10 DIY tips everyone should know (but is afraid to ask)

Fancy yourself as a bit handy with a hammer? A dab hand with a drill? But still prone to the odd bodge job? Find out how to get the perfect finish first time round with our fail-safe DIY advice*

1 How to drill a hole in a tile

Start by making sure you’ve got the right drill bit for tiles – one meant for wood won’t work. Mark the spot where you want to drill, then make an X shape over it with masking tape. The masking tape will stop the drill bit moving about on the tile’s smooth surface, and also stop the outer edge of the hole from chipping or cracking.

How to clean an extractor fan

If the vacuum cleaner can’t remove the grime, it’s time to wash your kitchen or bathroom extractor. Turn off the fan’s electric supply at the fuse board, remove the cover and fan blade. Wash both in warm, soapy water, rinse and allow to dry. Put the pieces of the fan back together in their original position and turn the electricity back on to test. Sorted.

How to paint without splashes

There are two quick tricks you can use to make painting straight from a tin tidier. First, tie a piece of string to both sides of the handle so that it stretches tautly across the top of the open tin. That way, when you’ve loaded the brush with the paint, you can use the string instead of the sides of the tin to remove the excess, avoiding messy drips. Secondly, sit your paint tin on a paper plate about 5cm wider all round than the tin itself. Any drips as you load the brush will get caught by the plate and not by the floor/your shoes/the table top.

How to fix a dripping tap

Noise driving you crazy? Turn off your water supply (this might be under the sink or at the mains stopcock), then turn on the tap until it runs dry. If it’s a hot tap, make sure the boiler and immersion heater are off. Put the plug in and wrap a cloth around the tap to protect it. Now take a wrench to it and unscrew the top of

the tap. Under the tap’s mechanism you’ll find the washer – prise it off, clean thetap’s stem and fit the new washer. Screw it all back together and turn on the water. Job done.

How to unblock a sink

If water is draining out slowly, your sink is blocked, and you’ll need to use a plunger to fix it. First, block the overflow hole at the top of the sink with damp kitchen paper or a rag, then run the tap so there’s enough water in the sink to cover the rubber part of the plunger. Put the plunger over the plug hole and work it up and down quickly to force water through the waste pipes. Run the taps for several minutes to flush away any debris and unblock the overflow holes. If that doesn’t work, bail out the sink, place a bucket under the plastic trap (under the sink), unscrew the plastic collars at both ends, remove and clean it of the blockage.

How to unblock a loo

While we’re on the subject of blockages… bail out as much of the loo water as you can, then use wire (an old coat hanger will do), a plunger or auger to shift the blockage. If that doesn’t work, you might need to lift the nearest drain cover

(probably outside, within your front or back garden). If it’s full, the blockage is further along the soil pipe (once beyond your property’s boundary, it becomes the council’s responsibility). If it’s empty, the blockage is in the soil pipe between the loo to the drain’s chamber or in the toilet pan. Try drain cleaning rods first, but if that doesn’t work, call out a drain cleaning company.

How to bleed a radiator

Radiators cold at the top, warm at the bottom? They should be easy to fix by just releasing the trapped air that’s causing the cold spots. First, open any thermostatic radiator valves (TRVs) fully, including those on heated towel rails,and run your central heating for 10 minutes. Then, turn off the system. Get acloth handy to catch drips, put a radiator key into the valve in one of the top corners of the radiator and slowly turn it anti-clockwise. If air is trapped, it will escape now, making a hissing sound. Once water begins to drip out, close the valve again. Repeat on all your radiators, turn on the heating and check there are no dripping valves.

How to strip wallpaper quickly

Using a steam stripper is the quickest way to strip wallpaper, but if you’re doing the job without one, start by gently scoring the wallpaper with a craft knife or scorer, then use a sponge to apply a solution of warm water and washing up liquid to it. Leave it to soak for around 10 minutes, then test to see how easily the wallpaper comes off. If it’s still stubborn, repeat the soaking process. A stripping knife will get the job done quickest – make sure you get the knife between the paper and the wall, so it’s is not digging into the plaster.

How to drill neatly into a wall

Putting up a shelf? Use masking tape to fix an open envelope to the wall below your drill hole. That way, the mess from the drilling will be caught neatly in the envelope and you won’t even have to think about getting the vacuum cleanerout.

How to fill cracks in walls

Unsightly cracks can be filled forever if you do the job right first time. Start by removing loose materials, then dampen the crack with a paintbrush. Press the ready-mixed filler into the crack with a filling knife, dragging the blade over it to force it in. Draw the knife along the crack to smooth the filler, leaving it standing slightly proud of the surface. Allow it to dry then sand smooth and flush before painting.

*And if these tips don’t work, call in the pros

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