Super-Fast Fixes for Common DIY Problems

13/05/2016 13:56

Annoyed by a dripping tap? Unsightly cracks in walls? Lukewarm radiators? Squeaky doors? There are tons of DIY jobs you can easily - and speedily - sort out yourself with a little know-how, saving you cash in the process. This guide steers you through just a few of the most common, irritating and easiest-to-fix DIY problems.

Fill hairline cracks - once and for all

Painted plaster walls are often plagued by hairline cracks. For a neat, long-term fix, use a filling knife to rake out the crack, get rid of any dust with small, dry brush, then apply ready-mixed filler with the end of the knife, drawing the blade across the crack's surface to pack it in. Clean off the knife's blade, draw it down the crack to remove excess filler and create a smooth(ish) finish, then allow it to dry. Sand the filler gently until it is flush with the wall before repainting.

Stop the drip, drip, dripping tap

Turn off the water at the stopcock and turn on the tap until the water stops. Put the plug into the plug hole, unscrew or remove the tap's cover (the bit with 'H' or 'C' on it), then undo the screw beneath it. Next, remove the head (depending on the tap you may also need to unscrew the metal shroud; use a cloth-wrapped wrench to expose the headgear nut). Undo the headgear nut with the adjustable spanner (if it's hard to budge, try some WD40 or brace the tap body with your hand or wrap it in a cloth then use a pipe wrench to hold it still). Take off the washer - if it's secured by a nut, you'll need to unscrew it. Fit the new one, grease the threads at the base of the tap, then reassemble.

The doors stick and squeak, and keys won't turn

First, tighten the hinge screws in both the doors and frames. Next, try replacing the central screw closest to where it is sticking with a three-inch one that can be driven right through the jamb into the wall framing. Still not quite perfect? Rub candle wax around the door's edges and see if this helps. Stiff locks might just need a little lubrication with WD40 or graphite powder (which is non-greasy). Both will work on fixing squeaky hinges, too - just spray on and move the door back and forwards to work them in.

Unblock a bunged-up sink

Block the overflow at the top with a cloth, then fill the sink with enough water to cover the suction cup of a plunger. Put the cup over the plug hole and pump it up and down quickly to dislodge the blockage. Once you're done, run the water. Still blocked? Put the plug in and place a bowl under the sink trap to catch the water. Unscrew the trap and clear out the blockage using hot soapy water. Rinse and replace.

Cut out draughty, rattling windows

Draught-proofing windows should also stop them rattling when the wind blows. Simply apply stick-on draught excluder to the gaps in clean frames (it shouldn't be on show). If that's not enough to stop the rattling, check whether lock mechanisms are misaligned and not closing tightly enough. Simply adjusting the lock's position on the frame - or replacing it with a new one if it's broken - should stop the window rattling.

Radiators cold at the top and warm at the bottom?

No need to call out a plumber - it's simply a case of bleeding them. First, turn off the heating, then insert a radiator key into the bleed valve (it's usually sticking out at the top of one side). Turn the key to open up the vent - you should start to hear the hiss of air escaping. Hold a cloth underneath the key to catch drips. Once water starts to flow out of the valve, tighten it back up and turn the heating on to check it's worked.

Stop water pouring out of gutters

It's likely your downpipes are bunged up with leaves. If you can't flush them out with a high-pressure hose, try hooking them out with an unwound coat hanger or use a pipe snake (try DIY stores), then flush again with the hose.

What not to do

Want a fabulous through room? Don't be fooled by TV makeover shows - knocking down walls is not just a simple case of taking a sledgehammer to them. First, you'll need to get a structural engineer or builder to specify a beam or lintel to take the weight of the rooms above, know how to support the beam/lintel correctly, apply for and secure building regs approval... and so on. In other words, leave it to a professional.

Need new plug sockets? Want to install more lighting points? Building regulations also apply to a vast amount of electrical work - and for good reason, dodgy electrics can be fatal. So, if you want our advice, don't do that much more than change a lightbulb.