then your screed won’t be true and that’ll cause more problems when you come to lay the final surface. Cover the floor. a section at a time, with a 1:3 cement to sharp sand mortar, mixed with the minimum of water to the consistency of brown sugar_ Using a stiff board, scrape jt level with the battens and tamp it slightly as you go, using a steel float to give it a smooth finish.

To get the best finish to your screed keep the blade damp to stop the surface from dragging, but don’t make it too wet. When you complete each section remove the guide batten furthest from you and fill in the resulting channel before tackling the next section.

If you lay a screed during a warm dry spell it’s advisable to lay a plastic sheet over it for at least three days. This stops the mortar drying out too quickly and lets it cure properly. Even in milder weather it’s still best to sprinkle water gently over it twice a day for a few days. If the mortar dries out too quickly it will be below strength and will probably crack as it dries. Finally make good the walls and replace the skirting.

The big drawback with this method is that it raises the level of the floor by 25mm (1 in). Strictly speaking you should dig out the existing floor to the required level before starting, but this carries the risk of damaging any existing damp-proof membrane. One way of accommodating the extra thickness is to trim the bottom of the doors and build up any existing external doorsteps.

Do make sure that you don’t reduce the floor/ceiling height below the Building Regulations minimum of 2.3m (7ft 6in) and remember to do something about the change in level at the door thresholds: a shallow ramp is better than a shallow step.

There is another option, and that is not to lay a membrane at all. Instead you select flooring that can be laid using cement-based flooring adhesive. The former lets the damp through. so you should choose material that won’t be harmed by it, and the latter acts as a sort of damp-proof membrane itself.

But. as it is a makeshift solution. it will not always work and there is nothing to stop the damp rising through the walls. The floor will therefore be attacked from the edges. which can be just as harmful and the result will be that the whole floor will eventually have to be replaced, not only giving you extra work but also further expense.

Ridge, Eave, Verge, Valley, Hip tiles

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

The tiles on each side of the roof apex are sealed by ridge tiles. These span both upper courses and are bedded on mortar.

Replacement is carried out by chiseling out the old mortar and levering the old tile off. Then a new one is fitted on a fresh bed of mortar. Slate roofs are treated in the same way although sometimes they may have lead sheet wrapped over the ridge bar instead.

Gable tiles

To avoid there being a toothed pattern to the gable edge of the roof, special wide tiles and slates are made which are one-and-a-half times the normal width, allowing a square edge to be produced.

Eaves tiles

To ensure that the overlapping pattern of the roof continues at the eaves, a course of shorter tiles or slates is nailed in place so that their ends are flush with the course immediately above, but their joints are staggered by a half tile width.

Valley and hip tiles

Where two roofs meet there must be some means of joining the courses of tiles to ensure a watertight seal. It is usual to form a gutter along the angle of the join to carry water away. Use zinc sheet, or valley tiles which are nailed to the roof members and often interlock with the adjoining courses.


1 Measuring the projection of the gable-end tiles; bed the undercloak tiles face down in mortar and tuck the inner edges under the felt.

2 Setting the end tiles into mortar on the undercloak; use alternate full-width and widthand-a-half tiles to level edge.

3 Repointing the verge after the mortar has hardened; a pigment added to the mortar will make the pointing less obtrusive.

4 Checking the size of a cut tile adjoining the valley; this must allow the valley tile to be firmly bedded down beside it.

5 Working from the bottom of the valley upwards, aligning the bottoms of the valley tiles with the adjacent cut tiles.

6 Bedding the first hip tile into mortar; this must be shaped to prevent it overhanging and is supported by a hip-iron.

Renewing an Area of Slates

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

Slates are fixed to the roof in rows, or courses, each course overlapping the one below by at least half a slate length. In addition, the joins between slates in adjacent courses are staggered: in this way the joins are always covered by the slates above or below to ensure a water-tight construction.

Where the roof has a gable end, wider than normal slates are fitted to the ends of alternate courses to produce a square edge to the roof (these are known as “slate-and-a-half” slates). In addition, the edge slates at a gable end may be bedded on mortar laid on stacks of narrow slate strips known as creasing slates. These tilt the edges of the slates upwards so that rainwater runs down the roof to the gutters.

In addition to cutting them to size as described opposite, you will also have to make nail holes in them — no closer to the edge than lin. Use an old slate as a template for marking the holes.

Make the nail holes by drilling them or by driving a nail through with the slate supported on a block of wood. For safety and ease of working, do the cutting and drilling on the ground and carry the finished slates up to the roof. You will need 1 ‘Ain copper, zinc or aluminum roofing nails to hold the slates in place.

Remove the old slates from the roof using the slate ripper and starting with the upper courses of the area to be renewed. As you remove these upper slates, you will expose the heads of the nails holding the slates below. Cut these off with a pair of pincers.

Collect the slates and lower them to the ground with a bucket and rope, taking care with whole, undamaged ones, which you will be able to refit.

Having stripped off the old slates, inspect the battens below and if any are broken or rotten cut them out with a saw.

Begin fitting the new slates, starting at the lowest course and nailing them to the battens to recreate the overlapping pattern of the roof. Use two nails per slate and make sure it is fitted with the beveled lower edge uppermost to aid drainage.

Work your way up the roof, nailing the slates in place until the surrounding original slates make this impossible. Then fit the other slates with lead clips or toggle clips (see opposite) to complete the repair.

Enlarging the Opening

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

Having set the new lintel in place and re-finished the brickwork of the inner leaf above it, you can cut out the brickwork at the sides of the opening and, if necessary, across the base. First, draw the outline of the new opening on both sides of the wall, making it about lin wider and deeper than the actual frame dimensions to give a fitting tolerance.

External walls comprise two layers of bricks; each layer should be treated separately, working in from each side of the wall.

If the wall is a solid one produce a square edge along the opening outline on the inner layer by cutting through bricks where necessary. Always remove complete bricks even if they project beyond the outline. This gives a toothed effect to the edge.

If the base outline runs through the center of a course of bricks, remove the course completely; you can make up the difference later.

Replace the outer layer at the sides of the opening by mortaring cut bricks into the toothed sections so that their cut ends are innermost.

Next, replace the area of wall above the window, laying the bricks on the lintel and copying the original brickwork bond for strength and appearance. In a solid wall, you can create a curved, self-supporting soldier arch by setting a wooden framework in the opening on which the bricks of the arch are laid. Then the surrounding courses are fitted round the arch and the mortar left to set for a couple of days before removal of the formwork.

The frame must sit squarely in the opening; if it is twisted, you may have problems in opening and closing the window and the glass will be under stress and may shatter at the slightest vibration.

In a solid wall you can set the frame: flush with the outer face with its sill overhanging the edge; in the center of the opening with narrow reveals on each side; or flush with the inner face with a sub-sill at the bottom to throw water clear of the wall.

When the frame is set forward in the opening, the sides and top of the reveal are plastered and a wooden or tiled window board set across the bottom. When set at the back, it is normal to trim around the inside of the frame with molding

The simplest method of securing the frame is with frame fixings, a hefty screw and long plastic wall plug, but you can also use conventional wallplugs and screws, wooden wedges or metal frame ties. With each type, wedge the frame in the opening with wood offcuts so that it is set squarely in place, while the fixings are marked and made.

With screws and plugs, clearance holes must first be drilled in the frame and the hole positions on the wall marked through these. The holes are drilled and plugged and the frame fitted.

Wooden wedges are tapped into slots cut in the mortar joints and the frame nailed to the wedges. Metal frame ties also fit into slots in the joints, being screwed to the frame and mortared in place.

In all cases, you must leave a’/sin gap between the top of the frame and the underside of the lintel to allow for any settlement of the structure.

Leave the packing pieces in place. and fill the gaps at the sides with mortar, leaving it about 1/sin below the level of the frame face. Fill this gap with caulk when the mortar has set. Use caulking to fill the gap between the lintel and frame also. If there is a gap below the frame, fill this with bricks and mortar, splitting the bricks lengthways if necessary.

Make a sub-sill from wood screwed or nailed in place, or a double layer of tiles set on a sloping bed of mortar.

Another way is to cast a concrete sill in situ, making up a wooden formwork “tray” nailed to the wall. The sill should overlap the edge of the bricks by no more than in and you can form a drip channel (to prevent rainwater trickling under the sill) along the bottom edge by pinning a length of waxed cord (sash window cord will do) in the bottom of_ the tray. The top of the lintel should slope downwards so angle the sides for this. Also provide reinforcement by setting steel rods in holes drilled in the brickwork.

Mix the concrete from 4 parts sand: 1 part cement and pour it into the form. Agitate the mix to compact it and remove air bubbles and draw it off level with the top of the form. Leave the concrete for at least 24 hours before removing the foiinwork.

The frame fixing is much simpler to use and is ideal for securing wooden members to masonry. It comprises a hefty screw and a long plastic wallplug.

To use, wedge the frame in its opening and drill holes for the fixings right through it and into the wall. Without removing the frame, tap the plug and screw combination through the frame and into the wall, finally tightening the screw for a secure fixing.

Frame fixings are supplied in various lengths to hold wood thicknesses up to 33/sin. Another development of this is the hammer fixing, which is used in the same way, but set by driving a ridged, countersunk pin into the expanding plug.

Enlarging a Window

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

In remodeling your living space you may wish to enlarge a window, either to let in more light or ventilation, by installing an opening window to replace a fixed one.

Window types and materials

Modern windows come in a wide choice of styles in wood metal or plastic. They can be simple fixed panes or they can open with either top-hinged, side-hinged, pivotting, horizontally-sliding or vertically-sliding sections. The tendency is to go for large, uninterrupted panes of glass, but if your house is old you can still buy windows made up of small panes to give it a period look.

Despite the fact that it needs regular maintenance, wood is the most popular material for window frames and offers the widest choice of styles and sizes.

Steel windows are functional in appearance but can suffer considerably from rust if not looked after. Aluminum windows, too, can suffer from corrosion due to the atmosphere, especially in coastal areas.

On the face of it, plastic would seem to be ideal for window frames, being largely maintenance free. However, it is not easy to paint (and is intended not to be), which means that you are stuck with the manufacturer’s color, and if this is white you may find it yellows with age.

Assuming that you are going to fit a larger window frame in place of the original, you must provide temporary support for the wall (with needles and jack posts) while you remove the old frame and lintel. This should be either concrete or steel so that both leaves of the wall are supported. For a solid wall, fit a concrete lintel to the inner leaf and, at the same time, form a curved soldier arch over the top of the window in the outer leaf.

With the lintel in place, cut out the brickwork for the larger frame. Prepare the edges of the opening, prop the frame in position and nail, screw or cement it in place. The final job is to seal around the edges with mortar and caulk.

To make the frame lighter and easier to handle, first remove any opening sections and then carefully remove all the glass.

Cut out the mortar seal at the edges of the frame with a flat chisel and run a screwdriver round the gap to locate the fixings. Cut through them with a saw inserted in the keyhole.

Having cut through or released the fixings, lever the frame out with a stout bar or knock it out with a length of wood and a light sledge hammer.

Wooden window frames are normally held in place by galvanized metal ties cemented into the brickwork at the sides of the opening, by nails or screws driven into wooden wedges set in the brickwork, or by screws and wallplugs. Metal-framed windows may be held by metal brackets or be fitted to hardwood frames, which in turn are screwed into the opening.

Removing the Walls

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Remodeling    by: ITC

If the walls running across the ends of the beam are load bearing, it may be possible to cut directly into them to form bearings. In thi situationa longer than normal padstone should be used to spread the load sideways, or it may be necessary to add some extra strengthening by toothing in a shallow pier.

You must make the complete opening while the load above is still supported by the temporary props. It is essential to have all the necessary tools, equipment and materials to hand so that you can proceed quickly with the job.

At floor level, either trim the masonry off flush with a solid floor, or just below a wooden one. In the latter case, take care not to break through any water proofing membrane.

If there is a difference of level between the floors of the two rooms, either build a wooden step or cast a concrete one in situ.

With the masonry removed, you can make the bearings. Lifting the beam into place will be heavy work so it is as well to do a little preparation beforehand. To avoid the need for lifting the beam from floor level to the ceiling in one go, support it on trestles or pairs of stepladders, setting it so that you can get hold of it easily.

Set the coarse adjustment of the jack posts that will support the beam so that they can be set in place quickly and the fine adjustment made without fuss.

Lift the beam into place on the capstones and check that it is square across the room by taking measurements from nearby fixed points. Set the jack posts in place and tighten them until the beam comes up tight against the joists or masonry above. Check that the beam is completely level and make any fine adjustments with the posts.

At this stage you can remove the posts holding the joists, but leave any needles in place.

Trowel a layer of mortar between the top of the capstone and the underside of the beam and then tap pieces of slate into place to wedge the beam tightly upwards. You may need to insert two or even three pieces. Do the same at the other bearing, making sure it forms as tight a wedge as possible.

Finish off by pointing more mortar round the ends of the beam and capstone. If it is set on bearings cut into the end walls, fill the cavities around the ends of the beam with whole bricks or offcuts and more mortar, pointing it neatly.

With the bearings finished, check along the top of the beam to make sure it is fully supporting the joists or masonry above. If there are any gaps they must be wedged out too. In the case of masonry, use mortar and more slate wedges. If it is a wood floor, drive slates between the beam and any joists that are not otherwise supported.

Allow the mortar to harden for at least two days before removing the jack posts from below the beam together with any needles and their posts. Fill the needle holes with brick offcuts and mortar, then make good the ceiling, adjacent walls and floor.

If you have used a steel beam, clad this in a material that will protect it from fire: do not leave it exposed. The usual method is to clad the beam with gypsum board on a wooden framework nailed to wedges hammered into the sides of the beam.

The corners of the gypsum board should be taped or fitted with metal corner beads and finish it.

Concrete beams can be directly plastered over, their surfaces being rough enough to provide a key for the floating and finish coats.

When the beam has been plastered, finish the piers as well, using battens or special beads to form the corners. (Beading is probably best since the piers project into the room slightly and are, therefore, more likely to be knocked.)

Finally, cut the baseboards to fit around the base of each pier.

If the wall is of the non-load-bearing variety, the job will be much simpler since there is no need to fit a beam.

With a masonry wall, simply hack off the plaster and remove it brick by brick or block by block from the ceiling down. Cut out any metal ties holding the partition to the end walls, or cut through any bricks or blocks that have been toothed into them. At floor level, trim the masonry off flush — it may just sit on top of the floor anyway.

Replace the ceiling, if necessary, by cutting back to the nearby joists and nailing on a fresh strip of gypsum board. Finish it off with a skim coat of plaster and repair any damage to the walls.

If the wall is a wood-framed stud partition, simply lever off the cladding and prise apart or unscrew the frame. Fill any holes in the adjoining walls and redecorate.

Cutting an External Doorway

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Remodeling    by: ITC

The positioning and installation of external doors is subject to the requirements of your local building code, so make the necessary applications to your local building department first.

Temporary support for the wall must be provided by Sin sq needles on top of adjustable metal props. To fit the needles, remove a whole brick from the outer layer and drill through the inner layer at the corners of the opening. Use the holes as a guide for cutting out the masonry from the inner layer. Insert the needles and tighten the props.

Draw the outline of the lintel on the inside wall and cut out the plaster and masonry from within. Drill the corners of the outer layer and remove the masonry. Fit the lintel on mortar bearings packed out with tiles or slates to set it level. Fill all round the inner portion of the lintel with mortar and rebuild any brickwork above it. Similarly rebuild the outer brickwork in the existing bond or stand the bricks on end to form a “sodier” arch.

When the mortar has set, remove the needles and brick up the holes. Then cut out the opening for the door frame — to fit the size of the frame.

Remove the bricks down to floor level, cutting through the protrud-bricks of the inner layer, on solid walls but removing whole bricks from the outer layer to give a toothed appearance. Square up the toothed outer layer by fitting cut bricks in place so that their “finished” ends are outermost.

Toe-nail the frame together before inserting it in the opening. Tack a length of flashing material to the underside of the sill, covering the nail heads with a bituminous sealant.

Fix the frame in the opening with screws and wallplugs, packing the sides to make them vertical. Fill gaps on the inside with mortar; apply caulking around the frame on the outside to keep out water.

The door sill should overhang the brickwork slightly and is best fitted with a metal weather bar, which is set in caulk. Once the frame is in place, hang the door and finish.

Laying the Blocks

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

Before laying the blocks it is as well to carry out a dummy run on the first two courses, so you will know how best to arrange them to keep the number of cut blocks to a minimum. Set them out along the layer of mortar in line with the scribed mark, spacing them a finger-thickness apart.

If the partition is to have a door in it, now is the time to position the frame. Nail battens across the corners of the frame and across the bottom to hold it square and prop it up with a batten nailed to the top.

Now begin laying the blocks properly. It is best to build up about four courses of blocks at each end of the partition first and then stretch a stringline between them as a guide for the blocks in the middle.

Trowel a layer of mortar onto the original thin layer and “butter” the end of the first block with more mortar. Set the block in place against the scribed line and against the wall to form a neat mortar joint. Tap the block level and upright with the handle of the trowel. Repeat the procedure for the next block in the course and lay two or three more before working back towards the wall with the second, third and fourth courses. Collect the mortar that is squeezed out from between the blocks for reuse.

Make sure the blocks butt up to the guide batten and check them every now and again with a mason’s level to ensure that you are keeping the courses upright and level. Tie each alternate course to the wall with galvanized metal wall ties. Similarly secure the door frame to the blockwork; build up the center of the partition.

If you need to cut any blocks, do this with a bricklayer’s chisel and hammer. Measure up the block and scribe a cutting line on all four sides with the end of the chisel. Then tap gently along this line with the chisel. Finally, lay the block face up, set the chisel in the center of the cutting line and strike it a sharp blow which will separate the two halves of the block.


1. Dry-laying to check for fit; allow a finger-thickness between blocks for mortar. Vertical battens give support until the mortar hardens.

2. Spreading the mortar bed on the floor; scribe the line of one face of the wall in the mortar with the point of the trowel.

3. “Buttering” one end with mortar before laying the block; place this end against the previous block.

4. Laying the block on the mortar bed, flush with the scribed line.

5. Tamping the block level with the adjacent block using the trowel handle; check each block as it is laid with a spirit-level.

6. Securing a metal frame-clamp to the side wall; tie alternate courses in this way.

7. Checking the face of the blockwork for alignment; use a long spirit-level or straight-edge and check in a number of directions.

8. Nail temporary “strainer” battens across a door-frame to keep it square and support it in an upright position with a plank nailed to the top.

9. A door-height opening needs a lintel above it to support the blockwork; a course of bricks on top will align with the blockwork.

Home Repair Tips – Mortar and Concrete

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

People walk, ride, and play on concrete and asphalt surfaces. Because the greatest use of these products is in floors, slabs, sidewalks, and streets, concrete and asphalt aren’t usually considered home repair problems. But almost every house has some cement in or under it. Concrete workers and finishers will always be in demand because cement is useful.

Mortar can be- mixed in a suitable container by hand. It contains Portland cement, sand and water and sometimes lime in certain proportions.

Depending on the job, you will need some of these tools for work with mortar or concrete. Always keep tools clean.

Add an aggregate to mortar and you have concrete. Concrete can be mixed in different proportions. One common mixture contains one part Portland cement, three parts sand, four parts aggregate and a little water.

Concrete can be mixed in a container such as a pail or a wheelbarrow or on a slab or piece of plywood. You can also use a small power mixer, but do not fill it more than half full or it will not mix properly. Never mix concrete on the ground. The slightest bit of mud weakens the concrete.

Cement means an adhesive that holds things together. Cement is a word that is often used in place of:

• Mortar or

• Concrete

Mortar is usually a mixture of sand and Portland cement used with or instead of lime for greater strength. It is used to cement bricks and tiles together. To prepare mortar, add the correct amount of water and mix. Mortar works best on a wet surface. Dry brick or block will absorb water from the mortar before it can set properly. Whenever possible, soak the block, brick, or wall to be patched before applying mortar.

When gravel, crushed stone, or some other aggregate is added to sand and Portland cement, it is called concrete. Concrete can be bought in different sized sacks. When mixed with water, one 80-pound sack of premix will make up an amount that will fill a section 4 feet by 4 feet by 1/2 inch. You can also purchase the sand, lime and aggregate separately and mix it by hand or with a power mixer 3). For big jobs it is easiest to order concrete by the truckload already made up and ready to pour.

A few basic tools are necessary for working with concrete or mortar. Be sure to clean all tools before the concrete hardens on them.