Thursday, 15 September 2011

Autumn Home Checklist by FMB

As the summer draws to a close and the evenings get shorter this is the ideal time to do some seasonal jobs in the garden and around the house.

It’s a good idea to start at the top and work your way down when assessing what jobs need to be done. Start off by looking at the roof, are there any loose tiles? Brian Berry, Director of External Affairs at the Federation of Master Builders (FMB), the UK’s largest trade association in building says “You may be able to identify roofing problems from the ground but it is not necessarily a good idea to climb a ladder for a closer inspection or try and rectify the problem yourself. When work at height is involved it is always best to get the specialists in so you can avoid injury. Remember doing maintenance and improvement work yourself can actually be a false economy anyway as work which is completed to a poor standard can actually reduce the value of your home.”

Next, have a look at the guttering for damage and check for any sign of moss or algae which is a sign that water is leaking from the guttering. Clear away any blockages, leaves and debris that may have accumulated in the guttering. A simple test to check your guttering is working is to pour a jug of water down and make sure there are no blockages but be careful as you will have to use a ladder to do this. Replace damaged or rusted cast-iron guttering with a modern alternative.

Check your paintwork for signs of cracking, as rain and frost can get into the wood work and cause rot. Also check that windows and doors fit properly and that no drafts can get through. Draft proofing your home could save you around £80 a year according to the Energy Saving Trust. As well as wood work on windowsills and door frames you should also have a look at the exterior paint work – if your home is painted. Repainting the exterior may be a job for a builder as it might require scaffolding and it’s important to get a good finish.

Check paths and patios for any damage or algae. You can buy various products at a local garden centre to remove algae or moss. Using a pressure washer can also clear dirt from a patio but be careful that you do not do this when the weather starts to turn frosty, as the patio could ice over and cause an accident. You should also be careful not to have stagnant water sitting on the patio as this is a main cause of algae and moss.

After your last BBQ of the summer make sure you give the BBQ and garden furniture a good clean and store it away from the harsh weather in a shed or garage.

As the evenings begin to get darker make sure you have a welcoming light to guide you to your front door. If you don’t already have any external light ask a local electrician to fit one for you. If you already have one make sure it is in good working order.

You probably haven’t been using your boiler very much over the warmer summer months but no doubt you will need to start using it again soon, so now is the perfect time to get your boiler serviced. You should have your boiler serviced once a year to ensure it is working efficiently and that it is not dangerous. If you have a gas boiler it should only be serviced by a qualified engineer who is registered with the Gas Safe Register.

You can probably do most of these seasonal jobs yourself but if you do need help make sure you always carefully choose your builder.

Below are the FMB’s tips for choosing a builder:

1. Be specific and prepare a detailed brief. Be as clear as you can about what you want, as this can make a huge difference to quotes.

2. Ask friends, family and neighbours if they can recommend a builder they have recently used. Alternatively check the find a builder website ( And don’t be afraid to ask for references or to speak to previous clients.

3. Get at least three quotes. When you are ready to decide, don’t just go with the cheapest, consider communication and quality too.

4. Use a contract. You can download free contracts on the FMB website (

5. Never pay the full cost of the project up front. Agree a payment plan. Using a credit card to pay can offer you more protection

Source: FMB

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

How to Choose the Right Shower

Hot water for showering is provided either by a stored hot water system or by an instantaneous heater of some description that heats the water on demand.


Electric showers are the easiest showers to install in terms of compatibility with existing water heating systems and locations throughout the home. They draw water direct from the mains water supply and heat it as it is used for showering. It can be used in most domestic showering applications e.g. over the bath, shower cubicles, shower rooms etc.


  • Provides a shower that is independent of the main hot water heating system in the house, thus reducing the risk associated with breakdowns.
  • Can be installed in almost any home throughout the UK new & old.
  • Instantaneous shower; it can be used at any time of the day.

  • Requires electrical wiring from the shower unit to the main fuse box.
  • Flow rate tends to be lower than showers that use the homes main water heating system, and it will vary between summer when the incoming water is warm, and the winter when the flow rate will reduce because the incoming water is significantly colder..
  • Cost wise, the installation costs may be higher than showers that use the homes main water heating system due to the need for plumbing and electrical work.
Higher kilowatt output showers have gone a long to help overcome some of the disadvantages of poor flow; (10 kilowatt showers are the equivalent of over 3 emersion heaters or 10 x 1 kilowatt bars on an electric fire) but to some an electric appliance fitted in the bathroom is perceived as a safety risk. This is not the case, providing it is properly installed, by a trained professional who knows what he is doing. Electrical appliances are often associated with water for example the kettle, washing machine or the electric cooker, which needs frequent washing.


Showers that are fed from a domestic heating system that feeds hot water to the taps instantaneously on demand.

Combination boilers have become increasingly popular over the last 10-15 years as the number of one and two person homes as increased dramatically.

The combination boiler takes the practicality of an instantaneous 'Multipoint' water heater and combines it with a traditional boiler, hence the name 'combination' boiler. The great advantage is that you only use the water that you need.

You can establish whether you have an instantaneous boiler by the lack of any storage water cylinders. A simple test is to turn the central heating off, so that the boiler is not running; then turn a hot water tap on, the boiler should fire to supply water to the tap.

A combination boiler will switch all its heat output to water heating when demanded. This means that you will have a boiler capable of heating your whole house feeding your mixer shower.

Therefore if you have this type of water heating system you will need a shower that blends or mixes the hot and cold water to a safe showering temperature that can be maintained. Mixer showers that are compatible with instantaneous boilers will have a higher flow rate than electric showers, and are generally easier to install because there are no electrical connections.


  • High flow rates, similar to a powered shower because these showers are mains fed and designed for pressurised water systems.
  • Easy to install, no problems with system design, location or compatibility with your existing water system, providing you have an instantaneous boiler that has been installed correctly.
  • Instantaneous shower only heats the water when you need it.

  • If your boiler breaks down you have no hot water for your taps or showering.
  • Combination boilers start to heat water when a tap or shower is turned on. The length of pipe from the boiler to the shower determines the time taken for hot water to reach the shower, and it is often the case that large volumes of water need to be drawn off, before water of the correct temperature is achieved, this can be costly and frustrating. Good system design and installation helps to overcome this problem in most cases.

Showers that are fed from a stored hot water system, that can only feed hot water to the taps if the water has been pre heated in the cylinder.

Imagine a set of taps with a temporary, rubber, hand-shower attachment. The idea is very simple, you pre heat the water in your cylinder then turn the hot and cold taps to blend the water to achieve a comfortable showering or rinsing temperature. Mixer showers work on the same principal they are easy to install as they do not need any electrical connections, and work by blending hot and cold water together. They are ideal if you have an abundant supply of stored hot water.

When selecting a mixer shower for use on a gravity system, the most important thing to consider is the flow rate that is achievable from the shower rose. Unless you have water pressure of at least 0.5 bar, which is equivalent to a gap of five meters between the bottom of the cold water storage tank and the shower rose you will need to select a 'Low Pressure' shower valve, capable of supplying a satisfactory shower at water pressures as low as 0.1 bar, (which is approximately one meter difference).

You will be able to get a rough idea simply by observing the flow rate of water that you receive from the bath taps. Remember that you will be mixing hot and cold water but if it appears slow then the chances are that the showers performance will be disappointing.

The solution is to fit a shower pump that pushes the water to your shower mixer thus creating an invigorating powerful showering experience.

If you opt for the pumped solution you must ensure that you have plenty of hot water storage capacity, for pumped showers can deliver anything between 11 - 25 Litres of blended water per minute, and this will drain the average sized cylinder very quickly.

You will have an idea of the amount of hot water that you have available by looking at the physical size of your cylinder and monitoring your everyday usage. For example the depth of hot water that you are able to achieve when running a bath before the hot water runs out. If you do not have large volumes of stored water, do not use a pump unless you alter the system to cope with it. Alternatively fit an electric shower.


Monday, 8 August 2011

Laying a Patio - 5 Easy Steps

Decided an outdoor dining area is your next project? Laying a patio in your garden will create a smart look that's easy to care for - but you’ll need some muscle to get the job done.

  • spade
  • wheelbarrow
  • wooden pegs
  • string
  • hardcore
  • spirit level
  • levelling board or vibrating plate
  • paving slabs
  • building sand and cement, or ready-made mortar mix
  • lump hammer
  • pointing trowel
1. Mark out the position of your patio using pegs and strings. It’s easiest to adjust the size of the patio so that you don’t have to cut any of the slabs. Dig out to a depth of 15cm unless your patio is against the house in which case you’ll need to go an extra 15cm below the level of the damp-proof course.

2. Lay a 10cm layer of hardcore using wooden pegs as a depth marker. If your patio is against your house it will need to be angled slightly so that water runs away from the building. Use the pegs and a spirit level to guide you in creating this slight slope. Compact the hardcore using a board or a vibrating plate.

3. Lay the slabs down to check you’re happy with the arrangement. Start from the house or a wall or fence if there is one.

4. Make a mortar mix from five parts building sand to one part cement; or use ready-made mortar mix and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Create a bed of mortar 5 to 8cm deep and lay slabs on it; leaving 1cm gaps in between for grouting. Tap down the slabs with a lump hammer. Check with a spirit level as you go to ensure the slabs are level or maintaining the fall away from the house. Leave the mortar to set for at least 24 hours or a few days.

5. Fill in the spaces between the slabs with a mix of three parts building sand to one part cement (or your ready-made mix) using a pointing trowel. If you get any of the mix on the slabs; remove it. Allow to dry for a few days.


Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Protect your home from fire

Every home contains potential sources of fire – such as cookers, electrical equipment or candles – so it makes sense to be fire aware, to fit smoke alarms and to keep fire-fighting equipment to hand.


Fumes produced by smouldering fire can kill you without you even waking up. This is where smoke alarms offer vital protection, giving early warning of trouble. They are very reasonably priced, but remember to check that your device carries the British Standard kitemark.

The more alarms you have around your home, the safer you will be. If you live on one level, fit a smoke alarm in the hallway between the living and sleeping areas, ideally on the ceiling, at least 300mm away from a wall or light fitting. On a wall the alarm must be 150mm–300mm below the ceiling. It is pointless installing an alarm in a kitchen or bathroom, as steam will set it off. If your house has more than one storey, fit one alarm at the bottom of the staircase and an alarm on each landing. There are two types of smoke alarm:

1. An ionisation alarm is very sensitive to particles of smoke from a fast raging fire.

2. Photoelectric alarms are good for detecting the large quantities of smoke given off by smouldering fires.

Most of the smoke alarms are battery powered, so it’s important to check the batteries regularly. Better still, choose an alarm with a 10- year lithium battery. You can also buy mains-powered smoke alarms that are wired permanently to the electricity supply. When installing an
alarm always read the instructions thoroughly.


Fire extinguishers over 1kg should comply with either the new European Standard BS EN3 or the old BS 5423. To meet the new standard, extinguishers have all-red bodies with a band of colour to indicate the extinguishers contents. You should make yourself aware of the different colours used for the different types of fire.

Water extinguishers (red body) - Ideal for freely burning materials, such as paper, cloth and wood. Some contain water plus a special fire inhibitor that prevents materials burning. These
extinguishers are not suitable for flammable liquids or fires involving electrical appliances.

Foam extinguishers (red body with yellow band) - Multi-purpose foam extinguishers are suitable for fires involving freely burning materials such as paper, cloth and wood, plus most flammable liquids.

Powder extinguishers (red body with blue band) - Suitable for flammable liquids and electrical apparatus and most freely burning materials. But remember that powder smothers rather than cools the flames, so a fire may re-ignite.

Carbon dioxide extinguishers (red body with black band) - For fires involving flammable liquids or electrical equipment like computers, photocopiers or generators. Not to be used in confined spaces where fumes could be inhaled.


A fire blanket is the simplest and safest way to extinguish a cooking-oil fire. Turn off the heat source, hold the blanket so that your hands are protected behind it, then drape it over the pan.
Flames will be smothered immediately, but you mustn’t remove the blanket for at least 30 minutes to allow the heat to decrease. Never pick up a blazing pan and run outside with it; flames blowing back could make you drop the pan and you could get burned.

Most modern fire blankets are made of woven glass; some are coated to ensure oils and fats can’t penetrate. If someone’s clothes are on fire, wrap a fire blanket around them to smother the flames.


For peace of mind, consider keeping compact escape ladders in your upstairs bedrooms. These
can be stored in a roll that fits under the average bed. Escape ladders are lightweight but strong, flame-resistant, and easy to use.


Thursday, 21 July 2011

Want to sell your home? Prepare it!

If you’re getting ready to move out or let prospective home buyers snoop through your home, you should check and fix, if necessary, the following common problem areas. These are the items that are mainly found by home inspectors and cause the most issues with repair requests. Getting them done now will save you money and stress later.

  • Repair leaky faucets, sinks, dishwashers.
  • If you see any sign of wall mildew or dampness, check for broken pipes inside the walls.
  • Replace rusted, leaky garbage disposals.
  • Replace significantly cracked floor tiles.
  • Tack down loose carpeting or restretch and reattach wall-to-wall carpets.
  • Repair holes in walls (from doorknobs) and other damage.
  • Repair split door jams.
  • Test and ensure that all indoor and outdoor light fixtures and wall outlets work properly.
  • Remove or bring to code any rigged garage, workshop, attic or basement wiring.
  • Remove soap scum, mildew and stains from bathrooms and kitchens.
  • Empty and clean all cabinets.


  • Check fireplace gas valves and dampers to ensure proper operation.
  • Repair cracks to fire box and outside chimney.
  • Install chimney-top spark arrester.

  • Repair loose railings, steps and outdoor carpeting.
  • Bring exterior lighting to code or remove.
  • Replace cracked window panes and window caulking.
  • Replace torn screens.
  • Make sure all windows open and close properly and smoothly.
  • Repair wobbly fencing and replace rotting wood.
  • Repair sticky gates and broken latches.
  • Replace broken sprinkler heads and repair leaks.
  • Check that garage doors hang properly and that door openers work.
  • Install missing gutters and downspouts.
  • Clean any debris and get rid of any junk.


  • Repair pool/spa leaks and cracks, plus cracks in coping.
  • Check operation of heater, pump, filter and underwater lights.
  • Repair clogged spa jets.


  • Trim back tree limbs from house or eaves.
  • Cut back ivy and other vegetation from wood-paneled exteriors.
  • Weed and edge all beds. Freshen mulch if needed.
  • Clean any debris.
With these minor repairs, your home should sell faster, for more money, and with less issues to be addressed between contract and closing!


Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Interior Design: 5 Useful Books

Old House New Home by Ros Byam Shaw

How do you show off the best features of a home built for another age, while adapting it for modern living? In "Old House New Home", Ros Byam Shaw looks at the many different ways we can furnish and arrange an old building to suit today's needs, whether it is a terraced townhouse or a converted factory. Exploring properties as diverse as a small Victorian townhouse and a former country dairy, she reveals how the design of each home has been reinvented for the 21st century. This book is divided into a series of key styles: 'Period Piece', 'Urban Chic', 'Rustic', 'Recycled Spaces' and 'Country House'.

Choosing Colours by Kevin McCloud

Choosing the right colour for your home can be fraught with difficulties, and with literally thousands of shades of paint available in DIY stores the choice can be overwhelming. With this book, Kevin McCloud has taken the hard work out of home decorating by researching, selecting and combining over 750 colours into more than 60 tried-and-tested palettes that will transform your home. Stunningly well produced and printed in six colours for astonishing accuracy, each palette provides a blueprint for a decorative scheme that you can transfer to your own home confident in the knowledge that they have been sourced by a renowned authority on colour with a brilliant visual eye. Taken from a wide variety of sources - historical, regional and cultural - each palette is made up of a collection of 3-16 colour swatches and features a photograph demonstrating how the colours can be used in period or contemporary settings. With hints and tips on how best and in what situation to use each colour, the swatches are individually matched to a commercially available paint so that you effortlessly achieve each look.

Dream Homes: 100 Inspirational Interiors by Andreas von Einsiedel & Johanna Thornycroft

Everyone has an idea of their own dream home, whether it be a minimally furnished apartment overlooking a city skyline or an informal and colourful retreat in the sun. Whatever your dream, this bestselling book - now available in paperback for the first time - presents 100 inspirational interiors of all styles from around the globe, from New England to Mallorca and from Provence to South Africa. Alongside the work of many of the world's most talented interior designers are homes that have been imaginatively transformed by the vision and commitment of their owners.

The Lighting Bible: Ideas for Every Room in Your Home by Lucy Martin

How do you know what lighting to use to make the most of your interior? Should you use downlighting, uplighting, spots on the floor or the wall, or light the whole space? What light source should you choose, where should you put it and how can you control it? With more than 200 ideas for home decorators and interior designers, this practical guide shows how lighting can transform your home, increase the sense of space, provide practical lighting for working areas and bring warmth, ambience, highlights and drama. The book includes information on the technical aspects – lighting sources, strength, direction, angle, colour, control and so on – as well as on the design and look of lamp fittings, from desk lamps to chandeliers. A room-by-room directory looks at every kind of lighting requirement throughout a typical house – and the best solutions to use.

Thrifty Chic: Interior Style on a Shoestring by Liz Bauwens & Alexandra Campbell

When it comes to creating a home, "Thrifty Chic" shows you how to reuse and restore, revive and revamp, and recycle and reclaim, in order to create a stylish yet individual home without spending a small fortune. Room by room, the book explains how to give old furniture a new lease of life and how to bring a vintage charm to a room through an inspired use of fabrics and paints. There are ideas for window dressings as well as bed and table linens. There are projects for jazzing up old wooden furniture for both house and garden, and suggestions for pulling together mismatched items into cohesive schemes.The all-important finishing touches - display, china and ceramics, glassware, paintings and frames, fabrics and trims - are covered in detail, and you can learn how to create a variety of stylish accessories for your home. Get insider's tips on what to look for at antique markets and in charity shops, and how to care for and restore your bargain purchases. Whether you are creating your first home on a tight budget, or wanting to give your existing home a new look, "Thrifty Chic" contains a treasure trove of irresistible ideas.

All books are available at

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Drywall Alternatives

Daily, practically 24/7, we are encased in drywall, and we don't even know why. Here's why.

Drywall's name is appropriate. In years past, plaster and lath was the predominant building method. But the "dry-out time" for plaster was forever.

Plaster is applied on-site. A thick layer of plaster takes a long time to dry as opposed to something thin like multiple layers of paint.

Then the great idea--and it was a great idea--that plaster could be applied off-site, in a factory, and in a nice flat form and sized to four feet by eight or ten feet. In essence, that's what drywall is: factory-made plaster, shipped to the site ready-made.

But drywall has been around for decades, and it is not a perfect building material. Bump it and it breaks. Get it wet and it turns soppy. Mold loves to live in drywall's paper covering (though there are mold-resistant drywall materials now).

Drywall is a miserable stuff. Granted, the innovation of drywall and its influence from the 1950s and 1960s onward was a vast improvement over the former method of building interior walls, which was plaster and lath.

The plaster and lath method involves nailing up hundreds of parallel, horizontal slats of wood called lath and then trawling on wet plaster and squeezing it between the gaps between the lath so that it forms a bonding element called a key. After drying, the key keeps the finished plaster coat in place.

Yet drywall is still difficult to work with, and it is not entirely dry because it doe involve the application of joint compound, followed by sanding of the dried compound. Because it creates clouds of fine dust, drywall sanding is one of the most dreaded jobs of all in home remodeling.

And that is just the installation aspect of drywall. Once it has been installed, drywall is very fragile and easily damaged; it is heavy; moisture can easily ruin it; it can develop mold and mildew; and as anyone who has ever tried to hang a picture on drywall knows, it's devilishly difficult to attach items without the use of special wall anchors.

Because of these reasons, many people are interested in finding alternatives to drywall. Below I have listed some drywall alternatives. But the fact remains that drywall is still--for all its strengths and evils--the best and often only material available for closing up interior walls. These drywall alternatives listed are to be used at your own discretion: building codes vary from place to place, and usually do dictate the usage of some type of gypsum board (drywall) due to the material's ability to retard fire.


N-Wall comes from National Wall Systems, Inc., and is styled and advertised expressly by the company as a green and alternative material. It is 3.5" inches thick (so it is comparably sized to regular walls), made of fiberboard, framed in metal, and each panel is movable and interchangeable. N-Wall system wall panels reach from the floor to the ceiling and will accept electrical service and window punch outs.


Veneer plaster is like the love child of drywall and plaster. It combines the strengths of each of those two materials. With regular lath and plaster construction, a monolithic (i.e., one solid layer) of plaster is applied to the wood lath strips. One problem with this is that this thick coat of plaster takes a long time to dry out. But with veneer plaster, half-inch gypsum drywall is applied to the studs and then a thin, veneer coat of plaster is applied to the entire surface of the drywall. One marked advantage is that plaster has a greater strength rating than drywall, so it is more resistant to the everyday knocks and scrapes that walls may encounter.


OSB stands for oriented strand board and is used mainly as exterior wall sheathing or as floor underlayment. If you are dealing with a nonresidential structure, OSB may work well as an interior wall covering. While it is not fire rated, OSB, particularly half-inch or thicker, provides a solid interior wall covering for structures like sheds and workshops--places where walls will get scuffed and bumped quite often. OSB can be painted but the "dazzle" pattern of the stranded wood underneath usually will show underneath paint layers. Note, too, that OSB often has a waxy surface which makes it difficult for the paint to adhere.

Half-inch plywood will provide a similar wall covering, the main difference being that plywood is easier to paint (but still will show wood grain) and is easier to handle than OSB as it is slightly lighter.


"Plaster and lath" is not only the two words plaster and lath, but combined defines a method of finishing interior walls that rarely is used anymore except to repair existing plaster and lath walls. Precedes the use of drywall as a means of covering up studs on the interior of a house.

First, a substrate in the form of a grid of lath is nailed perpendicular to the open house studs roughly a finger-width apart from each other. Then a thick layer of wet plaster is hand-troweled onto the lath and allowed to dry, before finish surfaces such as paint or wallpaper are applied.

Although few houses are built from scratch with the lath and plaster technique, countless houses remain with this type of building material. Homeowners can repair plaster walls by themselves quite easily. Also, companies which specialize in finishing drywall may be able to repair plaster walls, as well. Of course, urban areas that have a large quantity of older houses may have tradesmen who specialize only in plaster application and repairs.

Source: Lee Wallender at

Friday, 17 June 2011

Interior Paint Colours - Choose the best one for your home


Red is the color of passion, action, danger and desire.

In the home red rouses appetites in dining rooms and to seduce in bedrooms; adds warmth, to unloved areas like hallways and stairways; stimulates activity in kitchens; avoid stress-inducing red in offices.

In style red is sexy in a 'Moulin rouge' style boudoir (think velvet drapes and black lace); sleek, chic and contemporary in an oriental-style living room; classic, in darker shades in a formal, Empire-look dining room.


Orange has a sense of humour. It laughs out loud. Frank Sinatra once said: 'Orange is the happiest colour'. He was right.

In the home orange stimulates. Like red, orange inspires activity, so use a dash in your office.
Adds va-va-voom. Breathe life into sombre north-facing rooms and dark stairwells.Energises; use tangy oranges for children's playrooms - they'll love you for it.

In style orange is earthy and vibrant in an African-style living room (think big pots and wood stool ); retro, in a 70s-style living room with low-level brown leather sofas; exotic,with turquoise and hot pink in a Mexican-style look.


Go for gold. After all you rule your own castle.You don't need to be rich to indulge yourself with gold.

In the home gold indulges; bathe in gold's vibrant, warm rays in your hot tub. Lightens and brightens; gold adds warmth to dark north-facing rooms. Looks luxurious; give your living room a movie star allure with gold gloss.

In style gold is decadent; turn your home into a castle with golds, deep violets and rich reds. Summery; imagine the sun on ripe barley and team gold with soft blues and fresh whites. Ageless; gold is always in fashion, but for contemporary looks combine gold with cool neutrals.


Sunny, bright yellow uplifts us. It inspires confidence and ideas. Yellow is the first colour to be seen by newborns. It brings light and life.

In the home yellow lightens sunless, north-facing rooms and creates a feeling of space in small rooms. Energises; pale yellow works as a morning pick-me-up in bathrooms. Welcomes; bring a beaming yellow into kitchens and living rooms.

In style yellow is bright and breezy in a sunflower-and-blue French country kitchen look; stylish and chic in a retro 50s-style kitchen with vintage accessories; classic with white ceilings in an Edwardian-style living room.


Give green the green light. It heals, nurtures and comforts. Green, abundant in nature, is the colour of health, growth and good judgement.

In the home green restores body and mind in bathrooms with jade and mint shades. Reflects; in home offices, warmer shades encourage good decision making. Is refreshing; a crisp, apple green with white looks uplifting in kitchens.

In style green is naturally chic in olive or shades with woods and dark leathers
in living rooms. Timeless with apricots and tans in Art Deco-style bedrooms. Zen-like in its softer shades; think Japanese (cane furniture, grasses, celadon pots).


Dive in to blue. It's a colour that cools, calms and soothes. Blue is the world's favourite colour. It lets us relax and reflect.

In the home blue creates calm in bedrooms by stilling the mind, particularly in its softer tints. Stimulates ideas in stronger shades in home offices or studies. Revives body and mind in bathrooms; choose fresh blues like aqua and turquoise.

In style blue is refreshing in a Moroccan blue-white bathroom scheme. Laid-back and chic with chocolate leather sofas and dark woods in a living room. Timeless (think Wedgwood pottery, Delft tiles) in a Georgian-style kitchen.


Violet is connected with the spirit. It is creative and inspirational. Violet is a deeply spiritual colour, but it's also associated with royalty and riches.

In the home violet relaxes. Violet encourages meditation and repose in bathrooms. Is glamorous; plum shades with silver in a living room look indulgent. Inspires; as violet encourages creativity, use it on studio walls.

In style violet is opulent; conjure up an 'Arabian Nights' look with gold and violet cushions.
Luxurious; mix lighter shades with chocolate brown for a modern, comfortable style. Tranquil; go for the urban loft look with light shades and designer furnishings.


Neutrals are easy-going. These colours go anywhere anytime. Neutrals are the perfect canvas for all the things you love to live with.

In the home neutrals help you unwind. Neutrals help you put your feet up in living rooms; are peaceful; in bedrooms, these serene hues help induce sleep. Calm; in bathrooms or studies
these quiet colours allow your thoughts to roam.

In style neutrals is good for natural looks; think modern rustic (mix with leather, wicker, hemp).
Minimalist; for a clean-lined look that's not too cold, neutrals are perfect. Ageless; neutrals go with everything so these colours can form the basis to many styles.


Thursday, 2 June 2011

DIY Plastering - Tools

If you find yourself involved in a home improvement project such as hanging drywall, painting or wallpapering, having the proper plastering tools are essential. Fortunately, all of these items are available at your local hardware or home improvement store.


A trowel is an important plastering tool that allows you to smooth the plaster after applying it to the wall. This tool is used to flatten the plaster down over the area intended for plastering. It’s important to have a good, clean surface on the trowel to provide for a uniform finish.


A hawk is used by the professionals to carry the plaster with them as they move down the wall. An advantage of this, over carrying plaster in a pan or working from the bucket directly, is the amount of drywall compound that that can be picked up by the trowel in each “scooping” action. As plaster sticks to the hawk after a few seconds the hawk can be tipped up at a 90 degree angle whilst scooping plaster off with the trowel.


A mud pan can be used instead of a hawk for the less experienced plasterer. While it can be more wasteful, time consuming and laborious scooping plaster material out of the pan, it is harder to spill material onto the floor with the pan than with a hawk.


A utility knife or scissors will help cut plaster tape to size. The utility knife is employed to square out the edge of the hole to be plastered over if repairing damaged walls. Straight edged holes are easier to smooth over for an even surface.


A wet sponge is used to smooth out unevenness that may occur after plastering the wall.
Coarse grit sandpaper is used quickly to smooth out large areas of rough unevenness, and then the finer grit is used to finish up the area.


A jointing knife is essential for defining a straight line and edging into tight spaces such as corners and those areas that are tight, such as between a window near the wall and the wall that is perpendicular to it. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes as needed. Angled jointing knives help reach hard to reach angles.


A step ladder is an invaluable tool for reaching the holes in the walls at the higher areas. Try to get a ladder which includes a pan shelf at the top. You can carry the materials and tools you are using in the pan to reduce fatigue and time spent going up and down the ladder.


Never discount the importance of a couple buckets of clear, fresh water for keeping tools clean and for wetting the sponge during the project.

By having the right plastering tools for the job, your next home improvement project will go off without a hitch.