It's time to Spring into home improvement action

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IT'S time to Spring into home improvement action. 

Your home and your garden could do with a lick of paint, a touch of varnish, or a good digging over and here’s some help from our DIY and gardening gurus. 

GET STRIPPING 

Steam your way to smooth, paper-free walls. our Leader DIY expert offers her top tips for stripping wallpaper 

Removing wallpaper is often hard work, but it needn't be a chore 

  • There are various methods for stripping wallpaper but by far the easiest is a wallpaper steam stripper, which you can hire or buy inexpensively. If you've got a lot of wallpaper to strip, it certainly makes sense to buy one. 
  • These strippers are similar to big kettles and it's easy to get scalded by the steam or drips of boiling water, so use with care and try to keep the hose straight because it can twist off, leaving steam streaming dangerously from the stripper. 
  • To operate a steam stripper, you simply hold the steam plate to the wall and wait for the steam to loosen the wallpaper. Keep testing to see if the paper is loose because you can damage the plaster underneath if you hold the plate on for too long. For speed, hold the plate to the wall with one hand and scrape where you've already steamed with the other hand. 
  • Some wallpapers have more than one layer, or you'll find layers of different wallpapers, in which case it's often easier to remove one layer at a time. The steam will penetrate better if you score the wallpaper first, especially if it's thick, but you may leave score lines in the plaster, which is no good if you're not replastering or repapering, so do a tester patch first. 
  • The best wallpaper stripping knives have long metal handles and replaceable blades, which screw in place. The only problem is that these blades are really sharp when new and can damage the plaster underneath if the wallpaper's thin or you're not careful when scraping. If you're worried about this, traditional wallpaper scrapers with non-replaceable, triangular-shaped blades are less sharp. 
  • Clear up your wallpaper scrapings as you go along because once dry, they set hard and can stick like glue to floors and other surfaces. After stripping, you'll need to scrub and scrape the walls with sugar-soap solution and then clean water to get rid of any leftover paste and scraps of paper. 


GIVE YOUR WINDOWS A NEW LOOK 

Our DIY expert offers her top tips for fitting blinds and reports on the launch of a new cordless oscillating tool 

Whether you need privacy, or to keep the light out and the heat in, blinds are just the job 

Measure up carefully and you shouldn't have a problem fitting blinds. 

  • Take accurate measurements (preferably in millimetres) from several points in the window recess because it won't necessarily be square, especially if it's a period one. You should measure at the top, middle and bottom, and the left, middle and right, and then work with the smallest measurement. Use a good quality metal tape measure, as fabric tapes can stretch and give inaccurate measurements. 
  • If you're concerned about your window not being square, you could play safe and fit the blind outside the recess - this sometimes looks better anyway. Most online blinds shops provide instructions about how to measure up accurately (both in and outside a recess), so consult one if you're not sure what you're doing.
  • Take into account any protruding handles and latches that may get in the way of operating the blind when it's fitted.
  • If you're fitting a blind in your bathroom or kitchen, make sure you choose a material that's suitable for a moist environment - only go for a fabric blind if it's moisture resistant. And even if you don't need a blackout blind, it's a good idea to get one because then the blind and hem will be one solid colour against the light. 
  • Ensure that the surface the blind will be fixed to can take the weight of it. Use the right screws and fixings for that surface and follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. In general, Venetian blinds are heavier than fabric blinds, especially wooden ones, which tend to be very heavy, so make sure they're fitted well and fall evenly. 


ASK THE EXPERT... 

Q:
 I'm having a new sash window fitted, but I've managed to paint sash windows shut before. How can I avoid doing that this time? 

A: The trick with sash windows is to paint them in stages and to keep moving them as you paint them, so the paint can't form a seal that sticks them shut. 

You also need to use quick-drying wood primer/undercoat and quick-drying eggshell, satinwood or gloss topcoat suitable for exterior use, which dry much faster than conventional oil-based paints. 

And try to avoid getting paint on the sash cords because this can make the window harder to open. Keep opening and moving the window for several days after you've painted it and you shouldn't have a problem. 

Paint obviously dries faster in warmer weather, so wait a couple of months, if you can, before getting and decorating your new window. 

OUTSIDE 

You’ll probably be thinking about sprucing up your garden too, so it's a good time to check out decking and paving cleaners. 

Most solutions kill moss, mould and algae, and helps to prevent regrowth for up to six months. This will revive your patio or driveways after winter and improve the kerb appeal of your property. 

The garden centres and market stalls are positively brimming with glorious plants to bring a little much needed colour into your garden after such a long bleak winter. 
From bedding plants to rose bushes hedging to hanging baskets there is bound to be something that catches your eye. 

Don't forget your lawns. They've taken a beating with all the snow and late frost and will need a little TLC so that they will look their best through the growing season. 

Protect fruit blossom from frost: Where possible, protect plum and pear flowers from frost but allow insects access for pollination. 

Start regular weeding: Keep annual weeds under control by hoeing. Deal with perennial weeds as appropriate, either digging them out or using a weedkiller. 




 

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