Reused bricks

Reclaimed bricks can be reused most of the time. Old bricks will give character to a new build, by having a weather down appearance.

driveway fence wall using old bricks
Driveway fence wall using old bricks

Building an office/shed/storage space using old bricks from demolition of chimney breast - in the garden
Building an office/shed/storage space using old bricks from demolition of chimney breast – in the garden.

front garden brickwall
Front garden brickwall

Building a partition wall

Sometimes a big living room or kitchen-dinning area is a wasted space. By putting a wall up , the space can be divided and you can create a second room/ bedroom, office area.

carpenters building wood structure partition wall

Sound proofing the wall is very important, its always better to use acoustic insulation rather than cheap standard insulation.

sound proofing a partition wall acoustic

A good way to save on time and cost is to use a tape and joint system , rather than plastering – skimming the wall.The wall can also be easily removed if needed.
tape and joint plasterboard

If part of the room will get less natural light by building a partition wall, a good compromise is to have a window installed into the wall, and if you want a bit of privacy, you can use obscure/sand blasted glass.

partition wall window natural light

The final result is two medium sized rooms.The skirting board, door, architrave and painting needs to be matched to the existing decorum.

partition wall

Care of basic tools

builder using a power drill

DON’T leave steel measuring tape extended, especially with blade on edge, on workbench or floor in case something falls onto it; damaged tape will be virtually useless

DO hang up saws by handle or frame when not in use and put blade guard over cutting edge; if left lying about teeth may get damaged. Lightly oil blade to prevent rust. Sharpen teeth, or replace blade, regularly.

DO tie chuck key of electric drill to lead with string, but allow enough length to turn key without having to untie it. Service drill regularly as worn parts will impair efficiency.

DO keep hammer heads clean and free of any traces of adhesive; rub hammer face squarely with fine glasspaper round block of wood. Bang loose heads back into place and/or use wedging pins.

DON’T use hammer on wood-handled chisels; side of hammer head can be used on plastic handles. Ideally use mallet to prevent damaging handle. Never use chisel as screwdriver or you will ruin edge. Maintain good cutting edge by regular sharpening.

DON’T use screwdrivers as levering devices or for raking, chipping or digging holes. If shafts are bent or blade ends not squarely cut they will not turn screws efficiently.

DO check plane blades are correctly adjusted. Hold bottom of plane squarely up to light; blade should be parallel to bottom so it cuts evenly across its full width

DO rest planes on their side to avoid damaging blade or bottom and keep regularly sharpened. After use, store in dry place to avoid rusting.

Types of double glazing

Types of double glazing
There are four types of double glazing in common use: insulating glass, secondary sashes, coupled windows and plastic film.

Insulating (hermetically sealed) glass
These units look like a single pane of glass and consist of two pieces of glass joined together and hermetically sealed in the factory – a process in which the air space between the panes is dried to prevent misting when installed. The pieces of glass are sealed with edge spacers of metal, alloy or plastic. The units are tailor-made and replace a single pane, enabling a window to open and close normally. There are two types standard and stepped. The stepped units are ideal where there are shallow rebates since installation can be carried out without having to alter the existing frame to accept the new units. The existing frame must be well fitting and sound enough to take the extra weight which will be imposed by the units.

Secondary sashes
secondary glazing
This is the most popular DIY method of installing double glazing. A second pane of glass in its own frame is secured to the existing frame or to the inner or outer sill and reveal; in some circumstances it is possible to flt the new window outside the existing frame. The existing window remains unaltered to form the other half of the double glazing. Manufacturers supply frames of aluminium or plastic; other types consist of plastic extrusions which are cut to length and joined with corner fittings to enable a frame for the glass to be made up. Hinges or clips are then used to secure the secondary sash to the existing window. The secondary sash is movable for cleaning, ventilation or summer storage and can be fixed, hinged or sliding.

Coupled windows
These are usually specified only for new buildings or where entire frames are being replaced during conversion. One single-glazed window has an auxiliary window coupled to it, allowing both to move together. They are flitted with hinges and fasteners so the frames can be separated for cleaning purposes.

Plastic film
This is not double glazing in the traditional sense, although at least one proprietary system is available. Plastic film is cut to size and applied to the window frame with double-sided adhesive tape. If you use this method, make sure that where windows are to be opend they are double-glazed separately from fixed panes; if a complete film was stretched across the entire window it would not be possible to open the window without first removing the film. If you are restricted to a very small budget, you can use kitchen self-clinging plastic to make a form of double glazing for small panes. For larger panes, you will have to break up the pane space with a thin timber framework to create the effect of smaller panes and fix the film inside these smaller areas.

Buying double glazing

Certain double glazing firms do not cater for the DIY market, others cater for both professional and DIY work and some solely for the DIY market. If you choose a professional installation, a representative from the company will call on you, discuss your requirements, measure up and arrange for the work to be carried out by company operatives. If you choose to install double glazing yourself, you will find local retail outlets stock at least one kind of kit for the framework. Measure up your requirements and buy the correct size; then read the instructions carefully to find out the thickness of glass required ,3 or 4mm and the height and width of glass. Glass can vary in price, so it is well worth shopping around. One or two companies offer online order service whereby you measure up, send the firm the dimensions and they return a kit, in one case at least the glass also is supplied. At least one company offers the best of both worlds , a company representative will call and measure up and you will then receive a tailor-made kit complete with glass. The advantage of this method of buying double glazing is the company takes responsibility for any errors in measuring and making the framework; also. since you are dealing directly with a company and not through a middle man, this system is often less expensive than other systems.
double glazing
Depending on the house style and the system chosen, to double glaze all the windows in a house could be a costly business. You could reduce the amount by completing only selected windows – perhaps those in the living room, hall and landing or a particularly draughty bedroom. A little-used dining room or spare bedroom might not be worth the expense; it would probably be better to keep the doors of these rooms closed and well sealed in cold weather to prevent the house heat drifting into them. When they are in use, heavy curtains pulled across would be as effective as double glazing as long as the windows have been effectively draught proofed. Factors which can drastically affect the price of double glazing one window, let alone all the windows in the house, are obviously the cost of the glass and the retail price of the kit you choose, which again can differ from shop to shop.

Sound insulation

Installing a good quality double glazing system will give a substantial reduction in the decibel level of noise permeating through windows from typical town traffic or a local playground. However, if your noise problem is more acute, noise prevention is a more extensive technical matter – the actual source of the noise, the location of the house, the type of glass thickness needed, the distance the two panes are set apart and any additional insulation around windows or between the double glazing should all be considered. Professional advice should be sought from a quality double glazing company or building company on other methods of sound insulation.

noise loud

Government grants to install double glazing can be given to people living in certain heavy traffic areas or where there is an airport nearby. Your local authority will be able to supply details and advice. In normal noise level situations the two sheets of glass in a double glazing system should be at least l00mm apart to provide adequate sound insulation. To provide effective thermal insulation, the optimum gap should be of 20mm. If you want both sound and thermal insulation, you should select a wider gap or use triple glazing ; you will find thermal insulation is not greatly reduced in this case.

Double glazing

robuild installing double glazing patio door
While heat losses vary depending on the nature of a building and its aspect, in a typical uninsulated house about l5 percent of house heat is lost through the windows. If all the windows in such a house are double-glazed, this heat loss will be halved to give a seven and a half percent saving on fuel bills. There are many factors which can affect this figure – for example, the type of system used and how well it is fitted. Installing double glazing in an old cottage with just a few small windows would not obtain this saving whereas there will be higher savings in a modern ‘goldfish bowl’ type of property.

Double glazing is not a money saver on the scale of other forms of insulation such as glass fibre laid in the loft or cavity wall infill; however, there are a number of reasons why you will find the necessary expenditure worthwhile to add to the comfort of your home. An efficient system will eliminate cold, draughty areas round window making the whole floor area of a room usable on cold days, and rooms will seem larger without the need for occupants to cluster round the fire or radiators.

Preventing condensation
dirty double glazing
When rooms are properly heated and ventilated, condensation will be reduced and possibly eliminated by double-glazed windows, since the inner panes of glass will be warmer and less susceptible to misting. With some double glazing systems, interpane misting may occur; this is usually slight and can be wiped away provided the new window is hinged or sliding. Alternatively you can place silica gel crystals between the panes of glass; these absorb moisture and, when saturated, should be temporarily removed and dried in a warm oven.

Misting on the room side of the window indicates the temperature of the glass is too low, given the water content of the room’s atmosphere; by a process of trial and error, you should carry out adjustment until there is a proper balance between heat and ventilation in the room. Condensation on the cavity surface of the outer glass is usually a sign that moist air is leaking into the cavity from the room. Make the seal round the new double glazing as airtight as possible, using a tape form of draught excluder, and seal any gaps in the joints of a timber framework with a matching wood filler, making sure the filler penetrates through to the full depth of the joint. If this fails to cure the problem, drill ventilation holes through the primary frame to the drier air outside. In a 1m wide window, two 10mm diameter holes set 500mm apart should be sufficient.

More will be needed for larger windows; you can decide the exact number by a process of trial and error – drilling an extra hole and waiting to see if this cures the problem. Pack the holes with glass fibre to act as an air filter. With hermetically sealed units the air in the cavity is dried, so condensation between the panes is not possible as long as the seals remain sound; failure of the seals is a rare occurrence, but reputable manufacturers give long-term guarantees to cover the possibility.

Damp walls & floors

Damp walls
damp wall paper
Patchy wall condensation is often confused with penetrating damp. Removal of a small area of plaster should tell you which it is. If it is condensation, the brick area behind will be perfectly dry; if it is damp, try to find the cause. At ground floor level it could be a faulty damp proof course; upstairs it may be a faulty gutter or down pipe or driving rain on porous solid brickwork might be the reason. Try to increase the circulation by warm, dry air in the affected area, but remedy the cause of the problem as soon as possible otherwise the trouble will recur.

Those with a high gloss finish are most susceptible to condensation.

Plasticine condensation test
To test for damp floor, place piece of glass on ring of Plasticine over affected area. Moisture on underside of glass indicates penetrating damp. Moisture forming on top of glass indicates condensation present

Damp floors
These are often caused by damp from the outside and not by condensation. You can make a simple test to see which condition is present with a piece of glass on a ring of Plasticine. Condensation on floors usually occurs with cold surfaced materials on concrete, such as tiles in the kitchen. The most effective remedy is to substitute existing flooring with warm-surfaced flooring.

Repairing plaster

Few homes escape damage to plaster caused by wear and tear, settlement of the main structure or through damp or excessive heat. Not only does it look unsightly, but it can become a major problem. So tackle the job early and save yourself time and trouble.

plastering company robuild london

The thought of having to repair damaged or flaking plaster may be fairly daunting to some people, but tackled in the right way with the right materials it is a relatively straightforward operation. Obviously it is quite a different matter if you have to replaster an entire wall or ceiling, in which case this is probably best left to the professional. But most of the small repairs normally required in the home are well within the capabilities of the DIY enthusiast.

Ceiling cracks
These are caused by the movement in roofing and flooring joists, leading to the plasterboard (where fitted) parting at the joints. Hairline cracks can easily be filled. With larger gaps you should seek professional advice.

Wall cracks
These are more likely to occur in new houses and are caused by the settlement of the main structure. The area most likely to be affected is the angle between the wall and the ceiling. Apart from filling in these cracks, which are likely to reopen later, one of the most effective methods is to cover over the gaps round the room. This can be done simply by fitting cove. Unsightly cracks across the wall may also be caused by settlement and normally only affect the plaster. If, however, you get a wide diagonal crack appearing not only in the plaster but also in the wall, this could be a major problem and professional advice should be sought immediately. When this happens it is usually on external walls and is clearly visible from the outside as well.

Filling cracks
Common hairline cracks can be repaired simply and quickly. Rake out the affected area with a sharp knife or the edge of a paint scraper. Cut a ‘V’ shape into the wall along the crack so that it is widest at the deepest point of the crack. This allows you to push the filler into the cavity dovetail fashion to prevent it falling out on drying. Apply cellulose filler with a flexible steel filling knife. Use either a 75 or 100mm filling knife, the larger size being preferred since you can work quickly over large areas. Don’t confuse this knife with a paint stripping knife, which looks similar, but must not be used as a substitute. The blade, which will bend about 90 degrees, should be perfectly straight and undamaged. Correctly used the knife can be used to give a smooth finish and make the job of rubbing down later unnecessary. Otherwise rub down with medium fine, then fine, glasspaper when the filler has completely dried, before redecorating.

Replacing loose plaster
Plaster often comes away from the surface around fireplaces. It can work loose due to vibration such as excessive hammering near the affected area – possibly when fitting a door or window frame. One simple test for loose plaster is to tap the suspect surface with the handle of a knife or a small blunt instrument. A hollow sound indicates poor adhesion between the plaster and substrate. Lift all the loose pieces with a broad knife and clean the surface beneath with a soft brush.

If you are dealing with only a small cavity you will probably get away with filling the area with fresh finishing plaster. In the case of a deep cavity. first apply a plaster undercoat. Wet the wall thoroughly, then roughly fill the cavity to within about 3mm of the original plaster surface, applying the undercoat with a plasterer’s trowel. The undercoat will dry with a rough texture which will provide a key for the finishing plaster. You will find a small ‘hawk’ useful to carry the plaster to the wall area after mixing it; make one by nailing a square of plywood to a short length of broom handle. When the undercoat is quite dry, mix up enough finishing plaster to a creamy consistency to complete the job. In powder form it does not keep that long and old plaster will often set too quickly to enable you to spread it properly; in this case the application will just crack and fall away.

If you find the plaster is hardening before you have a chance to use it, take it back to your supplier for replacement. To complete filling, go over the undercoat surface with a dampened brush, put a generous amount of plaster onto the bottom of a wood float or plasterer’s trowel and apply it into the remaining cavity. When the cavity is filled you can rule off the plaster. Using a timber straight-edge, which must be longer than the area being repaired, start from the bottom and work upwards over the new plaster with a sawing action, making sure both ends of the timber keep in contact with the surface of the existing plaster. This method ensures high spots are removed and low spots are built up as excess plaster is pushed up the wall, giving a level finish. When the plaster has almost set, rub a plasterer’s trowel over the new surface to give a smooth, polished finish. Lift the front edge of the trowel away from the wall so only the back edge is in contact; this will prevent the trowel cutting into the new plaster. Alternatively wait until the plaster has set completely and apply a layer of cellulose filler over the fresh plaster using a filling knife.

Repairing external corners
In any room it is the plaster on external corners that is the most vulnerable to damage. You can repair small holes and chips with cellulose filler as described earlier. When making good these small areas, apply the filler with a flexible filling knife working in each direction away from the corner. When dry the filler can be rubbed down lightly to form an edge to match the rest of that corner. With a badly damaged corner you will make the best repair by building up the corner with a plaster undercoat, then applying a layer of finishing plaster. Remove any loose plaster and clean back the area with a soft brush. Fix a batten, which must be longer than the affected area, to the wall so its edge is in line with the existing front wall plaster – and flush to the corner. Either hold the batten in position as you work or tack it lightly to the wall with masonry nails, knocking the points of the nails through the batten before fixing. You can screw it into position by drilling the necessary holes in the batten and the wall, plugging the wall and inserting screws through the batten.

Make sure you fix the batten well clear of the affected area or you may cause further damage. Build up the level by applying the undercoat plaster with a trowel or float, always working away from the corner. On one side, plaster the area to within about 3mm of the original surface, then move the batten to the other wall to complete the undercoating. When this is dry, complete the repair with finishing plaster, using the batten on each wall as before. If you nailed or screwed the batten to the wall, fill the holes with any plaster you have left over or with cellulose filler. Before the plaster sets hard, round off the corner by rubbing your fingers over the plaster to form an edge to match that on the rest of the corner. Use glasspaper if the plaster has set really hard.
plastering walls ceiling

Fixing curtain tracks

Fixing curtain tracks

Unless you are fitting the track in the recess above a window, or you want wall-to-wall curtains, the track should extend either side of the window so the open curtains will hang neatly to the side without cutting out any light. If, however, you have a wide window which you would like to look narrower, you can flt the track just to the end of the window so when the curtains are drawn back they cover the frame and part of the window itself. The easiest way to put up a track is to screw the fixing brackets to the top of the window frame. Fixing instructions are usually supplied with new track. Always fit the number of brackets recommended by the manufacturer for the length of track used and make sure there is a bracket close to each end to support the weight of the curtains when drawn back. For sill length curtains fit the brackets at equal heights from the sill (or from the floor for floor length curtains) to ensure the bottom hems of the curtains hang in line with the sill (or floor). Fix the end brackets at each side of the window, then stretch taught a length of string between them and use this to align the other brackets, spacing them at equal intervals.

window curtains bedroom

If you have to fix the brackets directly to the wall make the fixing holes with a masonry drill bit, which has a specially hardened tip for drilling walls. The masonry bit can be used with a hand wheel brace, but it is much easier to use an electric drill set at slow speed. You can make the holes with a cheap, easy-to use tool called a jumping bit, which you tap into the wall with a hammer and twist occasionally to clear the dust from the hole. Many houses have concrete lintels above the windows and you may find it difficult to make even with a hammer drill the going can be slow. To reduce the number of fixings in the lintel you can screw the appropriate length of 12mm thick timber above the window and fix the track brackets to this. Alternatively, fit a long curtain pole which will extend far enough on each side of the window to avoid the lintel. When you have made your holes in the wall above the window, it is vital the fixing is secure since the weight of the curtains will otherwise quickly loosen it. Having inserted suitable wall plugs, secure the brackets to the wall with screws.