A cracked and slightly uneven concrete floor can be made suitable for wood-block flooring or tiles by smoothing it with a 3mm 1 in layer of screeding. Various compounds are available and are normally sold in powder form to which water has to be added. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions to make up the mix. Wash the floor with water and detergent to remove any dirt and grease and pour the mix over it. Work from a corner of the room towards a door and spread the compound with a metal float to a thickness of about 3mm 1 in. Do not worry if slight trowel marks are left in the surface – these will disappear as the compound settles and dries. Allow at least two hours of drying time before walking on the surface, and at least twenty-four hours before starting to lay wood blocks or tiles.


Five all-purpose adhesives will cope with most D-I-Y jobs:

Contact adhesives Economical and strong adhesives, mainly used for gluing timber veneers, plastic laminatesandceramic tiles. Their chief advantage is that they provide instant bonding, so avoiding the need to cramp materials for long periods. The adhesive is applied to both surfaces and left to become touch-dry before they are bonded together, using a firm pressure.

Epoxies Very strong and versatile adhesives, used when a permanent bond is needed. They are heat-resistant and waterproof and adhere well to glass, china, stone, concrete, rubber and many plastics. However, their expense makes it uneconomic to use them on large jobs.

Epoxies are made up of two compounds – a hardener and a resin – which must be mixed in equal quantities. Setting time is up to six hours, but, in some cases, this can be accelerated by gentle heat.

General-purpose type adhesives Although general-purpose adhesives are not permanent in all circumstances, they are excellent for small and light household repairs. They are moderately waterproof, heat resistant and have the advantage of being quick-drying and transparent.

Natural latex This has a strong, flexible bond and is excellent for fixing carpets and fabrics. It dries quickly and can be washed.

PVA The most practical and frequently used adhesive for general indoor work and household repairs. It has the advantage of being clean and easy to use – but the surfaces being glued must be cramped together during bonding. It is not waterproof and so should not be used outdoors.

There is also a wide variety of proprietary special-purpose adhesives for fixing perspex, tiles and wallpaper, etc. As the range is so wide, ask the supplier’s advice.


Usually cellulose-based, used for filling holes and cracks in walls. Ceilings and other plaster or wood surfaces. There is a variety of special-purpose fillers that should be selected according to suitability for a particular job.

Ordinary cellulose filler is suitable for most indoor plaster repairs. A ready-mixed filler is often more convenient and easy to use and will give an extra smooth finish. A special-purpose filler is also available for filling cracks in walls and ceilings – flexible enough to keep cracks covered even if movement occurs. It is self-texturing and one coat is enough to give a good decorative finish. Another special-purpose filler is designed for use on chipped or scratched paintwork.

Exterior fillers are specially formulated to give extra strength and resistance to wear. They can be used for a wide range of outdoor repairs, including work on concrete. Stone, brickwork, cement screeding and rendering.

The specified type of wood filler should be used for interior and exterior repairs. Exterior wood filler will withstand bad weather and is particularly suited for repairs in and around woodwork where the material is subject to a degree of movement.

Grout: Cement-based material, used for filling gaps between ceramic or clay floor tiles. It can be bought in powder form and mixed with water, or as a ready-mixed compound. Always use water-resistant grout on exterior work or where tiles will be exposed to running water, as on the floor and walls of shower units. Note, in addition, that some proprietary grouts contain white pigment. Which gives a better decorative finish than ordinary grout.


Used for sharpening tools. Although natural stones, such as Washita or Arkansas, can be bought, the artificial stones such as India, Carborundum and Alox-ite are more easily obtainable and have the advantage of constant quality. There are three grades of oilstone – coarse, medium and fine. A coarse stone is used for removing a chipped cutting edge. Medium-grade stone for the intermediate sharpening stage and a fine-grade stone for the final cutting edge .


Decorative finish given to an exterior wall, and frequently used to disguise irregular wall surfaces. Fine pebbles or crushed stone are scattered on to a cement-rendered wall while the cement is still wet. The pebble dash should be painted with a protective waterproof paint to give added protection against erosion.

Sum, and ready-mixed brands can be bought for undercoats and finishingcoats. The type of plaster required will vary, depending on the condition of the surface, so always ask the advice of the retailer. When mixing plaster, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, as it is vital to achieve the right consistency to get the correct finish. Plastering is a skilled job. So large areas such as complete walls and ceilings should be left to a professional, but repairs and small areas are well within the scope of the handyman.


Term used for finishing off the mortar in brickwork. In time the pointing in a wall may deteriorate. So enabling dampness to get into a wall: in these circumstances always repoint the brickwork. In addition, note that mortar joints should never be finished so that they slope inwards – from the top down – or water will collect on the top edges of the bricks and hasten deterioration. The following types of joints should be used:

Flush-faced. This is formed by cutting the mortar off flush with the face of the brick. On old brickwork. Where the bricks are badly chipped, an effective finish can be achieved by converting the flush-faced joint into a bagged joint. This is done by rubbing the mortar over the face of the brick with a piece of sackcloth. The ultimate effect, when the wall is painted a single flat colour, is effective and weatherproof.

Half-round. This is a good weatherproof joint and can be formed by using an old bucket handle.

Recessed. A joint largely favoured for its aesthetic appearance – it causes strong shadows, which are cast on the joint line. It is best used on hard engineering bricks. Which are better able to resist the effects of frost, but is unsuitable for use in coastal regions, where the effects of weathering are extreme. The joint is formed by waiting until the mortar is almost dry and then scraping it out with a flat strip of hardwood moulding to form the recess.

Weather-struck. Its sloping surface makes for very good protection against rain. The joint is recessed under the top brick and slightly overhangs the lower brick. Use a pointing trowel to fill the joints with mortar and the same tool to form the overhangs, working along a straight-edge lined up with the top of the lower brick.


Polyurethane lacquer, which has good heat- and water-resistant properties, gives a tough finish to timber. It is easy to apply and can be bought in a proprietary pack. Coloured polyurethane lacquers are transparent stains that allow the grain of wood to show through. Before applying it, make sure that all traces of previous finishes have been removed.


First coat of paint or specially formulated liquid, used to provide a good key for subsequent coats of paint or as a protective base. It seals the surface and prevents paint from soaking into it.

A primer should always be used on all new unpainted surfaces-bo th externally and internally – that are to be painted with an oil-based paint: it is not normally necessary, however, when finishing with a water-based paint inside the house. Acrylic primer also acts as undercoat. All-surface primers are available, but it is preferable, whenever possible, to use the primers designed specifically for use on wood, metal, building boards, plaster or concrete.


Material used for making watertight repairs outdoors and in bathrooms and kitchens. Sealants are flexible materials that are able to adhere to the adjacent surfaces and still expand and contract with structural movements.

Soft mastics are the most commonly used sealants. They are applied with a trowel, mastic gun or straight from the tube. Sealing tape is generally used on surfaces that have a hole or leak – for example, when temporarily sealing a lean-to roof.

Sealer: Coat of paint or other material applied to a surface to seal it in preparation for finishing. Special sealers are available for different surfaces, such as wood and floors.


Joining metals by using a soldering iron to heat the solder until it melts and then, with a flux, running the solder between them. Solder generally comes in strip or wire form. Soft solder is a mixture of tin and lead. Soldering with soft solder is a low-temperature process, which is suitable for joints that will not take a lot of weight or heat. Alloys for hard soldering are made from copper, silver and zinc. The process gives a stronger join, but requires more heat than soft soldering.