DIY not? 5 super simple technical tasks that everyone can do
By Luke Rix-Standing. Published 2020-05-05
These quick fixes will ease you into home improvement one mini fist pump at a time.
There seems to be an unfortunate mismatch between our enthusiasm for DIY, and our ability to actually do it.
A 2013 survey ranked being good at DIY as the ‘sexiest attribute’ looked for in a man, ahead of sporting ability and cooking, while new figures from Swinton Insurance found that 58% of Britons proudly profess to perform their own home improvements.
Sadly, the same study found that 46% were not confident in their DIY abilities, while a whopping 39% confessed to causing a DIY disaster. Only 69% felt confident assembling flat-pack furniture, while 15% said they couldn’t even change a light bulb.
Clearly something needs to be done, so here are a few threshold tasks to help ease open the DIY floodgates. They say you shouldn’t run before you can walk, but these easy wins are the equivalent of a DIY crawl.
Bleeding a radiator
For a fledgling DIY-er dipping a toe into their toolbox for the very first time, this two-step task is as simple as can be.
Run your palm across your radiator – if it’s cool at the top but warm at the bottom that means there’s air in the system, and it’s in need of a bleed.
Turn off your central heating, and hold a rag beneath your bleed valve (on the side) to catch any excess moisture. Loosen with a radiator key, wait for the hissing to stop, and re-tighten. Don’t worry if some water comes out looking a bit grubby – that’s normal.
It’s as simple as that. Turn your heating back on and enjoy a well-earned cuppa in the knowledge of a job well done.
Unblocking the sink
We know, the on-your-back, under-the-sink pose is just perfect for your #DIYlife Instagram post, but there are several simpler methods to try first.
Chemical solutions can work wonders: While it should surprise no one that drain cleaner is often a go-to, cupboard contents like vinegar and baking soda can also help shift the load. For blockages that need a little elbow grease try a plunger, a dedicated blaster cup, or have a rootle around the U-bend with a stiff piece of wire.
If none of these prevail, it’s time to get down and dirty. Your U-bend (technically termed ‘the trap’) should be held in place by two nuts beneath the basin. Unscrew these – with a wrench if stiff – and remove the blockage manually, being sure not to empty the refuse into another sink.
Return the trap, tighten the nuts, and test your handiwork with the tap.
Having poorly grouted tiling is like having dirt under your fingernails – it’s easy to miss but pretty icky, fiddly to fix, and a little bit unhygienic. It’s eminently doable, but depending on the state of your toolbox, may require some new toys.
Grout is made mostly of cement so unwanted material can be tricky to dislodge. Ideally use a manual grout rake or electric grout remover to grind between the tiles, and give your newly grout-free surface a thorough wipe.
Now you’re ready to get grouting. Check that you’re using waterproof grout if working in the bathroom, and then coat a layer of grout onto all the relevant joints using a grout float or grout spreader.
Clean off any excess with a moist sponge, and remember to work steadily – most grout starts to harden in less than half an hour. Perfectionists may then use a grout finisher – a specialised tool with a circular end – to pare down the joins for a crisp, even finish.
Replacing a plug fuse
We reckon this task will split people into two groups. Group one will be thinking, ‘Who on Earth doesn’t know how to change a fuse’, while group two will be wondering, ‘What exactly is a fuse, and where does it go?’
Group two, you’re in luck, because fuse-changing is to electrics what radiator-bleeding is to plumbing. Most plugs will either be screw-on or sealed with a removable panel, so use a screwdriver to either unscrew the face or flick out the panel with the tip.
The cylindrical fuse should be obvious – lever it out, securely slot in a replacement, plug your device back into the mains, and hope that the fuse was indeed the problem.
One important point to note: Fuses come with different amperage, and using the wrong variety could be dangerous or cause the fuse to blow prematurely. Most – but not all – UK plugs will take a standard 3A or 13A.
Insulating your plumbing
OK, maybe not all your plumbing – anything that requires holes in walls should send you running for the phone book – but your heater and exposed pipework can be snugged up pretty simply.
The trick with this is not to overthink it – the foam insulation around boilers is built for home use and comes with detailed manufacturer’s instructions. Your main trip hazard is size – measure your unit carefully and seek advice from your chosen hardware store, ensuring the insulation is at least 75mm thick.
Pipework is similarly simple, but can become a tradesperson’s job if tucked away in hard-to-reach places.
In a cost-benefit analysis this is a high-value task. An insulated boiler will conserve heat more effectively, will use less energy to maintain required temperature, and will, therefore, save money. Most pipe insulation pays for itself within two years, and for the jacket it’s as little as a few months.