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Handles are everywhere in our homes. They are visible, obviously! so they have an impact on the look and feel of our homes. We don’t get to choose the handles on most of our furniture so we can end up with ones that we don’t particularly like or that don’t complement the design scheme of the rest of the room.
In addition, handles are tactile, we touch them several times a day and they leave an impression on us; do they feel smooth, cold, sturdy or warm? Does this impression leave us with a positive experience? Does a grubby handle remind you that you really need to do a long overdue spring clean for example? Do old-fashioned or tarnished handles take the shine off an otherwise lovely room?
These days you don’t have to be stuck with handles that you don’t love. Handles are now very affordable and easy to buy online so what are you waiting for? Replace any old or ugly handles with something better and instantly refresh your home.
Clean and Touchup
First of all, you should make sure the surface of the cupboard doors look neat and tidy, you should give them a good clean with something like a cream cleaner or a degreaser. This will fetch off most marks and stains, using an old toothbrush will make this task easier and more effective.
Next, you should touch up any chips or large scratches. Use paint, nail varnish, markers or anything you have to hand. Nail varnish is great for high gloss or plastic surfaces. Strong coffee works well to hide scratches on wood, wood veneer or wood effect surfaces as it can stain the underlying material in a similar colour to the top surface.
Everyone becomes bored with their decor now and again. You can freshen up a room and make it interesting again without having to change the large and expensive elements like furniture and flooring. It is also not very environmentally friendly to throw out chests of draws or kitchen cupboard doors when they are in perfectly good condition. Why not freshen them up instead?
First of all, follow our cleaning and touch up instructions (above). The simplest way to freshen the furniture is to replace the handles. Carefully remove the existing cupboard or drawer handles. Keep all the internal parts and fixings, screws and washers and tape them together – take them to a charity shop, don’t throw them away! Replace them with ones that are different colour or style to the originals.
You can buy replacements very cheaply. You can find a website with a good range of cupboard handles easily online. We like the range at the Handle King, there are a mix of materials (brass, aluminium, stainless steel), colours (matte black, copper, polished/satin chrome) and styles (traditional and contemporary) so you can select a style that you love but is different to what you have grown tired of. We particularly like the Copper Cup and Brass Victorian Bow handles but there is also a great range of modern handles for under a pound each. We tried a couple of these handles out.
Polished Copper Handles
Polished copper handles
We were instantly attracted to the ‘polished copper finish’ handle. We hadn’t seen any before with this finish. Brass is, well brassy, and very old-fashioned, however, the copper finish is much softer and warmer with pink tones. As a result, it is much more modern and softer on the eye. The handles would fit in with lots of contemporary as well as shabby chic design schemes. We loved these handles. They looked great on the bathroom cupboard we tried them on. We replaced the old knobs so we only had to drill one hole for each new handle as we re-used the existing hole. They are very sturdy and solid and easy to grip. They bring the unit bang up to date and make it look really stylish.
Matte Black metal handles
These handles are well made, feel strong and appear durable. Although the design is simple they are good looking and fitted securely on our kitchen cupboards. The matte black colour is unusually tasteful and sophisticated. They would look great in a contemporary loft space or office. We also think they would be brilliant in a farm style kitchen or Scandinavian inspired room too.
Matte black cupboard handles
When you choose a new handle think about the existing holes in your furniture. Will your new handles use the same holes? If not how will you hide or cover the old ones? For the best (and easiest) finish choose a handle that can reuse existing holes or that will cover up redundant holes.
Most handles simply screw in place by hand or need a simple tool like a screwdriver or allen key. Although Handle King supplied screws needed to fix the handles, not all suppliers do. If this is the case make sure you go to a good hardware shop and buy matching screws. Then all you need to do is step back and enjoy the updated look of your cupboards or chest of drawers.
Enjoy Gardening without injury – 7 Inexpensive Must-Have Accessories.
Gardening is more than just an activity that results in the growth of a variety of plants, flowers, vegetables and fruits. It’s an instant stressbuster, mood lifter and a total body workout. Ample research indicates that gardening provides numerous physical, mental, emotional and physiological benefits to humans. Moreover, gardening enables us to connect with nature and grow crops that are nutritious and organic.
While gardening is a fun activity, it can also be a little dangerous. Getting cuts, bruises, scrapes on the knees and other injuries are quite common while growing tomatoes or pruning roses in your backyard. For most of us, such injuries are just a bit of an inconvenience however for the very young, elderly or immunocompromised these injuries can be real health risks. Soil, compost and animal faeces and urine (I know yuck!) harbour a range of dangerous pathogens like listeria, tetanus, legionnaires disease, Weil’s disease and salmonella. If you receive a cut or scratch whilst gardening the risk of infection is increased as any pathogens in the environment can enter your body through the cut by-passing a range of your usual defences. Therefore, it’s essential to purchase protective gear in order to prevent such injuries from occurring frequently. Luckily, many protective gardening accessories are reasonably priced.
Below are some cheap protective gardening gears that every seasoned gardener must adorn before getting down and dirty:
Perhaps the most important accessory any gardener should have are gloves. Gloves not only prevent the formation of dirt under your fingernails, but they also prevent wood splinters, tiny shards of glass and other sharp objects from bruising your hands. There are several inexpensive gloves available online. Some are even lightweight and feel like a second skin.
2. Knee Pads
Needless to say that gardening requires the gardener to get down on their knees and feel the soil. Unfortunately, doing this for a long time results in weak knees, knee aches and pain in the knee caps. A simple, effective and economical way to protect your knees is by putting knee pads underneath them. There are a diverse range of knee pads available in the market today ranging from soft cushioned ones to those made of harder material.
Gardening aprons are unlike the kitchen ones that moms adorn while cooking a delectable family meal. These types of aprons serve two important purposes: First, they keep dirt and dust away from your clothes and second, they have multiple pockets to store your favourite tools. Suspenders, shoulder straps and buckles help keep the apron in place.
4. Cut-resistant Sleeves
Ask any experienced gardener if they’ve ever had cuts or bruises while gardening and the answer will always be a resounding yes. Some might even say it comes with the job. Fortunately, cut-resistant sleeves made of a material called Dyneema can change this occupational hazard. Such sleeves are sturdy enough to protect the wearer from cuts and bruises yet are gentle on the skin. No cuts, no red rash and no discomfort.
5. Magnetic Wristband
On the surface, a magnetic wristband may seem like an unnecessary item to purchase, but in actuality, it prevents gardening tools from forming cuts and wounds on your skin by keeping the tools glued to your wrist. Lightweight and easy to strap on, a magnetic wristband is certainly a tool worth having.
6. Kneeler Seat
Knee pads are great for protecting your knees but you know what’s even better? Kneeler seats. They serve a dual purpose: The first is protecting your knees and back. The second purpose of kneeler seats is to store handy tools. So you can store handy tools like pruning shears, scissors, gloves and small hand trowels and move along with them. Moreover, some of these seats are also portable
Kneeler seats are especially useful for senior citizens who have weak knees or arthritis but don’t want it to prevent them from enjoying the benefits of gardening.
7. Pruning Gloves
Regular gloves don’t offer adequate protection against nicks from thorns. Which is why it’s imperative to have a set of pruning gloves handy while clipping your beautiful red roses. Since they are tougher than regular gloves, they provide better protection.
No one likes getting a splinter under the skin, slapping a plaster on a cut or getting a bruise. Use the aforementioned protective gears and tools to make gardening a safe and fun activity. Although most of the above items are reasonably priced, you can also avail discounts by using vouchers to further lower the price.
Andrea Boffo is CEO of PlusVoucherCode, a website that provides discount codes to save money on online purchases.
Some of you might not know that such a thing as fire retardant paint exists. There are different types of paint with different levels and methods of protection. They are not normally used in domestic settings however maybe they should be. If you are panting a public space or a business one you should probably consider using a fire retardant paint – certainly in key escape routes. We’ll be providing a summary below to better explain the fundamental differences and the benefits of these paints.
British Safety Standards
The British BS 476 safety standard is a regulation that sets out the rules to follow as it relates to building structures and the materials used within them. There are different classifications for the regulations which relate to paint.
The Class 1 is a paint coating that ensures zero spread of a fire. With Class 0, the surface areas are expected to have a limited ability to catch fire; used in high-risk places like access corridors and escape routes out of the building. There is another classification which is known as “fire resistance” which ensures that fire won’t spread for 30 minutes in the hope it will be enough time to evacuate everyone from the building.
There are two main paint types that resist fire propagation to a lesser or greater extent. There are fire retardant paints and fire-resistant ones otherwise known as intumescent paint. There are also separate sprays and varnishes that may be applied over paint to provide additional benefits.
Fire Retardant Paints
The fire-retardant paints are the strongest ones. The product is intended to prevent fire from spreading and in many cases, to put the flame out altogether. The fire suppression technology is achieved by a gas release that happens when the paint heats up. These paints must pass BS 476, part 7, one of the British safety standards. Public areas in restrooms, hotels and other common areas often use this type of paint.
Intumescent paint doesn’t function the same way. Instead of releasing a gas, when the heat reaches a set level, the paint will burn and create a bubble over the exposed area to protect it. The idea is that a nearby wall that’s close to the fire but not actually on fire yet reacts to the growing heat level nearby and forms a protective shell over the walls. By doing so, the walls are protected and far less likely to catch fire too.
What Can the Paint Be Applied On?
Fire retardant paint may be applied to wood, MDF, chipboard, soft & hardwood, stone and brickwork, metal, plaster, and concrete. It is used on unpainted surfaces, pre-stained, already painted and varnished surfaces without difficulty.
Other Protections for Wood
For wood, it’s a good idea to apply a reactive paint as an initial layer of protection. After this is complete, a flame retardant paint can be applied with one litre of paint covering 6-10 square metres. The selected paint finish doesn’t affect its protective qualities. When using clear coatings, there are intumescent varnishes that offer fireproof benefits. These are applied liberally with one litre being used on 6 ½ square meters.
It is highly recommended that you personally check the suggested proper treatment with each protective layer solution and flame retardant/resistant paint or clear varnish. Formulations can change with individual product lines, so verifying the current correct application method is sensible in order to apply the coats correctly for maximum protection from fire.
With winter just around the corner, it’s time to check up on your central heating system. Making sure your heating is running smoothly and safely is better done early—wait too long and before you know it, you’ll be freezing inside your home on a chilly morning and the heating engineers are all booked up!
By inspecting your heating system early, you’ll avoid any cold mornings, headaches, and high repair bills. To keep your home nice and warm, make sure to follow these 6 steps.
Check your radiators for cold spots
Switch on your heating, let the system run for a few minutes, and check all your radiators. Are all of them completely warm or are there cold patches? Cold spots indicate a build-up of air bubbles, scale, or sludge in the radiator pipes.
If the radiator is cold at the top, you’ll need to bleed the radiator by releasing the trapped air. If the middle or bottom is cold, you’ll need to clear out the accumulated scale or sludge. This requires a thorough cleaning after removing the radiator or a flush of the system.
Examine the pilot light
If possible, look at the pilot light when you fire up your boiler. Is it a blue flame? This means that the fuel is burning cleanly and efficiently. However, if the pilot light is orange or yellow, the flame is cooler and indicates that incomplete combustion is taking place. This could lead to soot build-up, smoke damage, and the release of carbon monoxide. In this case, you’ll need to call a heating professional for servicing.
Check your pilot light colour – yellow flames like this one indicate a problem
Prevent frozen pipes
When the temperatures drop significantly below 0 degrees for long periods of time, one issue is the risk of your pipes freezing. To prevent this, lag your pipes, which means adding insulation. Ready-made lagging is available for purchase and is fitted directly to your pipes. Not only will it help protect against freezing, it also keeps the hot water hot and prevents condensation. Lagging your pipes ensures you enjoy hot water and space heating throughout your house.
Maximise your insulation
Staying on the topic of insulation, it’s also time to insulate the rest of your house! Or at least make sure everything is properly sealed. This is because even though your heating could be running without any problems, all of this would be for nothing if your house is leaking that warm air easily.
Check that your windows are in excellent condition, and any gaps are sealed off. Draught-proofing strips are cheap and easy to install for windows, doors, and loft hatches. Your fireplace is also a big culprit when it comes to draughts—a chimney draught excluder should fix that. Put filler in cracks in your walls or floorboards; use a filler that can expand, contract, and move with the floorboards.
You should have your boiler and heating system serviced once a year by a certified engineer. This is to make sure that everything is working properly and to prevent any problems, both big and small. With a regular service, your heating engineer will inspect all parts and fix any issues, providing the level of expertise that’s needed when dealing with something as complex as your central heating.
Winter is usually when heating companies and professionals are at their busiest. That’s why it’s so important to arrange for a servicing as early as possible, if you have not done so already. Beat the rush and you’ll make sure to avoid the hassle of finding an engineer if you encounter a boiler or a heating malfunction!
Look for ways to increase efficiency
In some circumstances, you might be looking to improve the efficiency of your heating even more after completing maintenance. There are several small things you can do that, altogether, will boost the efficiency of your heating significantly.
Install a magnetic filter inside your heating system to keep rust and sludge build-up to a minimum. Place radiator reflector sheets behind the units to ensure that the heat is not lost through the wall. Time your heating to match your schedule—have heating and hot water ready when you wake up or arrive home, and lower the temperature while you are away.
Finally, you might even want to upgrade to a more efficient model. Modern boilers reach efficiency ratings greater than 90%, saving you more money. You might even get some help with government grants that are pushing for more environmentally friendly heating systems!
If you were hoping for an Indian summer this year, I’m sorry to say that it’s not going to happen. Winter has most definitely arrived! Now is the time to check you have prepping your garden for the colder months so you are ready for the worst of the weather.
So make the most of any dry, warmish days to get out in the garden and get yours in shape for the winter months. Here is a list of some of the most common and important jobs that you should focus on.
Tidy Up Your Flower Beds
Those plants that still look good will look even better if you tidy up everything around them, and give them a last chance to shine. Thin out any plants that have outgrown their space, dig up anything that needs to be protected from the frost (such as Dahlias), cut off any dry dead plant matter and loosen compacted soil around and between plants. A border fork is ideal for getting in between your plants in a closely packed flowerbed.
Now’s also the time to divide herbaceous plants, collect seed from perennials and annuals and sow seed for next year. Now’s the time to plant out spring bulbs and give yourself something to look forward to in the new year. A hand towel with a telescopic handle makes planting bulbs in hard to reach corners much easier.
Not got the right tools for the job? This will make the task a lot harder, it will take longer and in some cases, you risk injury. It is worth investing in decent quality garden tools for those jobs that you are going to have to do regularly. Blades should be sharp for any pruning. If they are not you increase the risk of introducing disease. If you don;t have the right tools or you can;t cope with some of the harder jobs then consider using a gardener.
Protect Your Veg!
If you have a vegetable patch it will be a prime target for slugs, snails and birds as other sources of food die back. Harvest any vegetables or fruit before you lose them, and net your cabbages, brussel sprouts and other leafy greens to keep the pigeons off. While you at it prepare your veg patch soild for next year by double-diging. Autumn and winter are the best times to do this so grab a spade and start working up a sweat!
Clean Out Your Greenhouse
Before moving tender plants into a full size or lean to greenhouse, give it a good tidy up and clean out so that it’s ready for the new growing season. You may also like to add some insulation over the winter months; bubble wrap is a popular DIY choice.
If you don’t have a greenhouse now is a good time to get one installed and prepared for Winter and early Spring plantings. You can buy then fairly cheaply off the shelf from the usual home stores and garden centers and you can also buy a posh greenhouse online. However there are some basic greenhouse adjustments you should make in order for it to perform well and be easier for you to use and keep tidy.
Protect Your Tools
As well as cleaning out your greenhouse your gardening tools will also need some TCL. Clean off mud and soil and lubricate blades with vegetable oil. You can also oil your wooden handled gardening tools with linseed, or paint metal handles with hammered enamel paint.
Protect Your Pond
Stretch some netting across ponds and water features to prevent autumn leaves collecting in them. Make sure netting is securely fastened around your pond so that wildlife doesn’t get stuck underneath. Metal garden pegs are perfect if fastening into the soil around it.
There won’t be many more opportunities to mow the lawn so give yours a final cut. It’s also a good time to lay turf, so if your lawn needs some repair work – do this now. Your lawn can still look smart during the winter months so use an edging tool to complete an end of year tidy. An adjustable lawn rake makes light work of clearing leaves from your lawn, without damaging the turf. Or try some garden leaf grabbers for moving your raked leaves into the compost bin.
Pruning, Trimming and Lopping
Hedges and shrubs will also need a last trim before the winter sets in. Have a good look at any trees and large shrubs to see whether they have any dangerous branches: lop them off before they do any damage in windy weather. Cut out any dead wood or branches that are damaged. Thin out frees and shrubs by removing crossing or overgrowing branches. For little jobs that don’t require a tree surgeon pruning saws and loppers are useful tools to have in your garden shed. When you have finished lopping and pruning be sure to correctly dispose of all this garden waste responsibly.
Treating your wooden deck and garden furniture is another job for this time of year. Make sure the rot doesn’t set in so you can enjoy your garden in the warmer months.
Prevent slipping by giving patios and decks a good clean with a stiff brush to clear moss and other debris off them and then use a pressumaterials to remove any moss or other organic materilas. Consider using a decking oil to preserve your deck boards.
Get the most out of your garden in the winter months by introducing some heating! Patio heaters and fire pits can help create an outdoor room that extends the life of your garden even when the first frosts bite.
We were sent a set of STAYHOLD™ Boot Organisers for review. What follows is our honest review of the product.
What Are They?
STAYHOLD™ Boot Organisers are a bit like book ends for your boot. They are L-shaped and use VELCRO® Brand Technology on their base to securely fix them to the carpet of your boot. The idea is that you can reposition the supports to secure pretty much anything. If you only have a couple of bags of shopping or two bottles of wine to transport in your cavernous boot then these come in real handy! They come with a couple of different straps to help secure items too. The straps can be used to strap bottles, plant pots or other small items directly to the STAYHOLD™ Boot Organisers to provide the best security for delicate items – see below.
STAYHOLD™ Boot Organisers with straps
The Stayhold™ System
We got a couple of bloggers to test the STAYHOLD™ Boot Organisers. One lives in the countryside with two large dogs and the other lives in a town with two kids. What follows is a summary of their findings.
Dog Owner: I have been moaning to my husband for years about the lack of boot organisers. Cars come fully loaded with every conceivable gadget but lack a simple boot organisation system. Most cars don’t even have places you can secure a bungee rope! As I have two large dogs I have an SUV with a large boot and I can fold down the back seats to create a single hanger-like space. However, if I put two dogs in the boot I don’t have anywhere for my shopping to go! If I leave the dogs at home to do a bit of shopping my three or four carrier bags go in the boot and then proceed to empty themselves and roll all over the place during my trip home. Hence the moaning to my husband. I couldn’t believe my luck when STAYHOLD™ sent me these bad boys to try out. They are very high quality and sturdy,
however, I was concerned that the VELCRO®Brand hooks wouldn’t stick firmly to my filthy boot. Not only is there a thick layer of several years worth of dirt there is also a heavy ‘garnish’ of dog hair. However, the VELCRO® Brand technology stuck like magic to the carpet. For me, it was brilliant because I could secure my shopping to the left-hand side of the boot and one of the dogs could inhabit the other half with no risk of being pelted by a flying can of tomatoes.
Working Mum: I also loved these gadgets. I transport rubbish bags, sports equipment, cakes, shopping, laptops, paperwork…….You get the picture. I never know what I am going to be carrying from one day to the next. I have at times filled my boot with a complex arrangement of stacking boxes which then have to be removed and stored when you transport anything large. The STAYHOLD™ Boot Organisers are small anyway but they stack together and take up no space. They also require no planning to use as they live in the car stacked out of the way until you need to use them. It only takes about 30 seconds to separate and stick them into place. You need another minute if you are going to use the straps. I was concerned that they might wreck the carpet of my boot however even after a week’s constant use and lots of repositioning I couldn’t see any damage. They were great, I could keep rubbish bags away from my work stuff and protect the kid’s sports equipment from heavy shopping bags. For me, the most fantastic application was for a dinner party. It was one of those bring a course nights and I always get asked for my cheesecake (because I am a cheesecake god). There has never been a safe way to transport it so it has been sat on my knee often putting grease marks on my dress. As my hands are occupied the two bottles of wine I am also taking, roll around on the carpet collecting fluff and dirt – nice!. However, that is all now in the past. I used the STAYHOLD™ Boot Organisers to fix my cake tin to the back right of my boot and their delightfully easy to use straps to fix my wine to them. How fantastic.
They are sturdy high-quality items that really do the job. They stuck firmly to even the dirtiest most dog hair covered carpet. However, they were very easy to lift up and move around the boot. They didn’t move during transit even on rough farm tracks or on firm braking. They were incredibly helpful and frankly we don’t know how we managed without them. The only downside is that we now fighting over who gets to keep them – we might have to agree to some sort of shared custody deal!
Cost and Where to Buy
STAYHOLD™ Boot Organisers are available at www.velcro.co.uk and in-store and online at Amazon, Bunnings Warehouse, Homebase and Robert Dyas.
Products and prices:
• STAYHOLD™ Superpack (includes one large and two small cargo organiser panels, plus STAYHOLD™ straps) – £24.99
• STAYHOLD™ Cargo Organisers – £4.99 – £8.99
• STAYHOLD™ Utility Straps – £3.99 – £4.99
The good people at Gerber sent us one of their redesigned multi tools, the Gerber Centre-Drive, and sponsored us to write a review. A couple of the writers at DIY tips used the tool for a week and we also gave it to our handy man for a professional’s opinion. We have pulled our thoughts together here.
What The Chuff is ‘Multi-Tool’?
Basically, this is a clever device that combines lots of functions into one small device. A Swiss army knife is a good example of a multitool. These tools can be easily carried in a pocket, wallet or bag so it is practical to carry them with you where ever you go. In comparison, it isn’t very practical to lug a toolbox up a hill or up a precariously balanced ladder.
Multi-tools are varied because they are designed for different users. Firemen love versions in which the wire cutters can be used easily whilst they are wearing thick gloves, soldiers like ones where the components can be flicked out in a millisecond and the rest of us like the ones with bottle openers and a corkscrew.
The Gerber Centre-Drive we are reviewing is designed to cover the bases for DIY jobs. You tighten screws (flat and Philips head), cut, strip and twist wire, pull out nails, cut stuff, file things and yes you can open bottles too. Its quality means that it is suitable for professionals too; it will work alongside a plumber, builder or electrician for decades.
Who Are Gerber?
In 1910 Joseph Gerber was working in his families Oregon advertising company and he posted 24 sets of handmade knives out to a selection of their clients. Abercrombie & Fitch were so impressed with the blade quality that they asked for more to sell in their catalogue – and lo Gerber Legendary Blades was borne! Over the years Gerber has moved away from cutlery and specialised in knives; hunting, survival and military blades. In addition, they expanded their range to include axes, torches and multi-tools.
The brand is a household name in the US but not so well known in Europe so you are forgiven if you haven’t heard of them. Gerber multi-tools have been on the U.S. armies kit list for years, soldiers and ex-army personnel being some of Gerber’s most fervent fans. The fire service and police also use them.
The US Armies Gerber ID Kit
Wow, it weighs a tonne! There is no doubt that this is made with some pretty impressive and quality materials. There is nothing limp, lose or wobbly about this thing. The mechanisms are smooth and the grip good.
The writers scrabbled about looking for instructions but there weren’t any so we sent an email to Gerber to ask for some. Sadly none were forthcoming! The handy-man tester laughed at us when we told him. Apparently, most people know how to use them already or just work it out in a few minutes. He was almost right. After a quick look at the image below we worked out to get all the tools out and back in again pretty quickly – see the next section for some pointers. We strongly recommend familiarising yourself with the tool before you dangle out of a window or climb a ladder to do a bit of DIY.
Tools: How To Access and Put Them Away
Piers/Wire Cutters. You can’t open the arms of the tool without using the slider to push out the plier/wire cutter attachment. This is easy to do one handed using your thumb however if you have small lady hands you can’t do it in one go. Our handyman with his big spade hands could do this in one motion. Getting the plier/wire cutter head to slide back into the housing was not easy because the mechanism seemed to be a stiff at first. After a couple of uses it eased up hugely and it became easy to do single handily. First of all, close the arms and then place your thumb across the slider. There is a small square raised bit – press it in. This removes the lock then slide it back down which re-houses the pliers. IMPORTANT – Don’t pull the arms together tightly when you are sliding the pliers in or out, this freezes the mechanism. Just close then arms without pulling them together as far as they will go.
The knife blade and screwdriver are on the same arm as the plier slider. You can access these tools when the arms are closed. Simply pull them around on the hinge so they point in the opposite direction the pliers. To re-house them; look at the arm just the other side of the hinge that the blade or screwdriver rotate on. There is a long thin bit of the handle with some etching on it (it says unlock and there is a padlock symbol but you will be forgiven if you can’t read it!). Use your thumb to press it in towards the handle and this frees the hinge so you can rotate the attachment back into position.
Gerber Centre-Drive Multitool
The other tools are on the inside of the other arm so you need to slide the pliers out so you can open the arms. The attachments simply rotate out in the same way as the blade and the screwdriver. To re-house; On the same arms as the tools look on the other side – there is a large ridged black rubber thingy which kicks out at the end. Use your thumb to push it up the arm. It won’t move very far but it will release the lock allowing you to rotate the attachments back into their housing.
The Best Bits
1. By far the most impressive design feature was the screwdriver. This was loved by the writers and the professional alike. It has something called a ‘Centre-axis driver’ which means the screwdriver end aligns perfectly with the rest of the tool allowing you to use maximum force. With other multi-tools and even compact screwdriver sets, this alignment of the body combined with a decent handle length is missing. This means it is impossible to create the torque necessary for a lot of jobs. If you can’t create enough torque (force) the screwdriver simply wears off the etches in the screw – once that happens it is very difficult to remove the screw making a difficult job virtually impossible. Hence why this feature on the Gerber is so good.
2. The wire cutter and plier blades can be opened one-handed. The wire cutters are great but if they get a lot of use they will inevitably wear out and you can’t sharpen them like you could a knife blade. Never fear these are replaceable on the Gerber Centre-Drive!
The screwdriver- see how the centre-axis design gives excellent grip and torque?
3. Quality is a real feature. It’s no good having one of these emergency tools only for it to break or a blade to wear out at a critical time. Our handyman assessed the quality as very good and he would definitely give it space on his tool belt.
The Worst Bits
To a homeowner, the tool is not instantly intuitive. You need 10 minutes of fiddling to work out how it all works. It should really come with proper instructions or better yet there should be a decent (and short video) on the Gerber website.
It is quite heavy and this might put some people off carrying it with them everywhere.
This is a top quality gadget and it did do all the jobs expected of it well. The range of attachments is good and useful for most tradesmen and DIY’ers. It also looks impressive and the weight makes it feel high quality. This is would make a good gift.
The UK has a wide range of DIY shops. Each has their own unique selling points, strengths and weakness. There is a surprising range of opening times and geographical coverage even from the biggest chains. So if you really need a widget at 5.30pm on a Sunday how can you find out who is open and how far they are from you? You can go through each chains website individually (see below for a summary of their coverage and their store finders) but it takes time and is not very efficient. Have you ever come across the brilliant www.opening-times.co.uk? You can simply enter your town name and the category of shop you are looking for and it produces a list of options with a map, contact details, directions and opening times. You can even use it to search just for a particular chain such as B&Q shops. Simpler and faster!
B&Q is still the nationals most popular DIY shop and it has a massive 270 shops throughout the UK. Opening hours are long; 7am to 8pm or 9pm however not all shops are open on Sundays. Their store finder is fast and easy to use presenting a helpful area with your nearest shop locations so you compare their opening times and how far away they are.
Wicks have over 200 shops around the UK. Their store finder is fast with a postcode search or alphabetic drop down. However, the resulting display is not well designed and it’s hard to read the opening times quickly and without lots of scrolling. Lots of the shops close early, however, there are always a few of the larger stores that open until 8pm so make sure you check if you are going to arrive after 6pm.
Screwfix has a whopping 536 shops. The store finder is fast and easy to use and most of the shops have consistent opening times; Mon-Fri: 7am to 8pm, Sat: 7am to 6pm, Sun: 9am to 4pm. However a few shops don’t open until 10am on a Sunday.
Homebase has very good coverage throughout the UK and Ireland – over 250 shops. Their store finder is easy to use and fast and it also has an ‘Other Stores Near’ feature which is handy. Opening hours are 7 days a week and long; 7am to 8pm. They were bought by the Australian company Bunnings.
This company is the leading DIY retailer in Australia and New Zealand. They have entered the UK market by buying Homebase. However, they have also opened 9 UK stores under the separate BUnnings brand. At the moment these are all located in the South of England. Their store locator does not include an interactive postcode search or maps so you need to transfer their street address into another website or app like google maps to work out which is the closest shop to you and how to get there.
Robert Dyas Shops
This chain has 95 shops in the South of England. It is open 7 days a week but closes relatively early on weekdays (5.30pm). Their website has a very well laid out and easy to use store finder which includes a map and exact opening times for each shop.
The Range has over 140 shops in the UK and Ireland. Their store finder starts with a map of the UK and all their locations marked which is a helpful overview. Their opening times seem to be the most consistent between stores which is helpful – Monday to Saturday 9am to 8pm and Sundays 10.30 to 4.30pm.
Maxwells have 10 shops all in the North East of England. Their store finder lacks maps to it is not very user-friendly. They also have relatively short opening times and few shops open on Sundays.
Toolstation is a Travis Perkins brand. It has over 200 locations throughout the UK. Their store finder starts with a map of the UK and all their locations marked which is a helpful overview. Their store finder only gives you a single result, there is no nearest alternatives. Opening times are long and relatively consistent.
Laminate flooring has completely transformed millions of homes and, in addition to any aesthetic values, a major attraction of this type of flooring is that it is easy to fit by any competent DIY enthusiast and it is extremely hard-wearing with the potential to outlast almost any other form of flooring. In some cases, this has led to some complacency with householders believing that their new floor is completely indestructible and maintenance free. Unfortunately, laminate flooring can and does suffer from wear and despite its toughness, damage can occur. There are a few simple steps which can help to ensure that a laminate floor keeps its good looks and fully lives up to its reputation for longevity.
Everyone thinks that they know how to clean a floor but many of the traditional methods can be both ineffective and even potentially damaging so it should always be remembered that laminate flooring has a very hard upper surface but a more vulnerable sub-structure. Due to the very fact that these floors are made up of separate planks, water can penetrate beneath the surface and cause serious damage. Wet mopping of these floors must, therefore, be avoided. All that is required is first to remove any dirt, especially sharp particles, with a soft broom or vacuum cleaner with a suitable attachment.
Rotating beater bars should be avoided as, even though they may be set high enough not to physically make contact with the floor, any fluff or dirt sticking to the rotating brushes, as it inevitably does, can transform a vacuum cleaner into a power sander!
Cleaning with a damp (not wet) cloth or mop is then the best way to keep the floor looking good. Plain water is often adequate or a cleaner recommended by the makers of the floor. Normal household cleaners such as detergents and especially soaps should be avoided as these have a tendency to creep into the joints between the boards.
An ideal laminate floor cleaning cloth
For particularly stubborn dirt, simple spot cleaning can be carried out and marks such as tar or paint can usually be removed by the careful use of acetone-based nail varnish remover which must then be thoroughly cleaned away. Chewing gum is best removed by firstly being chilled with ice to make it harden and then simply scraped away with a plastic scraper such as a credit card.
Prevention is always better than cure and in order to minimise any chances of wear or damage a few simple precautions are needed. Heavy furniture, especially with small metal points of contact, such as metal castors, can result in dents. The use of castor cups and pads under heavy furniture can prevent this. Many scratches are caused by grit particles being brought in on shoes.
Strategically placed door mats and rugs can minimise this risk. In time, laminate floors can fade as they age and, whilst this may not be a problem provided the fading is uniform, It can ruin the appearance of the floor if the fading is patchy. Regularly rearranging furniture and relocating rugs can avoid such problems and providing protection from bright sunshine will also help the floor to keep its new appearance for longer. Furniture should never be dragged across the floor and scourers or abrasive cleaners should never be used.
Even with the best care and attention, some damage can occur often leaving householders wondering whether an expensive replacement is necessary. Fortunately, some simple repairs can provide a very cost-effective remedy.
For surface scratches, furniture makers can be used to simply colour in the scratch. Choose the colour match you can but an exact match is not necessary for a small area. For holes and deep scratches, putty/wax filler sticks can be used which quite simply fill any indentations. These are available in a range of colours and it is even possible to mix them to get the colour absolutely correct. Once the filling is completed, the textured grain pattern can be added by carefully using a knife and or furniture markers.
Deep Scratch Repair on a Laminate Floor
A wood scratch marker to hide surface marks.
For larger holes, a replacement piece of laminate flooring may be required. If the damage is close to the edge of the room, it may be possible to remove a damaged board by disassembling the floor in the reverse sequence as to which it was laid but in most cases, the damaged section will need to be cut out in-situ. This needs to be done very carefully and, as the boards usually fit together in a tongue and groove arrangement, the damaged section needs to be removed in several pieces. A circular saw, drill and chisel will be required. Refitting the new section necessitates the modification of the tongues and grooves to enable it to be dropped into place. It should be glued into place and then held with suitable weights until the glue has completely hardened.
Give your home an idiosyncratic style by adding elements of vintage chic, scour local charity shops, car boot sales, auctions and architectural salvage yards for distinctive pieces for your home. Interiors with an industrial look have been popular recently, and it’s a trend which shows no sign of going away. Light fittings, work tables and cable spools – could all add an industrial edge to your interiors. Moreover, if you’re lucky enough to find vintage shop fittings such as sets of draws from ironmongers or haberdashers, you’ll have stylish and practical pieces of furniture to add to your home. Alternatively, look out for pieces of vintage G-plan or ercol furniture for some mid-century style.
Try out different paint effects to give your home a new look, try rag rolling, stippling or marbling. If you’re handy with a paint brush and eager to let your inner artist out, then consider painting a trompe l’oeil effect on a wall. Remember you could simply project an image onto a wall and paint around it – you don’t need to be a great artist to have a go at this. So get your paint brushes out and get creative.
Create a gallery effect on a wall in your home by putting up lots of small picture frames, filling them with family photos, art, embroidery work, pieces of vintage wallpaper or even pretty gift-wrap.
Alternatively group several mirrors together, in different shapes and sizes to reflect light and add a distinctive focal point to a room. You can find mirrors at affordable prices in charity shops or on the high street often in a vintage-inspired style.
Revamp your windows
Revamping the way your windows look doesn’t have to be expensive. You could personalise your home by giving your windows a new look, with a fresh coat of paint or by simply dressing them differently. Use voile panels to give your windows a fresh, subtle look while keeping light levels high.
Alternatively, simply frame your windows differently by tying back your existing curtains in a new way – look out for distinctive pieces of cord, braid or ribbon, or a coordinating fabric to change their look. If you have a larger budget, consider installing or updating your patio doors to transform a reception room in your home. By installing patio doors you’ll increase the natural light levels in your home and bring the outdoors indoors, so you can enjoy your garden whatever the weather.
So there you have a few ideas on how to personalise your home – now all you need to do is get started.
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