Redcapital Partners

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Do-it-Yourself Tips

success at the project

If you fail to save money on a do-it-yourself project the result could be both disappointing and expensive. What is the point of trying to do-it-yourself if the result is failure?

You have decided not to call in paid help and are undertaking a project yourself. It will probably take you more time but your time is technically free so you will only have the cost of materials to cover. If you take things steady your chances of success at the project and job satisfaction are greater. This is one of the hidden advantages of a do-it-yourself project.

The secret is to prepare well and think positive. Ladies are often more patient and shops report that the number of female customers is increasing. These do-it-yourself tips should help avoid some of the disappointment as well as saving you money.

Most of these free do-it-yourself tips are obvious – just a matter of common sense, but they may well save money plus considerable frustration and delay.

Unfortunately a lot of people seem unable to spare a couple of minutes of their time to look around and think – they consequently often end up in trouble. The result of their do-it-yourself project is often a poor job, an accident or time and money wasted. Remember, on this site we are trying to save money.

Two good sources for reasonably prices materials and tools are No. 1. and it is well worth registering with them to be kept advised of special offers and No. 2.
Thanks to Gerry in Suffolk for these two good sites. Tried and tested!

1. To save expensive do-it-yourself mistakes (and your temper) when sawing softwoods, instead of drawing a line with a pencil/pen, score the wood with a sharp craft knife e.g. Stanley knife. This cuts the fibres in the wood and makes it easier to start the saw.

  1. Masking tape is one of the wonders of the do-it-yourself world. Use it wherever you need to protect a surface while working on another. i.e., if you are painting a skirting board and need to protect the carpet below or the wallpaper above the skirting, use the masking tape. You will be able to push the carpet down flat and then apply the tape. It is possible to buy low impact tapes if you need to mask wallpaper, or other vulnerable surfaces. This tip saves mess and your temper.
  2. After cleaning a paintbrush, wrap the brush head in a piece of newspaper, carefully and firmly. This way the brush will retain its shape and will be easier to use second, third and fourth times around. Save the expense of buying a new brush. Newspaper is another wonder of the do-it-yourself world along with plastic baler twine – where would farmers and small-holders be without it.
  3. Time spent in preparation of a surface prior to painting is the secret to getting a good, professional finish on a do-it-yourself job. It may definitely seem to be the boring bit, but if this is done properly, the actual painting will be so quick in comparison and your efforts in preparation will be repaid by the good looking, professional finish that is obtained.
  4. Prior to painting, the surface should be rubbed down with an appropriate grade of sandpaper. This will depend on the condition of the surface – fine sandpaper for slight damage, coarser for a badly damaged surface.

Wipe down with a weak solution of sugar soap. Liquid soda is also an excellent cleaning agent when diluted in water. Items such as plastic water butts can be cleaned with white spirit prior to painting. Don’t even think of painting on a surface that has not been properly rubbed down and cleaned – you will be wasting your time.

Err on the side of caution and don’t make the situation worse than it is. In almost every do-it-yourself project, time spent thinking is time well spent. Plan your moves and take things steady and everything should be fine.

  1. It is often said that poor workmen always blame their tools. Not so. If you are doing a painting job it will pay to invest it a decent brush or two, as some of the cheaper ones are not just up to the job, particularly the ones sold in packs of five for £1.00. Take a look at the B & Q Select range of brushes. These have a stainless steel shank and are a pleasure to use. Sometimes it is false economy to save money. Look at tip No. 3 to take care of your good brushes.
  2. When painting wooden window frames using a wood stain (Ronseal is very good – It does what it says on the tin!), keep a damp cloth to hand to immediately remove any spillage or careless brush strokes. The do-it-yourself wonder – masking tape may come in useful here particularly if the wood-stain you are using adjoins a white wall etc.
  3. Don’t storm ahead on any job – take a few minutes to read the manufacturer’s instructions. They spend thousands of pounds researching and perfecting their product, so let’s assume they know what they are talking about when it comes to do-it-yourself and give them a couple of minutes of your time.
  4. If you need to touch up a painting job but don’t want to buy a large tin of paint, and can use some old, left-over paint, strain old paint through one leg of a pair of nylon tights, this will remove all of the lumps from the paint. This tip will save money and the bother of going out shopping again.
  5. Always protect any domestic surface in the area in which you are working. Dust sheets are washable, domestic surfaces such as furniture, carpets etc., may not be so easy to clean. Newspaper is also handy here.
    This tip also reduces the nagging factor.
  6. When painting a ceiling, if you move all heavy furniture to the centre of the room and cover with a dust sheet, this will make your job easier.
  7. When working at heights, either indoors or out, always make sure that the ladder or structure you have put in place is safe and secure. Having seen one professional painter do a not very graceful base over apex from the top of ladder because he stretched too far, remember, move the ladder first – don’t over stretch yourself. Even if standing on a low structure, make sure it is secure. One man toppled off a small, insecure stool and broke his ankle.

Don’t help to increase the statistics for DIY injuries at your local hospital! Not ‘Elf’ and Safety – plain common sense.

  1. Don’t run out of wallpaper when decorating a room. It is better to buy one roll too many (for spare) than to end up with not enough to finish the project. Don’t throw the spare away until you redecorate again – you never know when an accident might happen. Also when buying the wallpaper, take care and make sure that all the rolls are of the same batch and shade number.
  2. The easiest and quickest way of smoothing out silicone sealant, is to run a damp finger over it to produce a professional finish. Take your time, don’t rush or you will end up with a mess.
  3. If a sink becomes blocked try using a rubber plunger, this may do the trick depending on what type of blockage is involved. If you coat the edge of the plunger with Vaseline this will improve the suction.
  4. For a simple blockage on a sink, put a cup full of soda crystals over the sink outlet and pour kettle of boiling water over the crystals.

This is also a good way of cleaning round the U-bend if your sink should start to pong slightly. A way of preventing the ‘pong’ is not to let solid pieces of vegetable waste go down to the U-bend by fitting a small stainless steel draining plate over the sink outlet. These cost around 80p.each.

  1. To ease a sticking drawer, rub a candle along the wooden runners. This avoids damage (particularly on antique pieces) and loss of temper by trying to force the drawer into place. A really old fashioned tip.
  2. Don’t buy expensive cleaner or tile grout pen when cleaning tile grout – all that is needed is a half-cup of thick domestic bleach and an old toothbrush. Rub the bleach gently along the grout lines; leave for an hour or two then rinse off. Pour any left over bleach in the loo and leave for the same time. This is a super way to save money. Quick and easy. Don’t overdo the use of bleach if your house is on a septic tanks system as they will upset the balance of the microbes in the tank. As an alternative, Listerine is reputed to be good for cleaning tile grout.
  3. Use white vinegar in warm water to clean PVC window frames is a super way to save money. They will look like new again.
  4. Don’t buy expensive ant killer. If you have an ant problem, particularly in the house or conservatory, a much more pleasant way of seeing these pests off your premises is to shake any unwanted talcum powder over them.

This has exactly the same effect as proprietary brands of ant killer. The ants take the talcum powder back to their nests on their bodies and feet and it helps kill any other ants in the nest. Think of all the unwanted birthday presents that lurk in the cupboard – use some of the old talcum powder to save money.

  1. Own brand bottled lemon juice (Tesco) is good for cleaning stubborn spots on copper and brass and saves the expense of branded cleaners.
  2. To remove slippery, green mildew/mould from outside concrete, wood or tarmac surfaces, make up a weak solution of Jeyes Fluid and water in a watering can. Full directions are on the can. Water on and leave.

In two days or so the green mould will be brown and dead. This saves on buying bottles of expensive mould cleaner. Our aim here is to save money!

  1. Do not buy hanging basket liners when you are making your baskets for the summer. Instead line the basket with an old knitted type sweater. It is easy to cut holes in this and insert the plants around the sides, and the knitted texture of the sweater retains the moisture.
  2. Don’t buy sprayers for the greenhouse, just wash out one of your empty domestic cleaning sprayers and re-use.
  3. When painting exterior woodwork such as sheds, fences etc., use creosote with a small quantity of used engine oil added to it. Mix well together, use as usual and the woodwork will come up a darker shade and will last twice as long as creosote on its own.

If you are coating wooden tubs with creosote, any leaves of the plant that rest on the wooden edge of the tub are likely to die off. Take care here.


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