Replacing the Cord on a Sash Window

sash-windowsReplacing a broken cord on a sash window is a complex job that requires a good deal of skill and precision work. Most people would be best advised to have it done professionally, but it should be within the capacity of a skilled DIYer such as Handy Squad, though you should make sure you have an assistant.

Materials and Preparation

Sash cords can be a variety of diameters and materials (waxed or unwaxed hemp, synthetics etc.) and it’s important to match at the least the diameter of the new cord to the old one. Usually, you’ll buy a pack of sash cord that should have enough for your use. If you need to estimate what you need, buy two lengths for each sash that are 167% of the distance from top to sill.

Always remove the lower sash first, and use a mallet and chisel to remove the staff beads from each side. Once you have one loose, the remaining beads should pull out. Tie string round the cords near the pulley and cut the cords below it, running the string over the pulleys. The lower sash can then be removed.

Prise out the parting beads and pocket covers and remove the upper sash, then take out the weights and label them immediately. They may not be quite identical, so it’s important to put them back in the right place. The old cords can then be removed.

Replacing the Cords

Always replace the cords on the upper sash first, so it can be put back before you tackle the lower sash. With a 50mm screw or nail tied to a piece of string, feed it through the hole above the pulley so it drops into the weight compartment.

Attach one of your lengths of cord to the string and push it over the pulley and down, recovering it from the pocket and feeding it through the hole above the weights, having removed the string. Tie the cord in a figure-of-eight knot and push the end into the cavity above the weight, after which the weights and the pocket covers can be replace. Then repeat on the other side.

Replacing the Sashes

After replacing the upper sash, reposition the parting beads with a mallet, replacing any that are damaged. With the lower sash resting on the sill, raise the weights to their highest level and tie a knot in each cord level with the knot hole on each side of the sash.

Tap the staff beads back with a mallet and secure them with 25mm oval nails, but test that the sash works smoothly before hammering them all the way in. All that’s left then is to repair the windows with wood filler and repaint them.

Or, if all this sounds too much, you could always call us at The Handy Squad: 0800-0 12 12 12.

Defend Your Garden Against High Winds

Strong gales and storms are a fact of life over the British winter, and sometimes in summer. They can do plenty of harm to your garden, from ruining your plants to weakening trees, but putting some simple precautions in place can help minimise the damage.

Have a Robust Shed

One of many reasons to have a garden shed is to have somewhere to put tools and equipment during a storm. Don’t skimp on quality, since buying a good-quality shed can make all the difference.

Check that you have roofing felt to weatherproof your shed, and replace anything that’s split or worn. Also, ensure you can securely lock the door during a storm — this will help deter burglars, too.

Secure Your Fences

Your fences provide some protection from strong wind, but they’re also vulnerable to it. Paradoxically, your fence will actually be stronger if it has gaps the wind can blow through, reducing the pressure.

Treat wooden fences regularly with stain or preservative as protection against rot or insects. Don’t forget the posts, either. The buried part is especially vulnerable to rot and can bring the whole thing down if you don’t maintain it.

Trees Pose a Risk

If you have trees in your garden, a storm can snap branches off or even blow the tree down, causing damage or injury. To avoid this, keep your trees well trimmed, removing weak branches. It’s not a good idea, though, to top trees or remove substantial branches, as this can weaken it and leave it more vulnerable.

Instead, prune your trees, especially young ones. This reduces the bulk and, as with the fences, makes the tree safer by allowing more wind through. Trees should be the first things you inspect for damage after a storm.

Make Your Plants Safe

Wind can dry out, damage or even uproot plants. You can reduce the risk by putting up mesh or netting windbreaks, supporting plants with canes and wrapping containers in bubble-wrap. If you feel you need something sturdier, you can get a growhouse or coldframe.

Check that no stems or branches are crossing, which can cause damage, and ensure your plants are well watered before the storm. Any plants in pots should be placed against the side of the house.

Make Your Garden Secure

Before the storm arrives, any tools or equipment that can be brought inside should be put in either the house or the shed, and the shed door secured. Equipment and furniture that can’t be moved should be well weighted down.

You may still suffer some damage, but it can be considerably reduced by following these tips.

If in doubt please don’t hesitate to contact our trusted and reliable handymen on 0800-0 12 12 12.

Fitting a Letterbox or Catflap in Your Door

letter-boxFitting either a letterbox or a catflap — which are similar processes — should be quite possible for a skilled DIYer, although it’s obviously important to be careful cutting holes in your front door. Anyone unsure of their skill should consult and request the services of our skilled handymen at Handy Squad.

Fitting a Letterbox

When you know the letterbox’s size and design, establish the position to centre it by measuring the depth of the door’s cross rail in two places and marking the mid-point. Using these two points, draw a straight line right across the door, and then measure and mark the exact mid-point of the line.

Place your letterbox centred directly over this point and mark the positions on each side for the fixing bolts. Drill clearance holes, making them slightly larger than the bolt shank, then mark out a rectangle to cut out that’s slightly bigger than the flap.

Drill a hole at each corner big enough to take the blade of either a powered jigsaw or a padsaw and use the saw to cut around the marked rectangle. Cut recesses for the hinge-pin with a mallet and narrow chisel, and smooth the edges.

Fit the letterbox using the nuts provided and cut off any excess length on the bolts with a hacksaw. It’s a good idea to also fit an interior cover, since this will help keep out draughts.

Fitting a Catflap

If letterboxes vary in design, catflaps vary even more, with some of the more sophisticated programmed to open when the particular cat’s collar comes close. It’s essential to read the instructions and follow them to the letter.

The exact position for the catflap will depend on how your cat will use it. Once you’ve decided this, position the supplied template on the door and tape it on, making sure the tape will be easy to remove. When you’re certain the position is right, drill a hole of at least 8mm at each of the four positions shown, big enough to get the blade of your jigsaw or padsaw in.

Remove the template and draw ruled lines between the four points. Cut out the section along the lines you’ve made with a power jigsaw or a padsaw, and smooth the edges.

Hold the catflap up against the door in its place and, once you’re satisfied it’s level, drill clearance holes for the screws. Hold the two parts of the flap securely in place on either side of the door and fix each screw through the clearance holes, fastening the two parts together. Check that the flap can swing freely, and you’re finished.

Painting Tools — How to Use and Care for Them

paint-brushesPainting is one of the most essential DIY jobs, and it needs care and skill to get it right. Each of the various tools available has to be used correctly, and it also needs to be looked after if you don’t want to be constantly buying unnecessary replacements.

Paint Brushes

Still the default painting tool, brushes come in many types and depend partly on what you’re willing to pay. You can make do with perfectly adequate cheap brushes which you discard after use. On the other hand, reusable brushes go up to professional quality, and the best synthetic fibres both give a finer finish and don’t shed bristles.

The way you clean and store brushes depends on the paint you’ve been using. If it’s water-based, just clean them with water and wrap them in any of various substances from lint-free cloth to foil.

If you’re using oil-based or solvent-based paint, brushes should be stored immersed in the recommended cleaning fluid, ensuring the bristles aren’t resting on the bottom of the container. You can use an improvised container or buy a purpose-made cleaning tub, which will come with manufacturer’s instructions.

Paint Rollers

The quickest and most efficient way to cover large surfaces is to use a roller, although you’ll still need brushes for edges and corners. It’s also worth remembering that rolled coats are thinner than if you use brushes, so you’ll need more of them.

If you’re using a roller, you need to buy trays of non-drip emulsion. The type of roller sleeve you use will determine the finish — short-pile for a smooth surface, for instance, or shaggy sheepskin for texture.

Whichever you use, when you’ve coated the roller with paint, roll it across the tray’s ribbed surface to ensure a smooth covering. To get a smooth blend at the edges, always work your way back to the area you’ve covered when you start with a newly charged roller.

Paint Pads

Paint pads, rectangular bonded fibres with a foam back that allows for flexibility, are ideal if you want to cover a large area with liquid paint. The paint tray that comes with them has a built-in roller, allowing you to remove excess paint. With the pad flat against the wall, gently scrub it from the corner, painting strips around four time the pad’s width.

Paint Pods

This is a power painting tool, allowing the paint to feed through from the paint pack to a roller attachment. It also has a triangular brush for painting the edges. It has a self-cleaning cycle, clearly explained in the manufacturer’s instructions.

If you want to free yourself from the job of painting, please contact our London decorators at the Handy Squad and we’ll be happy to assist.

Tel: 0800-0 12 12 12

How to Assemble Garden Furniture This Summer

garden-furnitureWe’re promised a good summer this year, so the chances are many people will be looking at their existing garden furniture and deciding they need to replace it. That’s all very well, but there’s a fly in every ointment. With garden furniture, it’s having to put it together.

Garden Furniture Assembly

Unless you’re buying something high-end and bespoke, garden furniture normally comes as flat-packs, and that can cause problems. Even if no parts are missing, and even if the instructions don’t look like something produced by a thousand monkeys with keyboards, garden furniture assembly can be anything but intuitive.

No-one could be blamed for getting a handyman in, not only to avoid the hassle but also to make sure you don’t ruin furniture you’ve paid good money for. If you feel up to tackling it, though, following a few simple principles can save you a lot of frustration.

Essential Preparation

  • The first thing to do when you open a flat-pack is to lay out all the parts and check them against the list in the instructions (including counting screws). If something’s missing, don’t attempt to start assembly.
  • If the pack includes non-symmetrical parts (e.g. the right and left sides of a chair) identify which is which.
  • Make sure you have all necessary tools to hand before you start the process.
  • Find a space with a flat surface and big enough to work in comfortably.
  • Make sure you have enough time to finish. If you have to come back to it later, there’s a risk something will have been lost.

General Principles of Assembly

The exact procedure will depend on which item you’re assembling (e.g. table or chair), the material (e.g. rattan, metal or plastic) and the manufacturer. Here are a few general principles, though.

  • Always stick to the order the instructions recommend — there’s a reason for it.
  • Place the item so that you can get at the connections most easily. For instance, a table would normally be assembled upside-down.
  • To minimise damage, leave any protective tape or other materials in place until it’s essential to remove it.
  • Don’t fully tighten screws or bolts till assembly is close to complete, since it may make it harder to fit other screws or bolts in.
  • Use every piece provided — it’s there for a purpose.

DIY or Professional?

If you work sensibly and methodically, you should be able to assemble your own garden furniture. If you just want it done and on your patio and you’re looking for a London handyman to oblige, Handy Squad can have your garden furniture assembled in no time.

How to Bleed a Radiator

Radiators need to be regularly bled of excess air or gas to ensure they’re performing to maximum capacity. It may seem the wrong time of year to think about your heating system, but sorting it out now will ensure your radiators are ready for use when you switch them on again.

You may prefer to have this done by professionals, and if you’re looking for London plumbers or a handyman in London, Handy Squad would be delighted to help. It’s quite possible to bleed your own radiators, though, if you follow a few simple steps.

Bleeding your Radiators

1. Turn on your you heating system and wait until all your radiators have fully heated up. Unless you’ve built up the pressure inside, the air won’t come out when you open the valve.
2. When your radiators have been on for a while, check each one individually to find out if it’s heating up properly — but be careful not to burn yourself. Cool spots are most likely to be found near the top of the radiator, marking where there’s a build-up of air or gas.
3. Radiators with cool spots need to be bled. Turn off the heating, so you can carry out the process safely, and find the valve at one end of the radiator.
4. You’ll need either a radiator key (available from any hardware shop or DIY store) or a flat-blade screwdriver. Either fix the key to the square valve, or insert the screwdriver into the groove.
5. Have two cloths ready, one to hold the key or screwdriver, the other to catch any water that escapes. Turn the screwdriver or key slowly anti-clockwise. If you hear a hiss, that means the gas is escaping.
6. When the gas is all gone, water will start coming out — usually a dribble if you’ve used a key, or a spurt if you’ve used a screwdriver. Turn the valve clockwise immediately to close it.
7. Look at the gauge on the boiler to check pressure. If it’s low, use the “filling loop” to fill up — this will be a lever or tap on your boiler, and should be clearly marked in the manual.
8. Repeat steps 1 and 2 to make sure all air has been eliminated.

Make Your Heating Efficient

Bleeding your radiators will make a big difference to the efficiency of your heating system, but there are other things you can do, from putting insulation foil behind your radiators to buying a radiator booster. If you need assistance with any of this, Handy Squad offers help with plumbing in London.

How To Put Up Pictures

hanging-picture-thumbnailBefore hanging a picture on a wall you need to consider how large and heavy the picture is. This will determine whether more than one person is needed. Will a ladder be required and, if so, will someone else be needed to hold it in place?

Does the picture have hanging wires or hooks on the back that are capable of holding its weight? If not, then the appropriate fixings will need to be sourced and fitted.

What sort of wall is the picture to be hung on? This is crucial, particularly in the case of a heavy picture. Plasterboard walls are often not strong enough to hold heavy items. The fixings can simply tear out of the wall. The wall may therefore need to be reinforced. The type of wall will also dictate what sort of equipment you need.

For a standard size and weight of picture on a plasterboard wall, a hammer and nails/picture hooks should suffice, although a screw and rawl/wall plugs may be better in some cases.

For a brick/harder wall, a drill with masonry bits will be required to fit screws and rawl/wall plugs. Plastic pin hooks are very easy to hammer in, but ensure that you have enough of them to hold the weight (it should indicate this on the packet). The danger with these is that, over time, the plastic hooks can dry out and simply snap off. Finally, if the wall is concrete (every handyman’s nightmare!), an SDS/pneumatic drill (concrete drill) will be required to get those screws in.

Positioning the picture is crucial. Whilst we obviously will hang the picture where the customer wants it, there are factors the handyman must consider that the customer may have overlooked:

For example, are there any electrical sockets or light switches that would be affected / obscured by the intended position of the picture? You must also check what is inside the wall you are about to drill into. Wires and pipes should really be situated in the middle of a partition wall but not always, so it’s best to err on the side of caution.

Check the other side of the wall as well just in case, particularly if there is a shower or other appliance mounted on it. You can buy a wire detector (around £20+) which you just run across the wall and it will bleep to let you know where the wires are. Some will also indicate where the studs (wooden structure behind the wall) are located. Screwing into the studs will provide much more strength than just going into the plasterboard which is relatively flimsy.

So there you are, there is more to hanging pictures than meets the eye which is why we are called out to do it for our customers every day.

Types of Job a Handyman Can Undertake

Are you, like most people, unable or unwilling to tackle advanced DIY? The alternative doesn’t have to be finding specialists for each task. If you’re looking for a handyman London is well covered by the Handy Squad, who can complete most jobs as skilfully as any specialist.

Working With Wood

It’s very easy to see when carpentry hasn’t been done by an expert. A good handyman will make a professional job of major renovations like laying wooden flooring, building partition walls and installing new kitchen units. He’ll also tackle awkward jobs like hanging doors, where precision is everything, and repairing and sprucing up your sash windows.

Some jobs may seem simple enough till you compare the amateur and professional results. A handyman’s cupboard doors won’t work loose, and the shelves he puts up, whether for books, laundry or general purpose, will be solid and secure.

Decorating

Decorating seems a given for DIY, but it’s not as easy as you might think to get right. A good handyman can do an expert job on repairing the wall plaster, hanging wallpaper (straight!) and applying a smooth paint-job. In the bathroom or kitchen, he’ll re-tile your walls or grout your old tiles, and insert silicon around the bath or sink to keep it watertight.

Electrical Work

There’s no place for the enthusiastic amateur when it comes to electrical work, unless you want to risk burning the house down. A good handyman will be trained to do everything from replacing light-bulbs to installing or replacing switches, sockets, fittings and the like, and should even be able to test for faults in the system.

Plumbing Work

Flooding your home may be marginally less serious than burning it down, but all but the simplest plumbing, like electricity, is best left to the professionals. A good handyman will be able to install or replace fittings like taps, pipes, sinks, baths or showers, and repair pipes, radiators, toilets and much more.

Odd Jobs

Hanging up blinds, curtains, pictures, mirrors, TVs or shelves may seem simple enough, but they can look terrible if they’re not exactly right — not to mention the risk of collapse. And if you have flat-pack furniture to assemble, it can be much easier to let a handyman figure out how to fit A into slot B. Chances are, he won’t have that extra screw left at the end.

If your patio or garden furniture has got dirty (after winter, perhaps) a handyman should have the equipment to jet-wash it clean.

Contact us if you have any of these jobs you want to leave in the capable hands of a handyman.

Lift the Burden of Decorating with Professional Handyman Services

Doing your own decorating can seem a great idea when you first come up with it. After all, you have the ideas, you have the tools (or most of them, at least), you have a local DIY superstore for all your supplies. What could possibly go wrong?

You find out the answer halfway through, when it’s already taken longer than expected, it’s playing havoc with both your home and your social life, and nothing looks the way it did in your imagination. Perhaps you should have got a professional in, after all.

What Can a Handyman Do for You?

If you call in a good handyman instead, any disruption can be kept to a minimum and will be finished at the planned time, rather than three weeks later. Even more importantly, each aspect of the decoration will be done expertly, as you visualised it.

The range of services a handyman company such as the Handy Squad can offer is impressive, and goes well beyond painting and papering. For instance, the wall plaster may need repairing. This could be because of the cracks that routinely appear as a house settles, or to fill in holes left by picture hooks, curtain poles or light fittings. A handyman will carry out these repairs as expertly as a plasterer, so they’re left invisible.

Some repairs may be larger scale, such as boarding over and plastering a doorway you no longer need. A handyman can also repair silicone around a bath, basin or shower tray, removing the old silicone and applying it freshly to seal it perfectly watertight.

Wallpaper and Paint

Wallpaper looks great when it’s hung well, but an amateur job can look awful. A good handy man will cut and hang the strips perfectly straight with the pattern exactly matching up, just as you imagined it.

Painting generally looks easier than it actually is, especially if you have to match up with existing paintwork. Whether you need the whole house done or just an unsightly mark painted over, a handy man can do a professional job on doors, walls and floors. This includes preparing the surfaces, an essential process often skimped or ignored by amateur DIYers.

Find Your Handyman

The catch is, of course, that you have to find a good handyman, and this can depend on where you live. If you’re looking for a handyman Clapham and most of South London is covered by the Handy Squad, but if you’re elsewhere make sure their website specifies all these services. Find the right person, and you’ll never have to go through the headaches of decorating again.