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How to make a Magnetic Wall

Magnetic Paint

A friend of mine was obsessing about magnetic paint a couple of years ago. He had just used magnetic paint to great effect in his office, covering a wall in it, and then using that wall as a huge, fantastic blank canvas for everything in the office that needed to be pinned on view – from things that needed to be done, to ideas for the clients in his branding and design business.

But it was not until we had finished refurbishing our son’s bedroom and a rather old tin of magnetic poetry paint was given to us by a kind friend, that I swung into action, and realised the true potential of the stuff.

magnetic paint

£29.99 for 1.0 litres covers 2 sq metres of wall

So what is Magnetic Paint?

The tin specifies a range of ingredients from Ethylene Glycol and Ammonium Hydroxide through to Sodium Benzoate, but the key ingredient is Iron Powder. Stirring the stuff and rollering it onto a wall reminds me of the iron filings that I used to play around with in chemical sets as a kid.

How to turn your wall into a Magnetic Pin Board

If you don’t mind painting, then it’s pretty straight forward to create your own magnetic pin board. First off, you need something to apply it to your wall with. I chose a mini roller, with a short pile mohair sleeve. A mini roller will soak up a minimum of paint (it’s expensive stuff so you don’t want half your paint to soak up into the roller!) whilst still giving you a reasonably quick and easy way to cover the wall.

painting magnetic paint on a wall

I also marked the area I wanted to paint with masking tape. That way I knew exactly where to paint and didn’t waste any of this expensive paint on areas that I didn’t intend to pin things to.

3 Coats Required

You need to apply at least 3 coats of paint to the wall. The more magnetic paint you apply the more effective the magnets will be, so I was careful to ensure that I had enough paint to cover the area 3 times. The paint takes a minimum of 4 hours to dry between coats, so it’s a good idea to cover your roller tray in cling film after each coat. You don’t want to wash the roller in between each coat, using up valuable paint, and so cling film keeps the paint from drying on the roller during the 4 hours between each coat.

To cover over the magnetic paint when dry requires 2 – 3 coats of the emulsion that you painted the rest of the wall with.


Whilst you could leave the wall in the grey finish of the magnetic paint, you’ll achieve a far greater effect in the room if you hide the magnetic paint.

skittle magnets for magnetic walls

coloured skittle magnets – make sure you get the strongest possible

It’s also important to buy the right magnets – the key here is to get the strongest magnets you can find, because ideally you will want to be able to pin reasonably thick card and multiple sheets of paper to the wall. The magnets I bought – pictured above – from are available in a range of colours. I was also recommended push pin magnets from

magnetic bedroom wall

The end result exceeded all expectations. One magnet is strong enough to hold even a heavy birthday card on the wall.

Transform your Living Areas with Magnetic Paint

So if you’re looking for ways to funk up your children’s bed room or even your living room, magnetic walls could be the answer. Put simply, they’re a fun way to arrange everything from “To Do” lists to birthday cards. They encourage creativity and self expression in a way that a more conventional pin board cannot achieve over a much smaller area.








How to Make a Folding Desk

Today’s blog is all about the folding desk that I’ve made for my son’s bedroom that I’ve recently refurbished (pictured below, left). The DIY refurbishment of his room has been running on for a couple of months now – watch this space for further blogs on what I’ve done – from insulating the walls to rebuilding his large, impractical cupboard.

child's bedroom with folding desk

The folding desk – how it happened

Why folding? Well, he’s got one of the smallest rooms in the house and so saving space is a priority. We wanted to put a desk in his room, but as you’ll see from the photo above, it had to sit in a small space to the left of his sofa.  This also meant thinking outside the box on stools for the desk, as there was limited room for this.


From Pinterest (decocrush)

Research for the desk started on-line (when doesn’t it these days!), and inspiration for it came from Pinterest where I found a wall mounted desk pod with folding table.  This changed my thought process on my son’s desk, because I had initially thought I’d incorporate it within a floor to ceiling shelving unit. A wall mounted pod would take up less space and lessen the visual impact on the room.

So I then turned my thoughts to how I’d make it open. The desk I stumbled on in Pinterest had two large brackets either side which support it – and a large piano hinge that runs the full length of it. There are various hinge options available – see below – but I saw a couple of drawbacks with these.folding desk stays

Firstly cost – the hinges range from £5 up to £55 for a pair to over £50 depending on whether you go for electro coated, or solid brass. Then I would have to factor in some sort of hinge arrangement to run the length of the desk at the back, which could easily add another £20 – £50 to the cost. I had already decided to make the desk out of MDF, and mdf being a fibre board, isn’t as strong as wood and doesn’t take screws so well, so with all these hinges potentially taking quite a lot of weight, this was something else to consider…

Finances are running at a fairly low ebb after all the other work I’ve done on my son’s bedroom – principally insulating the walls with K17 thermal plasterboard, so I was keen to keep the costs of this to a minimum. I had a few 25mm off cuts of mdf in the garage left over from a previous shelving project, so I started thinking about how I could create a folding desk that had no hinges or stays at all, and instead ran in some sort of groove. It couldn’t be too difficult could it…? After another week of pondering the problem, it was time to get cracking, so with the sun shining (for once), I set up my pop up workshop outside and got cracking!

routing mdf to create a folding desk

A clamped piece of wood keeps the routed groove straight

I’ve owned a Dewalt half inch shank router for over 10 years now. It’s a pretty scary tool when you first start using it, but over the years I’ve gradually got the hang of it, and am now fully appreciating it’s uses – from creating rounded edges and ogee shapes for skirting boards, creating biscuit joints and rebated edges, to in this case cutting grooves in wood using the straight (flute) cutting bit.

routed grooves in mdf

Two grooves are cut for the supporting shelves, and a central groove will house the desk pins

I figured that if I was to have a folding desk that didn’t have hinges, there’d be quite a lot of weight sitting on the supporting shelf below the desk, and with mdf notoriously brittle when screwed into (it basically tears open), I decided to rebate the sections for the supporting shelf, and glue the shelves into these grooves. It’s worth saying at this stage that I’ve never used my router for anything quite this technical before – having previously used it to round off edges, create the odd biscuit joint and the like. However I developed a sort of clamp (see above) that I fixed in place with two quick grips, and lined up the router bit by eye.

The folding desk supporting shelf sections are glued and screwed into place

With the grooves cut and the supporting shelf sections glued (and for added strength screwed from the outside) into place, I could then start constructing the rest of the shelving system that would surround the desk.

constructing a folding desk

Each shelf was glued and then secured in place with screws driven in from the outside of the shelf

With the shelves constructed I now had the finished width for the all important desk element, and could get this cut and planed into shape. Two critical features would make the desk work. Firstly I had to create a rounded edge so that the desk could slide smoothly in and out of its grooves. Secondly, I had to insert a pin in each end of the desk. The pins would run in the grooves I had created between the two supporting sections, and crucially would prevent the desk being pulled completely out of the shelving unit, when opened and closed.

folding desk retaining pins

Drilling and glueing the retaining pins for the folding desk

I was going to use large screws for this but wasn’t completely convinced about this, and then chanced upon a couple of steel rods in the garage that formed part of a drying rack that swung out from the wall on these rods (I knew I they would come in handy for something!). These were glued into 10mm diameter holes drilled in each end of the desk. Glue was necessary because the mdf was so delicate that it actually split just from me drilling the holes!

folding desk

The desk stows away neatly and is then lowered and slotted into place

I then fitted magnetic catches to the desk to hold it in place when stowed, and purchased a chrome knob on Ebay to act as a handle. The desk was then primed with Johnstone’s Joncryl water-based primer undercoat, and Johnstone’s oil based Eggshell mixed to Farrow and Ball’s Cornforth White.  25mm mdf is a heavy material, and so as a precaution I  screwed the desk to the wall in six places (never being one to leave anything to chance!)

The orange bar stool came from Miadomodo (Amazon) and was great value at £33. The stool can be raised or lowered hydraulically and, fitting snugly next to my son’s armchair,  has been a great space saving addition.

Central heating problems – faulty zone valves

So, another week and another problem presents itself at the DIYite Cottage – this time, in the form of a malfunctioning central heating system. It just dawned on us after a couple of slightly chilly days in the house, that the heating wasn’t coming on properly.

drayton motorised zone valve actuator

The offending Drayton Zone Valve Actuators – now removed

And this was doubly confusing because the hot water was functioning fine.

I should explain we’ve got a Worcester Bosch oil system boiler that heats the hot water and separately, the central heating system. We’ve got a Drayton dial room thermostat and a Drayton Lifestyle LP241 programmer (the company that installed my central heating system was clearly a fan of Drayton products)! So when I pressed the Hot Water button on the programmer there was a reassuring click followed by the distant hum of the boiler firing into action. When I did the same with the Heating button, nothing happened.

The fact that the hot water was working led me to conclude (with my still rather patchy knowledge of boiler operations!) that the boiler was fine. A quick call to the Worcester Bosch sort of confirmed this. So I (wishfully thinking) decided it must be the dial thermostat, and so popped out to Plumb Centre to buy a new one – unfortunately that didn’t fix the problem.

My attention then turned to the Zone Valve Actuators – motorised valves that open and close depending on whether I’ve asked the boiler to provide heating or hot water. The trouble was that when I got my wife to alternately click on the Hot Water and then Heating, each valve whirred reassuringly into action, which made me a bit dubious that these could be faulty.

In a quandary I contacted my boiler service engineer to see if he could shed any light on the problem. Based on what I told him he said he thought it was almost certainly these zone valve actuators that were faulty. When I told him they were Drayton he said he was always having problems with faulty Drayton zone valves (sorry Drayton, I’m just repeating what he said!) So he suggested I replace both actuators with Honeywell V4043 zone valves. At well over £100 for the pair, this was a bit of a punt, but I took his advice and when to Plumb Base (this time!) a few days later to pick up the new zone valves and some inhibitor (which he suggested I put into the system whilst I was replacing the valves.

Yikes! I was operating pretty far out of my comfort zone on this one, but luckily I have fairly recently replaced our bathroom single handed, and in so doing, learnt quite a lot about plumbing on one hand, and the intricacies of draining down our central heating system on the other.

central heating junction box

With the faulty Zone Valve Actuator still in position on the heating pipe (back right, top), I set about wiring in the new Honeywell zone valves

The first job was to drain the pressurised central heating system. This is less complicated than you would think, and is simply a matter of connecting a hose pipe to the outlet valve on the radiator located nearest the back door, and then opening up the bleed valves on the (in my case upstairs radiators). The water in the radiators and connecting pipes then simply flows out through the hose pipe.

With all power switched off, and the central heating system drained, I then set about connecting up the new zone valves. As you can see, the junction box for the central heating system is a bit of a perplexing spaghetti junction, but by disconnecting each wire of the faulty actuator valve one by one, and then connecting up the corresponding wire for the new Honeywell zone valve (they’re all colour coded) I was able to do this without too much trouble.

Then it was time to get my plumbing hat back on, and replace each zone valve. To do this, I had to loosen the nuts on the zone valve compression joints, with a spanner clamped behind the valve to take the strain as I loosened each nut. Removing each valve was a little tricky as the 22mm diameter copper pipework that supplies water through the valve is slotted into each valve. Luckily there was just enough play in the pipes for me to manipulate the faulty valve off the pipework. I cleaned up the end of each pipe with some wire wool, and poured the new bottle of inhibitor I had bought into the empty pipes before slotted the new valves into place.

I then applied some Fernox jointing compound (also left over from my previous plumbing exploits) to the olives on the pipework before tightening the nuts back into place on the new valves. It’s a bit of an acquired art to know how tight to go with the nuts, and something experience helps with, but you basically keep tightening until the nut just stops moving. You don’t want to over-tighten a compression joint, but you want it to be reassuringly tight.

A few points to make here. The first is that in plumbing in the new valves it’s important not to grip the valve head (basically the metal case that contains the motor and electrics). You have to attach a spanner onto the valve body at each port whilst tightening up the nuts. The second is that I found it helped to move the manual lever on the valve head casing from ‘AUTO’ to ‘MANUAL’ as this kept it out of the way of the spanner I was using to tighten the nuts – which I was worried might otherwise damage the lever.

Thirdly, whilst the Drayton zone valves had to be positioned with the flow direction in through ‘Port A’ and out through ‘Port B’ – which basically meant the hot water zone valve was upside down and the heating zone valve the right way up, it’s not critical which direction the Honeywell zone valves are positioned. The only important thing to observe is that the valve must not be mounted so that the valve head (the metal box you can see below with the danger sign on it) is below the horizontal level of the pipework, as in the unlikely event of a leak, a safety hazard could result.

Honeywell V4043 Zone Valve

The new Honeywell Zone Valves now in position

So with all that done, it was simply a matter of refilling the heating system – as to how to do which, you might like to check out my earlier blog on how to bleed a radiator. Then I moved the manual lever on each valve head back to ‘AUTO’, switched the power back on, set the dial thermostat to maximum.

With baited breath I then pressed the Heating button on the programmer…. and then after a few silent moments, relief as I heard the reassuring sound of the boiler firing into life. Hallelujah! Job done, and I have to say, an enormous sense of satisfaction at having solved a problem that a few days earlier had me scratching my head in confusion.

Why we need DIY

News headlines over the last 12 months would suggest the DIY culture that swept the nation 30 years ago could be in terminal decline.

Charlie DIYite kitchener posterIn March last year Kingfisher announced it would be closing 60 B&Q stores over the next couple of years, and that 6 months after Home Retail that owns Homebase announced plans to close a quarter of its stores by 2018 due to “the rise of a new generation of consumers less skilled in DIY” amongst other things.

It seems fewer young consumers these days have the desire to tackle home improvements, preferring to spend their money elsewhere.

So DIY is becoming “Do It For Me” or as an old family friend puts it “GSI” or “Get Someone In”. I totally get why this is happening. Oscar Wilde said that life is what happens whilst you’re making plans, and let’s face it, we’re all so busy just trying to hold down a job and make ends meet that the thought of picking up tools at the weekend to sort out things in our homes is just too much. Isn’t it?

Well, actually, I don’t think it is. For me, DIY has always been something I’ve loved, and when I had a job in London where I was working until 10.30pm Monday until Friday, the thought of renovating my little house at the weekend is what kept me going. But maybe I’m not the best example.  A friend recently posted on Facebook that she had fixed a leak on her radiator and felt massively empowered as a result. That’s more like it. Someone who doesn’t normally do DIY, but turns her hand to something and not only realises that she can do it, but feels a real sense of achievement and empowerment as a result.

children doing diy

My children finishing the render scratch coat prior to plastering

Back to me, DIY has become a family thing. When we moved into our cottage in Worcestershire money was scarce and every home improvement job had to be done by me. It still is! I’ve gone from being an enthusiastic hod carrier to my builder friend Roger (who helped me renovate my first house) to the guy actually mixing the sand and cement, and making the big decisions on how best to rip apart and put back together a room.

Charlie DIYite bedroom refurb

My son’s bedroom today – the walls stripped of render in preparation for dry lining with thermal (Kingspan K17 plasterboard)

When we realised the builders hadn’t properly prepared the render in our Sitting Room so that the plaster was coming off the wall, we stripped off the plaster and my two children, aged 6 and 4 helped me do what the builders should have done in the first place (photo left)!

We’re now gradually sorting out the upstairs of our house, and the children are still taking an active involvement in the DIY. In our new bathroom , my son helped me stain the engineered oak floor and screw plasterboard to the walls, and my daughter had enormous fun helping me cut the soundproofing for under the floor. And funnily enough, the only job I sought external help on in my bathroom was the plastering, and it’s the one thing I’m really unhappy with (a local handyman who wasn’t up to the job). So there’s a lesson in that – I would have been better doing it myself!

DIY has taken on an even greater significance now as I begin to renovate the childrens’ bedrooms. By helping out it gives them a real sense of achievement, and for many years to come they will be able to sit in their room happy in the knowledge that they helped to sort it out.

wallpaper stripping

My son strips the wood chip wallpaper from his bedroom ceiling

My son, who has autism, and struggles to concentrate or commit to a task for long, spent a good hour a couple of days ago stripping the wood chip, polystyrene backed wall paper from his ceiling.

In short, he’s able to immerse himself in DIY in a way that he isn’t in other, every day tasks – it keeps him active and engaged in a way that his tablet doesn’t.

So when DIY is so beneficial on so many levels, then why is it in such, apparently terminal decline? A plethora of cheap, reasonably skilled foreign labour in the last 10 years has probably contributed to this, and whilst domestic DIY is dwindling, the trade side is flourishing with Screwfix and other stores rapidly expanding.

But I remain convinced that people just need to be reminded how fun and rewarding DIY can be, and maybe Wesfarmers, the new Australian owner of Homebase, will find a way of revitalising it’s new chain of stores, recapturing the public’s imagination.  and luring them back to the DIY fold.

In the meantime, I’ll do my best to show you all in this blog and on my You Tube Channel how many things you can turn your hand to if you’re willing to give it a go! Start small, as I did. There’s so much help out there on the internet to guide you step by step, and with each challenge completed, it will whet your appetite for bigger and more ambitious challenges ahead!

So come on everyone – I implore you – Learn DIY – your House needs you!


How to Clean a Natural Stone Floor

Your new or existing natural stone floor when laid would, with any luck, have been well sealed to protect it from the grime and grease that every day traffic throws at it. And a lot of traffic it certainly gets – particularly hallways and kitchens have an endless stream of muddy boots and perhaps even dogs paws!

marble kitchen floor

The marble floor in our kitchen prior to cleaning

The problem is that the more you clean your floor (even with the cleaning products recommended by the flooring supplier) the more you erode the sealant that was originally applied, and that becomes a vicious circle, because dirt then sinks into the floor easier and is therefore harder to remove. The grout between each tile is hit particularly badly. It becomes a sponge for all the dirt and grime, and is very hard to clean with every day floor detergents.

So ever 12 to 18 months or so (don’t worry, for me it was more like 3 years!) you really ought to give your floor a deep clean, and then reseal it. That way you’re preserving the life of the floor, and making your life a whole lot easier on the cleaning front.

kitchen floor cleaning products

The floor cleaning products that I’ve assembled to sort out my kitchen floor

So just before Christmas, with a house party looming, I decided it was about time I sorted out my kitchen floor.

The products pictured above were all bought from Topps Tiles, but the FILA products have now been replaced by Topps Tiles own brands. So here’s the Tool Kit I used to clean my marble floor (take a deep breath before reading on – these products aren’t cheap!):

  • Tile and Stone Cleaner (£8.99) – for every day cleaning of the floor
  • Vileda Super Mocio Micro and Cotton Mop (£10 approx)- my choice of mop for cleaning the floor
  • Tile and Stone Stain Remover (£10.99)
  • Grout Cleaner (£10.99) – to attack and remove the dirt that has sunk into the grout
  • Paint brush and jar – to apply the Grout Cleaner and Grout Protector
  • Scrubbing brush – to remove the dirt from the grout
  • Large sponge (£2 approx) – to wipe off the Grout Cleaner once it’s done its job
  • Grout Protector (£18.99) – to seal the grout once you’ve got it clean
  • Satin Effect Finish Wax (£19.99) – to seal the entire floor once you’ve removed all the dirt
  • Roller and emulsion insert (£3 approx) – to apply the two coats of Satin Effect Finish Wax to the floor

If you’ve got a travertine, marble or other natural stone floor, then the chances are, like me, you’re a bit unhappy with the degree to which it’s muddied in tone over the years (particularly the grout).

But with a bit of elbow grease and the right products you can do a pretty effective job of restoring it to something like its former glory – check out my video to see how I got on!

mopping kitchen floor

I mopped my floor about 4 times before applying the grout cleaner

The key to all this is to get the floor as clean as you can – I think I did 4 laps of the kitchen floor with my Vileda mop, before I had even started cleaning the grout. You want to keep mopping the floor until the water in the bucket is no longer brown when you pour it away!

cleaning grout on marble kitchen floor

With the grout cleaner applied, a scrubbing brush quickly lifts the dirt from the grout

Then came the Grout Cleaner, which I applied with a paint brush, left for a minute or two and then scrubbed out. The grout cleaner is incredibly effective, and you can clearly see the dirt lifting out of the grout. A large sponge is then used to wipe up the dirt and grout cleaner, rinsing well and regularly in a bucket of water.

kitchen floor grout protector

Applying the Grout Protector to seal the grout

Once the grout was dry I then applied a coat of Grout Protector to all the grout lines, to seal the grout.

applying satin effect finish wax to marble floor

The Satin Effect Finish Wax then seals the floor

The final and most important step: when the Grout Protector was dry I then applied two coats of Satin Effect Finish Wax to the floor using a roller with a medium pile emulsion roller sleeve. Applying two coats doubles the protection and also ensures that you don’t miss any of the floor (which is easier to do than you would think!)

As I emphasise in the video, this is the most important part of the process, because after all your hard work cleaning the floor, it is very raw and susceptible to dirt. By comprehensibly sealing the floor you are protecting it, but also making it much easier to mop clean – because none of the dirt can actually sink into the tiles or grout.

marble kitchen floor after cleaning

The cleaned and sealed floor – restored to its former glory!


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