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For most of these jobs, you will need professional help. In particular, the inexperienced should avoid working at a height. You will find the following notes handy for briefing and supervising your builder. Make sure all work is done as specified. Builders often skimp on roofs in particular as they know you cannot see what is going on!

The roof Loose or missing tiles or slates must be repaired or replaced. If possible examine your roof from the inside; climb up into the loft, and if your roof is unlined, turn off the light. Chinks of light will show up where tiles are cracked, missing or slipped. If your roof is lined, keep the light on and look for water stains which will indicate leaks.

Chimneys Crumbling brickwork should be re-built: it could be very dangerous. Crumbling mortar between bricks should be raked out and replaced. If in poor repair, the concrete ‘flaunching’ at the top of the stack into which the chimney pots are set could be causing damp. Chimneys no longer in use can be sealed off. Roof flashings ‘Flashings’ seal the gaps where your roof meets another surface. You will find them around chimney stacks, dormer windows, skylights, over bay windows, around vent pipes and so on. Your flashings may be made of felt, mortar, lead, zinc, or of an asbestos/bitumen compound. If torn or cracked they will be letting in the damp, and should be repaired. Simple repairs may be possible with waterproof tape, or with several coats of a proprietary bituminous emulsion. Crumbling mortar fillets should be hacked off and renewed. Gutters All gutters should be flushed through with a hose to clean, with a bowl placed at base of downpipe to catch debris. Check for small leaks occurring at joints between sections, or through cracking. A waterproof repair tape or a non-hardening mastic can be used for repairs. Damaged lengths should be replaced completely or repaired in part with glass fibre repair kit. The slope of gutters should be adjusted if necessary, so that all water drains away. Check bracket fixings and have any parts of rotten fascia boards replaced. Cast-iron guttering can be replaced with a plastic system which needs little maintenance and no decoration.

Downpipes Check that each downpipe connects satisfactorily at its top with the gutter. Check downpipe brackets for firm fixings. Check that water can run freely down the pipe: blockages must be cleared if necessary. Make sure downpipes discharge into gullies at the bottom and not onto the ground or the wall. Gullies Old-fashioned gratings can be cleaned by scrubbing with hot water and soda, or placing in a fire for a few minutes. Blocked gullies should be cleared of debris and flushed through with water. A brick kerb can be built around a gully and fitted with a removable plywood cover to prevent further blockages. Pointing Pointing is the mortar between the bricks which crumbles after a while. All loose pointing should be raked out to a depth of at least 12 mm. and the crevices brushed out with a stiff brush. Re-pointing should be finished with a weather joint: the face of the mortar is cut back by about 12 mm. at the top of the crevice to prevent rainwater collecting. Brickwork Porous walls allowing damp to reach the inside can be treated with a clear silicone water repellent. This should be applied to the exterior surface during a fine spell. It will also protect brickwork from frost. Rendering and pebbledash Cracks and missing patches must be replaced speedily, as water can collect behind the rendering and cause damp patches on the inside walls. Really big cracks and holes must be cut back until sound rendering is reached. The holes can then be filled with mortar, which should be applied in two layers. For pebbledash, pebbles can be mixed with the second layer. Larger cracks can be filled with a proprietary exterior filler. Hairline cracks can be disguised by a stone or masonry paint containing small particles of crushed rock. You will have to paint the whole area to avoid unsightly patches. Any mould or algae must be scraped before painting. Wash down the whole area with a solution of one part ordinary domestic bleach to 4 parts water. Repeat 24 hours later. Allow to dry for 2 days, and then rinse with clear water. Wall tiles Wall tiles for cladding are nailed to battens which are nailed to the wall. Loose tiles can allow damp to enter. Each tile should be given a sharp tug to make sure it is firmly fixed. Loose tiles may be caused by corroded nails or rotten battens. Tiling should be stripped back until the defective tile is reached; this should be re-fixed, replacing rotten battening if necessary.

The rest of the tiles should then be re-fixed with new nails. Wood cladding Rotten sections should be replaced. Old paint should be stripped off with scraper and paint stripper. New painting should consist of primer, undercoat and a minimum of two top coats. Old varnish can be removed with scraper or chemical paint stripper, and then the surface should be scrubbed with wire wool and water containing a little ammonia. A proprietary wood restorer can be used to restore the original colour, before re-varnishing. Windows and doors All gaps between frameworks and walls should be sealed against damp. Non-hardening mastic can be used for narrow gaps, but crevices should be first cleaned out with a stiff brush. It is possible to paint over this type of filler, which is usually an ugly grey. Wide gaps will need an initial plugging with rope or rolled up rags, finished off with mastic. Renew all cracked areas of putty on window frames, using metal casement putty or dual purpose putty for metal frames. All new putty should be painted within seven days, and the paint line should be carried onto the glass by about 3 mm.. Rotten sections of window sills should be replaced. Drip grooves should be cleared. Bare timber sills and threshold should be oiled; cracked stone sills should be repaired and painted. Rotten weatherboards at base of exterior doors should be replaced. Airbricks Airbricks provide ventilation for suspended floors, and prevent dampness from condensation. You will find them set low down in an outside wall, looking like an ordinary brick with small round holes, or a small grating. They should be cleared of clogged-up soil, leaves or rubbish.

Rising damp Houses built since the 1870’s will have a damp-proof course set into the brickwork on the ground floor. Its purpose is to prevent water from the soil rising up the walls. Your d.p.c. will appear as a thick black line or an extra thick band of mortar running through the brickwork two or three courses above the ground. The d.p.c. can become bridged, thus allowing damp to enter the house. To ensure that your d.p.c. is clear, and able to perform its function, you should dig away any soil to at least 15 cm below the d.p.c.. The level of concrete paths and adjoining outbuildings should also be adjusted to below 15 cm of the d.p.c. Any concrete rendering covering the d.p.c. should be hacked away. If your d.p.c. appears defective even when cleared, you should enlist the services of a specialist company, who will also be able to advise on older houses.


The easiest way to select a colour scheme is to take a black and white photograph of the front view of your house. Have it enlarged to 200 by 250mm.. Using thin paper make several tracings of the outlines and main features of your house. Try out a number of colour schemes with poster colours and felt pens. Remember that your final colour choice will be affected by at least three things – the surrounding landscape, the houses next door and the architectural style of your own house. Some colours suit certain periods better than others. Do not forget that blinds and curtain linings show up more in newly painted houses; coloured linings can look very smart if they blend suitably.

Obtaining inspiration at the start can be a problem. You might borrow a colourscheme which you have admired on another house. Many of the older Georgian buildings have recently been painted in beautiful colour combinations and are worth copying. Try and curb the desire to paint eye-catching motifs. They seldom look good; it is advisable to leave this sort of thing to boutiques and gable end artists. In a small tightly knit community a drastic colour change might be upsetting for more tradition-bound members. Sometimes a house is known more by its colour than by its number or its name; in rare cases the local authority has been asked to intervene! Generally speaking the colour choice which you feel to be the most comfortable is probably the right choice for you. And remember that it is easier to change a small area of bright colour on the doors and windows than it is to repaint the walls. If your house is semi-detached it is a good idea to discuss your colour scheme with your neighbour as this type of house looks good treated as one of a pair.

In dirty town atmospheres white and pastel walls become grubby very quickly and may need frequent repainting if they are to stay looking smart. They retain their fresh looks for longer periods if painted in one of the deeper shades of grey, stone, olive green or terracotta with white kept for the window surrounds and woodwork.

Door and window frames are more easily painted in new colours and these can look very attractive. Again, experiment on black and white photo prints or make a sketch as before. If you are devoid of ideas gloss paintwork in a shade lighter or darker than the walls can be pleasing. If pipes are in good, I.e. rust-free, condition, camouflage them by painting in the same colour as the wall; rusty pipes should be treated with rust-remover, primed and painted with gloss paint.


There are many firms which advertise a service for window replacement. Their aluminium-framed products can be double-glazed, if you wish, and probably will never need painting. Correctly installed, these newer types of windows will eliminate draughts from faulty ill-fitting old window frames. However, take heed, for windows have been called ‘the eyes of a house’, and if you change them, the whole character of your exterior will undoubtedly be altered, possibly for the worse. For older houses, it is still possible to buy replacement windows which have the same appearance as the originals. Many houses have been ruined because their leaded lights were changed to Georgian styles or their Georgian sashes replaced with Victorian sheet glass or modern picture windows. In new houses, built in the last thirty years, it is likely that any window changes have been an improvement particularly where two of the back windows have been converted into patio sliding or opening doors.


According to estate agents, many houses sell by their front doors alone! Along with windows, front doors are the most frequently changed item. A modern door fitted with a large panel of obscured glass may let in more light, but care must be taken to see that the design does not conflict with the style of the house. You will find that there is a wide choice available in new reproduction doors. Many original doors can be smartened satisfactorily simply by repainting very carefully, taking care to strip off all defective areas of paint, and to fill any uneven areas to give a smooth surface before proceeding to primer and undercoat, followed by top coat in a suitable colour. You will find a wide choice of ‘door furniture’ in hardware shops, with an even greater selection at specialist shops called architectural ironmongers. You can choose from shiny brass, silver-coloured chrome or anodized aluminium, or black cast-iron. Save up for a matching set, if you can. Alternatively, the very skilful can paint their own numerals directly onto the door, making sure that they are clear.

USEFUL HARDWARE FITTINGS Round cup-hooks in brass or coloured plastic can be used for a multitude of hanging purposes. They can be screwed into a vertical surface or into a horizontal surface.

Square dresser hooks are easier to use for objects with thicker handles, such as mugs and kitchen utensils. Rod sockets are handy for fitting hanging rails.

Curtain rod brackets come in two versions: straight for fitting against a return wall , or cranked for flush mounting.

Small hooks and eyes can be used with expanded curtain wire for a curtain that is quick and easy to make – simply run the wire through a top hem.

Screw rings are useful for hanging pictures.

Picture hangers come in a single or a double version; the latter is for heavier pictures.

Moulding hooks can be used to hang pictures from old-fashioned picture rails.

Mirror plates can be used to fix small cupboards to the wall.

Cabin hooks are useful for providing a lock on sliding doors. 9 ©

Repair and corner plates Various types can be used to repair old furniture or to strengthen your own structures.

BASIC SIZES OF SAWN SOFTWOOD Half the secret of successful d-I-y is getting to know the materials in your local d-I-y or timber shop, so that you can exploit their properties and standard sizes to your best advantage. Chipboard is made from wood particles firmly bonded together; it is less strong than solid wood but much cheaper. The cheapest grades have a slightly pitted surf ace, but you can stain or paint them satisfactorily. You can buy chipboard 1-25 cm or 2 cm thick, and the standard sheet size is 244 cm by 122 cm. The board can be used for shelving etc., and standard widths are available, inducing 23 cm and 30-5 cm. These boards usually have a decorative facing, in plain white melamine, or a real or imitation wood veneer. For lightweight objects, chipboard shelving should be supported at least every 92 cm , but shelves for heavy books will need supports every 46-51 cm. Hardboard is a brown sheet material commonly 3-2 mm. thick, with a smooth side and a rough side. Although it is not very strong on its own, it can be used very satisfactorily if glued and pinned to a frame of softwood battens. You must position the framing right at the edge of the hardboard sheet, and the board must be supported along its length every 41 cm , plus cross supports every 122 cm. The standard sheet size is the same as for chipboard but lots of smaller sizes are also available. Tempered hardboard has improved strength and water-resistant qualities. Enamelled hardboard can be used for lining walls and ceilings in bathrooms and kitchens, and for splashbacks.

Moulded hardboard is available for pelmets and other fittings. Perforated hardboard, often called peg board, can be used in conjunction with special clips for hanging kitchen utensils, etc.

Laminated boards Numerous types are available including plywood, blockboard and laminboard. Although expensive, these boards are very strong, and easy to work with. Consult your supplier for the best board for the job you have in mind.

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