Basic home tools for toolbox

You never know when the occasion might arise when you will need some basic tools for problems around the home. Most people do not have what many will say are ‘common sense’ items such as a hammer or screwdriver. There are a few things you should keep together in the toolbox so that if there is a problem you can sort it without the need of a plumber or electrician. Not talking about anything major but things like a leaking radiator, a door that keeps sticking, loose screws, nails sticking out and many other minor things.


What basic tools should I keep in my toolbox?

  • A set of good quality screwdrivers of all shapes and sizes
  • A hammer
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil and small notepad or sticky note cube
  • Pliers
  • Torch with spare batteries
  • Spare drill bits for drill
  • Saw

You may need to have two toolkits one that houses everything and another one that’s smaller and can be stored within easy reach with common items such as a screwdriver and torch. Many people tend to keep tools for electrical work, plumbing and decorating together. I wouldn’t really advise this because if they are all in the same tool box you may never find what you’re looking for.

Storing tools

If you have hundreds of different tools for different jobs, it may be an option to separate them all into categories. Buy clear boxes that are stackable and label them: electrical, plumbing, and decorating and so on. So when you come to decorate, you will have everything in the same box and the same for plumbing tools and electric.

If you have larger tools such as a circular saw, drill and sander, try and keep them in their original cases or boxes so the instructions can be referred to if necessary. This can be very useful if you haven’t used a tool in a while and may have forgotten its other uses. Try and have a shed where all of these tools can be stored out of the way until needed.

How to put up coving?

covingCoving for the home has been around for hundreds of years and dates back to the Victorian times. In those days, coving was only found in rich people’s homes and the upper class while nowadays the majority of houses have coving. Coving is used to neaten up the join between the wall and the ceiling; many people also find it difficult to paint neatly after doing the ceilings so using coving is a good way to hide not so perfect painting and mistakes. It is also good at hiding any small cracks that sometimes appear at the top of the wall joining the ceiling.

The good thing about coving is they come in many different materials (polysterene, plaster, wooden) with the most common being polystyrene because it’s light and easy to fix to the wall. Plaster coving is still widely available though but it can be very heavy and a professional decorator will have to be hired. Cutting coving can be tricky as well so a modern tool has been made where it guides you to cutting at the right angle to make it all fit together better. Polystyrene coving can be done by anyone who can cut neatly as it is lightweight and easy to glue to the wall and ceiling.

Choosing coving for your home

If you have an older style home that still has its original coving, then it is advisable to retain this as it will add to the value of the home. If the coving has deteriorated in time, you can get replicas made at a reasonable cost. If you have an older style home and do not have coving, then a patterned and sophisticated plaster style can be bought. You can also paint it in a contrasting colour to add depth to the room. For more modern homes, polystyrene coving is the best way to go as it’s inexpensive and easy to do it yourself.

If you have a small room, then it is best to use plain narrow coving whilst larger rooms will benefit from broader and patterned coving. Use a bold colour on coving to lift the mood of the room. For instance in a cream room with red furnishings, paint the coving red to make the room look more exciting.

Putting up coving

You will need:

  • Pencil
  • Glue for coving
  • Mitre box for cutting angles
  • Fine tooth saw

If you are cutting polystyrene coving, the steps are quite simple:

  • Measure the wall
  • Using a coving mitre, cut to size and angle
  • Then using an adhesive, glue to the wall
  • You may have to use nails to adhere in position until the glue dries

Note that sometimes you will have to join up two pieces of coving if the length is not enough to cover a whole portion of the wall. Once the coving has been put up, it should give a more attractive look to your rooms.

How to lay vinyl flooring professionally?

Vinyl flooring is best suited to kitchens and bathrooms as it’s easier to clean spills. Having said this, you could even put it in the conservatory and storage cupboards as an inexpensive way of decorating.

How to lay vinyl flooring?

Before starting you will need the following items:

  • A stanley knife
  • Scissors
  • Rulers
  • Pen, pencil or marker
  • Glue

Just like laying laminate flooring, leave vinyl flooring in a room for a day allowing it to soften and making it more flexible to work with. Turn up central heating a few degrees to increase vinyl flexibility as this can make a big difference when it comes to laying the flooring.

Prepare the surface before placing vinyl floor covering. Cover floorboards with hardboard, ceramic tiles and concrete flooring with leveling. Make sure there are no gaps on the surface to ensure a flat level finish when applying floor covering.

Make sure the room is clean by removing shoes and vacuuming. Unroll the floor covering against the longest wall in the room and make sure the pattern lines up neatly against the wall. Make sure you leave an overlap of 4in to allow cutting away any excess. Making sure the roll is flat, cut into the corners in a V shape which makes cutting of any excess easier.

If most of the excess is cut away first, it makes the fitting process easier. Some people find it easier to mark off areas and then cut them off with scissors or a stanley knife. Once you are pleased with the fit you can then proceed to glue it to the floor. The easiest way is to roll part of it back, apply glue and then do the other side.

Remember to push out bubbles using a broom and place a door strip over the joining piece in the doorway to cover any joins.

There are some vinyl floor coverings that lay flat and therefore require no glue. Just make sure that you have tucked in the floor covering under kitchen units and skirting boards for a better fit. Some floor covering also have a self adhesive backing making it a little less complicated. As soon as the excess is trimmed, you just remove the backing to allow it to stick to the floor. Some vinyl floor coverings also only require glue on the edge of the floor covering. To get professional results remember to prepare the surface and work in a clean room to avoid any bumps under the floor covering.

How to lay laminate flooring?

If you have decided to spruce up your home with laminate flooring throughout, the advantages are floors which are easier to clean, more hygienic, hardwearing, easy to lay and cheap. The first step is to decide what kind of laminate floors you like. Laminate flooring can be bought in packs of planks or as strips with grooves on the side for glue-less flooring. Glue less laminate flooring is not waterproof so I would strongly advise against using it in the kitchen or bathroom; I would use vinyl laminate flooring instead. By using glue with laminate flooring this makes it impervious to water so this might be an option if using in the kitchen or bathroom. If glue less laminate flooring gets water in between the grooves, it will swell up and eventually rot the wood so keep this in mind if you are laminating a bathroom or kitchen.

There are a few things that you will need before you lay your new laminate flooring. Once you have calculated how many square metres you require, you will also need to buy the same amount of underlay for laminate flooring. Here are some tips and materials you will need:

  • Underlay for laminate will help noise reduction and smooth out any lumps and bumps before laying the floor
  • You will also require scotia also known as edging to cover the edges where the flooring meets the wall
  • If you have radiators in the room you may also want to purchase pipe surrounds
  • A knocking block will also prove useful
  • Flooring pull bar can help as well
  • Flooring repair kit that will cover scratches and indentations on laminate flooring may be required
  • Flooring spacers is essential
  • Flooring adhesive could be required in some cases
  • A laminate flooring kit will work out cheaper than buying the items individually. The kit includes a knocking block, spacers and a flooring pull bar. Individually is can cost £20 but as a kit can cost under £10.
  • Flooring cover strip
  • Coloured flooring sealant

DIY laminate flooring is simple – although instructions are provided with all laminate flooring packs, here’s a rough guide to get it done quicker.

  • Make sure you have enough laminate packs before you start
  • Remove planks and lay them in the room for 24-48 hours before starting, this will make sure the planks don’t swell and are used to the room temperature
  • Place underlay first before slotting laminate floor boards
  • Place spacers around the skirting board to remind you to place them when slotting planks together
  • Remember to cut planks in half as you will need to create and aggravated look then slot them together (like brickwork)

After the floor has been laid you can then start cutting the scotia and covering the radiator pipe surrounds. If there are any gaps remember to fill using coloured flooring sealant. It is important that you lay the laminate floors in zigzag to make the flooring stronger, otherwise it can break easily.

Painting corners and straight lines

It’s advisable to retouch paint work in the home at least every 5 years but it’s better if its done within 3 years. This will keep your home looking fresh and upkeep to a minimal. It can get quite expensive having to hire a painter/decorator every few years so here’s some tips to help you paint tricky corners and straight lines.

When it comes to painting, it’s pretty simple that even a 3 year old could help. The hardest part is painting above the skirting board, around the door frame and the top of the wall just before the ceiling meets. There are a few simple ways to making sure you use fewer tools as possible and with minimal mess and professional results.

How to paint corners and straight lines?

If you have a main colour in the living room and are painting a bold feature wall just next to a lighter colour wall, you will want to make sure that the bolder colour doesn’t spoil the lighter wall. There are a few ways to do this as I explain below:

Using a paint pad – paint pads come in a few different shapes making it easier when painting a corner or just above the skirting board. The most common paint pad shapes used in the household are the rectangle shape and the triangle. Paint pads uses as little paint as possible and doesn’t drip but the disadvantage is that if you have used a roller before and then used the paint pad in the corners, the texture of the two are highly noticeable.

Masking tape – masking tape is highly versatile and can be used on most surfaces; just make sure the area that it is being applied to is clean and dust free. For better results remove masking tape 20 minutes to an hour after painting because if you leave it too long, the paint underneath can be stripped off. The negative aspect to using masking tape to achieve straight smooth paint lines is that it is time consuming applying it everywhere and messy when it comes to stripping it off.

Paint guard – this is probably the cheapest and easiest method as a paint guard can be bought for under £1 and used over and over again, unlike paintbrushes. Paint guards look a bit like a ruler, only the ends have smaller or curved shapes so you can use in any corner or part of the wall as required.

Paint brush – most experienced painters and decorators use a good old fashioned paint brush to paint straight lines, so unless you have a steady hand use an alternative method. If you do decide to use a paint brush, buy a really good quality one with a good grip handle. Don’t fully immerse the paint brush in paint as you will just have a drippy brush that will ruin your hard work.

Fitting a cat flap

One of the most important thing about having a cat or dog is making sure they have access to come and go as they please. Cats in particular will learn to go toilet outdoors and play in the garden as well as exploring all the surrounding areas. Dogs only need to go outside to go toilet and will not venture out into other peoples garden. So fitting a cat flap or fitting a dog flap is essential for your pets to go toilet.

If you are buying a glass door but require a cat flap fitted in, this can only be done during manufacturing and finding someone to do it afterwards is extremely difficult. It’s not hard to find a glazier – it’s just that after cutting a hole for the cat flap, the area tends to mist around the glass so this isn’t really recommended. Don’t attempt to do it yourself as you might damage the door. So with an average charge of £40-80 to fit a standard cat flap how hard is it to fit a cat flap yourself? The answer is not so hard as you can fit a cat flap yourself because it’s not hard at all.

The easiest way to fit a cat flap?

If you have a uPVC door then you should have no problems at all as they are very simple to fit. Some cat flaps also come with a guide that you stick to the door so you know where to cut and drill. What you will need:

  • A pencil
  • A drill
  • A compass saw
  • Masking tape (optional)

If your cat flap has come with a guide, then find your cat and position the cat flap at a reasonable height – remember to allow room for growth as your cat will get taller

Stick the guide with some masking tape and drill four holes; one in each of the four corners. Then with a compass saw cut away in a straight line to remove the inner part of the door where the cat flap will fit into. Then position the cat flap in place and screw it over the hole.

If your cat flap has not come with a guide, then simply measure up and drill four holes in each corner of the square so it’s easy to cut out, then follow the remaining steps above.

If you are fitting a dog flap then the same steps apply, only difference is that the dog flap may be a little larger than a cat flap as most dogs are usually bigger than cats.

You may have to tempt your cat to use the cat flap if they have never used one before. Try placing a few treats on the other side of the door. They should soon get the message and then you will no longer have to use a cat litter tray indoors as they will get used to ‘going’ outside.

Painting fence panels – which way is best?

After having 6ft fence panels put up in my garden, I found the idea of having to paint all of them very daunting. If you have a garden over 60ft long, it’s quite impractical to paint each fence panel as sometimes a second coat might be needed.

Spray painting a fence panel

Although most paint sprayers advise that you buy their own branded paint this is not obligatory as I have found that own brand paint from the local DIY store will work just as well. When purchasing branded paint to go with the sprayer (for example Cuprinol), l found that for the first few refills you are fine but after having to refill for the third time, that’s when you start to notice the problems.

The bad points to spray painting a fence:

  • The filter inside the spray container gets clogged up too quickly so you have to keep cleaning it out
  • The battery only lasts 30 minutes, you have to recharge it for two and a half hours afterwards before you can use it again
  • Getting the paint to spray out the nozzle and not squirt can take awhile, so you lose precious battery spraying time
  • It’s a heavy spray machine that although comes with a shoulder strap can cause some injury if used for long periods of time
  • The maker insist you buy their branded paint even though non branded paint does exactly the same job
  • The machine makes a hell of a lot of noise, so if you live in a quiet area your neighbours may complain
  • The paint tends to drip down the fence panel sometimes leaving a darker finish at the bottom

The good points to spray painting a fence

  • It takes less time to spray paint than paint with a brush
  • The spray nozzle sprays paint into all the creases and folds of the fence panels

Painting a fence the old fashioned way

Many people are reluctant to paint a fence panel due to stressful and busy lives. If you have a small garden then it won’t take long but if you have a very big garden with fence panels down each side then you can say goodbye to your weekends.

The bad points to painting a fence with a brush

  • Painting a fence with a fence brush does take a lot of time
  • It takes twice as long as spray painting
  • Your hands hurt after a little while
  • It’s really boring

The good points to painting a fence panel

  • You don’t have to wait for the spray machine battery to charge
  • The brush takes only what it needs so you don’t waste or drip paint
  • You don’t waste paint

The verdict: In some ways I like spray painting because it’s quick and easy but the finish isn’t so good and you will need to spray on a second coat. Painting a fence panel requires more patience and strength as your hand will cramp up after a while. For the sake of convenience, spray painting is quick and easy but if you want a really good finish then painting with a fence brush is the way to go.

Filling and light remedial work on walls

From time to time, we get fed up with the decor we have, so we start afresh. In some cases, this means removing wallpaper – if you haven’t lived in the house long enough, you won’t know what condition the walls are in until after the wallpaper has been stripped off. In some situations when you finally find out the state of your walls, it can delay your decorating schedule and break the bank because of the remedial and restoration work that needs to be done first.

Alternatives to plastering

If you were to call a decorator, they would charge you a lot of money and advise on many things that can be avoided such as plastering every room. In most cases, walls are in good condition with a few weak spots that are crumbling. If you want the walls to survive a long time, the best thing to do is plaster them. If not then by wallpapering it, most imperfections will be covered. Just remember to buy thick wallpaper and not the cheap thin type and preferably with a pattern or embossed. You can also buy lining paper that is used to paper onto the wall before painting – this can also disguise poor wall surfaces if done correctly. Just remember that it is extremely hard to disguise lining paper by painting it due to the seams inbetween the joins.

Filling and light remedial work for walls

If you are selling or want a modern approach to your home, then just sanding and filling in the holes will do a good job. The problem with filler is that it dries very quickly so I’d advise you to buy a small tub or tube and work as quickly as you can. I would throw it away afterwards as if it’s kept too long it will become hard and useless. Here are a few tips for remedial work on walls:

  • The best way to fill in minor cracks and dents in the wall is to paint it first as this will make the imperfections very clear to notice
  • Fill in dents, cracks and small holes with suitable filler
  • Sand and then wipe clean
  • Paint again

If the cracks, dents and holes are still visible you may need to apply more filler; be careful not to sand too much as this may cause the wall to have an indent where too much pressure has been applied by the sander.

If for example you have knocked off tiles from the kitchen wall and will have units in their place, you might well just get away with some light plastering yourself. If it’s a small area then it might be a good place to practice – remember to have good ventilation for the plaster to dry otherwise it may crack or stay humid.

By taking the above tips into consideration, you may be able to save yourself a few bob by doing it yourself. Remember there are some things that you can do yourself that won’t be noticeable to others and look professional as well instead of having to hire someone else to do it and charge you afterwards.

Removing polystyrene tiles

When we bought our house a year ago, we were left with the daunting task of removing polystyrene tiles throughout the entire house. It is a 3 bedroom semi-detached house with a cloakroom and upstairs bathroom and every single room along with the hallway in the house had polystyrene tiles on the ceiling. The rooms that had to have the ceiling tiles removed were: downstairs hallway, living room, dining room, kitchen, cloakroom, bedroom 1-3, upstairs hallway and bathroom.

Why do you have to get rid of polystyrene ceiling tiles?

A long time ago they were fashion, cheap and easy to apply. As time went on, it was found that polystyrene is highly flammable and would cause a health and safety risk should the house catch fire. We were aware of this when we decided to buy the house and it was even mentioned when we had the house surveyed.

If you decide to keep the polystyrene ceiling tiles, then you might compromise you home insurance and will be liable for any damage should a fire occur. This could mean that if your house is devastated by a fire and would need to be rebuilt, on top of the cost of rebuilding the house you must remember that you still have a mortgage to pay even if the house burns down.

Polystyrene tiles removal?

As you already know, I had an entire house with polystyrene tiles on the ceiling and we thought it would be easy to just lift them off. We were mistaken and it is actually very time consuming and hard work! These are the methods we tried:

  • Using a wallpaper stripper knife, just lift the corner of the tiles and scrape off.
  • Using a wallpaper steamer, you can use pretty much the same as you would on wallpaper.

We found the first method to be quicker and less messy as using wallpaper steamer on the ceiling leaks water everywhere. It’s easier to use force when removing polystyrene ceiling tiles because they don’t just pop off like most people think and it is hard graft.

An easy tip to drill into tiles

I have just recently tiled my bathroom and needed to add a bathroom cabinet, mirror, toilet roll holder, towel rail etc. With gorgeous new tiles on the wall, the last thing I wanted to do is drill a hole and crack the surrounding tiles. I was very apprehensive about drilling into my new ceramic tiles until I found a tip that helped me.

What you will need to drill into tiles

  • A drill
  • A pencil
  • Masking tape or surgical tape (available to purchase at your local chemist)
  • Tile bit or masonry bit (to attach to drill)
  • Vacuum cleaner (optional)

If you have all of the above, you’re ready to go!

How to drill effortlessly into tiles?

Follow these easy steps to drill into tiles and achieve a professional and clean finish.

  • Mark out where the holes that need to be drilled i.e. for a towel rail
  • Over the marked tile, place a piece of masking tape or surgical tape (I find these both work really well because they are not slippery when trying to drill)
  • Then mark an X on the spot to be drilled into with a pencil
  • Attach tile drill bit to drill (you can also use masonry bit to drill into ceramic tiles on a low setting)
  • Slowly drill in the middle of the X  mark
  • If possible, it would be less messy if someone could hold the vacuum cleaner under the drill when drilling to avoid dust and mess.

Attach towel rail and you’re done with no cracked tiles and perfect smooth finish.