Fitting locks on doors

There’s little point in going to the time, trouble and expense of fitting security devices to windows if you don’t carry out a similar operation on doors as well.

A door sitting solidly in its frame may appear an impressive barrier to a wouldbe burglar, but if it’s only fitted with a traditional mortise or rimlock then it’s far more vulnerable than you may think. Modern locks, admittedly, are hard to pick; however, a burglar isn’t going to waste time trying to do this. He wants quick access, and brute force rather than stealth is often his best means of getting in. Consequently, he may try to force open an outside door either by kicking it or by using a crowbar to lever it free. If the door isn’t properly protected, it will only take a few seconds before he’s inside.

Attacking the weak points

Your main entry/exit door is the most difficult to make secure. The best protection is offered by a mortise deadlock fitted into the edge of a substantial door. A rimlock is less resistant to forcing, because it is merely screwed to the face of the door. Check that all fixings – including the hinges – are secure, and that the woodwork is in good condition.

Also make sure that the lock cannot be reached by a hand pushed through the letterbox. For added protection of this door when you’re in the house, the simplest device to fit is a door chain. There are various types, but all depend on a secure fixing if they are to be effective. The plate close, into which the chain is hooked, is screwed to the opening edge of the door, and the chain staple is screwed to the fixed frame. With aluminium doors, it helps to improve the strength of the fixing if a block of wood can be slipped into the door frame section, perhaps through the letterplate opening or lock cut-out.

This will give the self-tapping securing screws more to grip on. Also, fix the chain staple to the timber part of the door frame and not to the aluminium sub-frame.

Security for other doors

The best protection for other doors is given by substantial bolts. These can be surfacemounted, but make sure that the fixings are secure and that they cannot be reached if glass in the door is broken. Better protection is offered by rack bolts mortised into the door edge at the top and bottom. But it’s best not to use these on thin doors as they can weaken the stile. And don’t set them into the mortise and tenon joints at the corner of the door as this will also weaken the door structure. As an alternative, you can fit flush or barrel bolts.

Protecting the hinges

The other area frequently forgotten is the hinge side of the door, which is most vulnerable to being kicked in if the door opens outwards. Hinge bolts, however, help prevent this and can be fitted to front doors as well as other external doors. The stud type (see step-by-step photographs) are best set 25mm (1 in) inside the top and bottom hinges, but on heavier doors it’s best to use the tongue type. The male part is fixed to the edge of the door and a recessed plate is set in the frame.

Patio doors

At one time sliding patio doors had a poor security record, notably because burglars had the audacity to lift the sliding sash clear of the track. This isn’t possible with modern designs, which also incorporate a locking device. However, there are purpose-made patio door locks available to give added security.

Because the doors lock against each other they are awkward to secure. Fit hinge bolts on the outside edges, and rack or barrel bolts which should lock into the top frame and the floor.
This is screwed to the bottom edge of the inside frame and a bar is pushed into a predrilled hole in the outer one.


Window stays allow a window to be fastened in the open position. Some stay locks prevent the stay being lifted off the catch and the window being fully opened for access. However, they do not prevent the stay from being cut through. Their main advantage is in preventing young children from climbing out of the window.

Security devices are for keeping burglars out and not you in. In the event of a fire you should be able to unlock them easily and quickly. So keep keys near the window, but out of reach of a burglar’s arm stretching through a broken pane.

Fitting locks on windows

Burglary is a growth industry these days, and windows are particularly vulnerable to attack. But fitting security bolts and latches takes only a few minutes and is a relatively inexpensive job.

Just because you have locks on the outside doors and you are careful to shut all the windows before you go out doesn’t mean that your house is safe against a burglar. Such action may deter the thief acting on the spur of the moment, but it won’t prevent the committed house-breaker from trying to get in, particularly if he thinks the pickings are worth the risk. Fortunately, there is a wide range of security bolts and locks available from good stockists to prevent easy access. And the fact that some of these devices are visible from the outside may instantly put off a wouldbe burglar.

You can buy bolts for specific situations – say, for a sliding metal frame, a wooden casement window or a sliding sash window. Some can be used in more than one position, but it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions closely on where to fit them. There are multi-purpose locks which can be fitted in several ways, but these tend to be more expensive. Of all the window types, louvre windows still present the greatest security risk. Even if they are closed, it is still relatively simple for a burglar to remove some of the glass slats to gain access to your home. One solution is to glue the glass panes into their holders on either side of the frame, but there is the disadvantage that if you accidentally break a slat it becomes difficult to fit another. The surest method of all is to fit a grille on the inside of the window.

This may seem like drastic action. However, if the window is concealed from general view, this may be the only means of keeping a determined thief out unless a burglar alarm is installed. Fitting a grille could make your home look like a prison. Fortunately, ornamental designs are available to lessen the impact. Normally you have to order the grille to the size of your window. It is installed by being mortared into the surrounding brickwork – inevitably this will cause some damage to the decoration. Some grilles are hinged and incorporate a lock to secure them in position. This enables the grille to be moved aside so that the glass can be cleaned, and, more importantly, in the event of a fire, you are still able to use the window as an escape route.

The simplest security devices, particularly from the point of view of fitting, are those which give added support to the latch and stay already attached to the window. Stay bolts, for example, are available in various designs; some just clamp on, others have to be screwed in place, replacing the existing stay catch entirely. And if you don’t want to go to the trouble of replacing the latch with a lockable version you can always fit a cockspur lock underneath the catch instead.

Fitting the devices

Different windows can be secured using various security devices. However, there is little point in fitting a bolt if the frames are rotten or unsound, as the bolt can easily be prised off by any burglar using force. Most devices can simply be screwed into. Separate the lock from the backplate and screw the backplate to the casement. This is deep enough to receive the bolt so you don’t need to drill a hole. A special key is needed to unfasten the lock. Keep it accessible, but out of reach of the window so the frame can be opened quickly in an emergency. position on the surface of the opening or fixed frame.
But some bolts, for example the rack bolt, have to be concealed within the frame itself, like a mortise lock. For added security it’s often advisable to fit two bolts, one at the top, the other at the bottom. When fitting any of these devices it’s important that they can’t be removed even if the glass is broken or a hand slipped through a fanlight inadvertently left open. So use clutch-head screws which are almost impossible to remove once they have been driven into place. Alternatively, you may have to drill out the heads of screws so they can’t be taken out. On metal frames you’ll first have to drill pilot holes before you can drive in the screws, but do make sure you avoid the glass. On old galvanised frames, prime any holes with a rust inhibitor before driving in the screws, otherwise your fitting can be forced out by a burglar.

Fixing a track for brackets

Track requires a lot of support brackets. The exact number varies according to the height of the curtains and the weight of the fabric; they can be spaced at intervals as close as 300mm (1ft) and seldom wider than 450mm (18in). Check with the instructions.
Where the plaster on walls or ceiling is not particularly sound or where you want to avoid a lot of drilling into a resistant surface like reinforced concrete, you can fix the track brackets to a wooden batten which will require fewer fixings than the track itself.
For this:
• fix the batten with masonry pins or nails which you drive into the wall with a hammer, avoiding drilling and plugging (some masonry nails will go into concrete)
• hide the batten if you wish with a pelmet, cover it with the paint you’ve used on the walls or cover it with wallpaper so it will hardly be noticeable, or
• hack out a trench for the batten in the masonry, using cold chisel and a club hammer, and fix the batten direct to the masonry beneath (you could use an epoxy resin adhesive for this); then cover it up using plaster or filler.

Fitting curtain tracks

The precise method you use to fit curtain track will depend on the type you are installing.

There is a wide variety of curtain tracks available, ranging from simple plastic or metal track which provides a neat nconspicuous method of hanging curtains to decorative metal rods or wooden poles which are designed to be a feature of the window treatment. Curtain track has a series of small-wheeled runners, from which the curtains hang by means of hooks slotted into their heading tape. Rods and poles usually have rings which slide along them to carry the curtains, but some, too, have runners concealed in the bottom of the rod or pole.

In addition, small curtains may be hung on wire threaded through the hem at the top and stretched between two hooks. Nets, in particular, are often supported in this way. Check with your supplier on types of track available. Track is fixed by a series of small brackets through which you drive screws. Usually, there is a hole in both the back and the top of the bracket, so that they are suitable for back or top fixing. Poles or rods usually have only two, much larger and stronger, brackets which are fixed near each end.

They are suitable only for back fixing. Pole and rod brackets are much more decorative than those of track and are meant to be seen as part of the design. Long poles or rods (usually those over 1200mm/48in) may reguire an intermediate bracket; check with the manufacturer’s instructions about this. Curtain wire must be fixed inside the window opening or reveal. Poles and rods should be fixed above and outside the reveal, as they are not seen to advantage otherwise. Track can be fitted inside or out, depending on the look you want.

Fixing inside the reveal

There are two advantages to hanging curtains inside the reveal. One is that because the curtains are shorter you need less fabric; it could be much less. The other is that it is normally much easier to make a fixing inside the reveal. Most windows have frames of timber (even steel and aluminium frames are usually set in a timber surround) and the track or wire can be fixed to this. All you need to do is make a pilot hole for the fixing screw or hook and then drive it home; this will be even easier if you drill the holes with an electric or hand drill first. There’s also the fact that radiators are often sited underneath a window and you will restrict the emission of heat if you cover them up with curtains hung outside the reveal. There are exceptions as to this ease of fixing however. Normally these involve steel windows which are fixed direct to the brickwork of a window opening, so there is no timber surround. Frames like this may incorporate a device for supporting curtain fittings; there may, for example, be integral hooks from which wire can be stretched. But otherwise, there are two courses open to you. With one, you can drill holes in the steel and fix to the frame with nuts and bolts, incorporating rubber or plastic washers to ensure weathertightness. This is a rather labourio’-js job and you may instead decide to adopt the alternative method of fixing to the top of the reveal. This involves cutting into the lintel, which may be a straightforward or rather complicated business, depending on the material from which the lintel is constructed. If you are in any doubt, you should seek professional advice.

Fixing outside the reveal

You may decide that you do not like the idea of short-length curtains fitted inside the reveal; and that you would prefer the elegant look which floor-length curtains can give. If you opt for full-length curtains outside the window opening, the installation normally becomes a little more complicated because you will be involved in making fixings into a wall. If you want the track, rod or pole to be situated immediately above the reveal you will have to take the lintel which supports the brickwork above into account. In some cases, especially in Victorian houses or even older ones, the lintel may be a timber one. Making fixings into this is just as simple as making them into a timber frame. However, many old houses have lintels of solid stone and in more modern houses the lintel will probably be of reinforced concrete (and in high-rise flats the walls may be of this material). The age of your house will give you some idea as to what type of material is used for the lintels, but how can you be sure? In some cases you can see the lintel from outside the house and you will be able to tell just by looking. But if the lintel is concealed you will have to determine the type of material used by other means. You should make a test boring with a drill and bit. You will soon know whether it is stone or concrete on the one hand or timber on the other. (Don’t worry about this test hole being unsightly; you can cover it up later on.)

Boring into stone and concrete is a different matter from drilling into ordinary masonry. You will get along better with an electric, rather than a hand drill and best of all would be a hammer drill. A two- or multi-speed drill that allows you to work very slowly will make the job easily manageable. If you don’t have a slow-speed hammer drill, then you can adopt the following procedure when dealing with concrete which consists of sand, cement and aggregate with, in the case of reinforced concrete, iron bars in the middle.
A bit in a rotary electric drill will cut easily into sand and cement; difficulties will arise when it meets a stone for it will then bore no further. So you should bore in the normal way with your drill and when it seems to slop making progress (a sign that it has come up against a stone) remove it and insert in the hole a percussion bit or jumping bit. To remove the obstruction, strike this a sharp blow with a club hammer and it should cut through or dislodge the flint. Then carry on drilling in the normal way.

Any reinforcing bars should be too far from the surface for you to come up against them. An alternative solution is to aim to avoid the lintel altogether. For this you fix the rod, pole or track slightly higher up. You will then be dealing with bricks, or in the case of a modern house, building blocks, which are very easy to cut into. In fact the problem with building blocks is that they are soft and it is not always easy to get a sufficiently firm fixing in them. However you should be alright with curtains; the fixing has to withstand a certain amount of force when the curtains are drawn but they need nothing like the support of, say, wail-mounted kitchen cabinets. One question which wiil concern you here will be the height of the lintel.

Once again, you may well be able to see it from outside and you can then measure it. When it is concealed, working out its height is a more difficult matter, but in general, 150mm (6in) is normally the minimum thickness for a lintel and 300mm (1ft) the maximum. So if you fix your track, pole or rod more than 300mm (1ft) above the top of the reveal it should be clear of the lintel. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule but it is generally the case. Again, you could make a test boring first to make absolutely certain. If you are using curtain track you could decide to fit it even higher than this, right at ceiling level in fact. Floor-to-ceiling curtains look very striking in any room. You could go further and install curtains to cover an entire wall, even though the window may be comparatively small. It’s an expensive treatment but can be a really attractive one, giving the illusion that you have enormous picture windows.

It will also make the room much warmer and cosier in winter since the curtains will provide extra insulation. If you do position the track at the top of the wall and there is no cornice, you can avoid drilling into the wall Instead, you can top-fix the track to the ceiling by driving screws through the plaster and into the joists above First, of course, you will have to locate the joists. Sometimes you can actually see them bulging through the plaster. Or in an upstairs room you can look for them in the loft, in a downstairs room, look in the room above The fixing nails of the floorboards (assuming they are not hidden beneath a floorcovering) will show you their position Or again, you can test out their position by tapping the ceiling with your knuckles. There will be a distinct difference between the hollow sound when you strike the ceiling between the joists and the solid feel as you hit the part immediately below one. If ait else fails you will, once again, have to make a series of test borings.

Building Shelving Units

Self-supporting shelves, unlike the wall-mounted type, can be moved wherever and whenever you like – without leaving screw holes to be plugged.

A part from their most obvious advantages over built-in units, freestanding units don’t have to be tailored to fit any irregularities of walls and alcoves. But, because they aren’t fixed in position, you have to devote a bit more time and thought to making them rigid. This is often a matter of making a straightforward box, although frame construction is another possibility. Either way, it is important to remember that the shelves themselves won’t add much stability, particularly if they’re adjustable. You need additional stiffening to compensate the tendency for the whole unit to fold up sideways into a diamond shape.

The basic box

Always keep your materials in mind. MDF is best. The options are, of course, solid timber or manmade boards. Plywood is probably the best all-rounder, but it’s quite expensive. Chipboard is cheap, and chipboard screws make a strong butt joint. In solid timber and blockboard, you’re restricted by the fact that you shouldn’t screw or nail into end grain. Dowels or plastic jointing blocks are good for assembling most of the structure, but dowels are less than ideal for corners, because a dowel joint isn’t all that rigid. A timber strip glued and screwed into both surfaces, can add some necessary reinforcement; but shelf units often rise above eye level, and you’ll have to be careful that it’s not unsightly as well. A barefaced housing joint is one remaining possibility – that is, apart from those afforded by power tools. A circular saw or router makes it a lot easier, for example, to cut rebate joints or mitres. An additional point is that plastic facings such as melamine laminate won’t accept glue, so that some form pf screw fastening is virtually your only way of fixing other components to them.

Stiffening the unit

The simplest way of making a unit rigid is to pin a back panel to the rear edges of the box and perhaps even to the back edges of the shelves as well. However, there may be occasions (for example, if the unit is to stand in the middle of a room) when you want a more open, airy look than is possible with this unmodified form of construction. In such cases the answer is to add bracing to the actual box components themselves. Even if you are incorporating a back, the extra stability such bracing provides won’t come amiss – especially on large units. The principle works as follows. Flat boards bend under stress. You can counter this by fixing lengths of reinforcing timber along them, preferably on edge. Every board thus dealt with helps to keep the whole structure stable. You can even stiffen the open (front) face of the cabinet, by running bracing members across it, provided these are firmly jointed to the cabinet sides – say with dowels, plastic jointing blocks or steel angle repair brackets. A recessed plinth does this job and the type of plinth that’s made up separately stabilises the cabinet by stiffening its bottom. Frequently the neatest way of stiffening the front is to place such reinforcement along the shelves – either underneath them (inset if you like) or fixed to their front edges. Rectangular-sectioned timber such as 50x25mm (2×1 in), or a metal L-section, is ideal here. The procedure has the added advantage of strengthening the shelves, and you can treat intermediate shelves in the same way – not just the top and bottom panels.

Supporting the shelves

You can fix shelves into the unit by any of the methods appropriate for box construction using hand tools. The strongest and most professional of these is to house the shelves into the uprights A stopped housing makes the neater joint here, since it means the front edge of each upright is unbroken by the ends of the shelves, but a through housing is quite adequate. The other invisible fastening for fixed shelves is dowels. Screws will leave plastic caps showing on the outsides of the side panels. The choice between these methods depends largely on your materials. A plastic-faced upright panel means the dowel joints can’t be glued, so you rely even more than usual on the main box for strength.

Timber shelves, on the other hand, can’t be screwed in directly because you’d be going into the end grain. Plastic jointing blocks are an obvious and fairly unobtrusive possibility. Timber battens, glued and pinned, or screwed and if possible glued, to shelves and uprights are tough; they can also be quite neat if you chamfer their front ends, cut them off at an angle, or hide them with a front rail. A triangularsectioned timber ‘stair rod’ moulding, or an L-sectioned strip of steel or aluminium, is neater still.
You can create artificial housings by using pieces of timber or board, the same width as the uprights, pinned and glued to their inside faces, and leaving just enough space for the shelves to fit between them. This means you can make the uprights themselves a bit thinner. A rather different approach is to let the shelf ends rest on small supports sticking out of the uprights. These might be screw eyes (with screws driven up through them into the undersides of the shelves to fix them in place if necessary); they could be 6mm (1/4in) diameter dowels. You can also get several sorts of plastic studs which screw in, nail in or push into drilled holes. Some are specially designed for glass shelves.

And sometimes the hole is filled by a bush which will accept a number of different types of stud. Lastly, there’s a very neat way to make the shelves in a freestanding unit fully adjustable. This is to use ‘bookshelf strip’ – metal strips with continuous rows of slots, into which you clip small metal lugs; the shelves rest on these. The strips (of which you’ll need two each side) can be simply screwed to the insides of the uprights, or fitted into vertical grooves if you’ve got the power tools to cut them. A home-made version of this system uses removable dowels in regular vertical rows of drilled holes.

Installing dividers

For the distances you can safely span with various thicknesses of various materials. Really wide shelves may need extra support in the middle. Vertical dividers will provide this, and can also add to looks and usefulness. They’re usually housed or dowelled in at top and bottom, and halved over intermediate shelves. Alternatively, a square- or rectangularsectioned timber upright, fixed to the front edges of the shelves, will help matters. It can be glued and pinned to the shelves, dowelled in or notched over them.

Fixing shelves

The simplest method of fixing shelves is directly to the wall, using brackets. L-shaped metal brackets of various sizes and designs are available everywhere – some plain and functional, some with attractive lacquered or enamelled finishes. It’s just a question of choosing ones about 25mm (1 in) less than the shelf depth, spacing them the right distance apart and screwing them to both shelf and wall. If you’re filling up your shelves with books, the support brackets won’t be seen. But if you’re using the shelves for ornaments, the brackets will be visible, so choose a style that blends. Alternatively, you can make up your own brackets from two pieces of timber butt-jointed into an L shape and braced with a diagonal strut or triangular block.

The fixing technique is the same either way. First you draw a line on the wall where the shelf is to go, using a spirit level. Next, fix the brackets to the shelf and put the whole assembly up against the line. Mark on to the wall through the pre-drilled screw holes in the brackets; then take the shelf away and drill holes in the wall, filling each with a plastic plug. Lastly, drive in one screw through each bracket; then insert the rest and tighten them all up. Because the accuracy of this method relies largely on your ability to hold the shelf level against your line, you may find it easier to work the other way round. By fixing the brackets to the wall along the guide line, you can then drop the shelf into place and screw up into it through the brackets. This works, but you must position the brackets with great care, and avoid squeezing them out of position as you screw them into the wall. That isn’t always easy. For one thing, many brackets don’t have arms which meet at a neat right angle. They curve slightly, which makes it hard to align the top of the shelfbearing arm with the line on the wall.

Making a firm fixing

Remember that the strength of all brackets depends partly on the length of their arms (particularly the one fixed to the wall) and partly on the strength of your fixing into the wall. The longer the wall arm in proportion to the shelf arm, the better; but it’s also important to use adequate screws – 38mm (11/2in) No 8s or 10s should do – and to plug the wall properly. In a hollow partition wall you really must make sure you secure the brackets to the wall’s wooden framework and not just to the cladding. Even if you use plasterboard plugs or similar devices, a lot of weight on the shelf will cause the brackets to come away from the cladding and possibly damage the wall. Of course, there” is a limit to how much weight the brackets themselves will take. Under very wide shelves they may bend. With shelves that have heavy items regularly taken off and dumped back on, and shelves used as desk-tops, worktops and the like, the movement can eventually work the fixings loose. In such cases it’s best to opt for what’s called a cantilevered shelf bracket. Part of this is set into the masonry to give a very strong fixing indeed. Details of its installation vary from brand to brand, but you should get instructions when you buy.

Alcove shelving

All proprietary brackets are expensive. However, for alcove shelving there’s a much cheaper alternative, and that is to use battens screwed to the wall. All you do is fix a 50 x 25mm (2 x 1 in) piece of softwood along the back of the alcove, using screws driven into plastic plugs at roughly 450mm (18in) centres. Then screw similar ones to the side walls, making sure that they line up with the first. In both cases, getting the battens absolutely level is vital. In fact, it’s best to start by drawing guidelines using a spirit level as a straight edge. A front ‘rail’ is advisable where the shelf spans a wide alcove and has to carry a lot of weight. But there’s a limit to what you can do. With a 50 x 25mm (2 x 1 in) front rail and battens, all on edge, 1.5m (5ft) is the safe maximum width. A front rail has another advantage because, as well as giving man-made boards a respectably thick and natural look, it also hides the ends of the side battens. So does stopping them short of the shelf’s front edge and cutting the ends at an angle. The shelf can be screwed or even just nailed to the battens to complete the job.

Movable shelves

Unfortunately, both brackets and battens have one big drawback: once they’re fixed, they’re permanent. So you might consider an adjustable shelving system which gives you the chance to move shelves up and down. Such systems consist of uprights, screwed to the wall, and brackets which slot into them at almost any point down the length. There are two main types. In one, brackets locate in vertical slots in the uprights. The other has a continuous channel down each upright. You can slide brackets along it and lock them at any point along the way, where they stay put largely because of the weight of the shelf. With both types, brackets come in standard sizes suitable for shelf widths, and there’s a choice of upright lengths to fulfil most needs. Many proprietary shelving systems of this sort include a number of accessories to make them more versatile. These include book ends, shelf clips and even light fittings.

Shelving carpentry

There are lots of ways of putting up shelves. Some systems are fixed, others adjustable – the choice is yours.

Deciding how much shelving you’ll need is always tricky – because, the more shelves you have, the more you’ll find to go on them! So it’s always wise to add an extra 10 per cent to the specification when you start planning. Think carefully about what you want to store and display, and try to categorise it by size and weight. The size part is fairly easy. Concentrate first on the depth (from front to back) and length; a collection of paperback books, for instance, might need 3.5m (10ft) of 150mm deep shelves.

shelving cupboards

Having the shelves a bit deeper than you really need is always worthwhile, and if you add 10 per cent the length should look after itself. Next, the heights in each grouping will tell you roughly how far apart the shelves must be. Most paperbacks are 175mm (7in) high – allow an extra 25mm (1 in) for easy access and removal. Finally, weight. The trouble here is that, even if you weigh what you’ll be storing, you can’t translate the result into shelf, bracket and fixing materials or sizes. Instead, think in terms of light, moderately heavy and very heavy. Items such as the TV and stereo, while not especially weighty, are best treated as very heavy, because it would be nothing short of disastrous if a shelf did give way under them!

Shelf design

Where you put the shelves affects the amount of storage you can gain, how you build them, and the overall look of the room itself. This last may not be important in a workshop, for instance, but in a living room, where the shelves may well be the focal point, a bad decision can be serious. The obvious spot for shelving is against a continuous wall. This offers most scope to arrange the shelves in an interesting and attractive way. An alcove is another possibility. Shelving here is neat, and easily erected; it is a very good way of using an otherwise awkward bit of space. A corner has similar advantages if you make triangular shelves to fit – though they’re really only suitable for displaying plants or favourite ornaments.

Planning it out

If appearance matters and you’re putting up a lot of shelves, a good way to plan is by making a scale drawing of the whole scheme to see how it looks. Then check for detail. If your TV has an indoor aerial, make sure you have room to adjust it. With stereo systems, ensure the shelf is deep enough to take all the wiring spaghetti at the back. And do think about the heights of the shelves from the floor. Finally, make sure you provide adequate support for the shelves and the weight they’ll be carrying. There is no very precise method of gauging this, but you won’t go wrong if you remember that for most household storage a shelf needs support at least every 750mm (30in) along its length. This will usually be enough even with chipboard, which is the weakest of shelving materials. But bowing may still be a problem, so for items in the ‘very heavy’ category it’s advisable to increase the number of supports by reducing the space between them.

When you design storage, plan ahead and think about how you’re going to use it.
Keep everyday items well within reach. That means between 750 and 1500mm (30 and 60in) off the ground.
Shelves that are deepest (from front to back) should be lower, so you can see and reach to the back.
An inch or two over the actual height of the objects means you can get your hand in more easily.

Which material?

Chipboard is usually the most economical material, and if properly supported is strong enough for most shelving. It can be fairly attractive, too, since you can choose a type with a decorative wood veneer or plastic finish. These come in a variety of widths – most of them designed with shelving in mind. Natural timber, though more costly and sometimes prone to warping, is an obvious alternative. You may have difficulty obtaining some timber in boards over 225mm (9in) wide, but narrower widths are readily available. For wider shelves, another way is to make up the shelf width from narrower pieces. An easy method is to leave gaps between the lengths and brace them with others which run from front to back on the underside, forming a slatted shelf.

Blockboard and plywood are also worth considering. Both are a lot stronger than chipboard and have a more attractive surface which can be painted or varnished without trouble. However, in the thicknesses you need – at least 12mm (1/2in) – plywood is relatively expensive; blockboard is cheaper, and chipboard cheaper still. All these man made boards need to have their edges disguised to give a clean finish. An easy yet effective way to do this is just to glue and pin on strips of timber moulding or ‘beading’. Also remember that the cheapest way to buy any of these boards is in large sheets (approximately 2.4m x 1.2m/8ft x 4ft), so it’s most economical to plan your shelves in lengths and widths that can be cut from a standard size sheet. Shelves needn’t be solid, though. If you want them extra-thick, for appearance or strength, you can make them up from a timber frame covered with a thin sheet material. Hardboard is cheap, but thin plywood gives a more attractive edge; alternatively use a timber edging strip.
MDF is the material of choice for most professional carpenters.

Secondary double glazing

Fitting the systems

1: Polythene film To fit this very basic form of fixed double glazing you will need just a roll of double- sided adhesive tape, a roll of clear polythene, a tape measure and pair of scissors or handyman’s knife. Stick the tape, without removing the backing paper, to the face of the outer window frame all round the perimeter. Measure the size of the opening and cut a piece of polythene to suit. Remove the backing paper from the top piece of tape and attach the edge of the polythene gently to it. Allow the sheeting to hang down. Check that it fits squarely before removing the backing paper from the other three pieces of tape and securing the polythene to it, keeping it stretched taut all the time. Strong, less creasable polythene, classed as semi-rigid, can be fixed in a different way by cutting it to the exact size first, then attaching the sticky tape to it rather than the window frame With the backing paper removed from the top edge only, the sheet is aligned to the head of the window frame, then stuck in place, followed by the other three edges.

2: Non-opening removable panels The most recent version of this form of double glazing uses a P V C extrusion stuck to the window frame, with a second extrusion holding the plastic sheeting in place. The work required involves cutting the PVC extrusion to size and fitting it around the existing frame. Either butt or mitred joints can be made at the corners. The plastic sheeting is then cut to size to fit in the profile. The clip-on extrusion is finally cut to size and snapped into place.

Other variations of this non-opening type of double glazing usually consist of plastic ‘IT channelling fitted around pre-cut panes of glass. The glass, now with protected edges, is secured to the window frame with turn buttons or clips spaced every 300mm (12in) around the perimeter to press the panel firmly against the frame and so exclude draughts. The glass for this type must be cut to size, allowing for the space taken up by the fixing clips on the frame. The panels can be removed and stored elsewhere at the end of the winter season.

Rather stronger non-opening panels can be made using aluminium framing instead ot plastic ‘IT channel, but these are generally a fixed version of hinged panels described next.

3: Hinged panels The most common hinged secondary double glazing systems are constructed using glass with an aluminium extrusion frame. The frame incorporates one channel with a plastic glazing gasket for the glass, a draught-proofing insert of either plastic or nylon fibre bristles which press against the window frame, and a second channel into which hinge fittings, turnbuttons and corner joins are fitted.
Glass of the specified thickness is cut to size Some makes can be fitted with more than one thickness of glass, this being determined by the overall panel size.

A different size of glazing gasket is used for each thickness. Once the glass is cut. the glazing gasket can be fitted to it, and the aluminium extrusions cut to length using a hacksaw. Straight cuts are made since the special corner joins eliminate the need for mitred corners. The panel is then assembled, special care being needed to ensure that the glazing gasket is correctly seated in its channel and that all hinge fittings are properly inserted in the outer edge of the aluminium frame. Hinge posts are then screwed to the window frame and the panel is lifted into place. Turnbuttons are finally fixed round the other three edges of the hinged panel to ensure that the panel is held tightly against the window frame when closed.

4: Sliding panels Made from either aluminium or PVC extrusions, sliding double glazing units are generally quick and easy to assemble and fit. Normally sold in two-part kit form with everything but the glass provided, the biggest problem is often deciding which part belongs where, so the first step is to identify the different sections. One part of the kit will contain all the vertical sections – the frame uprights and glass edging – and the other, the horizontal sections – the top and bottom sliding tracks and more glass edging. The outer frame is fitted to the window reveal. This will usually involve drilling holes into the reveal sides, top and bottom and plugging the holes to take screws. Great care must be taken to ensure that the top double channel (the deeper one) is fitted directly above and in line with the bottom channel.
With the frame secured, the panes of glass can be fitted with their edge profiles, and the panels are then lifted into position in the sliding channels. Provided that you have measured the glass correctly according to the instructions given by the double glazing manufacturer, you should find that the panels slide easily and that all nylon fibre draught excT&ders built into the system align perfectly.

Aluminium and UPVC replacement windows

Although they are still available, it would be difficult to find either aluminium or UPVC replacement windows which are intended for use with single pane glazing. Invariably, such windows are designed to be fitted with sealed units having a 6 or 12mm gap. It is common for companies specialising in these windows to operate a supply-and-fit service. However, most will also work on supply-only basis.

This means that they will provide you with all the component parts ready for you to install yourself. When doing your own fitting, the only measurements you need to give the supplier are the height and width of the opening into which the window is to be fitted. If the existing outer wood frame is in excellent condition particularly at the bottom of the iambs and along the sill, you can normally fit the new window in exactly the same place as the old one, with no trouble at all. If the outer frame is in poor condition and a new one is required, then the window supplier will be able to provide this as well. In this case, the only dimensions he needs are those of the opening in the wall. From these he will be able to calculate all the other sizes.

You will, of course, need to specify the style of window, the type of glass, whether or not the glass has to be leaded or fitted with a grille to be made non-standard in any other way. The sealed double glazing units fitted in replacement aluminium or UPVC windows are the same as those used in wooden framed windows butthe installation method is somewhat different.

The glazing unit is always fitted ‘dry’, rubber or PVC gaskets being used to provide a seal to the frame. No mastics or sealants are required at the glazing stage. There are two basic glazing methods in common use. One of them nvolves making up the frame around the glazing unit. Each frame section, complete with gaskets on either side, is pushed over the sealed unit and then the four corners are screwed together tightly to hold it in place. The other method is to make up the frame, which has an integral glazing rebate, insert the glazed unit and secure it in place with a ‘snap-in’ glazing bead.