Mike Edwards is founder of DIY Doctor, a 30,000 page website full of free DIY help and information. He is also the author of one of Amazons top-selling DIY Books, Master Basic DIY now in its 3rd edition and written to make life a whole lot easier for the DIYer!
Read on to find more about what Mike regards as the most important tips when undertaking a DIY task, the best advice for looking after your front door and why security is paramount for your home.
1. What things need to be considered when undertaking a DIY task? What are the essential aspects to ensure success?
It is vital to remember that DIY is still proper building work, but done by amateurs. There is not an official category called “DIY plastering” for example, it is still plastering, albeit done by non-plasterers.
There is a skill of some kind, at varying levels, in every job we undertake. Jobs which look simple when done by tradesmen are not necessarily so for those who are new to DIY. It looks easy when tradesmen do it because we have been “practicing” for years and we have all the right tools to get the best possible job.
If you approach every job with caution, find out exactly what is required and allow double the time you think it is going to take, your approach will be correct. Rushed jobs lead to a bad finish and worst of all, accidents.
2. Are there any golden tips for anyone looking to venture into a DIY task of their own?
Find out what tools are best for the job and look after them. Well maintained tools will give you a good job, so buy the best you can afford. If it is a “one-off” job, like laying a patio, think about hiring the equipment rather than buying it. You will get great quality tools for little expense. At DIY Doctor we try only to sell tools we would be happy to use ourselves and look for the best prices we can to get them to you.
The best tip we can give you is to research and practice the job you want to do before you do it for real. It is not easy to saw a piece of timber dead square if you don’t do it often and yet it is vital to complete a nice book shelf or cupboard.
3. What do you find are your biggest exterior DIY challenges? Any horror stories?
The biggest by far is DIYers attempting to lay patios and driveways or paths without researching where the drains and water pipes run. We have had so many emails regarding punctured water-mains and ruptured drains while excavating down to lay a sub-base. One poor guy hadn’t realised he had broken a sewer pipe until (the break having filled with earth) his toilet backed up so badly it overflowed into the bathroom! We can only imagine how messy the clean-up job was!
Other horror stories include people who did not know it is illegal to replace their own windows and doors and were unable to sell their home as they had no FENSA completion certificate for the windows and door they had replaced. They were also reported to the local authority and, as the windows had not been fitted properly, forced to reinstate them or face a fine of up to £5000 for contravention of the Building Regulations……Research, research, research……please!
4. One of the key aspects of any home is the front door. What are the secrets to maintaining the functionality and integrity of an old wooden door or a uPVC door?
However expensive your doors are they are only as good as the frame they are in so this is where to start. Check the frame where it meets the fabric of the building. Are there any gaps? If so fill them with the correct mortar or sealant. Is the fame loose? If so fix it securely with some frame ties or other fixings.
If the door is timber, make sure it is painted or varnished properly. If water is allowed to get to the timber, the door will swell making it hard to open and close. Make sure you have a draught excluder in the frame as it is pointless having a wonderfully insulated home if your door doesn’t fit properly.
If the door is plastic, make sure all locks and hinges comply with current insurance regulations and if you are getting uPVC or composite replacement door make sure you have a 10-year guarantee.
5. One reason our customers upgrade to a Yale Door is because their current door is beyond repair or their security is out of date. What are your tell-tale signs that a door has had its day and it’s time to look for a replacement?
The door should fit snug tight in the frame and there should be no “play” when you hold the handle and pull/push. No draughts should be felt anywhere around the door and the locks/latches should all comply with the specifications on your insurance documents, usually a 5-lever deadlock or multi-point locking system. The door should not bind on the frame when opened or closed and the locking operation should never have to be forced.
6. What do you look for in a quality front door?
A really good door should have a one-piece frame where possible to prohibit water ingress into joints, it should have 3 x 100mm hinges and should meet all British Standards as regards weather proofing and security – and be attractive to look at while being insulated and very strong.
7. Security is another big part of a home’s exterior. What tips would you have for homeowners looking to secure their home further? Are there any pitfalls to doing the job themselves?
No visible sign of security is an invitation for burglars. At an absolute minimum you should look to install security lighting in vulnerable areas. This is a relatively simple DIY task as is fitting a basic CCTV camera which is an excellent deterrent and if ignored by a burglar could be instrumental in getting your goods back if they are stolen.
Not so easy on the DIY front are fitting additional window locks to uPVC window frames although, with the proper windows these should be unnecessary. Alarms, in our opinion, as well as CCTV systems (IE more than one camera) should be left to the professionals unless it is a purpose made DIY Alarm kit. The wiring needs to be neat and tidy and where it needs to pass through the building fabric this needs to be done in a neat (and waterproof) way. Modern technology allows the use of smart phones to control alarm systems and it is possible now to regularly scan your home and garden through a phone screen when you are not at home.
As with any other job at home, if you are unsure of a security installation get (at minimum) some advice on how to complete it properly. A badly fitted cupboard door is not the end of the world, a burgled home is a massive trauma for everyone concerned so please don’t take any chances.
You can follow Mike on Twitter here. If you’re thinking of a new front door why not use our easy to use tool where you can create your dream composite front door in just four simple steps.