Taking out sashes

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

By far the most serious possibility, however, is that eventually a sash cord will break and need replacing. When this happens you should replace all four, because if one goes the rest are sure to be near breaking-point. In any case the hardest part of the job is dismantling everything; fitting four new cords is very little more trouble than fitting one.

Begin by levering off the staff bead. Swing the lower sash inwards, tie a length of string to each sash cord just above the sash, and cut each cord below the knot, letting the weights down gradually to the bottom of their compartments. With the string now attached to the cord, there’s no danger of being unable to retrieve the weights from their pockets. Lift out the lower sash, remove the parting bead, pull down the upper sash and repeat the process. Lift that out too, and remove the old cord and fixing nails from each sash.

Now that you’ve got the sashes out, you can take the opportunity to do major surgery on them if necessary. Where a corner joint is rickety, dowels make a neater and more professional repair than a metal plate. You’ll need to cramp the sash firmly in place on a workbench first, both to hold it steady and to keep the joint tight while you drill the dowel holes. The joint will almost certainly be a mortise and tendon, so the best place to run strengthening dowels is sideways through the tendon, or perhaps lengthwise on either side of it.

If one of the sash members is cracked or rotten, it may be possible to remove the bad piece by sawing lengthwise, and to replace it with new timber — cut slightly too large, glued, nailed and finally planed off flush. For both these jobs, use urea-formaldehyde adhesive, which resists damp.

Sometimes a sash sticks in its channel because it has warped or swollen. In this case, removing a few shavings from the offending part with a plane may be the answer.

Use a blowlamp or chemical paint stripper to remove layers of old paint if it’s in bad condition. and then coat the timber with wood primer. Alternatively just sand the old paint- work down and spot-prime any bare patches. Then apply the rest of your paint system in the usual way.

Faults in the door frame

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

Faults can also develop in the door frame — for example, part of it may work loose from the wall. In this case you’ll have to find the heads of the nails holding it in place — they are usually visible under the paint — and drive them deeper into their timber plugs with a hammer and punch.

However, if the plugs have split or shrunk this remedy will not work. So for a more secure repair drill through the timber and into the masonry behind with a masonry bit. Twist a plastic wall plug onto the end of a screw and insert the plug into the hole in the frame. Tap the screw head lightly with a hammer until the plug is fully home, then tighten up the screw. Fit as many screws as necessary to secure the frame.

Settlement of the building or loose joints may force the frame out the square, and then the door will not fit properly. The only answer is to reshape the door to fit — removing excess timber, adding a fillet here and there and shaping these until the door matches the opening as it should.

An easy way to do this is to cut the top of the door to match the angle of the doorframe, add an extra piece to the bottom and then reran the door. First transfer the angle of the frame to the top of the door using a small block of wood and a pencil, and then cut along this line.

It’s worth taking off a reasonable amount to make sawing easier —12mm (1/2in) would be about right. Measure the gap left at the top of the door and add a batten of wood of this thickness to the bottom. Finally, move up the hinges by the same amount so the door fits correctly, and adjust the latch striker plate too, cutting a new mortise if necessary.

Replacing Single Roof Tile

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

Because the tile you want to replace will be hooked over the batten, you need some means of lifting the adjacent tiles sufficiently to be able to lift the broken one from the batten. The best method is with wooden wedges which you can cut from lengths of 2 x lin batten, about 6in long. You will need two of these and more if the tiles are of the interlocking type.

Push the wedges beneath the tiles of the course above the broken one so there is a big enough gap for the nibs (lugs along the top edge edge of the tile) to clear the batten. Lift the tile up and remove it. If you can not get hold of it because the end has broken off, slide the blade of a bricklayer’s trowel underneath the remaining portion and use this to lift it clear.

If it is nailed in place, try wiggling it from side to side, which may pull the nails free. If not, you will have to cut through the nails with a slate ripper, a pair of pincers or a hacksaw blade.

If the tile is of the interlocking type, you will have to wedge up one of its neighbors to free it.

Fit the replacement tile by lifting it into place with the trowel blade, hooking the nibs over the batten — without nailing; the tiles above will hold it fast.

Remove the wedges carefully to lower the surrounding tiles, making sure any interlocking ridges are properly engaged and that all tiles are sitting flat.

To remove a broken slate you will need a tool called a slate ripper. This has a thin, barbed blade for cutting through the two fixing nails, which are hidden by the slates above. Slide the ripper up under the broken slate, feeling for the nails. Hook the blade over one and tug downwards sharply to slice through it. Repeat for the second nail and slide the slate out.

If you have to cut the slate to size, scribe the size on its face and set it over the edge of a wooden batten; cut along the line with the heel of a trowel.

The new slate cannot be nailed in place because of the slates above. Instead, it is retained by a lead strip measuring 9 x lin. Nail this to the batten (visible below the two exposed slates) with a galvanized nail.

Carefully lift the slates above and slide the new one into place so that the beveled edge along the bottom is uppermost. Bend up the end of the lead strip to retain it then make a second bend for extra strength.

Slates at the gable end of a roof will need a horizontal clip to stop them from sliding off the edge.


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

Of all the sections of the staircase likely to suffer damage, the handrails come top of the list. Yet they play an important safety role by preventing people from falling down the stairs and so must be kept in good repair.

The balusters are the most vulnerable part of the assembly and may become loose or broken.

A loose toe-nailed baluster can be tapped free with a mallet and block of wood, the nails removed and the holes opened out with a drill to accept countersunk screws. Then glue and screw it in place.

If the ends of the baluster are held by mortise joints, you can stop the baluster rattling about by driving narrow wedges into the gaps around the ends, having first smeared them with glue. Cut the ends of the wedges flush with the surface of the string or handrail as appropriate. Sometimes, the balusters are held by thin strips of wood nailed in place between the ends of adjacent balusters. In this case, carefully prise off the strips on each side of the loose baluster and replace them with slightly longer ones.

If the baluster is actually broken, you can either replace it with a new one (assuming you can get one to match) or glue it back together, reinforcing the joint with dowels or screws. Toe-nailed balusters are easily removed as described above, as are those held by nailed-on capping pieces. However, if they are mortised into the string and handrail, you may have to saw through the ends to remove the baluster. Then glue blocks of wood into the mortise, plane them flush, cut the new baluster to fit and glue and screw it in place as you would a skewnailed version.

If a section of handrail is broken, you can make a simple repair by screwing a metal plate underneath across the break. Alternatively, you- can cut out a section and fit a new piece, using special handrail bolts or screws.

These need matching holes in the ends of the old and new rail, and the easiest way of marking them is with a paper template that matches the profile of the rail with the hole center marked on it. Hold the template over the end of each piece and mark the hole center by punching through with a nail. Additional holes must be drilled or cut with a chisel into the underside of the rail so that the nuts securing the bolt can be tightened.

Newel posts are unlikely to break, but if they do, they must be replaced completely. To remove it, you will have to lift the adjacent floorboards and unbolt the base from the joists. Then drive out the dowels holding the handrail and string to it. Finally, tap the newel post free — it may help to cut it into sections with a saw.

Use the old post as a guide for marking out the new one, making sure the mortises and dowel holes are all positioned correctly. Treat the base of the post with preservative and refit it, gluing the string and handrail in place and reinforcing the joints with fresh dowels.

Whether you are installing a new staircase or simply repairing an existing one, the range of components available in kit form makes the task much easier.

The stairs may be ready-assembled and consist of 12 or 14 treads for a full flight or six treads for a half-flight; they are available with or without risers (for closed or open tread styles) and bullnose steps allow extra versatility at floor-level.

The newels, baluster spindles, rails and fittings are manufactured in a wide variety of styles, from traditional to contemporary. The timber, which includes mahogany and hemlock, is usually sanded ready for varnishing or staining.

Repairs to Stair Treads

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

Actual physical damage to stair treads is rare and will probably be limited purely to split or broken nosings. These can be repaired by cutting them off flush with the riser below, using a chisel, and pinning on a new molding.

A much more common problem, particularly in older houses, is creaking as a result of the treads becoming loose. The ease with which this can be fixed depends very much on whether you can get to the underside of the stairs or not. If you can, simply pin and glue 2 x 2in triangular blocks of wood between the treads and risers below, and drive screws up through the tread into the riser above. This is the only way you can fix a staircase with closed strings.

If the staircase has one or two cut strings, you can make the repair from above. First prise off the molding from below the tread nose and the molding holding the foot of the baluster in place, using an old chisel. Run a hacksaw blade along the gap between the back of the tread and upper riser. cutting through any fixings. Alternatively, cut through the riser itself with a backsaw. Drive a chisel blade between the tread nose and riser and lever it free. Then you can remove the risers if damaged.

If necessary. cut a new tread and riser from wood of the same size as the originals.

If one of the strings is closed, glue and pin supporting blocks to it for the ends of the riser and tread. Use offcuts of the tread and riser wood as positioning guides to ensure a tight fit. Then glue and pin the riser in place.

Pin and glue more blocks to the top of the lower riser and then glue the tread on top, strengthening the bond by driving screws or nails down through the ends into the cut string or strings. Do not drive any screws or nails through the leading edge of the tread as they may become exposed as the tread wears.

Refit the baluster, pinning it to the handrail and then pin the retaining molding to the end of the tread. Finally, refit the molding beneath the tread nose.

If you can reach the underside of a closed string staircase, you can replace treads or risers by removing their retaining wedges with a chisel and sliding the damaged parts out. Slot the new pieces in and fit new wedges. If a carriage runs down the centre of the stairs, however, the work is best left to a joiner or builder.

Fitting a New Ceiling

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

Gypsum board for ceilings comes in two thicknesses: 3/sin and 1/2in, the former being suitable for use where the joist spacing is no more than l8in and the latter where the joists are up to 2ft apart. The standard sheet sizes are 8 and 10 x 4ft. You may find the smaller sheets easier to handle and you can cut them in half to make them even more manageable. The edges should meet on the joist centerlines, so you will probably have to trim them slightly anyway.

The first job is to nail lengths of 2in sq or 2 x Sin wood along the walls parallel with the joists so that its lower edge is level with the undersides of the joists. Then fit more short lengths of wood to the walls between the ends of the joists to provide support for the edges of the boards.

The sheets of gypsum board must be fitted with their long edges at right-angles to the joists. Toe-nail more lengths of batten to act as bracing between the joists so that the inner edges of the sheets will fall on their center lines. A length of batten marked with the board width will help position them accurately.

Finally, mark the position of each joist on the walls as a guide for nailing the sheets in place.

To cut sheets to size, use a utility knife and steel straightedge. Cut down through one face of the board, snap back the waste against a batten and run the knife blade down the crease from the other side.

If you intend plastering the ceiling, fit the gypsum- board gray side down. For painting or papering directly over the top, leave the ivory side showing.

Holding large sheets of board against the ceiling for nailing can be difficult so nail lengths of 2 x lin batten together to foiiu T-shaped props with which a helper can support it while being nailed in place.

Nail the first board in place, working from the center outwards and spacing the nails at 6in intervals. Drive them home so that they just dimple the surface; to be filled later. Use 11/4in gypsum board nails for thinner sheets and 11/2in for thicker kinds.

Continue in this way, working across the ceiling. Keep any cut edges up against the wall, but if this is not possible make sure they meet on a joist with a slight gap in between for filling; stagger the joints.

When you have clad the entire ceiling, seal the joints between the sheets and, if you prefer, apply a thin skim coat of plaster.

Relaying Floor Boards

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

Buy boards at least two weeks before starting work and stack them in the room in which they will be laid. This will allow them to dry out properly, preventing shrinkage later. Ideally, choose tongued-and-grooved boards (T&G), but if you are just replacing odd boards, square-edged ones would be better. In the latter case, make sure you get the right size: 4in and 6in are common widths and the usual finished thickness is 3/4in. but thicker boards are available.

Removing the old boards

Lift the second board in from the wall. Then use a length of stout wood to lever up the others. Take care along the walls, since the boards are likely to be tucked under the baseboard. Tidy up the joists by pulling out any remaining nails and fitting packing strips if necessary.

Fitting the boards

Fit four or five boards at a time, keeping any end joints between them to a minimum. Where joints cannot be avoided, make sure the boards meet at the center of a joist and that their ends are cut square. Use up offcuts when you can and stagger the end joints so they do not all fall in a line.

Mark and cut the first board to clear any obstructions and fit it up against the wall. Force a chisel blade into the top of the joists and use it to lever the board tight against the wall while you drive two nails through it into each joist. Use cut floor brads at least twice the length of the depth of the board.

If you are using T&G boards, the groove of this first board should face away from the wall and be nearer the joist than the top. Set the next four boards in place and push them tightly together using wooden wedges or floor cramps.

In the former case, nail a length of wood temporarily across the joists and fit pairs of opposing wooden wedges between it and the boards. Tapping the wedges together will force the boards tight up against each other. Floor cramps clamp to the joists and when tightened exert great force against the edges of the board, (you should be able to get them from a good tool rental company).

In both cases, cut short offcuts of floorboard to fit between the edges of the boards and the wedges or cramps to protect the board edges. With the boards cramped tight, nail the outermost one down. Then remove the wedges or cramps and nail the remainder.

Continue in this way across the room. Where there are pipes or cables below the floor that you might want to reach in the future, screw the boards down. Cut off the tongues of T&G boards to make lifting easy.

The final boards

Stop within the width of two boards from the far wall since you will not be able to cramp these last boards. To fit the final boards, first lay a full board up against the last one to be nailed down. Lever it tight up against this board with a chisel. Next, take a short offcut of floorboard and hold it against the base so that its other edge overlaps the full board. Hold a pencil against the edge of the offcut and run it along the full board to mark the profile of the wall on it.

Cut the board along the pencil line and then refit it, but this time along the wall, springing in a full board between it and the others at the same time. Nail both boards down.

How to build homemade birdhouses

Filed Under: Crafts, DIY Outdoor, Do it yourself, Gardens    by: ITC

Building homemade birdhouses are easy once you know how many things just lying aimlessly around the house can be used to house a whole family of feathered friends. Things like plastic gallon-sized milk cartons. How many of these do we throw away in a week? When you take a look around you can find many things that can aide you in constructing a homemade birdhouse or adorning one.

The environment will also thank you for your endeavor in helping to keep unwanted items out of the landfills that are thrown away everyday. If more people would get on this bandwagon, we could eliminate a good chunk of trash and do our part in recycling as well as taking care of nature in the process. Homemade birdhouses can increase the abundance of wildlife in your very own community starting with your own yard.

Birdhouses allow for the possibility for many different and rare birds to nest and migrate to areas where before there wasn’t any or at least very little. Even people in booming cities can bring birds into the city more if they will put up birdhouses. Birdhouses are not exclusively for the country or more rural parts of an area by no means.

Homemade birdhouses are great to make anytime of the year but, will see it’s greatest use in the spring time when many birds are nesting to prepare for little ones that will arrive at the start of the warm season. You will also find that many birds will count on you to provide housing for them and will return every spring to nest and make a home for their young year after year.

Almost anyone can acquire nails, wood glue and a few pieces of wood to get the job done if you are wanting to go the more wood stable homemade route. You can find a whole world of birdhouse plans online to construct your very own birdhouse. You can keep it simple or go more extreme and construct a bird condo of sorts and you can even add a box on the side of the house built exclusively for holding nesting materials. Pretty neat, huh?

One will find that birds appreciate any efforts you make and will feel quite comfy in their new homemade birdhouse, no matter how you go about it. You may even find that you get so good at it, you may be able to profit from the homemade birdhouses that you make. So many people like to purchase things that are homemade, simply because it has more meaning and has been constructed and crafted with homemade loving care. Plus, homemade birdhouse can be one of kind and will allow you to use your imagination to add whimsy to an otherwise boring wood box.

Plastering Masonry

Filed Under: Do it yourself, Hardware, Remodeling    by: ITC

To plaster a newly built wall you will not have to do any preparation work to it at all before you fix wooden grounds or metal lath in place.

Then the masonry should be dampened by splashing on clean water with a paintbrush. This will help slow down the rate at which the wall absorbs moisture from the plaster, preventing it from drying out too quickly and possibly cracking.

It is a good idea to practice scooping plaster from the hawk and applying it to the wall before you attempt the job for real. Set the loaded trowel against the wall so that the bottom corner of the blade rests on the ground or bead and the blade is at an angle of about 30° to the wall surface. Move the blade upwards to spread a vertical strip of plaster next to the thickness guide, keeping the blade resting on the guide and gradually reducing its angle as the plaster spreads.

Apply more strips of plaster in the same way, working upwards from the bottom and across the bay adding a good thickness of plaster to the wall.

When the bay is finished, use the long wooden rule to strike it off level with the thickness guides. Place it across the guides and draw it upwards, moving it from side to side in a sawing motion as you go. This will level off the high spots and accentuate the dips. Add more plaster and repeat the process until level.

Before it sets, key the surface for the finishing coat by passing a wooden float, with nails knocked through its face, over the plaster to leave score lines.

When the floating coat has hardened (it should take about two hours), you can apply the finishing coat. This is done in exactly the same way as plastering wallboard, applying two thin coats of Finish plaster to produce a polished, flat and hard surface.


1. Scooping plaster from the hawk; put the trowel into the plaster and scoop forwards and upwards.

2. Practising applying paster to the wall; work upwards from waist-height, starting with the trowel at 30 degrees to the wall.

3. As you apply the plaster, tilt the trowel more parallel to the wall surface; keep the hawk close to the wall to catch droppings.

4. Applying the plaster in vertical strips; at the end of each stroke, press the lower edge of the trowel to firm the plaster onto the wall.

5. Ruling off the completed bay; use a straight-edge with a sawing motion to lower any high spots and to show up areas with too little plaster.

6. Scoring the surface to provide a key for the finishing coat; the nails should protrude in through the float.

7. Filling the gap left after taking off the ground batten; level off with the trowel, flush with the hardened plaster on each side.

8. Applying the finishing coat; work from bottom to top and cover the floating coat with a thin layer; apply a second coat. 9 Polishing the finishing coat; wet the surface sufficiently to remove ridges and marks and polish firmly with a perfectly clean, flat trowel.

Setting Out For Plaster

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

One problem the beginner faces when tackling a plastering job is that of producing a floating coat that is uniform in thickness and level over the entire wall. The answer is to divide the wall into sections and use the dividers as depth guides.

Space the dividers as close together or as far apart as you like, but a suitable distance is about 3ft.

There are various methods for dividing the wall into bays, and a traditional way is to trowel narrow strips of plaster from floor to ceiling. Known as “screeds”, these strips of plaster are allowed to harden, then more plaster is spread on the wall between them and brought up to their level, using a long straightedge placed across the screeds to check.

The problem with the screening method is being able to get the plaster strips to the right thickness in the first place. Small blocks of wood, known as “dots”, can be fixed to the wall at the top and bottom of the screed position and used as thickness guides by setting a straightedge between them.

An easier way is to use wooden “grounds”. These are lengths of planed, %in thick by about 2in wide softwood, which are fixed to the wall with masonry nails. Since you plaster only one bay at a time, you need only two grounds per wall and, therefore, you can move them along as you work.

After setting out the first bay, you can apply a floating coat between the two wooden grounds, striking it off level with a long wooden straightedge called a “rule”. Then, having let the plaster harden off for a while, you should carefully pull one ground from the wall and nail it back on further along the wall to make a second bay.

Continue applying the floating coat in this way until you have completed the job.

When fitting wooden grounds it is essential that they are set vertically, otherwise the plaster surface will be out of true. Use a long mason’s level to check that they are upright and, if necessary, slip small wooden shims as packing pieces behind the grounds to bring them into line.

An alternative to using wood grounds is the metal screed bead which you can buy from your builder’s supply house. It does the same job as the ground but is designed to be left in place on the wall; it disappears under the finishing coat of plaster.

The center of the bead is formed into a raised, inverted U-shape, the depth of which is equal to the depth of the floating coat, and on each side there is expanded metal mesh. You can cut it by snipping through the mesh with metal snips then sawing through the bead with a hacksaw.

Beading is fixed to the wall with “dabs” — blobs of plaster troweled on to the wall. Push the beading into the dabs then check with a level.

Allow the plaster to harden off and then use the beads as thickness guides for the floating coat.