Category Archives: News

Sunken bath?

Baths have a very common problem:
When full of water and person, the weight is very substantial and this often causes the bath to settle slightly over time which in turn causes the sealant around the edge (where the bath meets the wall) to be stretched slightly and fail.
The common way to address this is to fill the bath before the edges are sealed (or resealed), and leaving the bath full until the sealant has fully cured (often 12 – 24 hours).
However, this is not really getting to the root of the problem.
Suspended floors on the first floor of many houses are commonly timber construction and over time this can ‘sag’ leading to the floor to slightly resemble an old trampoline.
This will be evident in two ways:
Firstly, a gap will often open up between the skirting board and the floorboards of maybe 5 to 10mm
Secondly, items placed around the perimeter of the room, such as wardrobes, will show up the floor’s sagging by leaning away from the wall towards the top.
This is why wardrobes and such need fixing to the wall at the top and/or propping with small wedges or blocks under the front edge.
So given this tendency for a floor to sag, it is hardly surprising for a heavy bath to pull away from the wall leaving a gap around the tiles or wall at the bath lip that is similar to the gap that occurs between a floor and the skirting boards.
While this gap can often be closed subsequently by removing the bath panel and ‘jacking-up’ the bath by adjusting the threaded feet that support the bath, it is still not the best solution in my opinion.
Whenever I fit a bath, I fix a wooden batten (using 2″ x 1″ PSE timber) to the wall around the wall edges at the exact height required for the bath panel to marry up.
Because this effectively supports the bath lip at the wall, it remains immune to any problems of the floor and a gap never opens up regardless of the bath being full or empty.


Piss Poor

This is literally a piss poor design of toilet in a very posh Canadian hotel in Banff.
It must surely be a ‘woman only’ toilet because when a typical man (me) contemplates the paper (if you know what I mean) a certain appendage dangles into the water.
I can only assume the high water level is designed to diminish any unpleasant splash back from big jobbies but the design leaves much to be desired from a male perspectiveIMG_0461.

International Rescue in a Flap

A regular client of mine phoned with a problem.
She explained she had soot appearing in a disused fireplace and thought there might be a bird stuck in the chimney.
I said I was no expert to initiate a rescue but would pop round to try.
I had a cunning plan which I thought might work. Using my sweeps brush I would carefully push up the chimney to the stranded bird (which I was sure was a pigeon). The bird would be magically elevated to the top of the chimney like he was standing on top of a lift in a shaft where he could just fly away.
A marvellous plan except the chimney was not as I’d expected. Two chimneys from two rooms came up like an inverted Y,  joined and then carried on vertically to the roof.
The stupid pigeon was right at the join.
If only he knew it, coming down the chimney into either fireplace would be easy but bird’s instinct said ‘go up’
If my plan was to work the brush had to approach the pigeon from an angle. He could then alight, the brush would then change angle and continue to the chimney pot whereupon a slightly sooty pigeon would fly off happily.
But there was a plan B. The brush might approach the pigeon from the side and dislodge him down the other side of the inverted Y into the other fire place.
Confident one or other plan would succeed I loaded the brush.
My client was terrified at the prospect of a sooty bird flying about in either room and asked if she could leave.
I said fine and she left saying she would be very glad to finally have the thing out of the chimney.
I said: ‘Hang on a minute what do you mean finally?’
She said that she thought the bird had been in there about four days and promptly left.
I was now thinking this poor pigeon is probably at death’s door from near starvation and the last thing he needs is to have a big black brush coming at him.
Anyway I decided to press on and pushing slowly so as not to startle the poor bird there was suddenly a great amount of flapping noise.
Plan A was not working so I hoped the bird might find an exit into the other fireplace was a good outcome. But the brush had other ideas and it kept jamming wanting to go neither up the chimney nor across. All the time there was this sort of tragic flapping.
I decided this was really not working and withdrew my brush with a fair bit of soot. I found my client and said the only hope would be with the RSPCA or someone like that but I figured they would have to break into the chimney from outside and then brick-up the holes they’d made afterwards. This was assuming the poor pigeon after his recent scare from my brush would even last long enough to be rescued.
Anyway I left my client without charging her to ponder what to do.
Evidently she chose to do nothing because she called my three days later to say the the pigeon had popped his clogs and fallen into the fireplace of the front room.


Having recently been to Burma (Myanmar) I was surprised by the plug sockets there which occasionally dished out electricity in between power cuts.
There is no standard and you will usually find a mix of sockets even within a single room to cope with whatever plug you have. 

Better still they have sockets like this (I just had to buy one which cost me 70p) and it will accept just about any plug at all although I’m not sure it would cope well with a US appliance rated for only 110v.
But I guess if it fries your hair dryer then that’s your problem.


Slightly embarrassing

In all my years I have never had an isolating ball valve fail — you just turn the little widget with a screwdriver and if the slot is across the flow then it’s off and in-line with the flow then it’s on.
The one shown below went to an electric shower which needed replacing. But as you can see after I dutifully turned it off it actually sheared inside (probably due to limescale build-up) so when I uncoupled the shower quite a lot of water spurted out. You live and learn.
photo 1-1photo 2

Not fit for purpose?

Dulux Paint mixing is a great idea in principle because almost every shade imaginable can be created to order by taking a base paint and adding pigments. A bit of shaking and hey-presto a whole tin of paint to your exact requirements.
In practice though the system is badly flawed.
With regular painting work, I always insist my clients buy a good brand of paint but after the latest escapade I shall also insist they do NOT buy mixed-to-order paint but instead buy a stock colour.
Here’s why:
1) If the paint has stood any length of time or maybe the can inverted (even briefly) the virgin tin is likely to have formed a skin in places (possibly against the lid as in the last picture below) and this will not mix staying gloopy and white.
2) The pigments added should be thoroughly liquid but in reality often contain lumpier bits that do not mix and are then introduced onto the painted surface.
3) A full tin has no room for the liquid paint to slosh about when skaken which hampers adequate mixing.
4) The method is too imprecise to render two tins mixed to the same colour to be exactly the same so unwise on large jobs needing more than one tin.
In fact, I have christened this paint system NTSC (like the USA’s colour TV system) and it stands for ‘Never The Same Colour.’
Shown below are some pictures from a recent job which illustrates perfectly the short-comings. It was a nightmare to produce a good finish because every tray full of paint was a very slightly different colour no matter how hard I tried to mix it and undissolved grains of three different pigments (black, pink and ochre) were constantly appearing.
However, apart from boycotting mixed paints altogether here are some other options:
1) Only use in establishments for the blind or visually impaired.
2) Use only for painting out dungeons, caves or cellars.
3) Rename your decorating company ‘Mr Blobby does painting’

IMG_0557 IMG_0556 IMG_0555
Note: I am inviting Dulux to comment

Sell by, or at least quote the ‘backset’

A regular job for a handyman is dealing with doors. Almost every door in the world has a latch to keep it closed or maybe a lock in addition to the latch.
Basically in the UK there are two sizes of the important dimension—this being the distance from the side-facing plate on the latch to the centre of the handle spindle (and/or keyhole). Since this is what you can see and easily measure before you take out the worn latch to be replaced, it would be very useful if this was the measurement always quoted …but far from it.
This measurement is known as the ‘backset’ and it used to be 1—3/4 inches or 2—1/4 inches in old money. These days it is usually either 44mm or 57mm (the metric equivalent).
However, look at a trade site or DIY outlet and they will say the overall measure (often 63mm or 76mm) which is effectively the depth of the hole required to accommodate the lock or latch. This is relatively unimportant since who cares how deep the latch goes into the door so long as the spindle hole or key hole line up with the handle?
And even the backset is commonly quoted as 46mm or 56mm instead of 44 and 57 like a millimetre or two wouldn’t make a difference.
So come on lockmakers, Willenhall (West Midlands) was the epicentre of lock making worldwide at one time surely we Brits can standardise to stop confusing everyone.

What’s to like about lofts?

Working in a loft isn’t the best of fun because:
There are roasting hot in summer and freezing cold in winter.
There are invariably dark or very badly lit.
They are invariably cramped with woodwork (rafters, purlins, etc) or TV aerials to bang your head on.
Older ones are invariably dirty from years of accumulated dust from eroded torching.
They are tedious to get around with cables or pipes to trip on, joists to have to balance on and other dangers hidden beneath the layers of insulation.
If you have to do anything up there will always be loads of people’s junk and clutter to have to move.
You can often find you are sharing the confined space (even in winter) with a errant wasp or two.

Mr Sandman

Some wallpapers, especially shiny ones like this Laura Ashley design, will show up every tiny imperfection in a wall:


and even when the wall is painstakingly prepared odd tiny grains or specs of debris about the size of a molecules seem to somehow become trapped. These can be flicked out at the time of paper hanging of course but if you miss one or two try this technique for smoothing them by gently tapping with a hammer kept flat to the wall:

LED GU10s might NOT always be energy saving.

How can this be since a typical GU10 would be around 3 or 4W compared with 35 or 50W for an equivalent tungsten bulb?
In answer, look at the design of the bulb (pictured below) and you will see that many have fluted sides which end with a circle of holes around the face of the bulb.
I can only imagine these are for cooling which seems strange because one important feature of these LED bulbs is that they do not get hot, in fact they scarcely even get warm.
But the down side of these flutes is they funnel cold air from the roof or floor void into the room below if these are fitted within downlights. In addition, they allow warm air to escape into the void which is unlikely to be lagged around the downlight since this WAS a precaution to stop the older tungsten bulbs from getting too hot and/or reducing the fire risk.
So be aware when you think you are saving energy you might have swapped to a low-wattage but draughty alternative.