Charlie DIYte

Learn DIY

Tag: DIY

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!


An ambitious DIY bathroom project!

Without doubt my most ambitious DIY project to date, and all credit to my long suffering family who have waited patiently for over two years for me to complete it – but our new family bathroom is finally finished!

DIY bathroom project Charlie DIYite

After more than 2 years (mostly weekend) work, my DIY bathroom is finally finished

We moved into our Victorian cottage in 2010. The cottage had undergone quite a lot of renovations in the 1970s, leaving some classic howlers from the period – wood chip ceiling paper (yet to be removed…), and two bathrooms next to each other on the upstairs corridor – one hallucinogenic pink and the other avocado green.

The pink bathroom had a small walk in shower room next to it. Whilst this worked, it had that disconcerting smell of damp. I bought a new shower tray, intending to somehow remove the existing one, check the plumbing, insert the new one and make good. But this never happened because in removing the tray the tiles started falling off the walls, and so my son and I enthusiastically removed the tiles and render beneath, and the shower room sadly sat idle pretty much until a couple of years ago when I finally managed to muster the money to think about installing a new bathroom. By this time we had decided to knock through the pink bathroom into the separate shower room to create a larger family bathroom.

Looking back from that point to today, I now have a huge respect for builders in general, and more specifically bathroom installers (or the good ones at any rate).

The list of what needed to be done was endless, and most of the tasks I would be undertaking with no previous experience: re-rendering brickwork,

removing hearth in bathroom Charlie DIYite

Reducing the level of the old hearth was just one of many jobs that needed to be done

strengthening floor boards; complete re-plumbing which included re-routing the waste for two toilets and creating two new holes in the external walls for drainage; a new power shower pump plus associated modifications to existing pipework to and from the hot water cylinder and loft tank; sound insulating the floor; laying a new floor; insulating and boarding the walls, new wastes for the bath, shower and wash stand; new shower tray; tile backing the shower enclosure; tiling the shower enclosure; building a new airing cupboard; replacing both windows; turning an old cupboard into a wash stand, and the list goes on…. The only job I got someone in to do was the electrics.

DIY disaster

I clumsily fell through the ceiling the weekend I fitted the new bathroom window!

Clearly I can’t describe in detail every single step, but here’s a summary of the significant steps that took me from a brick shell to the finished bathroom, above.

With the old bathroom ripped out and the floor removed I was able to start planning the new pipework. The existing pipework needed re-configuring to suit the location of the new bath, washstand, toilet and shower. The trick to this lay in looking closely at the old pipes, working out what jobs they were doing, and then planning how they needed to be modified for the new  bathroom suite.

stuart turner 3.0 bar monsoon power shower pump

The new Stuart Turner power shower pump sits on top of a DIY anti-vibration pad

As the pipework was going to be hidden under the floor I decided to stick to soldered copper pipework rather than push fit joints that might fail in the future. To do the new plumbing I bought an Irwin Hilmor pipebender (capable of bending 15mm and 22mm pipework) and a new Rothenberger Rofire Pro Gas hand torch and canister, which had a built in ignition – I was finding it a real pain trying to light my old torch with a lighter each time I was ready to solder.

I was concerned that the new shower and roll top bath would not get sufficient pressure from the existing gravity fed hot water cylinder so after much research I fitted a Stuart Turner 3.0 bar power shower pump (see left). This required a new dedicated 22mm feed from both the cold water storage tank in the loft, and the hot water cylinder. I fitted a Stuart flange to the top of the hot water cylinder to provide this feed, and a 22mm tank connector in the cold water storage tank in the loft.

The plumbing ended up being the most satisfying job I undertook in the bathroom. Armed with my torch, flux, wire wool and solder it was like putting together a giant 3D jigsaw puzzle!

bathroom copper pipework

The old copper pipework is reconfigured to suit the location of the new bath, washstand, toilet and shower

With the plumbing complete, I was keen to get the new floor down, after narrowly avoiding serious injury when I put my foot through the lath and plaster ceiling one weekend whilst fitting the new bathroom window (see above, right!). I sourced a new tongue and grooved 220mm wide engineered oak floor from a wonderful company, JFJ Wood Flooring  .

home made floor clamp

Two pieces of wood cut at diagonals make the perfect tool to clamp the floor boards tight to one another

After insulating between the floor joists with soundproofing I laid the floor, and after some research decided that tongue tite screws (rather than investing in a porter nailer) would be the easiest and cheapest method of screwing the flooring down to the joists.

I then made a special clamp out of a piece of 2″x2″ timber cut along the diagonal. When hammered together (see photo right) the clamp drove the floor boards firmly together enabling me to screw them down with no gaps in between each board.

shower waste

Noggins are inserted between the floor joists so that the shower tray is perfectly level

At this point I inserted noggins between the floor joists along the length of the shower tray to ensure the tray was perfectly horizontal, and well supported. In the foreground (left) you can just see the ply sheet that was then screwed down to the joists, to provide support for the shower tray.

To mirror the Victorian oak floor in our hallway, I mixed two colour tones from Treatex (1/3 ebony, 2/3 victorian oak) and then enlisted the help of my enthusiastic son to apply the stain and hardwax oil top coat.


treatex colour tone for engineered oak flooring

With the floor laid, my son helps to apply the Treatex colour tone stain

With the floor now finished and covered in cardboard and bubble wrap to protect it, I battened the walls and inserted ecotherm insulation in between the battens, before screwing plasterboard onto the battens with drywall screws.ecotherm wall insulation

In the shower area I used tile backer rather than plasterboard – a glass reinforced gypsum board ideal for areas exposed to water and moisture. I don’t intend for any moisture to penetrate through the tiles into the wall behind, but tile backer is the belt and braces approach to shower enclosures, and provides an excellent key for tiles.

A local handyman then plastered the walls and ceiling for me – something I have come to regret as this is the one job other than the electrics that I didn’t do, and I am not very happy with the finish of the plasterwork. I would have been better to have done this myself, or enlisted the help of a professional plasterer instead!

It was now time to open the various boxes that had been building up in the spare room – containing toilet, sinks, bath, bath and shower mixers, towel rails, and to gradually assemble these.

bathroom shower tiling

Getting my hands dirty with tile adhesive and tile cutting

This was the fun bit after all the hard work and at this point, after a build of nearly two years – mostly during spare time at weekends – I began to feel that the end was truly in sight.

malborough tiles in shower enclosure

The Malborough tiles in the shower enclosure prior to grouting

In the shower area we had a recessed window and three recessed shelf areas for towels and shower products. With so many exposed edges I decided to use hand made Malborough tiles – which have one fully glazed side edge. I bought a Plasplugs electric tile cutter and set about the laborious task of tiling the shower area over a couple of weekends.

I opted for a powdered tile adhesive as I was told this would provide better adhesion than the premixed adhesives – a must for these tiles, as with their uneven edges it was very difficult to use tile spacers – so much of the spacing had to be done by eye.

So that there was no diminution in pressure to the bath I plumbed the 22mm copper pipework right into the bath mixer rather than using flexi hoses which I’ve learnt aren’t full bore. You’ll find loads of forums on this conundrum but I decided I was confident enough by now with my pipe bending to be able to produce my own feed into the bath mixer!

DIY victorian washstand

We took an old victorian cupboard, and added a marble top to create this beautiful washstand

For the washstand, we took an old Victorian chest we bought for £35 on Ebay and converted it into a double (undermount) basin washstand with marble top sourced from a local marble company.  I also made the oak mirror pictured above from a reclaimed oak floorboard.

The glass shower screen was sourced from Ebay and, although it was 1900mm high rather than the 2000mm advertised I was very happy with the quality of the screen and the chrome supporting bracket. The screen also came with a free chrome wiper, which we now use after every shower to keep the screen free from lime scale.

bathroom airing cupboard

The airing cupboard gradually takes shape – made from a combination of pine and mdf

The last job was to make the airing cupboard – which you can see from the photo above we were by this stage already using! I constructed this from a combination of timber and mdf. The timber formed the framework for the front of the cupboard, and the sides and the cupboard doors themselves were made with two layers of 12mm mdf, layered on top of each other to create the rebate for the decorative moulding. The decorative moulding itself (bought from B&Q) actually cost more than the rest of the wood put together!

So I hope you found this post of interest or use for your own bathroom projects. If you have any questions about the tools I used, or the products I sourced, please do leave a comment and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!


Charlie DIYite’s tools are all stolen!

Well, it’s been a mad couple of days.  A week ago, I was blogging about how to put together the perfect Household DIY tool set – something that my wife had requested for those odd jobs that she wanted to do when I wasn’t around. The funny thing is that I have been using her new tool set quite a lot since I posted the video – it was just so convenient for little jobs around the house when my own tool kit wasn’t accessible (tape measure for checking dimensions of things we were going to buy, spanner and multi-tool to change my son’s bike tyre.. I could go on).

And then disaster struck. On Thursday night I put my own tools – most of which I keep in a wheelie bag for ease of transportation – in the garage for the night. This isn’t something I ever do, mindful of the fact that our garage is a little vulnerable to break-ins, being at the top of the garden.

charlie diyite tools

Just some of the tools that were stolen from my garage on Friday night!

And then I woke up in the morning to find the garage padlock had been wrenched off the door, and my wheelie case along with its entire contents had gone, along with a Youngman ladder I bought from Wickes and, annoyingly, the green Makita accessory case (screwdriver and drill bits – top right in the photo above). I stood aghast looking at the space that my tool case had occupied.

Funnily enough it wasn’t the power tools that I had lost that got to me, as these can so easily be replaced. It was the silly little tools that I have owned for years which have become an extension of my arm – such as my trowel and square small tool, the military Leatherman penknife that a supplier had once given me by way of apology for letting me down on a job, and a whole raft of other little bits and bobs that occupied the bottom of my tool case, half of which I couldn’t name right now, but which I have been slowly compiling over the years, and each of which form an integral part of my tool collection.

So Friday morning saw the painful task of preparing a spreadsheet of everything I could think of that I had lost, for the insurers and police. My old faithful Ryobi electric screwdriver doesn’t exist now – I was given it about 6 years ago by my father-in-law. I liked its control, and the way the clutch could be set to gently send screws home without the destructive effect that you get with so many impact drivers today. So I’ll have to replace that with one of the aforementioned impact drivers. I’m going to stick with Ryobi, because I love these reasonably priced, no-nonsense tools, and also because I still have a few batteries – I took these out of my suitcase to charge them the night of the theft. It gave me a small shred of satisfaction to think that the thieves would have made off slightly frustrated that each of the power tools they took was missing its battery HA! there’s a bit of karma for you!!

Friday afternoon saw a hasty trip to B&Q to buy a new high security door hasp and security camera for the garage, which I managed to fit by borrowing off my son my old electric drill driver I had given him recently. And here’s an interesting (well, to me anyway) point. Until my mid 20s I had managed in all my DIY projects without an electric screwdriver. It was at the insistence of my old builder friend Roger that I bought a (Bosch) drill driver, and I have never looked back since. I would have seriously struggled to install the new hasp for the garage door padlock without it – because you just cannot get the power and momentum out of a conventional hand operated screwdriver (even a ratchet screwdriver) that you get from an electric screwdriver.

So today I pressed on with putting the skirting boards into our new bathroom, armed with my son’s drill driver, and a random selection of drill bits and countersink bits that I found in an old tool box. I can’t finish off the skirting boards though because the decorators caulk was just one of the things that was half inched by the burglars.

So what about the insurance claim? I submitted it this morning and to my surprise our insurers (Sainsburys) paid up this afternoon. But my elation and the aforementioned karma that I had cheated the burglars out of a few drill batteries quickly evaporated this evening when I went to mow the lawn only to find that they’d taken the lawn mower as well!!!!!

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