How to lift floorboards

It can seem a rather onerous task and one certain to disfigure your floor. Of course it doesn’t have to be that bad… but usually is… especially if you’re planning to do the job in a rush!

First of all you need to determine what type of flooring you have. Just lift the carpets and look, chances are you’re either looking at lengths of parallel board all lying neatly next to one another (well ok… kind of neatly lying next to one another) or you may just find a large expanse of chipboard.

The lengths of parallel board are called tongue and groove, it’s not the name of some bizarre dance but a description of how the boarding works. One side has a tongue sticking out which slots neatly into the other side of the next board which has a groove running down the side of the board for it’s whole length. The whole thing slots neatly together to make a nice strong floor.

Lifting tongue and groove is easier than lifting chipboard in my own experience. There are a few ways to go about this task:

1. Work out which length of board you need to lift, identify where it’s fixed down to a joist by looking for the nail heads, mark a diagonal line across the board such that a part of both cut ends will remain supported by the joist, cut thru using a small tenon saw. Once the ends are cut you need to cut thru the tongue holding the board in place, you can either do this the nice way by cutting along the whole length of the board on both sides with the tenon saw… or you can do it the rough way using a flat, wide bolster chisel to smash through the tongue down both sides of the board. Once this is done you can pry the board up using a small crowbar.

2. You can make a much better and faster job of the above using a small cordless circular saw instead of the tenon saw. If the saw allows it then be sure to set the depth of cut to the width of the boards you’re cutting.

Did I mention that you REALLY need to be aware of any pipes or cables running under the board you’re cutting? Well if I didn’t then please do take care, you REALLY need to be aware of pipes and cables under the board your cutting. A mistake here can result in an expensive an annoying flood or even a terminal electric shock!!

If you’re not so lucky then you’ve lifted the carpets and discovered a vast expanse of chipboard… Bother!!

Personally I prefer to use a small circular saw for cutting chipboard. I use the lines of nails to identify the position of any joists and cut the board in line with the joists, leaving enough of an edge to be able to fix the board back down afterwards. I also avoid cutting the board into narrow strips because this weakens it badly, I prefer to cut a larger square section if I have to cut the stuff at all.

Using a circular saw in an enclosed space can get really noisy, dusty and dangerous so treat the job with respect and make sure you’re protecting your hands, eyes, ears and lungs… gloves, goggles, ear defenders and a facemask. Simple isn’t it?

DIY Tool Guide – Part Five

Knowing just how big or small things are is a really essential part of any successful DIY project, and when you think about it, knowing exactly how big or small things are can even save you money!

When you’re buying paint, tiles, carpet, lino and virtually any other DIY material you’re most like to buy it by length or volume. To work out what length or volume you need then you must measure the place where you’re using the materials… are you with me yet?

What I’m talking about is the simplest precision instrument that we all need to keep in our toolbox, yes that’s it… a tape measure!

There’s an old carpenters adage that goes ‘measure twice, cut once’, the point being that cutting off too much is easy, sticking some back on is virtually impossible (and it’s true for most materials). If you’re going to bother measuring at all then your tape measure is your best friend, it’s compact easy to use and accurate when used correctly.

A tape measure that’s between 5m and 10m in length will cost you around £10 although you might feel the need to splash out on a branded Stanley Tape Measure which is going to cost more like £20.

Look after your tape measure, use the locking mechanism to prevent the measuring tape from recoiling too quickly into the holder… although this may not do the tape any harm it’s really not great for your fingers when the last six inches of tape give them a good hard slap as the tape finishes recoiling! Be careful not to twist or deform the tape too far, once it gets a kink in it then it stays there forever and can make the tape stick in the holder which makes it very awkward to use.

An essential accessory to your brand new tape measure is a HB pencil, you’ll need this for marking off your measurements for cutting and levelling purposes… A pencil line ALWAYS works better than marking your cut with your thumb and hoping you didn’t move it!!

DIY Tool Guide – Part Four

Here’s a list of the items I’ve already included in my DIY Tool Guide:

Strong Toolbox
Claw Hammer
Cross Pein Hammer
Set of Screwdrivers
Electrical Test Screwdriver
Adjustable Spanner
Set of Combination Spanners
Side Cutters
Long-Nosed Pliers
Combination Pliers

I’ve got one tool in my own toolbox that has a habit of disappearing at the least opportune moment. I guess it’s just because it’s such a useful and versatile tool. Frankly it’s the last thing you want to leave lying around though, not a tool for kids to play with… or most adults I’ve discovered.

A craft knife (or Stanley knife) is great for cutting carpet, electrical insulation, fingers, card, paper… etc. etc. etc. Get a knife with a retractable blade, leave the fixed blade versions alone, you really need to be able to leave the knife safely in the toolbox without worrying about stabbing your finger next time you put a hand in there! The best craft knives come equipped with a large knurled nut that lets you open the case easily and change the blade, better craft knives even have space in them to store a safety pack of blades. Cheaper versions need a screwdriver to open the case and might or might not have space for a few spare blades.

Not much get’s in the way of a brand new craft knife blade… Always cut away from your your hands and body, keep your fingers out of the cutting line and keep the knife away from curious kids.

A good craft knife will cost between £5 and £8 from most tool suppliers.

How to shovel snow!

Good grief, more snow today! Not much by Scandinavian standards but enough to bring the UK to a grinding halt. Stops me getting the car out of my driveway too…  it’s just steep enough and just slippery enough to keep me sitting there spinning the wheels and going absolutely nowhere.

This morning I decided that enough is enough, surely it’s easy enough to shovel the snow off the driveway?

Of course if you’re gonna bother clearing snow then you might just as well do it properly, and this is why:

  • It’s really good exercise.
  • It really warms you up on a cold day.
  • It’s very satisfying once finished.
  • Do it right and your drive will stay clear even if there’s more snow!

What do you need?

If you’re lucky then the snow is fresh and no-one has walked or driven over it yet. If you find it like this then just use the broom to push the snow to one side, work your way from one end to the other pushing snow across the driveway in straight lines. If you’ve got kids then brush it all into one big pile because you can make a snowman really quickly too! Before long you’ll have a mostly clear driveway ready for the next step.

If you’re not so lucky then the kids, the dog, the postman and the neighbours have all walked, driven or tobogganed on every inch of your drive and compacted the snow into a couple of inches of ice. Brilliant… NOT! This is REALLY gonna get you warm now. Grab hold of your plastic snow shovel, a wide builders shovel will do but will be  much more noisy…. It’s ok though, that incessant scraping noise is only irritating all the people sat indoors NOT helping you shovel snow. Start at one end of the drive and shovel a line of snow straight across and into a pile on the most convenient side. Repeat, over and over and over again. You end up with a mostly clear drive with a big pile of icy lumps along one side. The kids can make the sort of snowballs that knock people unconscious with this stuff :o)

You may notice I’ve said mostly clear… let’s not get too anal about this, there’s no prizes for the best driveway! Besides which it will usually start snowing again the moment you start clearing up, it’s sods law! Once the driveway is mostly clear then it’s important that you take the next step. If you just leave it with odd patches and a thin dusting of snow then the chances are this will freeze into a lethal sheet of ice which is just making things worse.

Next step. Get your working gloves on if you haven’t already, pick up or drag your bag of rock salt to one end of the driveway. Take care lifting it, even the smaller bags can weigh 25Kg so mind your back. Take a handful of rock salt at a time and spread it thinly over the driveway, try to avoid having piles of it dotted here and there because it just doesn’t work so well. Once the rock salt is down it will slowly dissolve, melting any ice that’s left on the surface and creating a thin film of salt that will melt any new snow too.

Now step back and admire your handiwork… you can feel a bit smug too because it’s claimed that snow shoveling can burn 10 calories per minute… Phew! I’d sit down and have a cup of tea if I were you…

Here’s some more stuff I looked up because I was wondering where does rock salt come from and why does salt cause ice to melt, check out the section in this article about Salinity & Freezing Point

DIY Tool Guide – Part Three

Have you ever had that experience with some innocuous domestic task that requires you to remove a nail or a staple? Or maybe you needed to bend a cable or a piece of metal?

First you try using your fingers… then you collect the sticking plasters from the medicine cabinet and tape up the gash you just carved into your thumb! Next you try to lever the thing out with a screwdriver… now this is a bit more serious and usually ends with a trip to casualty to mend the hole you just made in your hand… Next you try the hammer and chisel… the results are way too gory for this website!

The simple thing would have been to equip your DIY toolkit with a pair of long-nosed pliers. An extremely versatile tool that can be used for gripping and holding items that you need to turn or hit, or grabbing hold of something you need to pull out or bend.

Long-nosed pliers are the next simple tool in this DIY tool guide that can be bought for £3 or less. And unless you find some particularly cheap and nasty ones, they are going to last you for many years of service.

Often these can be purchased as part of a set that generally includes side-cutters, long-nosed pliers and combination pliers. Combination pliers can be a handy addition to you toolkit but please remember that they are no substitute for a simple set of spanners!

DIY Tool Guide – Part Two

With all DIY jobs there will come a time when you need to undo a stuck nut or bolt and using a rusty old pair of pliers just won’t work! Now it’s time for you to get yourself a spanner or two…

Adjustable spanners are a great thing for a quick fix and for undoing nuts and bolts that aren’t too tight… but don’t expect too much of them, they tend to come loose at the wrong moment… Even so a small adjustable spanner is a good addition to your toolbox though and costs about £8.

When things get tough and you need to apply a bit more force then a decent set of combination spanners should do the job. Combination spanners are just that, a combination of an open-ended spanner on one end and a ring spanner on the other. You can spend anything from £20 to £200 on a set of ring spanners, generally you get what you pay for. If you only need them occasionally though you really don’t need to spend a fortune. It’s important to look out for a set that includes both metric and imperial sizes, if you use a spanner that doesn’t quite fit a nut you’re just gonna round it off and get yourself into all sorts of trouble and extra work.

The occasional electrical job will often require that you cut a cable here and there, craft knives and scissors will do the job but usually lead you straight to the hospital too… It’s amazing how easily a craft knife moves through insulation AND copper cable when your finger is in the wrong place… Nasty… Don’t do it… Get a pair of side cutters instead, cut cables easily and safely. The more you pay the longer they stay sharp and cut well, but £5 will buy you a pair that will last for ages!

read my diy tool guide – part three

DIY Tool Guide – Part One

No household should be without a basic toolkit, ready to deal with minor domestic emergencies and simple DIY jobs.

Why should you bother to spend any money on a DIY toolkit? Well the main reason is that even without one you’re STILL going to find DIY jobs to do…. Spending a few quid on a DIY toolkit will save you the pain of using a dinner knife instead of a screwdriver!

So this is my DIY tool guide for setting yourself up with a toolkit that will give you the right tool for all the little jobs around the house.

The first thing you need is a toolbox… Seriously, start right there, because otherwise you end up losing tools quicker than you can buy them! Find yourself a lightweight plastic toolbox, ideally one with a tray under the lid for small parts, it’ll set you back about £16 to £20.

Now let’s fill it with a set of tools that won’t cost you a fortune.

A hammer is always a good place to start but there’s a amazing array to choose from. For a basic DIY toolbox there are a couple you can buy that will cover most eventualities, find yourself a 16oz Claw Hammer (for bigger things that need hitting, costs about £9 for a decent brand) and a 4oz Cross Pein Hammer (for small jobs that need a bit of precision, costs about £5).

A decent screwdriver set is a must, a really cheap set won’t last long and usually fail just at the wrong moment so if you’re going to splash out a bit on anything then I’d suggest your screwdrivers are the place to do it. A set of VDE Insulated Screwdrivers is a great idea, find a set of about 7, maybe 4 sizes of plain slot drivers and 3 PoziDrive screwdrivers, these will cost you about £20. The insulation prevents you from electrocuting yourself when you poke a screwdriver somewhere you shouldn’t have! An ordinary non-insulated set of screwdrivers will set you back anything from £5 upwards.

One other screwdriver you really must get is an Electrical Test Screwdriver, it’ll cost you about £2, use this before poking any other scredriver into anything electrical. If you don’t already know an Electrical Test Screwdriver lights up when you put the tip of it onto a live connection and your finger on the top of it. A very small current runs from the live connection, thru the bulb in the top of it and then runs to earth thru your body… don’t worry, you won’t feel a thing! You will find live connections BEFORE you touch them tho!

More in DIY Tool Guide – Part Two….