Saturday, 31 March 2012

Wax On, Wax Off Daniel-son.... or There's a Hole In My Wall, Dear Liza...

I now realize why I will never be a black belt in karate....  it's because I wouldn't be able to stand painting that much fence!  Or sanding that much wall....  My arms are killing me!!  The good part is that by the end of this, I'm gonna have guns like Hulk Hogan!

I have now finished the first round of sanding the walls.  Since the base coat I have seems to do a great job covering the bits of glue, I didn't spend a great deal of time on sanding.  Just how I like it, quick and dirty...

Since I got the final bits of sanding and wiping down finished pretty quickly, I started removing the old, crumbly plaster filler along the bottom of the wall, up the stairs.  

I took my trusty spatula/wallpaper scraper thingy and started digging out the loose stuff.  All was going pretty well until I found a pretty big crack at the top of the stairs.  Ok... no problem...  have to clear out the loose plaster filler before applying new stuff so here goes nothing!  I started digging.  The plaster was pretty spongy so I knew it wasn't going to be great and then.....


There's a big flipping hole in my wall!!

After that bit fell off, I was afraid to dig any further
but I did finish the rest without incident 


It's pretty simple to do really.  Just dig out the loose stuff, clean and fill with a quality plaster filler.  I used Polyfilla.  I would say, don't skimp here.  Get a good filler so you won't have problems later.

Polyfilla comes in powder form and in squeezy tube.  For jobs this size, get the powder.

How To Mix (or how not to mix):
This is how I do it.... the box will likely tell you something different.  If you follow my advice, I take no responsibility for your walls falling down.   If my walls fall down, that's just funny and I'll blog about it later.  If yours fall down, I'll feel bad and likely be sued or something. 

1.  Grab a bowl.   One you don't like.  Preferably one with a wide opening so you can get the scraper in there.

2.  If you use a plastic Hawaiian themed bowl from a patio set your partner bought.  Don't let him see it.   (to be fair, he only bought plates and bowls and there are 13 of each.... who needs 13 plastic bowls and plates??  I used one for the polyfilla and thus made the set a more logical number.  Just need to figure out how to destroy one of the plates)

3.  READ THE INSTRUCTIONS ON THE BOX.  Then just do it the easiest way possible. 

4.  The box will tell you the ratio is 2/1.  Two parts powder to one part water.  The box will also tell you it is better to add the powder to the water.  I added water to the powder....  it's possible and you get the same result,  it's just easier the other way.   PLEASE don't measure quantities.  Just eyeball it.  You'll be fine!  Trust me! 

5.  Mix until the gunk is absolutely smooth.   You need a nice stiff consistency... but not too stiff.  The stuff should be like butter cream icing.  It should not drip or run off the stir stick (or plastic fork in this case).  It should also not look crumbly when applied to the wall.  Keep adding powder or water until you get it right.  

This is actually too wet.  I added more powder after this picture but couldn't be bothered to take another one. 

LOOK!  It's the big F**King hole in my wall!!  FIXED!!

I am a genius, really.

Looking up the stairs.

looking down the stairs

After much experimenting,  I think I've gotten a handle on how to do this.  Since the holes were fairly deep, I had to get alot of Polyfilla in there.  The best way to do this is load up your spatula/scraper thing with loads of filler, hold it at a 45 degree angle to the wall and then push the gunk into the hole.  Keep doing this until you get a decent base in order to begin levelling it off.   Since you'll be doing this several times to fill the hole, make sure you pat and jiggle.  To get the air bubbles out, ya dirty minded suckers.

Then it's just a matter of finding the best direction to scrape in order to get the flattest surface.  Since the bottom of our wall here flares out a little, I found it best to scrape lightly upward to try and even it out.

It's a messy job so I recommend having a wet paper towel or old clean cloth handy to wipe away the excess gunk on the trim.  For god's sake people, don't let it dry before trying to clean the trim!

Another good tip,  use a wet fingertip to smooth the filler where it meets the trim.  Gives you a nice neat finish.

Leave to dry for 24 hours.

Next Step:  Light sanding


Saturday, 24 March 2012

Getting There.... Slowly.

I get bored easily...   so, on Thursday so I went to Homebase.  *giggle*  I love Homebase.

There was a thin justification for the trip to Homebase though! Honest!!

 I thought if I got this plaster base coat I had my eye on, I could test it out to see just how good it is at covering slight imperfections.... thereby, possibly reducing my sanding time and effort.... thereby getting my floor installed earlier... thereby getting the stairs done sooner... thereby getting to do fun stuff like picking a paint colour and buying accessories!


I purchased a product by Polyfilla called "Base Coat", which is supposed to cover thin cracks, stains and bold colours with one coat.  It costs a damn fortune but I must say, it is completely worth it!!  My only fail on this one was not having the right roller to apply this stuff, which you will see below.  If you are going to do this, make sure to get a roller with a short pile to get the smoothest possible finish.

Here's how to do it... 

1.  Make sure your wall is completely free of dust and debris from sanding.  Use a tack cloth or if you are like me and forgot to buy a tack cloth, a clean J cloth or similar and clean water should do the trick.

2.  Paint the edges and corners and around sticky out bits like wall sockets and radiator hangers with a small brush. 

3.  Roll.  For the best results, roll in a "V" pattern to make sure you get even coverage.

Normally I use painters tape (Frog tape in the UK - thank GAWD that finally arrived here!  I was getting tired of harassing my friends and family to bring it over for me!)  but meh,  this was only a test patch and I couldn't be @ssed. 

See?  In the above photo, the paint is a bit bubbly.  Normal paint would have dried flatter... this Polyfilla stuff doesn't.  But, you can't see where the patches of old wallpaper glue and tiny cracks are!  Fantastic!  I love this stuff! 

Bend It Like .... uh...

As promised here's the photo of the bent radiator pipe.

The interesting part is by the next day, the leaking had stopped?!  The only conclusion I could come up with is a while back, we had British Gas in to look at a leak in the rad upstairs.  It was in a difficult place and would have required us to replace the entire radiator.  Instead of doing that, the repair guy added this stuff to the boiler system to "seek and destroy" any small leaks.  Guess it's still working...

So we will see what happens when I try to put the radiator back on.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Happy Mother's Day

Not much to report today.  It's Mother's Day in the UK today so I slept in, watched some tv, had a cuddle with the munchkin (who was awake at 3am last night) and did a little sanding.  Dust everywhere again!  This is going to take some time.

We have pushed back the floor installation for another couple weeks just to make sure we have enough time to get the walls done to my standard.  (unfortunately my slight OCD means "my standard" is to have a wall surface like glass....  yes, doomed to disappointment... I know)

Radiator pipe is still leaking slightly but it's going to be fixed on Monday.  I love a heating/air con guy who works for beer.


Saturday, 17 March 2012

Plumbing Fail or I AM SHE-RA!

Today was radiator removal day.  I had been warned by Paul not to do it myself.... I think mainly because, like most regular people, things like plumbing and electrical are somewhat a mystery to us.  I guess that's why plumbers and electricians can get away with charging a fortune for their services.

Luckily (ha ha) for me, I have Google.  If some 16yr old in Ukraine can find out how to build a bomb or hack into NASA via Google, I'm pretty confident I can handle simple plumbing.   Can't be that hard, can it?

I did a little research beforehand.  Watched a radiator removal on YouTube and even sought instruction from a heating/air con guy I know.  (even spent two days with a radiator key in my pocket.... becoming one with the radiator.... ;o)

Things you need to remove a radiator.  Old rags or towels, wrench, radiator key, bucket and a small bowl.

Step 1:  turn off the thermostat valve (lefty loosey, righty tighty - thanks Catherine Willows from CSI!)  Or for people like me...  it's the valve on the same side as the bleed valve on the top of the rad.

Step 2:  loosen the large nut attached to the radiator and slide the bowl under the connection to catch the water.

Step 3:  open the bleed valve

Step 4:  let the rad drain as much as possible.

Step 5:  undo the other side in order to lift the rad off the wall.  And this is where it gets hairy...

Filled with confidence after getting this far, I took the wrench to the other nut and gave it a tug.  No movement.  Applied a little more force... nothing.  Although I did notice the pipe going into the other side was bending.  OH SH*T.   Then the paint flaked off....  D@MN IT!   Then the water started to drip....  @(*%_%£(&@!!&(!?

So I've bent the pipe and now it's leaking.  I am She-Ra!!  I can bend pipe dude!

Here's a general representation of the text I sent to my heating/air con friend.

"HELP!!!!!  Can you come over and help me please?"

Paul's gonna kill me.  Although he says he's not going to beat me first.

;-)  Pictures to follow.

Mother's Day in the UK tomorrow.  Am I the only one in the world who's looking forward to an entire day of uninterrupted DIY?  ... After the champagne breakfast in bed.

Night all!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Who's Idea Was This or More Dust Than a Windy Day in The Sahara

I got a little bored peeling wallpaper and haven't had a chance to get the radiator off the wall so began sanding the walls.

Who's idea was this? Oh right. Mine.


Besides the fact there is now plaster and old glue dust EVERYWHERE, I just now realize I'm going to have to warm up the wallpaper steamer again soon.  Can you say "doh!"  (extra fine glue-y dust mixed with ultra fine steam-y mist....)

My first realization though, was why the hell am I doing this whilst suffering with a medium sized hangover. I must have killed the one brain cell which would have warned me this was a bad idea.

Nonetheless, the show last night was worth the headache I have today.

So, lacking the aforementioned brain cell, I tied our piggy tea towel around my face and started sanding. A good friend (and pro plasterer) gave me some tips last night. First, use a fine grit sandpaper. Second, don't spend too long sanding or you'll lose feeling in your arm. Third..... I can't remember Probably not that important.

On the first tip, i thought he was a bit mental. Logically, wouldn't starting with a heavier grit make faster work? Then you could go over it with a finer grit after? After trying both, turns out my logic was a bit... wrong.

Second tip, absolutely true.

Still can't remember the third one.

Let's move on to the dust. There's lots of it. Absolute mountains of it. Halfway through sanding, it did occur to me that the round black thing sticking out the back of the sander was not just a nice convenient handle. I'm actually supposed to attach a vacuum to it.

Most who know me, know I usually don't do what I'm supposed to do and in this case, I was no different. However, after noticing I (and everything else in the room was covered in dust, I thought I'd give it a try.

You know, I dont like it. Would you believe I dont like it because there isn't enough dust! Makes me think I'm not making any progress whatsoever.

Anyway, here's what I learned today.

1. Don't sand plaster until you've finished stripping the wallpaper. Although I will be ok if I do a thorough clean before stripping again (that sounds bad!)

2. Fine grit sandpaper

3. If you hold the sander at a slight angle, it removes the glue residue more effectively

4. Don't press too hard and little movements get the gunk off better. Finish with long straight strokes to make the surface more even

Here's the progress.  Before and after sanding.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

List Of Things To Do

1.  Finish wallpaper stripping
2.  Sand walls to a fine finish
3.  Dig out the old caulking around the stairs, doors and windows
4.  Replace old caulking with new
5.  Find out how to cap a radiator for temporary removal

This is all before the floor goes in next week!

The stripping is going well.  For the most part, the paper is just falling off the wall.  I have most of the room down and almost all of the wall up the stairs.

I had slight fear that the dark spot at the top of the stairs was a patch of blown plaster which of course, would crumble and slide off the wall as soon as I applied pressure or heat to it.  

I got to the spot and did a little tap tap tap... holding firm....  applied the wallpaper steamer.... no walls sliding down the stairs.....  did some light scraping...  no groaning, cracking or crumbling.   Whew!   I guess the hollow sound was just a dead space behind the wall.

I just have a small bit of wallpaper still to come off around the kitchen door and some at the top of the wall where I can't reach.  I'm currently trying to come up with a list of really tall friends.

By the end of the afternoon, I was bored of wallpaper so I decided to pull up the carpet on the bottom step, just to see what was there.   Since I had to basically destroy the carpet to get underneath it, I kept on.  Removed the carpet, pulled up the underlay, pulled out all the staples, pulled out all the nails and sanded down the rough bits.   

Low and behold, lookee what I found!  

lovely hardwood stair treads!!

Guess I will be doing another blog on how to refinish harwood stairs!

Sunday, 11 March 2012



We have picked up the wallpaper steamer. I'm a bit skeptical but I'll give it a go anyway. Whenever my father started a wallpaper stripping job, we were all armed with spray bottles of some magic wallpaper stripping stuff..... might explain my strangeness.... (Then again, I was 7, it was probably just water but whatever it was, it didn't work very well and took forever!)

So with skepticism firmly in check, we set off to pick up the steamer from our friend's place.

On the way, we also stopped at Homebase for wood filler (for the holes in the door trim), plaster filler (for the inevitable cracks and gouges I'm likely to make worse) and LOTS of sandpaper. We didn't buy the masks mainly because they were seriously overpriced and tea towels do just as well. Besides, they're way funnier.

Here she is. The glorious wallpaper steamer. A kettle with a hose on it. When you get one of these, make sure you read the directions. I normally don't but Paul wouldn't let me plug it in until I did.

1. Prepare your walls by scoring the surface with diagonal lines going both ways to create a diamond pattern. Don't skip this step! (like I normally would) It helps the steam get in behind the paper to loosen the glue.
2. Fill up the water resevoir and replace hose.
3. Plug in
4. Wait 15 mins for the steam
5. Apply the steamer head to the wall and hold for 10-15 secs (of course you will have to reapply the steamer head to the same area a few times so the water soaks the paper fully)
6. Start scraping
7. Breathe in the scent of wet wallpaper glue deeply
8. Giggle manically
9. Be careful of boiling hot water dripping all over the place!!

Look what I did in just an hour!

Still giggling....

Ready, Steady... GO!

So it begins.  

Cleaned out and ready to go! 

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Majiggers and Dohickeys

So it's been a few days.  I've cleared out the hallway completely and it's ready to go.

Being that I am the world's most impatient person when a DIY task is at hand... I plugged in the handheld Mouse sander and got to work.   You know... just to see how well it worked.

I must say that when one's partner pops into the hardware store and buys one a power tool, I would say that's a good indication one has the green light to proceed.  no?  Nonetheless,  I did the old Hail Mary crossing my chest thing, tied a tea towel bandana style around my face and began sanding the stair railings. I started on the flat parts of the railing only to find the mouse doesn't fit between them.  ergh.   Then discovered that the sander did a little better job on the corners and sticky out bits than I liked.  grrrmph.  Then realized there's about 15 more of these rails to do.  ugh.

This is going to take a while.

I'm going to need more sandpaper.

Oh and we're getting the wallpaper steamer majigger thing tomorrow.  wheee!  We're on a timeline for the wallpaper removal so sanding will have to wait for later.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

The BEFORE shots


 What a state!

 The boxes don't normally live in the hallway but best to see the true "before" state.  (makes the final result look all the more impressive!)

DIY by Dummies is born.

Welcome to DIY by Dummies.   A blog to forever record our DIY wins, fails and hard learned lessons of DIY projects around our house.    (To be honest, it's going to be blogging by dummies too... should be fun! )

I've decided to start this blog to have a place to record the step-by-step progress of various home improvement projects we want to do.  Although I am more fearless when it comes to DIY, my problem is finishing touches so hopefully this blog will also force me to buy things like curtains and accessories to complete our projects.  It might also force me to be more organized and do things in the proper order.

Maybe not.

The first "DIY by Dummies" project....  our front hallway and staircase.