What Is Engineered Wooden Flooring?

More and more households have been opting for wooden flooring in recent years and one of the driving factors behind this change has been the emergence of engineered wooden flooring which is now a more popular choice than solid wood flooring in most countries. The cost was previously a big limitation with regard to wooden flooring and while solid wooden flooring has come down in price, engineered flooring has offered a low cost solution that can be around 50% cheaper than its solid wood flooring equivalents.

The reason engineered wooden flooring comes in so cheap is that a typical plank will have a thin strip of the desired wood on the surface, usually around 4mm thick. The rest of the plank will be composed of a highly durable core often containing plywood or spruce that is often stronger and more stable than a solid wood floor. Also, due to the way engineered wooden flooring is layered, it is more resistant to localised heat fluctuations making it suitable for use with underfloor heating while solid wood flooring will often bulge and distort.

Galleria Engineered Structural Fumed Oak 150mm Oiled Flooring

Engineered wooden flooring is definitely not to be confused with laminate flooring which is essentially just a printed picture of wood stuck to a plastic baseboard. The surface of engineered wooden flooring is real wood that can be finished in a variety of ways such as brushing or with a satin lacquer. It can typically re-sanded and re-finished around 3-4 times depending on the thicknesses of the wood layer used and you really wouldn't be able to tell the difference between engineered wooden flooring and solid wooden flooring without pulling the floor up and seeing it as a cross section.

Some popular brands of engineered wooden flooring include Galleria engineered flooring, City, Florence and Tastes of Life and to see what engineered wooden flooring is capable of, take a look at Galleria Engineered Structural American Black Walnut 191mm Lacquered Flooring.

City Engineered American Select Walnut 3 Strip Lacquered Flooring

But the price isn't the only advantage engineered wood flooring has over solid wood flooring. As mentioned previously, it is more durable and stable than solid wood but it is also more environmentally friendly. It's a bit of a misconception that wood flooring is bad for the environment to start with. As long as the timber has been locally sourced and manufactured in a responsible manner, wood flooring is essentially a renewable resource (unlike laminate flooring which is composed of plastic derived from oil and is difficult to recycle). However, engineered flooring is even greener than solid wood as it only uses a thin layer of the desired wood for the surface, typically oak or ash. The bulk of the plank is made of more readily available spruce (a fast growing coniferous tree) or durable plywood that can be produced using recycled wood.

To conclude, engineered wooden flooring has 3 main advantages over solid wood flooring, it's durability, the cost, and its green credentials. These are key factors everyone should be taking into consideration and seeing as an engineered wood and a solid wood floor will look identical once fitted, there's really no reason not to go for engineered wooden flooring.

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How To Change A Tap Washer

How To Change A Tap Washer

If you're tap has started to drip after use or you're finding it takes increasingly more work to turn it off, then chances are the tap's washer has worn out. The washer is a small coin shaped piece of rubber with a hole in the middle of it that compresses to form a tight seal when a tap is turned off. However over time, the rubber will begin to disintegrate and lose it's elasticity and this will cause your tap to drip.

In today's 'throwaway society', some people would sooner think about simply replacing a dripping tap altogether than replacing the small rubber washer, particularly seeing as the callout charge alone for a plumber will be upwards of £30 for such a simple task. But a new washer will cost you about 40p from your local hardware shop and will only take you about 15 minutes to fit.

Before you start any work with taps, be sure to isolate your water supply and drain the pipes. To do this you'll need to find your stopcock (usually under the kitchen sink in most old houses) and then turn on a downstairs tap to drain the water from the pipes. Also, remember to put the plug in the sink/bath you're working at to ensure you don't lose any small pieces (it happens).

To get into the tap, you're first going to have to remove the plastic cover at the top of the tap. This usually says whether the the tap is hot or cold either by colour or an H or C. You can do this by prying it off with a small flat-head screwdriver but be carful not to cause damage to the tap.

Under the plastic cap, you should find a screw which you'll need to loosen. This will enable you to remove the handle of the tap. Next, you're going to need to use an adjustable spanner to remove the main body of the tap (as shown in the diagram below). Be sure to hold the tap straight while doing this with a strong hand or another spanner to ensure that no damage is caused to the sink or the pipes beneath it by the forces required. It's also worth wrapping the tap with a piece of cloth while doing this part to ensure the adjustable spanners don't scratch the metal.

Now that you've taken your tap apart, you should be able to locate the black, rubber washer. Chances are it'll be secured be another screw to the main body of the tap that you'll have to also loosen. Replace the tap washer with your new one and then reassemble the tap making sure that everything is screwed securely but not excessively tight. Then test the tap a few times before turning the water supply back on.

Tap washers come in a variety of sizes so it's probably worth taking this washer along with you to your hardware shop to make sure you get the right type. Most hardware shops also sell boxes with a selection of washers in them for just a couple of pounds.

I stumbled upon this simple diagram online (which strangely enough was printed originally as a cigarette card) that shows which part of the tap needs to be removed, what the washer looks like (C), and how the washer actually works to turn the tap off. However, it is also a particularly old fashioned style of tap and has different components to more modern taps.


How To Change A Tap Washer

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How To Paint Newly Plastered Walls

Fresh plaster is a super-absorbent surface and this can present a problem when painting it for the first time. Because of its absorbent nature, paint doesn't bind well to it and will simply peel or flake off as it dries. In order for your emulsion (water based) paint to adhere to the plaster properly, you're going to have to apply what is known as a 'mist coat'. Luckily, it's really quite simple and you won't be needing any extra equipment or substances such as a PVA primer.

Before you start any of this though, you need to make sure that the plaster on the wall is sufficiently dried. This can happen after just a few hours but it's definitely best to err on the side of caution on these sort of matters so I suggest between 48 hours and a week for most newly plastered walls. There are a lot of variables that can complicate things though such as temperature and humidity as well as the thickness and type of your plaster so you have to judge it for yourselves from the look and feels of the plastered wall. Some suggest leaving plastered walls for much longer and some plasterers even suggest 6 months but this just isn't realistic and I suspect a lot of this is just security so they can shift the blame incase things do go wrong.

So now for the mist coat. This is probably the easiest, cheapest and most effective way to begin painting a newly plastered wall so there's no reason not to do it. Basically, you just dilute your emulsion paint with water to a 50:50 mix as this thiner, watery paint is able to sink into all the tiny holes in your plastered wall forming a secure bond as it dries.

Painting newly plastered walls with a mist coat

You'll usually get away with just one mist coat but it's worth doing two if it seems like the wall is still too absorbent and the first coat is barely noticeable. One thing to watch out for when painting with diluted paint is how messy it can become. It's much more prone to dripping and I would suggest carefully using a roller and making sure to remove as much excess as possible with the roller tray. Also, you'll need to use a fully waterproof floor protector such as plastic sheeting rather than cotton dust sheets as the paint can go right through the fabric.

It does't matter if your walls are slightly patchy as in the image. This is only the first coat and the important thing is that the entire surface was covered. You're now ready to begin painting your newly plastered walls knowing the paint won't flake off at a later date.

If you're on a tight budget, you can use just a cheap, white emulsion paint for the mist coat and paint over this with a more expensive paint of your chosen colour afterwards. Designer Paint (link in the top right of this page) offer a great range of colours at affordable prices.

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How To Seal Around A Bath

How To Seal Around A Bath

First off, I want to warn you that sealing around anything with silicone sealant is tricky. Without a few pointers, things can go wrong very quickly and you'll end up with your hands covered in sealant which is nigh on impossible to get off once dried. Also, I want to mention at this point that silicone sealant is known to cause mouth cancer so make sure you wash your hands thoroughly afterwards.

Using silicone to seal your bath is nevertheless something anyone can do and although you might mess it up the first time, you can try it as many times as you need to. It's also something that you get better at with practice so it's definitely worth learning.

You'll Need

Tube of silicone sealant
Caulking gun skeleton
Wet sponge/cloth
Stanley knife (if replacing old sealant)
White spirit (if replacing old sealant)

As with most things, there's a bit of preparation work you have to do before you can start. If you're replacing old sealant that has either gone mouldy or split, you're going to have to remove it completely before applying new silicone. There are specific tools designed specifically for this but you'll probably get away with just a sharp Stanley knife. Cut vertically and then horizontally to remove the old sealant and then scrape away any that's left behind.

Silicone won't stick to any surface that's either wet or greasy. That's why you're going to have to wipe down the area with a solvent like white spirit or rubbing alcohol to remove any soap residue and body fats. Once this is done, wipe off the solvent with a paper towel (try to avoid skin contact) and then leave it for 5-10 minutes to dry fully. Tea break?

An important trick of the trade in sealing baths is that the you should fill the bath up with water. A standard bath full of water (and a bather) can weigh 150kg which is enough to cause the bath and the floor to flex under the weight by a couple of millimetres. Silicone is flexible but not flexible enough to stretch this far and will split either immediately or over time as it dries out. Filling the bath with cold water is just as good as warm (actually slightly better) but make sure the water doesn't splash and make the surface that will be receiving silicone wet.

Now you're ready to start. If you've never used a skeleton gun before, familiarise yourself with it by feeling how much pressure it requires on the handle and how to release the pressure quickly if needed using the release switch. Next load the gun with your tube of silicone sealant and pull the trigger a few times until it comes into contact with the end of the tube. Then cut off the tip of the nozzle (a smaller opening is far easier for beginners to handle) and poke a long nail into the tube to break the seal.

how to seal bath with siliconeThe key things to focus on in applying sealant are control and consistency. A continuous flow of silicone is necessary for a good finish so you should be aiming to apply the same amount of force to the trigger throughout. Don't worry too much if there are any small areas with not enough or too much silicone, just make sure to apply a thin bead along the whole stretch. The thickness of the silicone of course depends on your particular bath and tiles but is typically around 3mm.

Once you've gone all the way round the bath, you're ready to start smoothing the silicone. Be sure to flick the tab on the skeleton gun to release the pressure on the tube, then grab an old sponge or towel and dip it in the bath. We're going to be smoothing the silicone with our finger and we need to make sure our finger is wet while we do this to achieve a smooth finish and to stop the silicone from sticking to our finger.

Run your wet finger along the bead of silicone applying a fair amount of pressure but not so much that the silicone squeezes out the sides. If you find it squeezing out the sides no matter how little pressure you're applying, your silicone is probably too thick and you'll need to start again. Wipe off any excess silicone that builds up on your finger on the towel as you go, then wet your finger again and continue where you left off. Remember not to wet your finger by licking it because as mentioned earlier, silicone is known to cause mouth cancer.

Hopefully, you should have a pretty nice seal now between your bath and your tiles with a nice, smooth finish. If not, don't worry because as I said at the start, it's one of the tricker parts of DIY and takes practice. You have enough silicone in a tube to try this around 5 times so there's no harm in waiting for it to dry, cutting the sealant away and starting from scratch. Chances are that the problem was that you applied too much silicone. It's hard to judge the first time you do this but just remember, less is more.

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How To Cut In When Painting

tips for cutting in painting

A lot of people think that there's not a lot to painting and there are countless sayings in the building trade, some of which are probably too crude to quote here, about how easy it is. But if this is the case, then why is there so much poor quality painting everywhere I seem to look. It's certainly easy to apply paint to a surface but doing it well is what counts.

The key to a professional-looking paint job is cutting in. It's the edges and where there's a contrast in colour that you're really going to notice sloppy painting but I'm convinced that precise cutting in is something that anyone can do with a few techniques you'll learn here and a bit of practice.

A fairly common misconception about cutting in is that you need to be using a small paintbrush. This is anything but the truth and actually, you'll probably find it easier with a larger brush as it offers more support when in contact with the wall and keeps your army steady. The only thing a good cutting in paint brush needs is to not have any stray bristles poking out of the edges as these still carry paint and making cutting in virtually impossible.

Cutting in is all about long, steady motions and to achieve these, you're going to want to make sure there's as much paint 'in' the brush as you can. It's a strange idea to think of paint being in the brush rather than on it but the whole point of a brush's bristles is to maximise the surface area of it that can hold paint.

Everyone is familiar with the idea of lightly dabbing the edges of the paint brush against the edge of the pot to remove any excess but if you haven't used the following tip to get the paint in the brush, then you're going to be revisiting you're pot very often and not achieving uniform, continuous strokes.

While dipping the brush in the paint, be sure to press the brush firmly against the side of the pot to spread the bristles apart so that they can really take in the paint. Do this two to three times on either side of the brush and then as always dab off the excess to minimise drips.

Cutting in isn't so much about how precisely you can place the paintbrush to the edge without going over, it's all about the pressure you're applying to the brush to spread the bristles apart to paint up to edge.

Ideally you want to bring the brush into contact with the wall with the edge of the brush about 5mm away from the part you don't want to paint. Now, as you start to move the brush along, begin to steadily increase the pressure you're placing on the brush to spread the bristles apart. Don't worry if they don't get to the edge straight away, you can always come back from the other direction. Aim to be at the edge within 10-15cm from where you start.

Once you get the right pressure and are on the right line, it's surprisingly easy to stay there. This is why you'll be glad you followed the advice to get more paint safely in the brush so you can keep going without having to reload. It's also important to remember to be making the movement from the shoulder rather than the wrist. This just offers more stability and gives you more control, like when putting in golf.

So now you know you've learnt these tips to paint like a professional, you can start your own DIY redecoration project. If you want a great paint supplier with a wide range and fast cheap UK delivery, be sure to visit Designerpaint.

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How To Remove Wallpaper Easily

The Easiest Way To Strip Wallpaper

Stripping wallpaper is one of those tedious tasks we all have to do at the start of any major redecoration project but it needn't be as time-consuming or backbreaking as you think. There a few tricks to removing wallpaper that could save you hours on larger projects.

To quickly and easily remove wallpaper, you're going to need some equipment but luckily it's not going to set you back much.

You'll Need

Bucket of water
Towel or large brush
Stanley knife (optional)
Steam stripper (optional)

Soaking the wallpaper is the key factor to removing it quickly and easily. For this, you're best bet (for a single room) is to just go for a simple bucket of water and either an old towel/rag that you can dip in and wipe the wallpaper over with or a large brush (a wallpapering brush or a dustpan brush are ideal) that you can use to flick water onto the wall (more fun but a bit messier).

It'll probably take 5-10 minutes for the water to soak into the paper so this is your designated tea break time (milk and two sugars please). If you want to speed up this process (and also make it more effective) you could use either a Stanley knife (or just the sharp corner of your scraper to score lines into the paper.

The ideal pattern to go for if scoring the wallpaper is a diagonal crisscross with lines about 5cm (2inches) apart that'll allow water to really get into and behind the wallpaper but there are some drawbacks to this method. Firstly, the scoring of the paper can easily go all the way through and cause damage to the plasterwork behind and secondly you won't be able to get the wallpaper off in large pieces. However, this is pretty much your only option if the wallpaper was painted over as this would otherwise make it waterproof.

Stream strippers are another option and are definitely worthwhile investments if you're doing the whole house or are an up-and-coming property developer. You can find a selection of wallpaper strippers for as little as £29.39 online.

Tips for removing wallpaper

Hopefully if you've followed these tips, you should have a pile of torn up, soggy wallpaper that vaguely resembles this. Congratulations, you've made your first step towards redecorating your room. For more decoration tips visit our decorating collection and for inspiration and DIY supplies for your redecoration project visit Wallpaper Direct and Designer Paint.

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How To Set Out Tiles

How to set out a tiling project

The planning stage (often referred to as 'setting out') is probably the most overlooked aspect of tiling. Yet it's the thing that can really make or break a tiling project and mean the difference between a professional looking tiled area or something that resembles a schoolchild's collage.

Ensuring that there are no thin slivers at either end of a tiled area is the basic idea behind setting out tiles and the golden rule is that the tiles at the ends of the wall should never be less than a fifth of the total length of the tile. For example a 150mm standard ceramic tile shouldn't be thinner than 30mm (it's important to use mm when tiling and it's often referred to as a 'millimetre art').

One way to do this is to laboriously lay out the tiles in the area to be tiled to see how things will play out but with small tiles such as Victorian floor tiles, this is virtually impossible. This is fine if you've got a lot of time on your hands but while being incredibly tedious, it is also often inaccurate as the slightest knock can ruin all your work.

How to set out tiles.

The smart way to set out tiles is using a simple formula and all you'll need to know to use it is the length of the wall you'll be tiling, the length of one of your tiles and the width of your grout lines.

Surprisingly, the most common mistake at this point is measuring the length of your tile as it needs to be millimetre perfect. If you're wrong by just 1mm at this point and you have to tile a wall that's 20 tiles long, then you're going to be out by a whopping 2cm at the other end. The most accurate way to measure a tile is by its back. You'll notice that ceramic tiles have curved edges on the top whereas the clay back of the tile is it's true size. Be sure to take a measurement at the edge rather than the middle of the tile so you know you've got a good, solid right angle. It's also worth measuring 3 or 4 of your tiles to get an average as there are often slight irregularities in tile batches.

A typical grout line width is 2mm and a typical tile size is 150mm by 150mm so that's what we'll use in our example. The formula goes as follows and our example will come after:

length of wall ÷ (length of tile + width of grout line) = a number

2914mm ÷ (150mm + 2mm) = 19.171

Now the first part of the number before the decimal point is the number of whole tiles you'll be able to fit into the wall. That's nice to know but it's the part after the decimal point that is important when it comes to setting out tiles. If it's below .20 (like in our example) then you'll end up with one of the tiles at the end being less than a fifth of the width of a whole tile which breaks the golden rule of setting out tiles. What you'll need to do here is start your wall with just over half a tile and it'll end with just over half a tile too.

If the end number is higher than .20 and you're starting your wall with a whole tile, then you don't need to worry (unless you're a perfectionist that is). It gets a bit complicated here but if you multiply your tile width by the decimal you got, you'll get the length of the leftover (cut) tile at the end. Now if you divide this by 2 and add it to half the width of your tile, then this is the length that your cut tiles need to be at either end of the wall for them to be exactly the same.

150mm x 0.36 = 54mm        54mm ÷ 2 = 27mm        27mm + 75mm = 102mm

While this isn't really essential on a long wall (over 10 tiles) where it won't show too badly, on a short wall that's around 3 tiles across, it's essential that the cut tiles at the edges are of the same length.

Now that you've learnt how to set out tiles, you'll never be able to look at them the same way again and every time you go to the bathroom at a restaurant, you'll find yourself working out whether they brought in a professional or tiled it themselves. This is the curse of tiling.

To get your tiles online from a well known company visit  Topps Tiles or for a wider range try Walls and Floors. We have discount codes for Walls and Floors to save you money when you visit their site through iDoDIY.

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