Cleaning & repairing carpets

Carpets will become worn or damaged in the course of everyday use. There is no need to go to the expense of replacing them when you can patch and repair minor damage easily and at a fraction of the cost. You should remember to save remnants and off cuts when carpets are being fitted so you will be able to carry out repairs in the future. Regular vacuum cleaning, ideally every day, will remove grit which cuts into carpet fibres and backing as it is trodden in.

carpet stairs

Fluff will form on the surface of new carpets; this consists of short fibres which do not reach the base of the carpet and should be removed for the first few weeks with a hand brush, carpet sweeper or vacuum cleaner. Sometimes, while a carpet is bedding down, short loose fibres may become tangled with stronger fibres, causing small balls or pills of fibre on the surface. These should be trimmed off with scissors; never attempt to pull protruding fibres out of the carpet. Often the surface of a looped pile carpet may be caught up with a nail, in the base of a piece of furniture for example; this will cause a pulled loop. Look carefully to see if an adjacent loop has been pulled into the base of the carpet; if one has, you may be able to tease it up with a piece of hooked wire and draw the pulled loop back into the surface. If not, you will need to trim the loop level with the surface.

Cleaning carpets
Lightly soiled carpets can be cleaned with carpet shampoo, applied by a manual or electric carpet shampooer following manufacturer’s instructions. Treat heavily stained areas separately and test a small area before treating the whole carpet to check for discoloration. The best shampoos produce a dry foam which does not wet the carpet excessively; if the carpet is too wet, this could cause shrinkage and discoloration. After shampooing leave the pile sloping in one direction and allow the carpet to dry before walking or replacing furniture on it: vacuum it clean when it is dry. Heavily soiled carpet will have to be treated by professionals – or you can hire a ‘steam’ carpet cleaner; this is a large vacuum cleaner with a wet shampoo applicator. A hand-held nozzle sprays shampoo and hot water and the carpet is vacuumed so the shampoo, dirt and most of the water is drawn into the waste tank of the cleaner. The carpet is left drier than after ordinary shampooing, so the furniture may be replaced within about an hour.

Removing stains
When treating stains on carpets you should always test an area to discover whether the treatment has any effect on the colour dyes in the carpet. Remember it is much harder to remove all liquids and semisolids if they are allowed to dry. Stains fall into two basic categories and there are specific treatments for each type of carpet stain.

Water soluble stains
These should yield to a carpet shampoo. Remember to add one teaspoonful of white vinegar to each pint o[ shampoo; this will keep the solution acidic and prevent the dye in the carpet bleeding. Use a clean white cloth to apply the shampoo and blot the stain from the edge towards the centre; don’t rub vigorously. Mop up excess moisture with paper tissues and, when the area is dry, vacuum it clean.

Solvent soluble stains
These should be removed with a solvent-based dry cleaning fluid, which you should use sparingly. If you have applied water or carpet shampoo to the stain, allow it to dry thoroughly before applying the fluid on a pad of clean cloth. Work from the edge towards the centre and, if blotting is insufficient, rub gently. Turn the cloth as it becomes discoloured and blot excess fluid with paper tissues. Use carpet shampoo to remove final traces of the stain; if it does not, use an aerosol spot remover or call in professional carpet cleaners.

Repairing carpets
Bare carpet can be patched with a new piece, such as a remnant saved when the carpet was fitted; but remember such repairs are rarely entirely satisfactory. The adjacent pile is likely to have flattened and faded, which means the new piece will stand out from the rest. Carpet tiles can be moved around by taking some from under pieces of furniture, for example; but again the replacements are likely to stand out from the surrounding tiles.

Patching woven-backed carpet
To patch woven carpet, turn the carpet to expose the backing (although you can use the surface method described for foam-backed carpet). Mark out the area of the damage on the backing and apply a coat of carpet adhesive in a broad band along the lines you have drawn will prevent the carpet fraying when you cut out the damaged area. Place a sheet of hardboard under the carpet and cut along the marked lines with a sharp knife. Put the piece you have cut out upside down on the back of an off cut of the carpet and carefully match the direction of pile and pattern (the pattern will usually show through the back of a woven carpet). Mark out the exact shape of the worn piece onto the new one, with adhesive and cut out as before. Lay strips of 50mm carpet tape around the edge of the hole in the carpet to accept the patch; you can use either self-adhesive tape or woven fabric tape (which requires carpet adhesive). Re-lay the carpet and press the patch into place over the carpet tape; take great care not to push down the surrounding pile as you press the patch into place. Hammer it down along the edges to ensure firm contact with the carpet tape beneath.

Patching foam-backed carpet
This is easier because you can patch from above the surface of the carpet. Lay a large off cut over the worn area and match the pile direction and pattern; very carefully cut both layers at the same time with a sharp knife. If it is a large patch, you can tack the pieces down to prevent movement as you cut through. The foam backing will prevent fraying. If you intend to use this method with woven carpet, you will need to apply carpet adhesive along edges of both the hole and the patch roughly halfway up the pile. Cut strips of carpet tape so they will overlap around the hole, raise the edges of the carpet and apply the tape so half its width is exposed (sticky side up). Place the patch in position and hammer down the edges to ensure sound contact with the tape.

Repairing tears
Tears in carpet are usually caused by movement of the underfloor; this should be rectified before you make the repair. Tears often occur at the back and front edges of stair treads because of movement between treads and risers. To repair a tear, turn the carpet over and hold the tear closed before sticking 75mm wide self-adhesive or woven carpet tape along it. If you use woven tape with carpet adhesive, you can make the repair stronger by stitching along the sides of the tear with a curved needle and strong thread.

Repairing frayed edges
Frayed edges occur most frequently at doorways and they can be repaired by fitting aluminium binder bars, which are available in various designs. Use bars with small teeth for woven-backed carpets and bars with small lips to hold foam-backed carpets. Cut the binder bar to length (to fit the doorway) and nail it down; on a concrete floor you can fix the bar with masonry pins or use adhesive. If the carpet has a woven backing, you should seal the edge by working in a 25mm strip of carpet adhesive and trimming off the loose ends. Make sure the carpet lies flat without rucks or wrinkles before hammering down the lip of the binder bar, using a wood block as protection. You can also seal frayed edges with carpet tape; this is especially useful for frayed carpet squares. If the carpet has a woven back, cut off a small amount of carpet to give a neat, straight edge. Seal this edge with adhesive, taking care not to get the adhesive higher than the base of the tufts. Stick carpet tape along the edge, allowing 3-6mm to overlap; turn the overlap over so it sticks to the base of the tufts all along the edge. It is more difficult to bind the edges of foambacked carpet because it crumbles at the edges. The foam may make binding difficult because you need a good key for the adhesive or self-adhesive tape. It may be necessary to experiment with different adhesives to find one which gives the best bond.

Repairing burns
You may be able to trim off the tips of burnt fibres to remove a mild cigarette burn; more serious burns on woollen rugs and carpets can be patched with thick knitting wool. Trim off the burnt tufts with a small pair of nail scissors and cut the patching wool into 13mm pieces. Hold back the carpet pile around the damaged area and work carpet adhesive into the trimmed tufts with a matchstick. Ease a bunch of wool pieces into the damaged area with.a matchstick, filling the hole as tightly as possible. When the adhesive is dry, cut the ends level with the pile and pull out any loose ends. Use a needle to tease the new wool fibres into the fibres of the carpet. Serious burns in woven, nylon and man-made carpets must be patched using the technique described for worn carpets. Repairing rush matting This type of floor covering is not easily repaired, but you may be able to stitch loose pieces back into position. Replacement pieces are available for square rush matting which you can stitch into place to repair worn areas

Laying carpets

Before laying carpet it is essential to prepare the sub-floor carefully to make sure it is dry, level, flat and clean. Any bumps in the surface will cause the carpet to wear prematurely and unevenly.

carpet fitters London staircase

Preparing the sub-floor
Clear the room of furniture and inspect the floor thoroughly, walking all over it to check for squeaks, uneven or loose boards and protruding nail heads. If there are any signs of damp or rot, deal with the problem immediately.

Loose and squeaking floorboards
Squeaks below a fitted carpet are irritating and not easily remedied once the carpet is laid. They can indicate the nails securing the boards are working loose, causing a floorboard to rise and fall when walked on. Some squeaks may be cured by sprinkling talcum powder or French chalk between the boards. Where squeaking persists, if the boards are loose, secure them with screws. First sink protruding nails below the surface with a nail punch. Drill countersunk clearance holes through the boards for the screws, about 13mm from each nail head, drill pilot holes into the joists and tighten the screws firmly, making sure the heads are below the surface. Always be careful when hammering nails or inserting screws into floorboards. If you are doubtful about what lies below. lift the board and make sure there are no pipes or wires nearby.

Levelling the surface
Check for any sharp edges or uneven boards. Where possible, plane down protruding boards flush with the surround. If, as sometimes happens. a board cannot be levelled off completely. at least round off any sharp edges. Fill any wide gaps between boards with wedge shaped wood strips, cut to length and coated on both sides with woodworking adhesive. Tap the strips down firmly and plane down any protruding edges. Fill smaller gaps with mastic. If the floor is very uneven and cannot be levelled successfully, cover it with hardboard or replace the boards. Level concrete with screeding compound.

Do not lay carpet over thermoplastic tiles unless you have taken measures to eliminate condensation in the room. Otherwise the tiles will ‘sweat’ and moisture will work through to the carpet, causing mildew stains on the pile. Never use rubber or foam underlays over thermoplastic tiles always choose felt.
When the subfloor has been prepared, clean it thoroughly.

Checking doors
Check to see if the new carpet will raise the floor level to a point where the door will not pass easily over it. The door must clear the carpet completely; if it brushes over it as it opens and close it wears the pile. The solution is to remove the door and plane off enough from its bottom edge to ensure it clears the carpet. Do this before laying the carpet since it will make the job easier; even if the door does not need modifying it is easier to lay carpet with the door removed.

Lying the carpet
If you are using carpet grippers to secure the carpet, fix them in position around the edges of the room and fit a binder bar in the doorway (as described). Take the carpet into the room, open it up fully and position it roughly with excess carpet lapping up the walls, it is usual to lay the carpet with the pile leaning away from the light sine this prevents uneven shading in daylight which may be particularly noticeable in the case of plain carpets. If the carpet has a definite pattern, this should be the right way up as you enter the room.

Fitting the underlay
When the carpet is arranged, roll half of it back to expose half of the floor area This is to enable you to put down your underlay one half at a time. If you try to put down all the underlay and then the carpet, you will almost certainly disturb the underlay as the heavy carpet is dragged over it. If you are using felt paper, lay it in strips across the room, but doing the edges with self-adhesive tape. Trim the edges of the paper to butt against the carpet grippers. Stick it to the floor with double sided adhesive at the edges of the room and around any projections. An alternative method of fixing felt paper is to use latex adhesive applied from a washing-up liquid bottle. Put down the underlay in strips across the room, joining the edges with self-adhesive tape. To do this, turn the two lengths of underlay reverse side up and butt the adjoining edges. Remove the protective paper from the tape and press the sticky side down along the joint. Fix the underlay to a timber floor with tacks or staples with adhesive to a concrete floor. Trim it to butt up against the carpet grippers. Unroll the carpet to cover the floor and roll up the other half, laying the felt paper and underlay as before. Finally, unroll the carpet again to cover the entire floor.

Fitting a stretched carpet
If possible start fitting the carpet in a corner where you have a reasonably uninterrupted run of walls, that is, without recesses radiators or other obstructions. During the initial positioning try to leave only about l0mm of carpet lapping up against the starting walls. This will save you having to trim these two edges.

Starting edge technique
A special method is used to engage the starting edge of the carpet onto the carpet gripper to ensure the carpet is firmly held during stretching Using the fingertips with steady downward pressure press the edge of the carpet

along the wall onto the back row of pins. With a hammer, press the surplus carpet down to form a U shape of carpet between the gripper and the wall. The starting edge technique is used along the first two walls to be fitted; the carpet is hooked along the other two walls by stretching.

As work progresses, use a knee kicker (as described earlier) if the carpet needs to be stretched. Stretch one part of the carp€t and hook it into the pins. Move along a few feet and stretch the next portion, continuing in this way until all carpet is gripped.

Check the carpet carefully tor make sure it is evenly stretched- Distorted pattern lines and crooked seams indicate faulty stretching. If the carpet is plain unseamed faults are not so obvious; look closely to see if the pile is running straight. If there are any distortions, unhook the affected part and re-stretch it. Do not hook the carpet onto any binder bars at this stage.

Trimming the carpet
Trim the carpet with a sharp trimming knife. At straight edges take off just enough surplus to leave a 10mm overlap to be pressed behind the carpet grippers. Use an awl or spoon handle to turn the trimmed edge into the gulley.

Right angle projection
Press the carpet into the front edge of the projection, using a length of hardboard to hold it firmly in the angle between wall and floor. Trim along the front edge with a knife, leaving about a 25mm overlap to avoid overtrimming – you can trim it accurately later. Fold back the carpet towards you. Place a piece of hardboard underneath to protect the carpet below and cut it to fit from the corners of the fireplace, or projection, to the wall; still leave about a 25mm overlap.

Cut slits in the carpet at the corners of the room and any right-angle projection so the carpet lies flat around the corner. Stretch the carpet onto the carpet gripper and trim.

Lap up the carpet against the front of the pipe, apply latex adhesive to the back of the carpet at roughly the centre of the pipe and cut a slit in the carpet. Ease the carpet round the pipe and tuck under the edges. For large diameter pipes, it is better to use a card template or a shape-tracer to draw the outline of each half of the pipe on the corresponding sides of the split in the carpet. Cut out the shapes and ease the carpet round the pipe.

Fitting carpet to binder bar
Tuck the edge of the carpet under the lip and stretch the carpet onto the hooks . Place a piece of hardboard onto the lip to protect it and hammer the lip down.

Joining seams with tape
Although carpet suppliers will seam body widths for you, you may find you have to make a seam to fit carpet into a recess. You may need to make seams if you move house and fit your old carpet into a different shape room. Professionals use stitching or heat-bonding to join seams, but the simplest method for the amateur is to use 50mm carpet tape and latex adhesive.

Tools & equipment for carpet fitting

For successful carpet fitting you must have the right tools and equipment. If you are stretching carpet, for example, a knee kicker is essential; although an expensive item to buy unless you are going to use it several times, you can hire one. Carpet grippers are ideal fixings for carpets that have to be stretched, while those for carpets that do not stretch you will have to use the traditional turn and tack method.
Two basic items needed when fitting carpets are a sharp trimming knife and self-adhesive tape.

Knee kicker
A knee kicker is used to stretch the carpet taut – but not too tight – onto carpet grippers. It is never used on foam-backed carpets, or hessian-backed ones which do not need to be stretched. In the head of the knee kicker are two sets of pins. The thinner pins are adjustable, so the amount they can project from the head can be increased or reduced. These pins are necessary when stretching shag pile carpets and must be set accurately to grip the carpet backing if they are set too short. they will snare the pile as the tool is projected forward; if they are too long, they will become embedded into the underlay and pull it out of place or catch the floor underneath. The thicker fixed pins (called nap grips) give the added purchase required for smooth pile carpets.

Using a kicker
The knee kicker is literally kicked with the muscle above the knee cap – never with the knee cap itself since this might cause injury. At each point of stretching only one kick should be used to stretch the carpet onto the carpet gripper; if a succession of kicks is made, the carpet will spring back to its original position between kicks. The hands play an important part in the technique of using a kicker. The tool is rested on the carpet with the palm of one hand exerting downward pressure on the head of the kicker while the fingers are used to bring the carpet into contact with the gripper pins at the peak of the stretch. The other hand is used to press down on the stretched carpet in front of the head. As the carpet is stretched and pushed over the gripper pins, the natural elasticity will enable it to spring back securely onto the pins. Generally the better the quality of carpet, the less stretch is needed. But remember the carpet should be taut never tight.

Carpet gripper
There are two basic types of carpet gripper . one with nails for fixing to timber floors and one with hardened pins for fixing to concrete floors. The gripper consists of a strip of wood about 25mm wide and 6mm thick with two rows of pins protruding from the upper face at an angle- The pins which grip the carpet are positioned every 50mm along the gripper and strips are available in 750, 1200 and 1500mm lengths. The carpet is stretched onto the pins. which hold it firmly in place. This is a superior method to tacking since the carpet is held continuously along its edge; carpet tacks normally hold the carpet at 150mm intervals, often producing a scalloped-edge appearance. A special flat steel strip containing dome-shaped pins has been designed for foam-backed carpets; the pins are made to penetrate cleanly through the foam. This strip is supplied in 2 and 3m lengths in boxes containing 60 pieces. A normal carpet gripper can be used on foam-backed carpet if preferred.

Fixing a gripper
The carpet gripper is fixed to the floor around the edge of the room, except in door ways. Lengths should butt up against each other at the edges; where short lengths are needed – at corners, for example – cut the gripper with a saw or tinsnips. There is no need to mitre joins at corners; simply butt together the adjoining pieces at right-angles. Always allow a space between the back edge of the gripper and the wall. The gully formed should be slightly less than the thickness of the carpet – 6mm is usually about the right allowance. Keep a uniform space all round to achieve a smooth, level finish to the carpet edge and make sure the angled pins project towards the wall. The gripper cannot be bent so in bay windows, for example, cut it into short lengths and fix these to the floor, leaving a small space between each piece. Arrange the gripper to follow the shape of the bay. At doorways, cut short lengths to follow the line of the door frame. If the carpet continues into an adjoining room, fix the gripper around the frame into the next room. With timber floors the gripper should be nailed down; use a hammer and nail punch to avoid any possible damage to the pins. Where short lengths have been cut off the gripper, insert at least two nails – one at each end. With concrete floors specially hardened pins are used to secure the gripper, although you can stick it down with PVA adhesive or an adhesive recommended by the manufacturer. Make sure the floor has been cleaned thoroughly or the adhesive will not hold the gripper firmly in place. Spread any surplus adhesive with your thumb onto the edge of the gripper that faces the carpet; by continuing the bond in this way you will ensure a firmer fixing. Allow two days for the adhesive to set. Even after levelling a concrete floor (if this is necessary), you may still find small uneven patches; in this case, if the longer lengths of gripper will not lie flat, cut them into smaller sections.

Carpet tacks
If you choose to tack down a carpet to a timber floor, you will need two lengths of carpet tacks. To fix the carpet around the edges use 19mm (fin) tacks; these will go through a double thickness of carpet (where it has been folded under at the edge) and into the floor. In corners, where three thicknesses of carpet result from folding under the edges, use 25mm tacks. Use only rustproof tacks or rust marks could form around the fixing points if the tacks ever got wet. Space the tacks at 150mm intervals around the room; closer spacing will be needed at corners and other awkward areas.

Binder bar
To give a neat, protective finish to the carpet edge, use a binder bar at the doorway. You can tack down the carpet or sew adjoining carpets together, but the edges may eventually work loose. Binders are available in aluminium or brass and in various finishes such as fluted, satin and polished. They are normally supplied in 8l3mm lengths, which is the common distance across the threshold; trim the binder bar with a hacksaw to fit smaller openings. Since the bars contain evenly spaced pre-drilled holes for fixing points, when trimming a bar you may have to take a little off each end to ensure the fixing points remain evenly spaced. The underside of the bar is usually ribbed to provide a key, if you want to fix it to a concrete floor with adhesive; but normally it is fitted with screws or nails.

Joining carpet to carpet
There is a double-sided bar available which enables you to make a neat join between two carpets at a threshold. Both carpets are stretched onto the angled pins so the respective edges lie close against the centre channel. A central covering strip is then tapped over to conceal the carpet edges and help keep them in place.

Joining carpet to hard flooring
For this operation there is a bar with both plain and fitting lips; the plain lip is placed over the edge of the adjoining flooring while the carpet edge is pressed onto the pins projecting from the other side of the bar and tucked under the protective lip. The lip is then hammered down lightly to hold the carpet edge securely. Place a block of wood between the hammer and the binder bar to prevent damage when tapping down the lip

Types of carpet underlay

All carpets except for felt require an underlay even those with a foam backing; without this the performance of the carpet whatever its quality – will suffer. It is therefore false economy to skimp on underlay – and you should never use just o1d newspaper or old carpet in its place. Good quality underlay not only improves the feel of a carpet underfoot, but also provides a buffer between the carpet and the floor; this will ensure even wear. Although it is important to 1ay carpet on a level sub-floor, it is not always possible to achieve perfect smoothness and so a good underlay will help overcome any minor defects. It also protects the carpet from dirt and dust rising through the floorboards and will help reduce noise and heat loss.

Various types are available which include jute, animal hair, wool waste and a combination of these materials. In some cases rubber is incorporated in layers into the construction or a solution of rubber impregnated into the felt.
Polyurethane foam or rubber
More springy and resilient than felt, this type gives the carpet a softer feel. When used beneath carpet composed of seamed strips, however, it may not allow the seams to bed down as well as they would on felt.
Rubber underlay should never be used where there is underfloor heating since the rubber will smell and may eventually disintegrate.

Felt paper
This under-carpet covering is used beneath traditional underlay where narrow gaps between the floorboards have not been filled, since it will provide an additional barrier against dirt and dust from underneath the floor.

Felt paper is also used underneath foam-backed carpet to prevent the backing sticking to the floor; brown paper can be used instead if there are no gaps between the floorboards. Such protection is essential; if the foam backing sticks to the floor, it is difficult to remove the carpet intact. The backing may also disintegrate under normal use, causing uneven and premature wear to the carpet.

Fitting underlay
To prevent strips of underlay moving join them at the edges with self-adhesive tape or by tacking or stapling them down; use adhesive on concrete floors. Underlay is never stretched to the same extent as carpet, but it must be pulled taut to eliminate any wrinkles. Never allow an extra thickness of underlay in areas subjected to excessive wear and tear, such as doorways. Not only is it unnecessary, but the extra thickness will cause a bump in the carpet and result in uneven wear.

Fitting carpets

Carpets are always a major item in any home improvement budget. If you cannot buy them with free fitting, you could fit them yourself following carefully the correct methods. These depend on the type of carpet to be laid and the different ways of fitting available, whether you use carpet grippers attached to the floor or carpet tacks.
Properly laid, a good carpet will enhance the room and last for years.
carpet stairs

A good quality carpet is expensive but well worth the outlay since it will withstand wear and tear far better than a cheaper one: it must. however. be laid correctly. This means it must be properly stretched and fitted over a suitable underlay on a sound sub-floor. A well laid carpet will retain its tension. remain flat and not ruck up. An unstretched or poorly stretched carpet will ruck up easily even under normal use and will be disturbed even more if furniture is moved over it; and apart from looking unattractive, it will also wear prematurely and unevenly. Genuine free-fitting offers do arise occasionally so it is worth taking advantage of them.

If there is no free-fitting offer available, you can lay a carpet successfully yourself: but you should make sure the job is within your capabilities since mistakes can be costly. Well over hall the carpets now sold arc non-fray tufted types with a loam or hessian backing. Foam backs need not be stretched during fitting and are therefore quite straightforward to lay. They can be loose-laid. but you will still have to secure edges in doorways. Some hessian-backs may need stretching; check with your supplier before you buy.

Other carpets will have to be stretched, a job you can do yourself if the carpet is plain and the room does not exceed 4.6m in width or length. Above this size stretching is done at differing angles to suit the installation and you should seek professional advice before tackling this job. In the case of a patterned carpet, incorrect stretching can distort the pattern, so great care is needed. If you are using body carpet, you will not have to join seams yourself.

If you give your supplier the room measurements, the carpet will be delivered to you in a single piece with an allowance for trimming the edges.

Estimating quantity
Free measuring and estimating is a widespread feature of the carpet trade and it is worth taking advantage of this service, particularly if you have an awkward-shaped room – the supplier will work out the most economical way of carpeting it. If this service is not available. make an accurate scale plan of the room including doors and windows – and give it to your supplier when ordering.


Get a quote from our London based tradesmen, Builders, Electricians, Carpenters, Plumbers, Gardeners, Painters, Architects, Painters, Decorators, Roofers, Bathroom fitters, Kitchen Fitters and other trades.

robuild tradesmen London

Blinds for windows

A blind is one of the most versatile of furnishing accessories. It can range from a cheap cotton roller that saves spending a fortune on curtains, to a sophisticated and more expensive Venetian blind that will last for years and cut out a dreary view. Don’t imagine that blinds can be used only for windows. There are many different ways of using them around the home for other purposes, like hiding a washing corner or making a room divider. It is simple to make your own roller blinds and Roman shades, and there is also a huge selection to be found in the shops. These can be made to measure for your windows at very reasonable prices. Choose anything from a plain holland that comes in a wide colour range, to all kinds of laminated fabrics in patterns and plains. The alternatives are rattan blinds (which are cheap) in a pleasant wood colour, or Venetian blinds (more expensive) in a good colour range from white to bright reds, yellows and greens. Look for concertina blinds in thick paper if you are working on a tight furnishing budget. If you like adapting ideas, keep an eye on current trends in the pages of magazines, then use these ideas for blinds as a basis for making your own. The detail is the important point to watch it’s the final touches like braid and borders, or colour that will help you to make your own blinds with style. Here are some ideas for using blinds around the house.

In the living room

One of the most basic uses for blinds in a living room, or any room for that matter, is to protect fine furniture from the sun during the day time. Over a long period the sun fades dark and antique furniture, and many fabrics too. Just plain white hollands, or roller blinds in a pale shade that tones with the colour scheme, can be fitted at the windows as well as curtains. When it’s sunny, the blinds are pulled down to keep out the harsh rays, yet let in the light. In the evening the curtains are drawn as well. If you want to doll the blinds up a bit, use a band of the curtain material along the foot of the blind. If the windows are large, use fabric blinds instead of curtains. They will work out cheaper and give a much cleaner outline to the window. A lull-length blind in a bright modern colour can look stunning. Used at a small window instead of curtains. a blind will let in more light during the daytime, because it will not encroach on the window space when it is rolled up.

In a modern home you may find one or two large Venetian blinds make the ideal covering for a picture window overlooking a garden, particularly if the room catches the sun. The Venetian blinds can be kept rolled down in hot weather during the daytime, when they will let in light and air, yet keep out the heat. Use a large blind to disguise an untidy study corner or shelves holding drinks in an alcove. Rattan blinds are a wise choice for this form of disguise. You could use a whole wall of blinds to screen off a fitted shelving unit. This is a smart idea if you prefer the neater finish of blinds to the more casual look of shelves crammed with an assortment of objects.

In a multi-purpose room

Blinds are a boon in a multi-purpose room or a bedsitter. They can be used so easily to screen eyesores, and as room dividers. In a bedsitter, use a blind to hide the washing arrangements. You can do this by building light hardboard floor-to-ceiling ‘walls’ on either side of the basin. Fit a blind at the front and you have an instant mini-washroom. If you are short of storage space, fit shelves above the basin and use the sides of the basin screen for hanging up towels, dressing gown, toothbrushes etc. Either build in the basin with a cupboard underneath it, or fit more shelves under to hold towels or shoes. Also in a bedsitter, blinds can be used to hide the bed, which can be fitted away neatly in one corner of the room. Fix two rattan or bright cotton roller blinds to the ceiling, and during the daytime they can be pulled down to hide the bed. Often, in a bedsitter, you may find you have to use ‘make-do’ furniture until you can afford what you really want. So the whole room can be made visually smarter if you hide a row of varied cupboards, and storage furniture, behind large cotton roller blinds. Use a rattan or Venetian blind above a bar to emphasize the division between eating and sitting in a multi-purpose room. Also, use blinds instead of screens to help zone the different purposes of the room-for instance behind a sofa to enclose a seating corner or divide it from a walk-through area, or to screen the stairs in a large room with an open staircase, or to hide a children’s play corner.

In the bedroom

One of the most attractive ideas for a bedroom is to use a blind instead of a net curtain for privacy. A thick cotton lace makes a stylish fabric choice. A good way of making more of a bedroom window is to have a roller blind or Roman shade in a fabric that matches the bedspread, then frame the window with semi-sheer curtains, caught back in loops, during the daytime. These could be made from the bedspread fabric again. Another idea is to have curtains in a plain fabric bordered and looped back with the patterned fabric. Try making your own four-poster bed, and instead of curtains use blinds made of inexpensive ruched cotton. The blinds can be pulled down and kept firm in side tracks so the bed becomes almost like a cave. Blinds can also hide a dressing corner, an unattractive old wardrobe. or a shoe rack.

In children’s rooms

If light evenings or an early dawn keep the children awake, use a dark holland blind behind the curtains, and this will cut out the light. In fact a blind in any dark-coloured opaque fabric will do the trick. Remember that blinds will flap on a windy night if the children are asleep with their door open. One way of stopping this is to make a pelmet and side frames so that the blind is held inside this and cannot flap about. A box covering the sides and top of a window is simple to make and, for added interest, use a curved shape to give more effect. Paint the frame brightly or cover it with the same fabric as the blind. This is a particularly smart idea which could be adapted for any room in the house. For safety, cut off all long pulls on blinds and replace them with small rings, particularly in a room where the children are under six and like fiddling.

Using fabric

Be clever with the way you use fabric on blinds to make a more effective room scheme. Make wide scallops at the foot of a roller blind where you have used a bold curvy fabric this will help to emphasize the movement of the pattern. If you are using a row of fabric blinds as screens or at large windows, be sure that the fabric matches at the edges of each adjoining blind. This is particularly important with a geometric or regular pattern of any kind. A good match looks much more professional. Instead of cupboard doors, you can use roller blinds made from a fabric that. for instance, matches the wallpaper. This is a smart idea for a bedroom or a kitchen if the shelves are untidy.

Blinds for kitchens and bathrooms


In the metropolitan area of London alone there were 92,225 household break-ins in one year. Of these, a little less than half were ‘walk-ins’ representing an increase on the previous year. The remainder were forced entries which, surprisingly, showed a slight drop from the previous year. According to New Scotland Yard this does not mean that burglars are getting less bold, only that householders are increasingly careless and making the burglar’s job literally as simple as walking through a door. This is a worldwide phenomenon that the man in the street shakes his head over and thinks he can do little to avert. In the case of domestic burglaries this is simply not true. No matter where you live there are several precautions you can take to safeguard your property. These are often inexpensive and largely a matter of sheer common sense. Just remember that it can happen to you, and if you neglect to take every possible precaution then it is unfair to complain about the inefficiency of your local police. Burglary prevention is mainly in your hands.

Burglary is big business

A professional thief can burgle a flat in sixty seconds. He knows where you are likely to hide money, keys, chequebooks and so on. An ‘amateur’ will take longer and will probably make more mess. Organized gangs of burglars can strip a fair-sized house of all its furniture, including large items such as television sets and hi-fl equipment in a matter of an hour or less, and make away with the goods in a truck which is ready and waiting. Your. property then passes on to crooked dealers and-only too often completely out of your life. It is no use imagining that you can catch a burglar by creeping bravely around in the dark clutching a poker. The personal risks are too great, and, besides, most domestic burglaries take place in broad daylight mainly in the afternoons in fact. Too often an open window, or a kitchen door left ajar while you ‘pop out’ for a few minutes is an open invitation to crime. But a few minutes are all that’s needed to cause a great deal of personal distress. However rich you are you can never afford to lose what the thief will take. And no matter how poor you think you are, there will always be something he will consider worth taking.

Safe as houses

Before going to bed, the average householder goes through the ritual of locking his doors. This is usually the only precaution taken and, up to a limit, it is all well and good. But there are other things to consider. 28 % of thieves enter property from the front of the house, from the side, 62% from the rear of the premises and 3 % from the roof. Can the thief approach your house from the roof tops of adjoining property? Are your skylights and dormer windows fitted with adequate locks? Are all your windows fitted with locks (not just flimsy catches)? Do you ever leave a window open-no matter how small-for your cat’s convenience? Remember, it may be convenient for a ‘cat’-burglar, too. Very little is ‘impossible’ for a thief to get through if the opening is there. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred only a small section of glass is broken, the thief inserts his hand and releases the catch, thus simply opening the window for entry. Dramatic window smashing is rare. Key’ operated window locks are the answer, because the thief would have to smash the glass, causing some danger to himself and making a tell-tale noise. Remember the greatest risks for a burglar are noise and delay. These locks are effective deterrents always supposing, of course, that you don’t leave the key in the lock !

Fighting forced entry

Modern doors tend to be very flimsy, and it is no use whatsoever fitting an expensive, good quality lock to a feather-light door. The chances are that you will find yourself coming home to a smashed door and your lock lying intact on the floor! Hollow core doors which are packed with material no more sturdy than bits of egg-box will always give way under brute force, if the burglar is really determined. Panel doors should be between 45mm and 51mm thick. Even if you fit a good lock (such as a British Standard lock) to a door thinner than this then you may have weakened it and the lock could be torn off whole more easily. There are basically two types of lock-a mortise lock which, in the U.K., should at least comply with British Standard requirements, and a rim fitting lock which is fitted to the surface or rim of the door.

A mortise deadlock is the most likely to be burglar-proof. Manufactured to the strictest t specifications under British Standard rules, this type of lock has to be good. It must withstand attacks from skillfully wielded jemmies, be resistant to side pressures of 3,000 pounds and end pressures of 2,000 pounds and be able to thwart at least five minute’s attack from a steel saw. Each lock carrying the ‘kite’ mark will have undergone rigorous tests-and passed them. All you need to do is fit them correctly and even here you are helped because all these mortise deadlocks come with detailed instructions on how to fit them. Every outside door should be fitted with one. Remember though, that the strength of the lock depends on the strength of the door. While there is no need to armour plate your door, you could strengthen it by fitting strips of sheet steel or iron round its edges especially where the lock is going to go. It makes sense to lock internal doors in houses which have been split up into flats, but police often advise householders of the average ‘semi’ not to lock internal doors, only the main outer ones. The reasoning behind this is simply-if a thief goes to the trouble of breaking into your house in the first place he is not going to be frustrated by flimsier internal doors. He will simply smash them in, causing further unnecessary havoc. Unfortunately some insurance firms disagree with this viewpoint, so find out what your own insurance company feels about this.

All external doors should also be provided with bolts, preferably both at the top and bottom-the old fashioned padlocks are no longer considered effective against such skillful odds. A door-chain not only keeps a thief from the door but a potential attacker, too. Casual ‘callers’-especially on old people or people living alone-can turn out to be vicious thugs capable of inflicting grievous bodily harm, sometimes in order to make off with just loose change or a radio. Most dwellings in New York-a city notorious for its soaring crime rate and violence-have peepholes or ‘doorviewers’ fitted in their front doors. They are an excellent idea anywhere- you can lift a flap and see the caller, satisfying yourself that he is a bona fide repair man or whatever before attempting to let him in. And do not be afraid to ask anyone- even someone claiming to be a policeman- to prove his identity before allowing him in your home. You may have everything to lose through undue timidity on your part. These precautions may sound alarmist and frightening, but face facts, crimes are both alarming and frightening.

Man’s best friend?

It is surprising how many householders still rely on dogs to guard their homes. But the chances are that if your dog wags his tail at a visitor you let in through your front door, will also wag his tail at the unwelcome visitor who climbs through the window. Pets are not guard dogs and even ‘trained’ house dogs cannot be expected to act like police dogs. And, like people, they are liable to be silenced-sometimes only too effectively. Dogs are also unpredictable, so it would be foolish to rely on them alone.

Alarming burglars

A burglar alarm on full show,or a CCTV system, say, on the outside of a building, will nearly always deter the ‘amateur or casual thief. But if yours is the only alarm in the area it may well advertise the fact that you have something worth stealing. It could act as the go ahead or challenge to the professional burglar. Whether or not to put your alarm on display or hide it away will depend on how many other similar devices are in evidence in your neighbourhood, and as always, on your common sense. There are many types of burglar alarm system on the market, varying widely in price and efficiency. It is a business which, unfortunately, is easy game for the confidence tricksters. Some people are so keen on security that they are incredibly gullible. So check that the firm where you buy your alarm is reputable.

In Britain your local Crime Prevention Officer will know of the best firms. Burglar alarms can work in three stages: they detect through various devices such as pressure mats: they control or ‘decide’ whether to give a signal or not and then they finally give a signal. They range from the simple bell type most people are familiar with, to highly sophisticated ultra-sonic devices which can be expensive and may not be really practical for general domestic use. Most types miss out the middle or ‘decision’ stage because of the mechanical complexity involved. The main types of alarm are bell systems, which rely on neighbours or public spirited passers-by to report the alarm, the telephone system which will ring the emergency 999 automatically, one which will ring through to the security department of the firm which installed or sold it this is most common in the U.S.A.) and, in Britain, alarms which ring through directly to the local police station (this does not apply to the Metropolitan area). An alarm system may be purchased outright but with a maintenance agreement (this is essential or your alarm may go ‘on holiday’ without telling you), or you can buy part and rent part, or you can rent all of the equipment and, in Britain, claim a tax rebate on it.

Technology v thieves

One of the newest burglar detecting devices is based on a principle whereby a passive infra-red mechanism is triggered off by body temperature. This could be placed in a door or window frame. The problem is-when is an intruder not an intruder and merely the master of the house? The most up-to-date devices include a shunt key and lock which will by-pass the system when bona fide occupants insert their own shunt key. Another alarm which is both effective and unobtrusive is called the ‘inertia switch’. It is basically very simple, being a ball-bearing balanced on three special spikes and wired up to the signal.

You can set this in a window frame and paint over it. Any massive vibration or unduly heavy knock on the window will dislodge the ball from the spikes and set off the alarm. It is nicely controlled so that hear”y winds will not affect it, and they come with shunt-out locks, too. One of the oldest methods of protecting property-the man-trap is now illegal. Bluffing, however, is not, and a sign reading ‘Danger High Voltage’, which could act as a deterrent.

An ounce of prevention
It is a good idea to make a comprehensive list of the serial numbers (and any distinguishing marks) of your valued possessions, such as television sets, cameras, bicycles and so on. People are continually taking the most absurd risks and then wonder why their property disappears. Everyone knows that they should stop their newspapers and milk being delivered when they go away doorsteps cluttered with congealing milk and newspapers are as good as a ‘Vacant’ notice. Everyone can see how stupid it is to leave notes on the front door telling expected friends what they will be back. Everyone knows what risks they are taking popping out for a few minutes leaving the door ajar, and how insane it is to leave even small amounts of cash on a table by a window.