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.


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.

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