The quickest way to strip paintwork is to burn it off with a blowlamp or blowtorch, but there is a right and a wrong way of tackling the job. The right way is to always strip minor areas, such as mouldings and rebates, before tackling the major areas around them. The aim is to remove the paint without damaging the surface beneath it. But if the main areas are stripped first, the exposed wood can be badly scorched when trying to deal with the smaller ones.

When stripping mouldings, always work from the top downwards. As the paint melts, remove it with a scraper or – in awkward places – with a shave hook. Collect the melted paint in a container on the ground, taking care not to let any fall on the hand.


When a batten cannot be fitted to support the length of a shelf – where, for instance, it would take up valuable space or look unsightly – support the length invisibly by plugging screws into the back wall.

Start by placing the shelf against the wall and scribing the positions for the screws on both shelf and wall at 225 mm 9 in intervals. Then fit the screws into the wall, leaving about 19mm of their length exposed. Cut off the heads with a hacksaw.

Check the marks on the shelf against the final position of the screws and then drill holes in the shelf to a depth of 25mm 1 in at each marked point. When the shelf is placed in position, the sheared-off screws will fit into the holes, providing an extremely rigid fixing along the shelf’s length. Screw battens, or other supports, to the side wall to take the main weight of the shelf.


Always hang unbacked fabrics. Such as hessian or decorative felt. On a surface that has been lined – never on a bare surface. Then apply the recommended adhesive to the lining paper, and not to the fabric, when hanging it. This prevents stretching and avoids the danger of overlapped edges soiling the fabric underneath. Overlap the edges by 25mm. And when the adhesive has partially dried make a butt joint by cutting along a straight-edge through both pieces of fabric down the centre of the overlap.


The simplest way of fixing a loose slate is to renail it with aluminium alloy nails. Alternatively. Bend a strip of lead into the shape of a Zand position it so that one end secures the edge of the slate and the other is fitted tightly around a roofing batten. If a slate is cracked, seal it with a proprietary bituminous mastic, obtainable from builders merchants


Before tiling over a porous plaster surface, always apply a coat of a solvent-based primer to it. Otherwise. The tile adhesive will dry out too quickly, weakening the bond between the tiles and the plaster.


Vinyl is the best paper to use in kitchens and bathrooms because it is extremely resistant to water and steam. If non-vinyl paper is used, it may bubble from the wall after hot water has been running. This is the result of steam getting through the porous paper and softening the paste behind it.

Cure this by applying two coats of varnish to the paper when it is dry to make it waterproof. Remember, however, that if the colour of the paper is important. The coats of varnish will tend to darken it.


Use a smooth-grade file to finish off metal. To avoid the danger of the file’s teeth scratching the surface. Rub a stick of chalk over the file as required during the smoothing process. Use a single-cut file for hard metals and a rasp-cut file for soft ones.


When making- up plaster for the finishing- coat, mix cellulose filler with the plaster powder. Adding the filler not only makes the plaster mix much easier to work with – giving- it a creamy consistency that dries out very smoothly-but also retards the setting- process for half an hour or so. This allows more time to complete the job which is particularly helpful when handling- plaster for the first time.

Add about 225g Alb of cellulose filler to every 6kg 141b of plaster. Dissolve the filler in water before adding it to the plaster powder.

Fitting uprights to support shelving To ensure that shelving uprights are fitted correctly, first draw a horizontal line to mark where the top of each upright is to be fixed. Then place the first upright in position and check its vertical alignment with a plumb line. Screw it to the wall.

Next, cut a piece of wood to the same length as the proposed distance between the first and second uprights. Square off its ends and use it as a spacer bar to establish the distance between the two uprights and the vertical alignment of the second. Do this by placing the bar at right angles first to the top and then to the bottom of the fitted upright and fix the second accordingly. Repeat as necessary.


Before plastering a surface, always apply a plaster undercoat or a mortar rendering to it. Make sure to check with the supplier that the undercoat is the correct type for the plaster.

When applying- a plaster undercoat to a small area use a wooden float and work in thin layers of plaster – about 3mm 1 in thick at a time. Build these up to a maximum thickness of about 12 mm though this will depend on the type of plaster being used. Never try to apply this thickness in one operation: this will cause the plaster to fall from the surface under its own weight as fast as it is applied. On larger areas work between two 12 mm thick uprights and level the plaster with a straight-edge pressed against the uprights.

When using a mortar mix. Make the mix weak – one part of cement. One part of lime and six parts of sand is perfectly adequate. A stronger mix will prevent moisture being absorbed and lead to damp patches on the wall.

Before the undercoat dries. Roughen up the surface slightly with a scratcher. This provides a key for the final coat.


Only tackle small areas when plastering; leave complete walls or ceilings to the professionals. Having prepared the surface, make up the mix by pouring plaster powder into a clean bucket and adding water until the mix has the consistency of whipped cream. Heap some of the mix on a hawk. Then, using a metal float – or a wooden float if applying a plaster undercoat – slice off enough mix to fill about half the float’s blade. Hold the float level and shake it gently so that the plaster settles evenly.

Apply the plaster with the leading edge of the float at an angle of 30 to the wall’s surface. Do not hold the float flat, or the mix will stick to it. Spread the plaster by sweeping the float backwards and forwards across the surface. Making sure that the float is thoroughly wetted before picking up more plaster. Use a firm pressure to level the plaster at the point of application, reducing the pressure as the plaster spreads.

When finishing off. Lightly brush the plaster with water to help even out the drying time of the whole surface. Finally, smooth across it with the float.