Ask the experts

Looking after your home needn't be stressful. If you are unsure how to complete a DIY or design task, and need some advice, you can search through our archive of questions answered by our team of experts.

Commonly asked questions

1. How can I make a fairy light headboard?

We’re glad you’ve been inspired by Gordon’s project. You can watch the how-to video and read the step-by-step guide here – how to make a fairy light headboard.

2. Which paint should I use for my wardrobe?

You’re right, there are a number of paints on the market that could be used for wardrobe doors and the manufactures’ websites can often be confusing! First you have to know what the existing wardrobe door is made from or covered with. If it is a veneered finish you will need a paint designed to ‘bite’ or stick to the veneer. Go to a trade counter like Leyland's who would point you in the right direction of which manufacture’s paint to use. They will also have a special primer suitable for this surface.

If it's a wooden or MDF door them most good, off the shelf paints will key to the surface. I would consider a harder wearing finish like satin or matt eggshell, or even a gloss, depending on how much wear and tear it will be faced with.

The two main things you always need to do when taking on any important DIY task like painting doors is preparation. Sand down all areas, dust off, prime if necessary before painting. Then what’s most important is how you apply the paint. I recommend for this that you spray the primer, undercoat and the final finish to avoid brush marks. The Wagner WallPerfect paint sprayer will allow you to use any paint from any manufacture. It allows you to apply lots of very thin layers of paint quickly, with no brush marks, leaving you a more professional finish.

For more in-depth advice read Linda Barker’s advice on painting wooden furniture and watch our video on painting old and new wood for tips on knots, sanding and treated wood.

3. How much does it cost to knock down a supporting wall?

Without seeing the wall, and knowing for certain if the wall is load-bearing, it is hard to judge the cost. Also, you didn't say how much of the wall you wanted knocking down... again, all this will add cost.

Plus there are other imponderables about doing this job, which all will add considerably to the price. For instance, are the floors in the two rooms the same height? Do you mind having the 'nibs' - that is the remnants of the old wall which will support a load-bearing joist - on either side, or do you want them removed.

For a ball-park figure... and you can't take this as anything other than a guide... and assuming you have the simplest job involving a load-bearing wall, then you are looking at a minimum of £2,000, given the size of your wall - again that is an educated guess.

There may well be other costs on top of this however, as the job may need a structural engineer, and definitely needs to be overseen by the local building inspector.

Just to re-state, this depends on many things, including your location. So, get three reputable builders in to give you a quote. And, don't forget, a job like this will need to be overseen by your local building inspector.

Hope that helps!

4. How do I remove Artex?

You say you are sure the Artex doesn't contain asbestos - are you absolutely sure? Have you had it tested?

It is very important you have this information 100 per cent correct, as the health implications are obvious. Your council will have an asbestos specialist, so I would contact them to make absolutely sure.

Assume you do have asbestos in your Artex, rather than just guess that you haven't.

If you are certain there's no asbestos, then you can use products which soften textured coverings, and seem to do a fairly good job, such as X-Tex Artex Remover.

If there is asbestos present in your textured covering, I would always get a professional in to deal with the problem - better to be safe than sorry. The risks of potential harm far outweigh any benefits from trying a job yourself.

To be honest, however, you have such a large expanse of Artex, I would get a plasterer in to deal with it, anyway.

The problem with removing Artex is that you have no idea of the quality of the walls underneath the Artex. Artex was often used to cover dodgy walls, and after removing it, you may find the wall is so poor, it needs a re-skim anyway.

So, why not just bite the bullet, get a pro in to deal with the Artex and plaster over it. You could be scraping away for days, and find the wall underneath is a mess anyway, and needs re-skimming.

Need any more help?

Visit our Aviva Home Advice Hub for more advice on preventing and fixing everyday problems in your home. Or how about visiting our Facebook page to post your questions and pictures?

5. I need a vibrant colour for my feature wall...

Now you won't want to hear this, but putting any kind of vibrant colour on a chimney breast in a small, narrow, living room won't do your room any favours at all, in fact it'll make the room feel even more narrow and ultimately much smaller.

I'd be thinking about how to make the room feel bigger, or squarer, and so what I'd put on the end wall to address the problem.

The cooler the colour (blue) the more the wall will recede, the hotter the colour (red) the more the wall will advance.

Now the next issue is how to square the room up a little. Vertical stripes or pattern will make a low ceiling appear higher as horizontal stripes will make a narrow wall wider.

So by working out what the problems of the room are, you can work out what the design solution would be - in your case a soft blue/green, horizontal design on the end wall.

If you're still hell bent on having a vibrant colour on your chimney breast, go for yellow - it's certainly vibrant, it's gorgeous, I love it and it's totally in fashion.

6. Is a flat pack extension possible?

You certainly can build a flat-pack extension... here's our article hub containing all our information about flat-pack building.

So have a look through all our articles on the subject, and make up your mind if this is the way you want to go.

And there's invaluable advice from a firm that specializes in them called SIP-Tek. Visit their page, and get an idea of cost and the practicalities on the subject.

There are many other firms out there that specialise in flat-pack extensions, so Google them, as well.

Need any more help?

Visit our Aviva Home Advice Hub for more advice on preventing and fixing everyday problems in your home. Or how about visiting our Facebook page to post your questions and pictures?

7. What can I do with my rotten decking?

This is the time of year when we get outside and see just how harsh the winter has been on our decking. Luckily, replacing decking boards is not that difficult, and you can use the time to give the whole decking area a spruce up.

Luckily, Craig Phillips has written a great guide to maintaining your decking, and it has all the information you need for replacing boards, and sprucing up and re-treating the whole area.

Best of luck, and I hope the sun carries on shining so you can out and do that work at the weekend!

8. How can I create a cosy living room?

A cream colour scheme and a wooden floor are the perfect foundations for a cosy, warm room. To inject that bit of luxury and warmth, then I think you should first invest in a rug - something with lots of texture and depth to it.

Then think about getting some throws and cushions for your sofa, and invest in some lamps. Consider elements for your room that incorporate deep, warm colours – perhaps artwork or ornaments. You could incorporate colour and cosiness with bean bags or footstools too.

And if your lampshades are warm colours, then you can change the mood of the room, making it feel even more cosy, at the touch of a switch.

You haven’t said if you have any curtains or blinds up. Rich heavy curtains add a sense of luxury to a room, and also mean you can shut out the world, making your room as cosy as possible.

With all these elements, you should be able to create the room of your dreams.

Here's a photo gallery of a cosy living room for some ideas.

9. How do I clean my stained patio?

Many natural stone and concrete materials can stain if they are not sealed when laid. You will need a patio stone cleaner to help, which comes as a liquid and can be diluted with water.

Apply with a hard yard brush. Scrub hard and leave to soak into the slabs, then clean away with a hard yard brush, hosing down with clean cold water from a jet water pressure until the cleaner is completely flushed away. Use the jet washer on one stone at a time, and work methodically over the whole patio.

Always read the instructions on the cleaner before use and wear safety goggles, gloves and mask.

I’d advise you seal the slabs so it won't happen again. You can paint on a clear sealant - Sika, Ronseal and Everbuild also have good products for both cleaning and sealing.

Here's a video with Jenny Powell on spring cleaning your patio.

10. How do I restore my floorboards?

Cleaning up a floor with so many problems is certainly possible for someone with little or no DIY experience, but it is hard work, and will need a lot of muscle power… not to mention a bit of courage.

If you have no practical skills whatsoever, I would suggest you find a friend who has some experience and get them to help. It is a big job for a complete novice. Some things are best left to the pros. However, if you have a friend with good practical skills, and are feeling confident, then certainly have a go.

Assuming you have some experience, or can get a friend with some experience, here’s how to go about it: the belt and braces approach to this problem is to lift and relay all of the floorboards. This sounds a bit extreme, I know, but it’s the best way.

You also have to remember that when you close all the gaps up, you may well need an extra board to fill the gap that will appear next to the wall after the last board has gone down. So make sure you have a length or two of board that will fill this gap before you start – you will need to buy some reclaimed boards anyway, to replace any boards you break when lifting the floor.

It is probable your floorboards are of the tongue and groove variety – that is, each board has one edge that has a thin deep ridge that fits into the corresponding slot in the side of the next board. This produces a very strong joint between the two pieces of timber.

Unfortunately, this means getting your first board up is tricky, and you may have to break the tongue and groove joint. Try starting off with the boards that have the largest gaps between them - this usually indicates that the tongue and groove joints are damaged anyway. Once you have the first board up and out, the rest are fairly easy.  Also, most floors have boards that have been previously lifted anyway, so start here if you can.

Always use a flat bricklaying bolster to get under each board just where the nails are holding it down, and then use a crowbar to lever up the board. This will keep damaged boards to a minimum. Most times when removing a whole floor you only damage about two or three boards and these can be replaced from most yards that sell reclaimed materials, easily found on line.

Once all boards are up, remove the nails from the boards and then you’re ready to start to refit them. A word of warning, however: keep an eye out on all cables and pipes that run under the floor. It is too easy to put a nail through an electricity cable, or a central heating or water pipe. The resulting problem can very expensive to repair. And don’t try and re-use old nails. Go and buy a job lot of new flooring nails, usually ovals or lost head nails.

Here's a video on lifting floorboards, which should be of help

11. Can I tile over existing wall tiles?

Yes, it's possible to tile on top of existing tiles – but only if the existing tiles are fixed down very well and are not loose at all. Many pros will say you should never do this but, with care, you can achieve a long-lasting result.

Trying to remove tiles from a plastered wall can become a much larger job than expected, as most tile adhesives are stronger than the plastered walls they are fixed to. So, it’s not surprising that when you try and remove the old tiles the adhesive pulls the plaster off walls or damages plasterboard.

A word of warning, however. Tiling over tiles is only realistic if you are putting up small tiles. Larger tiles, especially natural stone tiles, will be too heavy. The combined loading of the old and new tiles might cause a failure of the wall. Consult a tiler if you are not sure about this. Your tiles sound like they are quite large, so be careful with this issue.

If you are going ahead, check how well fixed the tiles are. Give them all a good tap... any that sound hollow may not be fixed well enough, and will need removing. If you have to remove any loose or broken tiles, fill in the gap with bonding plaster. Always wear gloves and safety goggles when removing any broken tiles or tile adhesive.

To begin, start by giving the existing tiles a really good clean up with wire wool and sugar soap, to remove any grime and grease. Then, get an old, flat-bladed screwdriver or wood chisel to try an rake out as much of the existing grout as possible. Finally, try to scratch the glassed ceramic surface of the tile with a very rough sandpaper.

All of these tasks will help prepare the surface for the new tile adhesive to bond to the existing tiles. This all sounds like a lot of hard work, but preparation is the key to a successful and long lasting finish.

Two final things. Firstly, make sure you get a tile adhesive that is designed for tiling on tiles, such as Bal Greenstar. And, secondly, make sure you stagger the joints, so that the new tiles' joints are not not on top of the old tiles'.

Here's a short video by Craig giving tips on tiling.

12. How can I make my small room look bigger and warmer?

With such a tiny room, you have to try and create the illusion of space. To do this a room needs to have light, and if you are going to use patterned wallpaper, make sure it has a vertical emphasis, to provide height – or avoid patterns at all.

You need to keep as much floor space clear as possible, and if there is a window in the room, do not put up curtains, but use blinds.

By keeping the windows simple, you don’t block any light, and this more minimalist approach also helps the room to feel bigger.

Also, use a big mirror on the wall… the wall opposite the room’s door is often best, as the room looks bigger before you even get into it.

If you need storage in the room, put your storage solutions high up on the wall, and use hooks and shelving to store things. (Check out IKEA for cheap and cheerful storage).

Use multi-function furniture, like a chest that’s also a coffee table, sofa beds, etc. Also use tables that fold down, or a nest of tables. Place any larger furniture against the wall, so the middle space in the room isn’t broken up, and don’t try to fit too much in the room, and keep any pieces of furniture small.

Also consider having some furniture the same colour as the wall, and try and angle some of the furniture a little to make the room feel less boxy, freeing up a little storage behind the angled piece.

The problem you have is that in trying to make the room feel warmer, you also will make it feel cosier, and a little smaller, so you need to find the right balance.
Traditional warming colours will help and other ways of warming a room are to use textures, throws and cushions, and perhaps a rug. Again, too much of this will make the room seem smaller, so go easy on this stuff.

13. How do I remove mould from bathroom tiles?

Mould in a bathroom is a direct result of moisture in the air and the condensation which results, which in turn encourages the mould to grow. You should deal with the problem promptly, as it spreads very quickly once it has taken hold.

Mould can appear in many colours, including black. To get rid of the mould, first put on some safety goggles and thick rubber gloves. Then scrub the mould away using a detergent solution and plenty of elbow grease. If you have any blackened silicone sealant that is beyond cleaning, then you may have to remove the damaged sealant and replace with a mould and mildew resistant version.
 
To prevent the problem from happening again, make sure the bathroom is well ventilated, with an extractor fan and window vents. You can also hang moisture absorbers up in your bathroom, as the fragranced pellets drink up lots of moisture, and even get rid of musty smells.

Grout can also become discoloured due to damp. Re-whiten stained grout with a product called Brilliant! Tile Grout Whitener from Lakeland. One application will bring up your grout like new, and it’s waterproof and mould resistant, too.

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