5 Skills for Beginners

5 Skills for Beginners

Getting the keys to your first home isn’t the end of the journey, it is just the beginning. Whether you are moving into a brand new house or one that has been loved and lived in, there will be jobs which need to be done. Here are 5 DIY skills that will come in handy for any first-time homeowner:

Unsticking Rusted Nuts & Bolts

This is a particular problem in older buildings: rusted nuts and bolts that you can’t unscrew. If elbow grease and muscle won’t budge the nut or bolt, there are alternative methods to getting it loose. Coat the bolt or nut in quality lubricant and leave for an hour. Repeat this process once more and see if the nut or bolt is any looser.

If that still does not work a breaker bar might be useful. They are cheap to buy and come in handy for a huge range of home and car related jobs so they make a good investment. If you don’t know what they are have a look at this Wikipedia article. A strong, durable breaker bar allows you to get more leverage on the nut or bolt and you can also use one if the screw head is a bit proud of its surface. This will require a little muscle, but hopefully the combination of strength, lubricant and leverage will set the nut or bolt free.

Still not budging? As a last resort use a blowtorch, heat the nut or bolt which should expand, making it simpler to twist and remove. You can hire one but a kitchen torch will dot eh trick. Make sure you clean off any lubricant first as these are normally highly flammable. Have some water close to hand in case you need to cool the area around the screw. Don’t use a blow torch if the screw is set into a flammable surface like paper or wood. You should also wear safety equipment to protect your face, eyes and hands like these.

Removing Stripped/Churned Screws

If you don’t use the right size or shaped screwdriver, have poor quality screws or don’t apply the right pressure it’s easy to grind the shape out of the screw head making it impossible to screw it in or out. You might find worn screw heads on any fitment around your house. This is a common problem with several possible solutions;

A churned screw head
A churned screw head
  • If the screw is proud of a surface the claw end of a hammer or pliers can be used to screw or yank out the fixing.
  • If you are using a power drill, replace this with a manual screwdriver as you may be able to tease the screw out with more intense pressure, reacting to the remaining structure of the screw.
  • If you still can’t get a grip, drill a small hole into the screw head and try again.
  • For metal objects use a drill bit the same size as the shaft of the screw and drill through the screw head. The flat head should fall away allowing you to extract the rest of the screw.
  • For wooden or plaster surfaces you might have to gouge out the material surrounding the screw head so you can use a claw hammer or pliers to get a grip on the screw head. Fill the hole with a decent quality filler and make sure you leave it to dry before re-drilling or screwing.

Stopping Overflowing Toilets

An overflowing toilet is an urgent and panic inducing problem. The first job is to stop the water flowing into the toilets tank so it can’t overflow any more.

Toilet water taps
Toilet water taps

There will be a tap in your bathroom normally behind or next to the toilet like the ones in the image to the right. Turn the water off here. If you can’t find it you will have to turn off the mains water supply to your house.

The flush system utilises a float in the tank which drops when a toilet is flushed due to the decreased water level. This float is attached to a valve which opens when the float drops, allowing the toilet to refill. When the toilet is full of water, the float rises to the top and the adjoining valve closes. Therefore, overflowing toilets are most commonly caused by a trapped float or valve.
Open the cistern of the toilet and locate the float and the valve, dislodge the trapped party and flush the toilet. Turn the water supply back on and check the water does not still overflow. If you want to understand what the parts are called, what they look like and how the flush mechanism works refer to this helpful article.

Fixing a Leaky Tap

As well as being annoying, a leaky tap can end up costing you loads of money on your water bill and cause staining to your bathroom furniture. Fortunately, it is a simple job to fix.

Firstly, make sure you have turned the water off either using a bathroom water supply tap (see section above) or at the mains supply point. Run the tap until no water comes out. Put the plug in the sink hole so no components can escape down the piping. Remove the top lid off the tap and inside you will see a screw, unscrew this and pull the cartridge out (it looks like a golden chess piece) of the tap casing. Just look at the video below for detailed instructions.

Find your local plumbing merchant and take the cartridge to their store. They will be able to find a matching washer for the tap. This is the component which needs replacing. Remove the old washer and attach the new one before re-building the tap. This is simply done by reversing the process used before.

Removing the Base of a Broken Light Bulb

Removing and replacing a light bulb should be one of the easiest DIY tasks in a new home. However, if the previous owners have screwed in the bulbs too tightly, used the wrong input or left the light bulbs for a long time, they may become stuck in the ceiling fixture. This can cause the light bulb to break in your hand when attempting to remove it, leaving you will a broken, jagged light bulb base emanating from the ceiling.

Protect yourself from lacerations when removing this jagged half-bulb with this simple hack. Find the largest potato you can from a vegetable section of your local supermarket or greengrocer and cut it in half. Grip the base of the potato, push it over the broken bulb so the jagged edges penetrate the potato’s flesh. When the potato has a good grip, twist the bulb and loosen it from the fitting.

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