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Welcome to Our Handy Hints Section

With the help of Rusty and Sandy we have come up with 100 Handy Hints to help you maintain your Home. From installing garden lights, laying concrete, applying sealant, or even simply hanging a picture frame, here is where you'll find the tips to make the job easier.

 

 

Garden

Grafting Plants: Begin by placing the understock plant and the new top close together. Use a scalpel to cut a 2.5cm long strip of bark from both plants then tie the stems firmly together with budding tape. Remember to remove suckers below the graft before they take over the ornamental part of the tree.

Caring for Roses: Recently planted roses must be kept well watered for the first few months and probably through the first two summers. Roses need good, regular, deep watering, not occasional light sprinkling. Water is preferable in the morning to reduce the risk of fungal disease and flower damage.

Pruning Fruit Trees: Prune fruit trees so that their branches form a cup shape. This ensures that the centre is open and airy, and that sunlight can easily penetrate all parts of the tree.

Installing Garden Lights: Install the transformer at a minimum height of 30cm above ground level and away from the proximity of sprinkler heads. Lay out low voltage cable into position, plug in the transformer and switch 'on'. Connect lights and push into ground at their chosen location.

Planting Bulbs: Dig up bulb and remove any bulbets growing on its side. Replant mixing a trowel of fertiliser into the soil at the bottom of the hole. Plant the bulbets twice as deep. Apply mulch and fertilise again in Spring when new growth appears.

Planting Seedlings grown from seed: When your seedlings have their first leaves gradually expose them to a little more sun each day. After a week or so transplant them into the garden early in the morning when itís cooler. Remember to water seedlings before removing from punnet by their leaves. Plant firmly into soil and water with half strength liquid fertiliser.

Installing a sprinkler system: Lay out the components where you intend to install them. Begin at the tap and cut the poly tube to the required lengths and connect with joiners, elbows or tees. Install pop-up sprinklers temporarily above ground, and turn on the water to test performance and check for any leakages.

Weed Control: Most summer weeds can be effectively controlled with one of the herbicides that work only through green tissues, not through the branches, trunk or soil. Purchase a weeding wand for easy application and apply to the mature leaves as well as the new growth.

Compost Techniques: Avoid sticks or branches, bulbous weeds such as onion weed, oxalis and nut grass, and any diseased plant parts. Include kitchen veggie scraps, leaves, fruit peelings, tea-leaves, coffee grounds, animal manures and human hair.

Indoor Plant Care: To refresh a favourite plant simply repot into a larger container using a good quality potting mix. But remember, most indoor plants die from over fertilising and lack of sunlight. So use a nine-month slow release fertiliser and make sure plants receive lots of indirect natural light.

How to save water: Water your garden early in the morning for best results. Thatís because evening watering encourages fungal disease and watering during the day is less effective due to increased evaporation. And remember, too much fertiliser makes lawns thirsty and healthy ones use less water than sick ones.

Preparing soil for planting: Remove the grass and dig a large hole, turning the soil over. Remember to dig through plenty of organic matter until the soil is slightly higher than the surrounding ground to help improve drainage.

Garden pests and diseases: Most scale insects can be sprayed with Malascale, a mixture of Malathion and White Oil, which is not overly toxic. Sudden die back of plants is usually caused by root rot. Remove and destroy the plant. Then, improve drainage before planting a rot resistant variety.

Outdoor

Maintaining Gutters and Downpipes: Remove leaves and other debris with a small brush and use the garden hose to wash away the pieces. Then place the garden hose into downpipes with the water turned onto full. A plastic mesh gutter guard can be easily fitted to ensure leaves are kept out.

Mowing Tips: The basic rule is to under-mow rather than over-mow. Leave the new grass until it is as least 6cm high before mowing. Ensure the mower blades are sharp and remove no more than one third of the grass length the first time. Thereafter, gradually lower the blades.

Lawnmower Maintenance: Store the mower in a dry, sheltered area. If your garage or garden shed is prone to dampness it is better to sit the mower on a platform so that it will not deteriorate. This should also prevent insects from nesting in the mower.

Outdoor Furniture Repair: The best fasteners for rickety outdoor furniture are nuts, washers and bolts, and coarse-threaded self-drilling screws. Simply return the weakened joint to its original position and clamp it in place before inserting a couple of screws or bolts.

Securing a Gate: Insert chocks under the sagging gate so that itís resting in the correct position. Then fit a decent set of hinges, using at least two or three nuts and bolts as well as screws. Drive in a star stake next to the gatepost and attach it through pre-drilled holes to make the gate more rigid.

Setting a Rat Trap: To fool the rats, bait the trap without setting it for several days. Use nuts and pumpkin seeds which are hard to dislodge from the trap. Only when the bait is disappearing regularly should you set the trap. If you prefer to remove the rat unhurt purchase a special trap with a one-way trapdoor.

Safe Lifting: Place your legs slightly apart so that the object is between them. Bend at the knees before gripping the object firmly then, keeping the back straight, straighten your legs slowly. Allow your leg and thigh muscles, not your back, to take the strain

Outdoor Furniture Care: Use a mild detergent and water to clean outdoor furniture and remember to rinse clean. Then apply a product made for auto surfaces which is designed to stand the damaging effects of weather. Always make sure they are recommended for the materials you have.

Laying Concrete: If hand mixing, do it on a large sheet of plywood or a heavy-gauge polythene sheet. Never mix concrete on the dirt. All the preparation should be complete before the concrete is mixed. This way, the pour can be completed in one operation.

Setting a Level Post: Use a post-hole digger to dig the hole then add gravel into the bottom to aid drainage. Drop the post into the hole, big end first, and add a little dirt. With a stick the size of a shovel handle tamp the dirt firmly. Continue to add dirt, stopping regularly to check the post remains vertical.

Sealing Terracotta or Slate: Remove stains with advanced cleaning products. Choose penetrating sealers for external areas and either a high gloss or low gloss sealer for internal areas.

Painting

Repainting a peeling surface: Scrape away flakes and smooth edges with sandpaper. Use an electric hot air stripper or chemical paint stripper to soften old paint making it easier to remove with a blade. Then sand, wash down with sugar soap and touch up bare areas with an undercoat or primer before painting.

Sealing Cracks: Force white cellulose filler mix into crack or hole and smooth over with a putty knife or damp cloth. When dry, smooth with medium-fine sandpaper. Fill larger holes in stages, allowing a few hours drying between applications.

Paintbrush Care: After painting with oil-based paint, clean brushes in turps. For water-based paints use warm soapy water only. Hang brush bristles down to dry. Always clear remaining solvent from the bristles by twirling the brush before reusing

Paint Roller Techniques: Wash roller in paint solvent and roll out dust and particles. Load roller with paint and test roll a small area before you start. Use roller in a WW shape around one metre square and finish off with a vertical down stroke with light pressure for a smooth finish.

Applying Sealants: Clean and dry the area before applying sealant in a continuous and steady flow. Push sealant ahead of nozzle, contacting both sides of the joint. Add masking tape to give a neat line and remove immediately after finishing. For improved appearance smooth over with a spatula.

Painting Roofs and Metal Surfaces: Disconnect downpipes from your water tank before starting. Then water blast roof and wire brush any rusted areas to remove debris. Apply rust neutralisers and fill holes with epoxy resin filler. Paint rusted areas with Metal Primer and finish with two coats of Roof Paint.

Hanging Wallpaper: For difficult areas like doors and windows hang the paper so that it overlaps. Gently run down the side of the architrave with the blunt part of the scissors and cut along the line. Smooth back onto wall, pressing the edge of the paper into the angle of the wall and architrave.

Hints on using abrasives: Donít use coarser than you need and always test your job before you start. When moving from coarse to fine sandpaper, double the grit number for each successive stage, until the desired degree of finish is reached. And remember, straight line sanding with the grain scratches least.

Painting Professionally: Only dip half of the bristles into paint before tapping gently against both sides of the tin to remove excess. Use a criss-crossing stroke to spread paint evenly and start from the unpainted area, working back into the painted area, always maintaining a wet edge to avoid lap marks.

Removing Paint Stains: Nail polish remover will remove paint spatters on windows. Old stains can be softened with turpentine or linseed oil then scraped off with a razor blade. Steel wool dipped in hot vinegar or liquid cleanser removes fresh paint stains. Use baby oil to remove paint from hands and face.

Painting Techniques: 'CuttingĖIn' is the term tradesmen use for getting a neat join where paints of different colours meet. To achieve this effect on window frames and panel doors, load the brush lightly so you donít cut into the edge of the glass, but allow a thick strip of paint about 3mm wide to protect the putty.

Spray Painting: For a professional finish keep the sprayer upright and spray parallel to the painting surface. Move the sprayer slowly and steadily using the entire arm to maintain uniform spacing between sprayer and surface. Start with a fine mist from a distance then work a little closer to the finish. Several light coats are best to ensure paint doesnít run.

Painting a Deck: If the deck is one of the hard, durable timbers like batu or merbau it can probably be left to weather naturally. Remember though, most timbers will eventually change to a silver grey colour. There are a number of excellent finishes available. Timber gloss and low sheen acrylics are ideal for these areas.

Painting Taping Tips: Avoid stretching tape and pull off foil up to half a metre at a time, press down a small area, unwind the same distance again, press that down and continue. Lay tape into surface depressions and press edges down firmly to prevent seepage.

Bathroom & Kitchen

Grouting Tiles: Apply tiles and leave at least 12 hours for the adhesive to dry completely. Clean off excess adhesive from tiles and any uneven surface between gaps that could show through the finished job. Mix the grout thoroughly in accordance with the manufacturerís directions.

Cleaning Bathtub Stains: Make a paste out of cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide. Apply a small amount to the stain. Use a nylon net scrub or an old toothbrush to gently scrub the area. Repeat for stubborn stains, then rinse thoroughly.

Dripping Shower Heads: The solution to a dripping shower head is to replace the washer in the tap handle. A blocked shower head needs to be removed and washed out in hot water and detergent. Then use a piece of wire to clean out the holes.

Recaulking Baths and Sinks: Scrape out crumbly mortar and clean with a brush dipped in mineral turps. Dry the crevice well before applying caulking compound slightly wider than the gap it has to fill. Use a wet rag to push the caulk into the gap and remove excess compound with a razor blade when dry.

Sticking Doors: To feel where the door is sticking rub your hand over the edges of the frame. Where thereís a build-up of paint youíll need to sand or plane it back. For major problems, remove the door and check the hinge screws. If the holes have become too big use wood filler and longer screws for added strength.

Leaking Cistern: Turn off water at stopcock. Flush water from cistern and wipe dry. To stop water running continuously into pan through overflow, lift and bend arm of ball float downwards. To stop partial flushing of cistern adjust arm of ball float upward to increase water level or remove and replace faulty suction washer.

Replacing Broken Tiles: Match both the tile and grout colour before removing any debris left from the old tile. Smear tile adhesive on the back of the tile and on the wall and press tile into place. Use masking tape to hold tile against the wall for 24 hours. Press grout into joints around tile and clean off with a damp sponge.

Banging Pipes: Nothing is more annoying than banging water pipes when you turn on your washing machine or dishwasher. Now there is a simple solution, just fit a hammer arrestor to save your water pipes from costly damage. They can be easily fitted and include hose connections to dishwashers and washing machines.

Fixing to Solid Walls: Begin by drilling a hole with a masonry drill bit and insert plug into the hole. Then, as the screw is tightened, the plug expands and presses against the sides of the hole embedding it.

Removing Concrete Stains: Scrub area with hot water and grease-cutting detergents or scouring powders. Solvent based pavement cleaners are also effective and are available from your local Home Timber & Hardware store.

Fixing Cupboard Hinges: Fixing screws into hinges on heavy doors is less difficult using your foot to control a lever over a block of timber. And remember, it is easier to fit and align two slightly heavier hinges than three lighter ones.

Glass Installation: New glass should be cut slightly smaller than the space into which it will fit. Apply putty or silicone around the frame before inserting glass. Then use small nails to hold glass before smoothing putty on outside edge of glass with a putty knife dipped in linseed oil. Leave to harden before painting.

Fixing Fly-Screens: Cut wire and pull at the centre of each edge to line strands along the frame and fasten. Cut away excess wire. Mitre-cut the beading, prime the raw wood ends and nail to frame at about 100mm centres. The beading should hide the wire edge and its inner edge flush with the frameís inner edge.

Hanging Hinged Doors: Use existing hinge recesses to mark your new door. Trace the hinge shape onto the new door, including depth of the hinge leaf on the doorís face. Next, chisel out shapes and screw hinges into recess. Place the door at right angles to the opening, adjust height and screw hinges into frame recesses.

Fixing Venetian Blinds: Use heavy duty packing tape to repair a broken strip in your venetian blind. Remember to apply to the side facing the wall so it will not be visible.

General Maintenance

Hammering Hints: When nailing dense timbers like Jarrah and Red Gum or to prevent splitting near ends, drill a hole the same size or slightly smaller than the nail to act as a guide.

Rivet Removal: Blind rivets are easily removed to allow repair or replacement work by using a drill bit of the same size as the original hole.

Squeaky Floorboards: Use talcum powder in the cracks between floorboards to stop squeaks. Fix loose floorboards that squeak with a hammer and use a nail punch to drive down nails. If this doesnít work, drill holes next to the nails and fix boards with counter-sunk headscrews.

Installing Timber Panelling: Stand the boards against the wall keeping them out of any direct sunlight to acclimatise them to the surrounding conditions. Then, a protective coating of clear water repellent or polyurethane should be applied.

Unblocking Drains: Place rubber plunger tightly over the drain and fill the sink with water until plunger is covered. Pump plunger up and down. If the blockage remains look for an obstruction in the S-bend. Put a bucket under the sink and loosen the slip nut or undo the drainage plug at the base of the S-bend.

Building a Stud Wall: Measure the area and include space for a door if needed. Space the studs (the vertical timbers) so that the door will fit properly. Stud walls should be located above the floor joist. The stud wall should then be assembled on the floor and lifted into position.

Rising Damp: To fix rising damp, check that paths around the home are set below the level of the damp-proof course. Also, check every vent to make sure that nothing is obstructing the airflow, ensure drainpipes run into proper drains and paint outside walls with good acrylic paint or lime wash so that they can breathe.

Tool Care: Tools with wooden handles should be rubbed periodically with a mixture of two parts mineral turpentine to one part linseed oil to prevent drying out and splinters. If implements are rusty, scrub with steel wool and apply oil.

Simple Power Sanding: Keep the sander moving along the surface to avoid its edge digging in and heat building up or clogging. Sand lengthways along surface and donít press too hard, let the sander do the work. Use low speed for fibreglass and non-ferrous materials and always wear eye protection.

Choosing Bolts and Nuts: Use Hex Head bolts when fixing metal to timber, and where practical put a metal piece under the head and washer under the nut. When fixing a Cup Head bolt put a washer between wood and nut. And use a metal piece under the head of a Coach Screw when fixing metal to timber.

Drilling Screws: When fixing to timber the embedment depth should be 25mm into the timber being fastened and 20mm for plasterboard and chipboard. When fixing to metal the embedment depth should be the thickness of the material being fastened to, plus drilling capacity and three threads protruding beyond the metal being fastened.

Installing Insulation: Wear a dust mask, goggles, gloves, overalls and long sleeves to avoid health risks. Transfer the batts into the roof before opening them so they remain easy to store and transport. Always start at the most distant point from the access hatch and work backwards, leaving odd shaped areas until last.

Unblocking Sinks: Flush sink with a cup of ammonia in a bucket of boiling water. Use a piece of wire with a hook bent into the end to scrape out any blocking soap and hair from pipes. Smelly floor drains can be flushed out with a bucket or two of boiling water mixed with ammonia.

Squeaking Doors: Try sprinkling the hinges with spray or lubricant. Non-stick vegetable spray will also help to lubricate squeaky hinges and sticky locks.

Sawing Tips: Lubricate the sides but not the teeth of your saw with bar soap. You will find that after you do this, it will cut more smoothly. Saws should also be hung or covered to avoid damaging teeth. Lightly coat the teeth with machine oil to prevent rust when you store saws for the long term.

Choosing Door Locks: Door locks are only as good as the door theyíre fitted to. Hollow-core doors are easily smashed open so upgrade them to solid timber. And for top security, choose a double cylinder 'deadlock' that can be locked from the inside and outside.

Window Locks: Windows with double hung sashes are easily protected with a key lockable bolt action system. These are fitted to the inside of the window frame at the centre line. Then, while the window is locked, the hardened steel locking bolt stops either sash from being opened

Scratched Timber Furniture: Try liquid shoe polish in a matching colour, white petroleum jelly or a mixture of vinegar and olive oil. Sometimes just a fresh coat of wax or polish will do the job. Fill larger scratches with wood filler and touch up with a matching stain PICTURE HANGING: To locate the stud tap along the wall and to listen for a change in sound. Better still, use an electronic stud finder to help you mark the spot before screwing the hook to the wall. Make sure the screw is long enough to allow for the 10mm of plaster.

Replacing Halogen Globes: Never handle new tungsten halogen globes because oils from the hand can cause the globe to fail or shatter. Use a tissue to handle globes and if necessary clean globes with methylated spirits. And remember to store globes on an angle for them to remain active.

Fixing a Leaking Vase: Coat inside with a thick layer of paraffin wax and allow to harden or simply paint over the crack on the inside with clear nail varnish.

Cleaning and Protecting Upholstery: Remove any solids from the stained area and blot up as much as you can. Apply all treatment from the back of the fabric if possible and donít overwork. Use the back of a spoon to apply cleaning liquids and always rinse or air after treatment.

Installing a Skylight: Remove one roof tile or cut away sufficient steel roofing to allow placement of the skylight. Slip the weatherproof backing plate into position under roofing at the higher point and over existing roofing at the lower point. Use a keyhole saw or jigsaw to make an opening in the ceiling for diffuser panel. Climb into the roof and attach flexishaft through the ceiling. Screw the diffuser panel into position. Finally attach the flexishaft to the diffuser panel.

Fire Prevention: Keep fire blankets and extinguishers in the kitchen and workshop to prevent small fires getting out of control. Install smoke alarms outside all bedrooms because its more difficult to smell smoke when you are asleep.

Household

Circuit Breakers: After fitting a circuit breaker youíll never have to rewire another fuse. Thatís because a circuit breaker cuts off the power before a circuit becomes dangerously overloaded. Then, after the fault has been fixed you can simply switch them back on.

Mending a Fuse: Turn off master switch at fuse box. Remove and return each fuse plug to locate problem. Then, remove the burnt out wire and replace with a length of 8amp (lights) or 15 amps (power) fuse wire. Tighten screws over wire, snip off excess and replace repaired plug in socket and turn power back on.

Installing Smoke Alarms: For your familyís safety, it is important to install smoke alarms. Establish the number of alarms needed and where theyíll be installed. Then determine which alarms are best suited for that area. Use products that carry local standards approved symbol.

Cleaning Glass Lighting: Cover the floor underneath the light fitting with a sheet or towel. Take care not to wet the actual light and use detergent and bleach applied with a soft rag. Then wipe clean with a linen serviette to give it added sparkle.

Refrigerator Maintenance: Wash and dry the inside regularly using only small amounts of detergent. Finish off with a cloth dipped in vinegar to prevent mildew. A quarter of a cup of ammonia mixed with cold water in a spray bottle helps clean the refrigerator exterior and waxing will prevent soiling.

Mending Glassware: Before repairing glass, the broken pieces need to be roughened a little with a diamond scratch to provide a better 'key' for adhesive. Use very fine sandpaper or an emery board to smooth out chips on the rim of a glass and squeeze toothpaste onto a soft cloth to remove any minor scratches.

Cleaning Mildew: Light stains on fabric may be washed out in the laundry. You could also try soaking in diluted bleach, rubbing with a cut lemon dipped in salt or dabbing with hydrogen peroxide. Keep moist until the spots fade, rinse and wash as usual.

Changing a Power Lead Plug: Remove the cover and push it up the cord. Loosen the screws on the terminals and remove wires, noting their position. Cut the cord off clean before removing the outer plastic to expose the three wires. Twist each wire together and connect to correct terminal, tighten screws and replace cover.

Fixing a Fluorescent Tube: Firstly, turn off light at switch. To test if starter is faulty it needs to be removed and fitted with another. If the problem remains, check the pins at the end of the tube for corrosion or damage. A light sanding with fine sandpaper will remove corrosion and pliers can be used to straighten bent pins.

Home Fire Safety: If fire breaks out get all the family together and leave the house at once, closing as many doors and windows as possible on the way. Where there is heavy smoke stay low because smoke is less dense closer to the ground where the temperature is lower.

Home Security: Never leave keys hidden outside the house and itís a good idea to leave a spare set with your neighbour. Lock away ladders and tools that could be used in a burglary and install movement activated lights to deter thieves.

Ladder Safety: When using a ladder always make sure both the legs are evenly placed on the ground. Use wide timber chocks to even up the ladder on sloping surfaces and if possible, nail the chock to the floor to prevent it slipping. Take care around power lines when putting a metal ladder up or down.

Installing a Deadlock: A double cylinder deadlock is generally accepted as the most secure of all locks. Install one that has a strike flange to protect the door jamb and solid steel pin that cannot be forced.

Avoid Electric Shock: Avoid overloading a circuit with too many adaptors, which could cause a short and look after cords to prevent damage. And always make sure your hands are dry before touching any electrical equipment, plugs or sockets.

Pool Maintenance: Before starting up for summer, check your water test kit and buy new bottles of liquid reagents because they only last one season. Switch on the pump, check your poolís filters for holes and tears and discard old cartridges.

Ceiling Fan Wobbles: Check that the fan blades arenít out of balance by clipping a clothes peg midway along the leading edge of each blade, one at a time. Turn the fan on to a low speed and see it the added weight stops the wobble. When successful, replace peg with adhesive-backed lead-weighted tape.

Choosing the Right Nail: Choose a nail that is twice as long than the timber being held. Ensure that the nail is not longer than the combined thickness of the timber being nailed together.

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