Tips on Hanging Wallpaper

hanging-wallpaper-1Hanging wallpaper is one of those jobs we all feel we should be able to do ourselves, but it’s notoriously easy to get wrong. Hung expertly, wallpaper can turn a room into a work of art. Hung poorly, it can turn it into a mess.

If you feel confident about getting it right without calling the professionals in, there are various tips to remember. The first and last tip, though, is to take it slowly and methodically, giving yourself time to check everything.

Getting Ready

Make sure you buy enough wallpaper for your needs. If you have to go back to the shop, you risk that paper being out of stock. Measure up your room, remembering that standard wallpaper width is 0.53m — then buy at least one roll more than you think you need.

Check you have all the equipment you require. It’s when you have to improvise that things are most likely to go wrong. You’ll normally need at least:

• Stepladder (don’t stand on chairs)
• Pasting table (unless you’re using paste-the-wall wallpaper)
• Tape measure
• Plumb line
• Wallpaper adhesive
• Pasting brush
• Wallpaper scissors
• Trimming knife
• Paper-hanging brush
• A second person — hanging wallpaper isn’t a job to undertake alone.

Starting

• Start from the corner of a wall with no doors or windows.
• Don’t trust the walls to be straight — draw a guideline using the plumb line.
• Unscrew all wall attachments and stick matchsticks in the holes. When you come to paper over these, let the matchstick pierce gently through the paper, then smooth it down.
• Measure the height of the room and prepare a strip about 10cm more than this.
• Follow the manufacturer’s instruction carefully when mixing and applying the paste, and leave the pasted paper for the time specified before hanging.
• Turn off the power to any electrical switch or socket you’re papering around.

Tips on Hanging

• Leave 10cm spare at the top of each strip and trim with the trimming knife or scissors.
• Match the pattern by sight at eye level.
• Start from the top and gradually smooth the paper down, using the paste brush to avoid air-bubbles.
• To paper around a corner, cut a strip to allow 25cm on the second wall and use a paper-hanging brush to smooth it into the corner. Measure up the next full strip from here.

DIY or Professional?

If you’re a good DIYer and are willing to take the time to work slowly and methodically, you should be able to avoid the hazards of crooked strips, mismatched patterns and air-bubbles. If you want a full professional job done, though, you’re welcome to give us a call or simply book online.

Tips on Assembling Flat Packs

flat-pack-furnitureThere are two common ideas about assembling flat-pack furniture — either it’ll be a piece of cake, or it’s like having to visit the dentist. While people who underestimate the job often end up banging their heads against the nearest wall, flat pack assembly is by no means impossible, as long as you follow some simple rules.

So, if you’re determined to have a go at assembling furniture for the bedroom, assembling furniture for the living room, assembling furniture for the office or assembling garden furniture for the outside, rather than taking the easy option of getting a handyman in, here are a few tips.

Preparation

One of the worst thing you can do with a flat pack is to plunge straight into assembly without any planning. There are several vital things to do before you even unpack the furniture.

• Estimate how long the process will take — then double it.
• Make sure you have enough space for the item, remembering you may have to lay it on its side.
• Protect the floor against sawdust and slips of tools with an old sheet. Alternatively, you can use the cardboard packaging when you’ve opened it.
• Read the instructions thoroughly before going any further.
• Make sure you have all the tools you’ll need — if you don’t have a Phillips screwdriver or an Allen key to hand, don’t “make do” with something else.
• If the item’s large, get someone to help you. In fact, that’s advisable even if it’s small.

Unpacking

• When you’ve unpacked the flat pack, check against the instructions that nothing’s missing or damaged.
• Identify and separate the various components, especially different sizes of screws — you can keep these in saucers or tupperware boxes.
• Read the instructions thoroughly again — it makes a difference when you can see what they’re referring to.

Assembly

It’s crucial when assembling a flat pack to take it slowly and methodically, review the instructions between each element, and follow them to the letter — and that includes using the correct tool for each operation.

• If you’re using an power screwdriver, keep it on a low torque setting, and always do the final tightening by hand.
• Don’t tighten screws, hinges etc. all the way until you’re sure everything’s lined up correctly.
• If you’re using wood glue, only use the amount necessary and dispose safely of the rest.

And Finally

Assembling a flat pack yourself is certainly possible (you could even rope in help by making a party out of it) but if you don’t have the time or patience, it’s better to get a handyman in than to botch the job by rushing it. Give us a call if you think you need help.

Handy Squad Offer Roof and Gutter Repair Services

Your roof is one of the most important parts of your home. It protects you from rain, wind and snow, as well as extremes of temperature, and can take quite a battering in the process. It’s important to keep your roof and gutters in good repair, and Handy Squad offer expert roofing repairs in London.

Roof Repairs

Roofing materials don’t last indefinitely at the best of times, and they’re frequently damaged by the weather. Broken or missing tiles or slates, which can be caused by heavy wind and rain or by the effects of severe frost, let water through into the house. Damage to lead flashing can have the same effect.

It’s important to check regularly for signs roof repairs may be needed and to act as soon as possible. You can check through binoculars from the ground, but a close-up inspection will give more information about cracked or missing tiles, or about moss growing on your roof, which can force the tiles apart.

Other signs to look out for include light coming in through the roof and water damage on the upper floor, both of which may suggest holes in the roof. If you see any of these signs, it’s vital to call someone in before the damage gets worse.

Gutter Repairs

Your gutters and downpipes do the essential job of draining off rainwater whose weight could otherwise make the roof collapse. At a minimum, guttering needs to be cleaned out several times a year, since it gets choked up with leaves and dirt, stopping the water from running off.

More regular gutter repairs are often needed, though, as both pipes and gutters are easily damaged. Like the roof, the guttering system needs to be regularly inspected, both for direct and indirect signs of problems.

Direct signs include cracks and breaks, and gutters that are sagging or pulling away from the roof. Indirect signs of leaking gutters include water marks or peeling paint, water pooling on the ground by the wall, or mildew in the basement.

Repairing your Roof and Gutter

Your roof is vital, and doing a “good enough” DIY job isn’t an option. Simpler jobs like cleaning out gutters can be done by a DIYer who has the experience and equipment to work at heights, but repairs are best left to the professionals.

In any case, both roof repairs and gutter repairs are frequent requirements. For peace of mind, it’s an advantage to have regular inspections arranged with experts like London guttering and roofing repairer Handy Squad.

Then you can relax and let your roof do its work.

Pressure Wash Slippery Algae from your Steps and Patio

jet-wash-image-1When you had your patio laid out, or steps built up to your door or to a lower level of your garden, it probably cost you a lot to make them look great. The chances are, though, after a few years they’re looking dingy, and they may even be slippery underfoot.

The good news is that it’s not time yet to pay out again to have them replaced. They just need to be washed, and Handy Squad offers a pressure wash service in London.

What’s the Problem?

Over time, outdoor paving gets dirt ground into it that simple washing won’t get out, as well as weeds making their way up through the cracks. Even if you have time to spend on your knees, scrubbing won’t get rid of it all.

Dirt isn’t the worst problem, though. Concrete tends to attract growths like algae, lichens, liverworts and moss. The problem here isn’t just that growths like these make your patio, steps or paths look unattractive — they can also make them slippery underfoot.

A slippery patio or path is bad enough, but if you have slippery algae on your steps, it could cause a serious accident. You or your children could end up in hospital, or if a visitor falls because you haven’t cleaned your steps, they could sue you for damages.

The Solution

Rather than working your fingers to the bone and still not getting rid of the problem, or using chemicals that could put small children or pets at risk, why not let London pressure washers Handy Squad clean your patio and steps quickly and simply?

Pressure washing, also known as jet washing, gets into every cranny in your paving, flushing out the last traces of dirt. It also shreds and blows away weeds and algae, leaving your steps, paths and patio not only gleaming like new, but also safe to walk on.

And, while you’re having your stonework done, why not also get your garden furniture pressure washed? The dirt and grime that gets into your patio and steps is probably also making the furniture look dingy, but a good wash can make it pristine again.

A Professional Job

While small pressure washers are available to buy, they’re expensive. It can also all go horribly wrong if you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s far better to leave it to the professionals, and if you’re looking for a jet wash service in London, Handy Squad has the skills and the equipment to wash your troubles away.

How to Get the Most Out of Your Painting Tools

There are plenty of different ways to approach painting today, with increasingly specialised options for paints and tools. Like any tools, though, painting tools are only as good as how they’re used. You need to know which option to use, as well as how to look after the tools, and it can get confusing if you’re not a trained professional.

Using a Roller

The quickest way to cover large expanses is to use emulsion with a roller, although you’re likely to need more coats. You can get different textures of roller sheath depending on the finish you want.

Non-drip emulsion should be poured into the reservoir of the paint tray till it’s about a third full, and the roller dipped in, with excess paint removed by rolling it on the ribbed bottom of the tray.

Move the roller over the surface at an even pressure and moderate speed, to avoid paint spray. For each load of paint, start in an unpainted area and work back, overlapping to give an even effect.

Using a Pad

Paint pads are flexible and make less mess than rollers, although they need to be reloaded more frequently. Pour the paint into a paint pad tray with a built-in paint roller, used to remove excess paint and spread it evenly. It’s important to get this right, otherwise the pad won’t give the right finish.

Starting close to a corner, keep the pad flat and move it with a scrubbing action. Work in strips about four times the pad’s width.

Using a Brush

The classic paint tool hasn’t been replaced by rollers and pads, since it’s still needed for corners and details. Depending on your need, you can buy a cheap brush and throw it away after one use or a more specialist one that will last long-term with care. There are several ways to store brushes to prevent them drying out:

  • Wrap them in cling film, making it as airtight as possible. This can also be used for rollers.
  • For water-based paints, work soap into the bristles and rinse. When they’re dry, wrap them in lint-free cloth, plastic bags, foil or brown paper.
  • For paints based on oil or solvent, suspend them in the recommended cleaning fluid, making sure the bristles don’t touch the bottom.
  • Alternatively for oil or solvent paints, store the brushes in a cleaning tub with the bristles covered in cleaning fluid. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

Alternatively, if this seems too much work, you could get a professional in. Contact us to discuss any painting needs you may have.

Tips for Getting a Smooth Finish when Applying Silicone

If you’ve ever tried to renew the sealant around your bath or sink, you’ll know how hard it is to get a professional-looking finish on the silicone. It’s a job that may be best left to the professionals, but if you’re going to have a go yourself, taking a few simple precautions should improve your results.

Buy Good Quality Silicone

There are some very cheap brands of silicone available in the shops, but these won’t produce the results you need. If you don’t invest in one of the recognised brands, such as Dow, you may find yourself having to redo it far sooner than expected.

Prepare Your Tube

The silicone tube is likely to expand under pressure from the skeleton gun, resulting in it running on after you’ve released the trigger. Wrapping the tube in a non-stretching tape, such as brown parcel tape, will prevent this from happeneing.

Use a sharp blade to cut the nozzle, so that you get a clean edge, and make sure the opening isn’t too large. The cut should be at an angle of around 30-45 degrees.

Prepare for Application

The surfaces you’re going to apply the silicone to must be clean and smooth. In particular, make sure there’s no soap or any kind of residue on them, otherwise the silicone may not adhere properly.

You should have a container of water on hand — an old cup is ideal. This is for wetting your finger to smooth the silicone after application. It’s important not to use spit, since this contains bacteria which can grow on the silicone. Also have cloth or kitchen roll to clean silicone off the gun or your finger.

Applying the Silicone

Press the trigger just enough so a smooth flow of silicone comes out, which should avoid applying too much. Make sure you’re in a position where you can do a full run in one go from a standing position, since moving might vary the application, and move the gun along at a speed that will apply a uniform bead.

Finishing the Application

It’s all right to leave a raised bead if that’s the finish you want. If you want it

Hanging Wallpaper — A Basic Guide

hanging-wallpaperHanging wallpaper seems very straightforward, but it’s actually one of the easiest DIY jobs to mess up. It’s usually better to leave it to the professionals, and if you’re looking for wallpaper hanging in London, Handy Squad are experts at it. If you choose to have a go yourself, here are some things to bear in mind.

General Points

• Remember it’s the exception rather than the rule for houses to have completely straight walls. Trust accurate measuring, rather than appearances.
• A large, elaborate pattern can look good, but the more complex the room is, the more likely it’ll end up unmatching. If in doubt, use plain or minimally patterned wallpaper.
• When matching up the pattern on two strips, doing it at eye-level is more accurate.
• Keep a jar of warm water to clean your scissors regularly, and clean any paste off your seam roller before it dries.
• Remove all fittings before you start, but leave the wall plugs in place and put a matchstick in each. When you hang a strip over the place, line the paper up carefully with the matchstick and pierce the paper with it.

Papering Walls

It’s generally best to start on a wall that doesn’t have a window or door in it, although if you have an elaborate pattern, it may be better to start above the fireplace and establish the pattern from there.

Starting at a corner, draw a line 480mm from the corner from the ceiling to the skirting-board, using a spirit level or plumb line. After pasting your first strip, position it at the top of the wall, allowing a 50mm overlap onto the ceiling, with its right edge level with your line. When you’re sure of the position, smooth it down with a paper-hanging brush, working from the centre outwards and making sure there are no bubbles.

Crease the top and bottom into the corners of the ceiling and skirting-board, trim along the creases with the scissors and brush the edges into place. Use this strip as a guide to hanging the next, remembering to line up the pattern, and use the seam roller on the joins when you have a few pieces done.

Papering Corners

Corners are the hardest bits to get right, and if there are a lot of them, you may want to keep your wallpaper plain or simply patterned.

Whether it’s an internal or external corner, measure the distance from the last strip to the corner at several heights and use the widest measurement. Cut and hang a strip, allowing for 25mm extra to stick lightly to the other wall, and smooth it with a brush and seam roller.

On the other wall, measure the width of the strip (or the off-cut, if it’s wide enough) and use a plumb line to draw the edge. Hang the strip overlapping the 25mm of the previous one, using border adhesive to fix it.

Consider Using a Professional

If you feel confident that you can hang your own wallpaper effectively, good luck. If not, feel free to give Handy Squad a call, and we’ll be happy to provide you with an expert, professional job.

Some Handy Tips for Fitting a Shower

fitting-a-showerThere several different types of shower available, but the main ones are electric or mixer (with or without a pump). It’s vital to choose the right one for your plumbing system. A gravity-fed system should be compatible with any, whereas a combination boiler or a direct feed from the mains won’t allow a pump.

Fitting a shower is possible for someone with advanced DIY skills, but if you’re not completely confident or are unsure which type to choose, you’d be better hiring professionals, as getting the plumbing wrong can be disastrous. For fitting a shower in London, Handy Squad can do it for you expertly.

Fitting an Electric Shower

For an electric shower, you’ll need the water pipe and electrical cable in place first. Bring a 15mm pipe from the cold water supply and, using the shower fitting as a guide, drill a hole for it to come through. Feed the pipe through the wall and fit an isolating valve and the proper connector.

Check the manufacturer’s recommendations to ensure you have the correct cable. Drill a hole in the wall and take the cable to a ceiling-mounted pull-cord switch. However, this has to be connected up by a qualified electrician, such as Handy Squad’s handymen, to comply with safety requirements.

Mark the fixing holes by holding the unit in place, then drill the holes and insert wall plugs and a little sanitary silicone sealant. Feed the pipe and cable through the unit and screw it to the wall, then connect the inlet pipe, tightening the compression fitting with a pipe wrench.

Attach the live and neutral cores of the cable to the “load” terminals and the earth core to the “earth” terminal and fit the cover, checking the rubber seal is secure. Then fix the rail on the wall and attach the handset to the hose, using the washers supplied.

Fitting a Mixer Shower

A thermostatic mixer shower can be connected to the hot and cold supplies via branch pipes. If your supply is gravity-fed, you can install a pump to increase the flow, which can be hidden under the bath or in a cupboard. If you’re not using a pump, the shower head should be at least a metre below the bottom of the tank.

Having read the manufacture’s instructions thoroughly and checked that you have all parts, bring the hot and cold inlet pipes to the shower area, making sure they’re fixed inside the wall to stop them moving. Make sure you fit the compression olives, and flush the pipework through before connecting it up. The mixer unit can then be assembled according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Once your shower of whichever type is in place, if you aren’t using it as part of your bath, you can install rails, a shower tray or an enclosure. Follow the instructions that come with these, but seal your tray or enclosure securely with silicone to ensure it’s watertight.

Consider a Professional

Plumbing and electrics are the two most hazardous areas for DIYers, and combining the two makes the danger far greater. If you’re absolutely sure you know what you’re doing, these tips should help you stay safe. Otherwise, give Handy Squad a call, and we’ll be delighted to install your shower.

Building a Greenhouse

greenhouse-handysquadA greenhouse is a must in many gardens. Its controlled environment can not only enable you to grow exotic plants that wouldn’t survive outside, but will also either protect plants from frost or to bring on others early.

It needs to be carefully constructed to be effective, though. If you’re not confident about building a greenhouse in London, Handy Squad can put it up expertly, but if you decide to tackle it yourself, there are several things to remember.

What You Need

You can buy various sizes of ready-to-assemble greenhouses, with either timber or aluminium frames — the latter is easier to manage. It’s generally advisable, though not essential, to also buy a galvanised steel base.

Your glazing can be horticultural glass, toughened glass or polycarbonate panels. Horticultural glass shatters fairly easily and may be unwise if you have children. The glazing should have adjustable vents, so you can control ventilation.

Make sure you have room to get all the way round your greenhouse, and lay concrete or paved paths, both inside and outside, before you erect the structure.

Laying the Base

If you’re using a steel base, there are three ways of fixing it securely — small pockets of concrete with hooks embedded; bolting it to a concrete footing strip 200mm wide by 100mm deep; or fixing it to a course of bricks on the concrete footing. If you’re not using a base, you can attach the frame to whatever footing you use, but you may need wooden battens in between.

Using bricks is generally recommended. After checking the base kit to make sure everything’s there, assemble it according to the manufacturer’s instructions and lay it on the ground where you want the greenhouse. Mark it with two parallel builder’s lines, one 50mm from the outside, the other 150mm from the inside.

Dig out the trench and fill it with concrete, ensuring the top is perfectly level. When it’s completely dry, lay the base on it and draw a pencil line around its outer edge. Lay a single course of bricks around the centre of the concrete and give the mortar 24 hours to dry, then lift the base onto the bricks.

Building the Greenhouse

Lay out the pieces for each gable in turn on a flat surface, making sure everything’s the right way round, and bolt them loosely into place. Then follow the same procedure for each side and loosely bolt the four pieces together before screwing the frame loosely to the base.

Screw the roof ridge loosely between the two ends and attach the roof vent fittings before screwing in the roof glazing bars. Check with a spirit level that it’s completely level, then tighten all bolts and screws and drill 25mm frame fittings through the base into the brick course.

Assemble and screw the roof vent and slide it into place, then push the rubber line into the slots around the frame. Fit the glass from the roof down, securing each pane with clips. You’ll need to wear goggles and gloves for this, and work patiently, making sure each pane is right. Finally, assemble the door, including its glass, and slide it into place.

Think About a Professional

If you’re confident about building your greenhouse, well and good, but it may be better to get a professional in rather than ending up with a wonky and inefficient greenhouse. Handy Squad’s handymen can put up any type of greenhouse to the highest standard.

Tips on Dry-Lining a Wall

dry-lining-wallDry-lining, attaching plasterboard to a wall, is an easy way to prepare it for decoration. It looks straightforward, but it can be easy to mess up, and there are hazards, too. It’s usually best to get it done professionally and, if you’re interested in dry-lining in London, Handy Squad’s handymen take this kind of job in their stride.

If you feel skillful enough to do it yourself, though, make sure you wear gloves, safety goggles and a dust mask at all times, and especially when cutting metal.

Fitting the Plasterboard

For each board you’re going to fit, measure the width away from the window and use a laser level or spirit level to draw a vertical line from floor to ceiling. Do the same along the wall, then mark a line across the top, allowing 12.5mm for the board and 10-15mm for adhesive.

Plasterboard is normally attached to the wall with adhesive (which dries quickly, so only do small sections at a time), but alternatively you can fix a framework of timber studs to the wall and nail the plasterboard to it. This is useful if the wall’s in poor condition, but it also allows you to use the cavity for thermal insulation or to help with soundproofing.

Mark out positions for the adhesive dabs according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then mix the adhesive and apply the dabs with a builder’s float and pointing hawk. Align the plasterboard with the lines you drew and tap it into place with a heavy batten (e.g. a long piece of 50x100mm timber). Check that it’s level and that it fits against the ceiling. If it doesn’t, raise it off the floor with board lifter till the adhesive dries.

Cutting and Fitting

To make neat cuts in the plasterboard (for a windowsill, for instance) you need a plasterboard padsaw, rather than improvising. Measure on the wall the distance between where the edge of the board will be and end of the sill, then mark it out on the plasterboard and cut it out with padsaw.

To plasterboard a window recess, measure and cut the pieces for the sides and top. Once you’ve fixed them with adhesive, you’ll need to hold them in place while it dries. You can use masking tape for the sides, but for the top piece you’ll need to support it with timber between the board and the sill.

Finishing

To finish both internal and external angles, as well as the joins between the ceiling and the plasterboard, you can use a paper-faced metal angle bead fixed with jointing compound. When you’ve measured the height or length, cut the angle bead with tinsnips 12.5mm shorter than your measurement, then mix the jointing compound and spread it onto the corner, covering slightly more than the width of the angle bead. Press the angle bead into place, then cover it with jointing compound and smooth with a trowel.

The other joins can also be smoothed with jointing compound, sanding it smooth when it’s dry. In the end, though, the plasterboard will need to be plastered over, and this is best done by a professional. Whether you just need this last stage done, or whether you want to leave the whole process to experts, Handy Squad can provide an first-class service.