Putting up shelves

Shelves can solve many storage problems in any room in the house and enable you to make use of odd corners and unused space in cupboards and alcoves. Very few tools are needed and the materials are widely available. The methods described here are for permanently fixed shelves. using battens. brackets or angled metal strips.

Shelf loads
The load a shelf can safely carry depends on the thickness of the shelf material, the strength of the supports and the distance between them. If you overload a shelf, it will begin to sag and may eventually loosen the supports. When planning your shelving, take into account the size and weight of the items you want to store and overestimate your needs to allow for future acquisitions. The chart below gives a guide to the maximum span for different shelf materials for medium to heavy loads. If you want to exceed the span given. use intermediate supports. Extra support can be given in a recess by fixing a batten to the back wall.

Recommended maximum distance between supports

 Material  Thickness Maximum span
 Blockboard  12mm  450mm
 Chipboard  12mm  400mm
 18mm  600mm
 25mm  750mm
 Plywood  18mm  800mm
 25mm  1000mm
 Timber  16mm  500mm
 22mm  900mm
 28mm  1050mm


Shelf material
Natural timber (hardwood or softwood) makes attractive shelves, but you may find the cost prohibitive if you want several shelves. Man-made boards in chipboard, blockboard and plywood are available in a wide range of standard shelf sizes, some of which are wider than the wood normally stocked by timber yards. Chipboard is popular for shelving since it is light in weight and is available veneered in a wood grain finish or melamine-faced: this is much stronger than unfaced chipboard, which tends to sag under heavy weights.

Shelf supports
Your choice of shelf supports may depend on where you wish to put the shelves. Timber battens and angled metal strips can be used only in recesses since they are fixed to side walls. Metal and timber angle brackets can be used in a recess or on an open wall.

Hanging an internal door

The way a door opens can play an important part in a successful room layout and often builders fail to pay enough attention to this fact when the doors are originally positioned. You may, for example, decide you want a door to open out of a room rather than into it – or that it is more convenient to have the door opening from left to right and not the other way round. There are also occasions when you may have to adjust the position of the door frame, particularly if you are insulating the walls of a room with boards or panels fixed to battens. Rehanging a door or repositioning it is not a difficult job – and one you can do yourself.
carpenter hanging door

Repositioning doors
If you wish to reposition a door when you are lining your walls with board, the door must be removed and the frame extended into the room before you start lining the walls around the door. But measure carefully the total thickness of the lining so you know how far to extend the frame and where to reposition the door.

Removing the door
Open the door to its full extent and support it by pushing wedges underneath. Release it from the frame by removing the screws in the door frame hinges. These screws may be difficult to loosen if they have been in place for some time, particularly if there is a build-up of old paint over the screw heads. Clean the paint from the slots with a sharp. pointed instrument or an old, small square-ended screwdriver. Use the correct size screwdriver to get the maximum grip on the screw or use an impact screwdriver. To release a stubborn screw, it often helps to tighten the screw slightly before trying to unscrew it. If this fails to move the screw. as a last resort put the edge of the screwdriver blade against the lower half of the slot head and tap it gently in an anticlockwise direction. This will not do either the screw or the screwdriver any good, but it should bring results. Having taken out the screws and removed the hinges from the frame, unscrew the striking plate. Cut pieces of softwood or hardboard to fit exactly into the recesses in the frame and glue and pin them into position. Next lift away the frame moulding with a broad chisel and mallet. If you do this carefully, the small nails which hold the moulding in place will stay in position and you will be able to use them again. when you come to fix the moulding back in position. Try not to damage the moulding or it will have to be replaced.

Extending the frame
The door frame can be extended to the required distance by nailing or screwing the same thickness timber to the sides and top of the existing door frame. Measure and cut these new pieces carefully so the extended frame will be flush with the new wall surface. Always extend the frame before relining the wall or you could damage the frame moulding when trying to remove it. Having extended your door frame, fix the wall lining before continuing work on the door, checking again that the new wall and frame surfaces are flush. You can now nail back the moulding on the frame. wedges The door will have to be brought forward to line up with the frame, which means cutting new recesses for the hinges and striking plate, depending on how you want the door to hang. When you have decided on the new position for the door, mark it on the frame. Remove the door closure bead with a broad chisel and mallet, starting at the bottom of one of the side pieces. Remember to lift it away carefully to avoid damage to the bead and so you can use the existing nails again, then refix it against the new position of the external face of the door.

Rehanging a door
If you want to change the way the door opens into the room, first label the two faces of the door A and B. A will be the face of the existing door on the room side and B the external face.

Changing sides
If you are moving the hinges so the door still opens into the room but from the opposite side of the frame, you must patch the old hinge recesses on the door. If your door has a natural finish which you want to keep, you will have to match up the wood carefully. If you are going to paint over the door, any softwood will do. Cut the filling pieces slightly larger than the recesses and glue and pin them firmly into place, driving the pin heads below the surface with a nail punch. Fill the punch holes with cellulose filler or matching plastic wood, depending on whether you are painting the door or leaving a natural finish. For a really flush surface, plane down the filled edge and face A of the door and rub smooth with medium glasspaper. With a try square and pencil continue the top and bottom lines of the old hinge positions across the edge of the door and mark out the new hinge positions from the B side of the door, then cut out the recesses with a sharp chisel and mallet. Unscrew the striking plate from the door frame; this must be placed on the opposite side later. Fill the plate recess in the frame with softwood or hardboard in the same way as before if the frame is to be painted; match the wood carefully if you want to keep a natural finish. Complete the patching up by filling the hinge recesses on the other side of the frame.

Then screw the hinges into the new recesses in the edge of the door. Turn the door round so the side B faces into the room. Push it tightly into the frame, using the wedges to raise the door to its original clearance height above the ground. Mark the top and bottom positions of the new hinges onto the door frame and then take away the door from the frame. Cut out these recesses and screw in the unattached leaves. You will now have to reverse the spring-loaded door catch, since this will be facing the wrong way to engage the striking plate. (If the door has a ball catch, there is no need to transpose its position.) Remove the door handles and cover plates from either side, pull out the connecting rod and remove the catch assembly fixing screws. Using a screwdriver ease out the catch assembly housing, replace it upside down and screw back all the fittings. To find the correct position for the striking plate, dab paint on the catch and push the door closed. The paint mark left on the door frame will indicate the area for the striking plate. Position the plate to fit correctly over this mark and trace the outline of the plate on the frame. Chisel out the recess to the required depth and screw the striking plate into position.

Changing direction
After removing the door, lift the closure bead away from the frame and patch the existing hinge recesses, cutting new ones on the same edge of the door but flush to the B face, as described before. Patch up the hinge and striking plate recesses on the frame in the same way. Reverse the catch assembly housing as before, cut out new recesses for the hinges on the outer side of the frame and also a new striking plate cavity. Tack back the door closure bead close to the A face of the door on the room side. If the door closure bead is formed as a solid recess, as it is in some older properties, you will have to cut about 13mm from each side of the door with a panel saw and tack on a new closure bead.

Changing sides and direction
Remove the door closure bead, door and striking plate, leaving the hinges on the door and patch up the recesses on the frame. Reverse the door so face A is on the outside, mark and cut out new hinge and striking plate recesses on the door frame and screw the striking plate into its new position. Fix the door in place and tack the closure bead down close to face B of the door, now on the room side.

Whenever you reposition and hang a door, to fix the hinges always insert the centre screw only into each hinge and check the door opens and closes properly before inserting the remaining screws. This saves a lot of time and trouble drilling unnecessary holes in the door frame. If the screws do not tighten, plug the holes and insert the screws again.

Replacing a section of guttering

The treatments already described will make the gutters watertight for another year, but if metal guttering is severely rusted you will have to replace the affected section, or even the whole system. If this is necessary, choose a plastic system as it will be cheaper and easier to handle than metal. When buying a replacement section of guttering always saw off a piece of the old system and take it with you to ensure you get the right shape and size. Metal gutters are heavy so get someone to help you fit the new section.

Uncoupling old joints is often easier said than done since the bolts holding the system together are likely to be locked solid by years of rust. Don’t waste too much time trying to force a stubborn bolt but apply a little penetrating oil and try again the following day. If the bolt still will not move, saw stop end outlet through it with a hacksaw. Prise the sections apart and using an old chisel scrape off the sealing material in the joint.

Clean up and treat any rust spots on the adjoining sections. The new section of guttering may have ready drilled holes at each end to take the bolts. If not, support the gutter on a thick piece of wood laid on a flat surface and drill the holes where required. Unless you buy the gutter ready-painted apply a rust-resistant primer inside and out before painting. Use nails to line up the fixing holes in the old and new lengths, spread metal putty into the joint and press the new section into place, wiping off any excess putty with a cloth. Once the new length is firmly seated, insert and tighten the bolts.

Realigning sagging & repairing leaking gutters

Gutters are normally fixed on a slight slope, from 5-25mm in 3m, to ensure a good flow of water to the downpipe. If pools of water collect in the gutter then it is sagging and needs to be realigned by replacing the fixing screws and refitting the brackets. Fix a string line along the top of the gutter to mark the required slope. Drive a couple of strong nails into the fascia about 25mm below the gutter for support while it is being refitted. Take out the old fixing screws (if these are in the edges of the rafters you may have to remove a tile from the roof to gain access to them). Now release the brackets so the gutter rests on the support nails; tap wall plugs into the old screw holes and refix the brackets using new screws. Pack the gutter up to the required height with bits of timber placed between it and the support nails. Finally remove nails and string line.

Rust and cracks
Inspect metal systems for any signs of rust and clean back with a wire brush or, if you have an extension lead, with an electric drill fitted with a wire cup brush – this saves a lot of hard work. Now treat the cleaned areas with a rust killer. Fill hairline cracks with two coats of rust resistant primer. Fill definite cracks or holes with an aluminium bridge fixed in place with non-hardening mastic. Rub down with fine glasspaper. Corrosion is always worst at the back edge of the gutter and to repair this you will have to dismantle the system and treat each section separately.

Leaking joints
Seal leaking joints in metal gutters with an epoxy repair material and rub down. If a leak develops at the joints of a plastic system, release the affected section by squeezing it at one end and lifting it clear of the adjoining length. If the gasket in the joint is sound, simply replace the section making sure the spigot end butts tightly against the socket of the adjoining piece. If the gasket is worn, scrape away all the old material and insert a replacement gasket or apply three good strips of mastic sealer in its place. Then press the two sections together again.

Repairing gutters

Defective rainwater systems cause all sorts of damp problems in the house structure. Water constantly pouring down an outside wall will eventually penetrate inside, ruining the decoration and causing mould growth. So it is important to keep your guttering in good repair. If you are prompted now to check your guttering for the first time, you may have a lair amount of work on hand to get it into shape. But once the repair work has been done, maintenance is a simple yearly task. If you need an extra incentive to start immediately, remember if you allow things to deteriorate you may have to call in a professional roofer to repair the guttering or even to replace the complete system and this would prove expensive. The best time to check the gutters is in the late autumn, once all the leaves have fallen. If you have already noticed leaks or damp patches, make the job a priority. Working at height is not to everyone’s liking. Use a secure ladder or make the job easier with a scaffolding system (available from hire shops). When working on metal gutters, wear an old pair of gloves to guard against cuts from sharp edges.

gutters plastic

Types of gutter
In the past cast iron was the most common material for guttering, but plastic is now widely used. Today you cannot easily obtain a complete cast iron system, although you can buy replacement parts. Cast iron guttering comes in three shapes: half-round, square and ogee (a cross between half-round and square section). Halfround and square types rest in brackets fixed to the fascia board, rafters or brickwork. Ogee section can either be screwed direct to the fascia or be supported on brackets. The joints are sealed together with red lead. putty or other suitable jointing mastic and secured with bolts. Plastic rainwater systems have a distinct advantage over cast iron ones since plastic is light, durable and needs little or no decoration. Plastic guttering is made in half-round, ogee and square sections which fit into special brackets. The lengths are joined together with clips housing rubber seals or gaskets. to make them waterproof; a jointing cement is sometimes used instead of or in addition to, the gasket.

Gutter blockages
Scoop out the rubbish with a trowel or a piece of card shaped to the profile of the gutter. Don’t use the downpipe as a rubbish chute as it may become blocked or the rubbish sink into the drain. Flush out the gutter with water; it should flow steadily towards the downpipe. If it overflows at the entrance then the downpipe is blocked and needs to be cleared. If the downpipe gets blocked tie a small bundle of rags to the end of a pole and use this as a plunger to push away any obstruction. Place a bowl at the outlet on the ground to prevent rubbish sinking into the drain. If there is a ‘swan neck’ between the gutter and the downpipe, use a length of stiff wire to clear it of debris. To prevent further blockages, fit a cage into the entrance of the downpipe. You can easily make one of these by rolling a piece of wire or plastic netting into a ball the same size as the downpipe.

Reupholstering an armchair

Reupholstering a padded armchair may seem a daunting task; but as long as you are familiar with the basic reupholstery techniques described and are prepared to take time and effort over the job, you should be able to tackle it successfully. Here we explain how to strip an armchair to its frame and replace each part of the upholstery. It may not be necessary, however, for you to strip the chair completely; if, for example, only the stuffing needs replacing, you can leave the layers underneath intact. Before you begin any work on the chair, it is important to make copious notes and clear diagrams of how and where each part of the final cover is fixed. Very few chairs are upholstered in exactly the same way and you may find some of our instructions will not apply to your particular chair; your notes and diagrams will ensure you replace everything correctly and retain the shape of the chair.

Stripping the chair
If the frame needs attention, you will have to strip the chair right down. Turn it upside down and place it on trestles or a firm table. Using a mallet and an upholsterer’s ripping chisel, remove the tacks which secure the bottom canvas. Turn the chair right side up and remove the outside back and outside arm covers; on some chairs these will be secured with tacks, but on others they will be slip stitched invisibly. Again, make notes and diagrams to ensure you can replace the covers correctly. Continue by stripping the seat; remove all tacks, including those holding the webbing, from the bottom frame of the chair and lift out the seat intact. Cut the twine holding the springs to the webbing and hessian, count the springs and note their size so you can replace them if necessary. Remove the seat cover and hessian from the stuffing by cutting the stitches; but leave the scrim in place so you do not disturb the shape. Remove the inside back and inside arm covers which are tacked to the outside of the back and arm frames. Also detach the scrolls, if any; these will be stitched on. If the chair has a calico inner cover, this will be tacked on and should be removed. Take out the tacks securing the scrim which holds the stuffing in place and lift off both the scrim and the stuffing without disturbing the shape. Finally remove the hessian.

Repairing the frame
Check the condition of the frame; you may have to get a carpenter to repair any loose joints and replaced damaged sections of timber. Check the frame has not been attacked by woodworm; treat with woodworm fluid if necessary and allow it to dry before continuing, otherwise the furnishing fabric may be spoiled. Fill any holes left by the original tacks with filler or plastic wood and rub smooth with abrasive paper.

Replacing the webbing
Turn the chair upside down and, using a web stretcher, hammer and l6mm improved (heavy) tacks, flt new webbing over the base of the chair seat in the same way as the original webbing. Turn the chair right side up and stretch two pieces of webbing vertically on the inside of each arm frame. On the inside back fix three vertical strips of webbing and weave two horizontal ones through them to support the back stuffing.

Replacing springs
Place the seat springs on the webbing in the same position as they were originally fixed. Keep the front ones well forward to take the strain of the front edge; the other springs should be placed slightly towards the centre of the seat to allow clearance at the arms and back for the stuffing. Working from the inside of the seat and using twine and a springing needle, secure the base of each spring to the webbing; make three over sewing stitches in three places, with a long stitch underneath connecting each set of three. Lash the springs with lay cord or sisal.

Inside back
If the chair has back springs, these should be placed at the junctions of the webbing and secured with oversewing stitches in the same way as the seat springs. There is no need to lash these back springs.

Battersea flat roofing

Our roofers have started to use Fibreglass roofing instead of the traditional bitumen felt roofing and asphalt roofing.
Using a brand called Cure It Flat Roofing System, the roofing jobs take less time to complete.
fibreglass flat roof membrane
This particular flat roof is actually a converted loft in Battersea, Central London.
flat roof fibreglass system

Repadding a drop seat dining chair

A dining chair is subjected to a lair amount of wear and will eventually become flattened and need a new cover. Repadding and recovering this type of chair is a relatively straightforward job. It is likely the wood frame will have lost all its natural oils through years spent in a heated home and will be liable to split unless handled with care. When you are stripping off the old cover, carefully push an old wide-bladed screwdriver or an upholsterer’s ripping chisel under each tack and ease it out with the aid of a mallet; make sure you work with the grain of the wood to avoid knocking out tiny pieces or splitting the frame. When you have removed all the tacks, clean up the frame with medium fine glasspaper and check for cracks and woodworm. Treat woodworm with a proprietary brand of woodworm killer and fill any cracks with plastic wood. If the chair has been reupholstered a number of times, there may be a lot of tack holes; it is best to fill the larger ones with plastic wood to give the frame extra strength.

Repadding the seat
A sagging seat usually results from damaged webbing or a broken plywood base; or the padding may have flattened through wear. Loose webbing should be replaced and covered with hessian as described earlier in the book. Traditional hair and left padding can be put back into shape if the hair has not become too knotted. Remove the felt layer first, then break up any large lumps of hair with your hands, distributing them evenly, and wash them in warm water. You may need more hair to build up the padding if it is old; this is fairly difficult to obtain and it may be easier to replace this type of padding with polyester foam.

Foam padding
Use a medium-to-high density foam for replacing old stuffing; a type which is 25mm thick would be most suitable. Carefully measure the frame seat and, using a sharp knife, cut a piece of foam which is slightly larger all round to ensure a good fit. Most dining chairs look better for a slightly raised effect and you can achieve this by sticking a piece of 13mm thick foam, about 75mm smaller all round, on the underside of the main piece in the centre. Attach the foam directly to the frame by gluing

Rewebbing a chair

A sagging or lumpy chair seat indicates the springs or the webbing have come away or the webbing has simply worn out; it also indicates the seat padding is in poor condition and needs replacing. Re-webbing a chair is a fairly straightforward job, but renewing the padding is slightly more difficult and is covered separately in the book.

Carrying out repairs
To examine the condition of the springing, turn the chair upside down and hold it steady by resting it on another chair or a workbench. Take off the hessian backing, using a chisel and mallet to remove the tacks which hold it to the frame; make sure you work very carefully in the direction of the grain to avoid damaging the wood. If the hessian is still in good condition, you will be able to use it again when you have completed the repair work. If, however, the backing looks worn or tatty, cut out a new one using the original as a pattern and allowing at least 25mm extra all around so you can make a neat, tucked-in finish.

Removing webbing
When you have removed the hessian, check the condition of the webbing – and the springs if there are any; some chairs have only a padded base supported with webbing. Look to see whether any of the webbing has come away from the frame or become saggy and slack through wear; if this is the case, remove it using the chisel and mallet to knock out the tacks. Try not to enlarge the holes when you do this; if you do open them up a little, fill them with a fine wood filler and leave them to harden. Once the webbing is free from the frame, use a sharp knife to cut the spring twine which holds the webbing to the springs, disturbing the springs as little as possible.

Replacing webbing
Turn over the end of the new webbing l9mm and, using the original tack holes as a guide, fix the webbing to the front edge of the frame with five tacks, placed in the shape of a ‘W’, so the wood will not split. You will need to buy a web stretcher, or make one by cutting a deep ‘V’ across one end of a piece of 50x25mm wood. Stretch the webbing across the seat and wrap it around the stretcher from end to end. Pull the webbing across the frame and lay the V-shaped end of the stretcher onto the edge of the frame at about a 45 degree angle. Press it down firmly until you feel the webbing will not stretch any more. Hold the stretcher in place and fix the webbing with a single row of three tacks. Remove the stretcher and cut off the webbing about 25mm from the tacks. Tum the end over and secure it with two more tacks. Again using the old tack holes as a guide complete the webbing along the length of the frame. Fix strips of webbing across the width of the frame, weaving them through the lengthwise pieces then stretching and tacking as before.

Fixing springs
To make sure the springs are secure and will not tear through the hessian, tuck each one under a place where two pieces of webbing overlap. If the springs tend to squeak, put a small piece of felt or some other kind of padding between the two parts of the spring which are rubbing together. When all the springs are in place, secure them to the webbing using spring twine and a half-circle or springing needle. Each spring should be fixed with four stitches equally spaced around it and caught at the same depth; finish off each stitch with a slip knot. Without breaking the twine, carry one stitch to an adjacent spring and stitch as before. When all the springs have been attached to the webbing in this way, finish off with a double knot and trim the twine.

Replace backing
Once you have renewed the seat padding, you can replace the backing. Fold in the edges of the hessian and tack it to the frame with three tacks in the middle of each side. Adjust any creases by taking out the tacks, straightening and retacking. When the hessian is flat, continue fixing it down with tacks every 50mm along the frame, avoiding previous holes if possible. Fold the hessian into shape around the legs and fix with tacks close together for a neat finish.