Welcome to Our Handy Hints Section
the help of Rusty and Sandy we have come up with 100 Handy Hints
to help you maintain your Home. From installing garden lights,
laying concrete, applying sealant, or even simply hanging a
picture frame, here is where you'll find the tips to make the
Begin by placing the understock plant and the new top close
together. Use a scalpel to cut a 2.5cm long strip of bark from
both plants then tie the stems firmly together with budding
tape. Remember to remove suckers below the graft before they
take over the ornamental part of the tree.
Caring for Roses:
Recently planted roses must be kept well watered for the first
few months and probably through the first two summers. Roses
need good, regular, deep watering, not occasional light
sprinkling. Water is preferable in the morning to reduce the
risk of fungal disease and flower damage.
Pruning Fruit Trees:
Prune fruit trees so that their branches form a cup shape. This
ensures that the centre is open and airy, and that sunlight can
easily penetrate all parts of the tree.
Installing Garden Lights:
Install the transformer at a minimum height of 30cm
above ground level and away from the proximity of sprinkler
heads. Lay out low voltage cable into position, plug in the
transformer and switch 'on'. Connect lights and push into ground
at their chosen location.
Planting Bulbs: Dig
up bulb and remove any bulbets growing on its side. Replant
mixing a trowel of fertiliser into the soil at the bottom of the
hole. Plant the bulbets twice as deep. Apply mulch and fertilise
again in Spring when new growth appears.
Planting Seedlings grown from
seed: When your seedlings have their first leaves
gradually expose them to a little more sun each day. After a
week or so transplant them into the garden early in the morning
when itís cooler. Remember to water seedlings before removing
from punnet by their leaves. Plant firmly into soil and water
with half strength liquid fertiliser.
Installing a sprinkler system:
Lay out the components where you intend to install
them. Begin at the tap and cut the poly tube to the required
lengths and connect with joiners, elbows or tees. Install pop-up
sprinklers temporarily above ground, and turn on the water to
test performance and check for any leakages.
Weed Control: Most
summer weeds can be effectively controlled with one of the
herbicides that work only through green tissues, not through the
branches, trunk or soil. Purchase a weeding wand for easy
application and apply to the mature leaves as well as the new
Avoid sticks or branches, bulbous weeds such as onion weed,
oxalis and nut grass, and any diseased plant parts. Include
kitchen veggie scraps, leaves, fruit peelings, tea-leaves,
coffee grounds, animal manures and human hair.
Indoor Plant Care:
To refresh a favourite plant simply repot into a
larger container using a good quality potting mix. But remember,
most indoor plants die from over fertilising and lack of
sunlight. So use a nine-month slow release fertiliser and make
sure plants receive lots of indirect natural light.
How to save water:
Water your garden early in the morning for best results. Thatís
because evening watering encourages fungal disease and watering
during the day is less effective due to increased evaporation.
And remember, too much fertiliser makes lawns thirsty and
healthy ones use less water than sick ones.
Preparing soil for planting:
Remove the grass and dig a large hole, turning the
soil over. Remember to dig through plenty of organic matter
until the soil is slightly higher than the surrounding ground to
help improve drainage.
Garden pests and diseases:
Most scale insects can be sprayed with Malascale, a
mixture of Malathion and White Oil, which is not overly toxic.
Sudden die back of plants is usually caused by root rot. Remove
and destroy the plant. Then, improve drainage before planting a
rot resistant variety.
Maintaining Gutters and Downpipes:
Remove leaves and other debris with a small brush and
use the garden hose to wash away the pieces. Then place the
garden hose into downpipes with the water turned onto full. A
plastic mesh gutter guard can be easily fitted to ensure leaves
are kept out.
Mowing Tips: The basic rule
is to under-mow rather than over-mow. Leave the new grass until
it is as least 6cm high before mowing. Ensure the mower blades
are sharp and remove no more than one third of the grass length
the first time. Thereafter, gradually lower the blades.
Lawnmower Maintenance: Store
the mower in a dry, sheltered area. If your garage or garden
shed is prone to dampness it is better to sit the mower on a
platform so that it will not deteriorate. This should also
prevent insects from nesting in the mower.
Outdoor Furniture Repair:
The best fasteners for rickety outdoor furniture are nuts,
washers and bolts, and coarse-threaded self-drilling screws.
Simply return the weakened joint to its original position and
clamp it in place before inserting a couple of screws or bolts.
Securing a Gate: Insert
chocks under the sagging gate so that itís resting in the
correct position. Then fit a decent set of hinges, using at
least two or three nuts and bolts as well as screws. Drive in a
star stake next to the gatepost and attach it through
pre-drilled holes to make the gate more rigid.
Setting a Rat Trap: To fool
the rats, bait the trap without setting it for several days. Use
nuts and pumpkin seeds which are hard to dislodge from the trap.
Only when the bait is disappearing regularly should you set the
trap. If you prefer to remove the rat unhurt purchase a special
trap with a one-way trapdoor.
Safe Lifting: Place your
legs slightly apart so that the object is between them. Bend at
the knees before gripping the object firmly then, keeping the
back straight, straighten your legs slowly. Allow your leg and
thigh muscles, not your back, to take the strain
Outdoor Furniture Care: Use
a mild detergent and water to clean outdoor furniture and
remember to rinse clean. Then apply a product made for auto
surfaces which is designed to stand the damaging effects of
weather. Always make sure they are recommended for the materials
Laying Concrete: If hand
mixing, do it on a large sheet of plywood or a heavy-gauge
polythene sheet. Never mix concrete on the dirt. All the
preparation should be complete before the concrete is mixed.
This way, the pour can be completed in one operation.
Setting a Level Post: Use a
post-hole digger to dig the hole then add gravel into the bottom
to aid drainage. Drop the post into the hole, big end first, and
add a little dirt. With a stick the size of a shovel handle tamp
the dirt firmly. Continue to add dirt, stopping regularly to
check the post remains vertical.
Sealing Terracotta or Slate:
Remove stains with advanced cleaning products. Choose
penetrating sealers for external areas and either a high gloss
or low gloss sealer for internal areas.
Repainting a peeling surface:
Scrape away flakes and smooth edges with sandpaper. Use
an electric hot air stripper or chemical paint stripper to
soften old paint making it easier to remove with a blade. Then
sand, wash down with sugar soap and touch up bare areas with an
undercoat or primer before painting.
Force white cellulose filler mix into crack or hole and smooth
over with a putty knife or damp cloth. When dry, smooth with
medium-fine sandpaper. Fill larger holes in stages, allowing a
few hours drying between applications.
After painting with oil-based paint, clean brushes in turps. For
water-based paints use warm soapy water only. Hang brush
bristles down to dry. Always clear remaining solvent from the
bristles by twirling the brush before reusing
Paint Roller Techniques:
Wash roller in paint solvent and roll out dust and particles.
Load roller with paint and test roll a small area before you
start. Use roller in a WW shape around one metre square and
finish off with a vertical down stroke with light pressure for a
Clean and dry the area before applying sealant in a continuous
and steady flow. Push sealant ahead of nozzle, contacting both
sides of the joint. Add masking tape to give a neat line and
remove immediately after finishing. For improved appearance
smooth over with a spatula.
Painting Roofs and Metal
Surfaces: Disconnect downpipes from your water tank
before starting. Then water blast roof and wire brush any rusted
areas to remove debris. Apply rust neutralisers and fill holes
with epoxy resin filler. Paint rusted areas with Metal Primer
and finish with two coats of Roof Paint.
For difficult areas like doors and windows hang the paper so
that it overlaps. Gently run down the side of the architrave
with the blunt part of the scissors and cut along the line.
Smooth back onto wall, pressing the edge of the paper into the
angle of the wall and architrave.
Hints on using abrasives:
Donít use coarser than you need and always test your
job before you start. When moving from coarse to fine sandpaper,
double the grit number for each successive stage, until the
desired degree of finish is reached. And remember, straight line
sanding with the grain scratches least.
Only dip half of the bristles into paint before tapping gently
against both sides of the tin to remove excess. Use a
criss-crossing stroke to spread paint evenly and start from the
unpainted area, working back into the painted area, always
maintaining a wet edge to avoid lap marks.
Removing Paint Stains:
Nail polish remover will remove paint spatters on windows. Old
stains can be softened with turpentine or linseed oil then
scraped off with a razor blade. Steel wool dipped in hot vinegar
or liquid cleanser removes fresh paint stains. Use baby oil to
remove paint from hands and face.
'CuttingĖIn' is the term tradesmen use for getting a
neat join where paints of different colours meet. To achieve
this effect on window frames and panel doors, load the brush
lightly so you donít cut into the edge of the glass, but allow a
thick strip of paint about 3mm wide to protect the putty.
Spray Painting: For
a professional finish keep the sprayer upright and spray
parallel to the painting surface. Move the sprayer slowly and
steadily using the entire arm to maintain uniform spacing
between sprayer and surface. Start with a fine mist from a
distance then work a little closer to the finish. Several light
coats are best to ensure paint doesnít run.
Painting a Deck: If
the deck is one of the hard, durable timbers like batu or merbau
it can probably be left to weather naturally. Remember though,
most timbers will eventually change to a silver grey colour.
There are a number of excellent finishes available. Timber gloss
and low sheen acrylics are ideal for these areas.
Painting Taping Tips:
Avoid stretching tape and pull off foil up to half a
metre at a time, press down a small area, unwind the same
distance again, press that down and continue. Lay tape into
surface depressions and press edges down firmly to prevent
Grouting Tiles: Apply tiles
and leave at least 12 hours for the adhesive to dry completely.
Clean off excess adhesive from tiles and any uneven surface
between gaps that could show through the finished job. Mix the
grout thoroughly in accordance with the manufacturerís
Cleaning Bathtub Stains:
Make a paste out of cream of tartar and hydrogen peroxide. Apply
a small amount to the stain. Use a nylon net scrub or an old
toothbrush to gently scrub the area. Repeat for stubborn stains,
then rinse thoroughly.
Dripping Shower Heads:
The solution to a dripping shower head is to replace
the washer in the tap handle. A blocked shower head needs to be
removed and washed out in hot water and detergent. Then use a
piece of wire to clean out the holes.
Recaulking Baths and Sinks:
Scrape out crumbly mortar and clean with a brush dipped in
mineral turps. Dry the crevice well before applying caulking
compound slightly wider than the gap it has to fill. Use a wet
rag to push the caulk into the gap and remove excess compound
with a razor blade when dry.
Sticking Doors: To feel
where the door is sticking rub your hand over the edges of the
frame. Where thereís a build-up of paint youíll need to sand or
plane it back. For major problems, remove the door and check the
hinge screws. If the holes have become too big use wood filler
and longer screws for added strength.
Leaking Cistern: Turn off
water at stopcock. Flush water from cistern and wipe dry. To
stop water running continuously into pan through overflow, lift
and bend arm of ball float downwards. To stop partial flushing
of cistern adjust arm of ball float upward to increase water
level or remove and replace faulty suction washer.
Replacing Broken Tiles:
Match both the tile and grout colour before removing any debris
left from the old tile. Smear tile adhesive on the back of the
tile and on the wall and press tile into place. Use masking tape
to hold tile against the wall for 24 hours. Press grout into
joints around tile and clean off with a damp sponge.
Banging Pipes: Nothing is
more annoying than banging water pipes when you turn on your
washing machine or dishwasher. Now there is a simple solution,
just fit a hammer arrestor to save your water pipes from costly
damage. They can be easily fitted and include hose connections
to dishwashers and washing machines.
Fixing to Solid Walls: Begin
by drilling a hole with a masonry drill bit and insert plug into
the hole. Then, as the screw is tightened, the plug expands and
presses against the sides of the hole embedding it.
Removing Concrete Stains:
Scrub area with hot water and grease-cutting detergents or
scouring powders. Solvent based pavement cleaners are also
effective and are available from your local Home Timber &
Fixing Cupboard Hinges:
Fixing screws into hinges on heavy doors is less difficult using
your foot to control a lever over a block of timber. And
remember, it is easier to fit and align two slightly heavier
hinges than three lighter ones.
Glass Installation: New
glass should be cut slightly smaller than the space into which
it will fit. Apply putty or silicone around the frame before
inserting glass. Then use small nails to hold glass before
smoothing putty on outside edge of glass with a putty knife
dipped in linseed oil. Leave to harden before painting.
Fixing Fly-Screens: Cut wire
and pull at the centre of each edge to line strands along the
frame and fasten. Cut away excess wire. Mitre-cut the beading,
prime the raw wood ends and nail to frame at about 100mm
centres. The beading should hide the wire edge and its inner
edge flush with the frameís inner edge.
Hanging Hinged Doors: Use
existing hinge recesses to mark your new door. Trace the hinge
shape onto the new door, including depth of the hinge leaf on
the doorís face. Next, chisel out shapes and screw hinges into
recess. Place the door at right angles to the opening, adjust
height and screw hinges into frame recesses.
Fixing Venetian Blinds: Use
heavy duty packing tape to repair a broken strip in your
venetian blind. Remember to apply to the side facing the wall so
it will not be visible.
When nailing dense timbers like Jarrah and Red Gum or
to prevent splitting near ends, drill a hole the same size or
slightly smaller than the nail to act as a guide.
Rivet Removal: Blind
rivets are easily removed to allow repair or replacement work by
using a drill bit of the same size as the original hole.
Use talcum powder in the cracks between floorboards to stop
squeaks. Fix loose floorboards that squeak with a hammer and use
a nail punch to drive down nails. If this doesnít work, drill
holes next to the nails and fix boards with counter-sunk
Installing Timber Panelling:
Stand the boards against the wall keeping them out of
any direct sunlight to acclimatise them to the surrounding
conditions. Then, a protective coating of clear water repellent
or polyurethane should be applied.
Place rubber plunger tightly over the drain and fill the sink
with water until plunger is covered. Pump plunger up and down.
If the blockage remains look for an obstruction in the S-bend.
Put a bucket under the sink and loosen the slip nut or undo the
drainage plug at the base of the S-bend.
Building a Stud Wall:
Measure the area and include space for a door if needed. Space
the studs (the vertical timbers) so that the door will fit
properly. Stud walls should be located above the floor joist.
The stud wall should then be assembled on the floor and lifted
Rising Damp: To fix
rising damp, check that paths around the home are set below the
level of the damp-proof course. Also, check every vent to make
sure that nothing is obstructing the airflow, ensure drainpipes
run into proper drains and paint outside walls with good acrylic
paint or lime wash so that they can breathe.
Tool Care: Tools
with wooden handles should be rubbed periodically with a mixture
of two parts mineral turpentine to one part linseed oil to
prevent drying out and splinters. If implements are rusty, scrub
with steel wool and apply oil.
Simple Power Sanding:
Keep the sander moving along the surface to avoid its edge
digging in and heat building up or clogging. Sand lengthways
along surface and donít press too hard, let the sander do the
work. Use low speed for fibreglass and non-ferrous materials and
always wear eye protection.
Choosing Bolts and Nuts:
Use Hex Head bolts when fixing metal to timber, and where
practical put a metal piece under the head and washer under the
nut. When fixing a Cup Head bolt put a washer between wood and
nut. And use a metal piece under the head of a Coach Screw when
fixing metal to timber.
When fixing to timber the embedment depth should be 25mm into
the timber being fastened and 20mm for plasterboard and
chipboard. When fixing to metal the embedment depth should be
the thickness of the material being fastened to, plus drilling
capacity and three threads protruding beyond the metal being
Wear a dust mask, goggles, gloves, overalls and long sleeves to
avoid health risks. Transfer the batts into the roof before
opening them so they remain easy to store and transport. Always
start at the most distant point from the access hatch and work
backwards, leaving odd shaped areas until last.
Flush sink with a cup of ammonia in a bucket of boiling water.
Use a piece of wire with a hook bent into the end to scrape out
any blocking soap and hair from pipes. Smelly floor drains can
be flushed out with a bucket or two of boiling water mixed with
Try sprinkling the hinges with spray or lubricant.
Non-stick vegetable spray will also help to lubricate squeaky
hinges and sticky locks.
Lubricate the sides but not the teeth of your saw
with bar soap. You will find that after you do this, it will cut
more smoothly. Saws should also be hung or covered to avoid
damaging teeth. Lightly coat the teeth with machine oil to
prevent rust when you store saws for the long term.
Choosing Door Locks:
Door locks are only as good as the door theyíre fitted to.
Hollow-core doors are easily smashed open so upgrade them to
solid timber. And for top security, choose a double cylinder
'deadlock' that can be locked from the inside and outside.
Windows with double hung sashes are easily protected with a key
lockable bolt action system. These are fitted to the inside of
the window frame at the centre line. Then, while the window is
locked, the hardened steel locking bolt stops either sash from
Scratched Timber Furniture:
Try liquid shoe polish in a matching colour, white
petroleum jelly or a mixture of vinegar and olive oil. Sometimes
just a fresh coat of wax or polish will do the job. Fill larger
scratches with wood filler and touch up with a matching stain
PICTURE HANGING: To locate the stud tap along the wall and to
listen for a change in sound. Better still, use an electronic
stud finder to help you mark the spot before screwing the hook
to the wall. Make sure the screw is long enough to allow for the
10mm of plaster.
Replacing Halogen Globes:
Never handle new tungsten halogen globes because oils
from the hand can cause the globe to fail or shatter. Use a
tissue to handle globes and if necessary clean globes with
methylated spirits. And remember to store globes on an angle for
them to remain active.
Fixing a Leaking Vase:
Coat inside with a thick layer of paraffin wax and allow to
harden or simply paint over the crack on the inside with clear
Cleaning and Protecting
Upholstery: Remove any solids from the stained area
and blot up as much as you can. Apply all treatment from the
back of the fabric if possible and donít overwork. Use the back
of a spoon to apply cleaning liquids and always rinse or air
Installing a Skylight:
Remove one roof tile or cut away sufficient steel roofing to
allow placement of the skylight. Slip the weatherproof backing
plate into position under roofing at the higher point and over
existing roofing at the lower point. Use a keyhole saw or jigsaw
to make an opening in the ceiling for diffuser panel. Climb into
the roof and attach flexishaft through the ceiling. Screw the
diffuser panel into position. Finally attach the flexishaft to
the diffuser panel.
Keep fire blankets and extinguishers in the kitchen and workshop
to prevent small fires getting out of control. Install smoke
alarms outside all bedrooms because its more difficult to smell
smoke when you are asleep.
After fitting a circuit breaker youíll never have to
rewire another fuse. Thatís because a circuit breaker cuts off
the power before a circuit becomes dangerously overloaded. Then,
after the fault has been fixed you can simply switch them back
Mending a Fuse: Turn off
master switch at fuse box. Remove and return each fuse plug to
locate problem. Then, remove the burnt out wire and replace with
a length of 8amp (lights) or 15 amps (power) fuse wire. Tighten
screws over wire, snip off excess and replace repaired plug in
socket and turn power back on.
Installing Smoke Alarms: For
your familyís safety, it is important to install smoke alarms.
Establish the number of alarms needed and where theyíll be
installed. Then determine which alarms are best suited for that
area. Use products that carry local standards approved symbol.
Cleaning Glass Lighting:
Cover the floor underneath the light fitting with a
sheet or towel. Take care not to wet the actual light and use
detergent and bleach applied with a soft rag. Then wipe clean
with a linen serviette to give it added sparkle.
Wash and dry the inside regularly using only small amounts of
detergent. Finish off with a cloth dipped in vinegar to prevent
mildew. A quarter of a cup of ammonia mixed with cold water in a
spray bottle helps clean the refrigerator exterior and waxing
will prevent soiling.
Mending Glassware: Before
repairing glass, the broken pieces need to be roughened a little
with a diamond scratch to provide a better 'key' for adhesive.
Use very fine sandpaper or an emery board to smooth out chips on
the rim of a glass and squeeze toothpaste onto a soft cloth to
remove any minor scratches.
Cleaning Mildew: Light
stains on fabric may be washed out in the laundry. You could
also try soaking in diluted bleach, rubbing with a cut lemon
dipped in salt or dabbing with hydrogen peroxide. Keep moist
until the spots fade, rinse and wash as usual.
Changing a Power Lead Plug:
Remove the cover and push it up the cord. Loosen the
screws on the terminals and remove wires, noting their position.
Cut the cord off clean before removing the outer plastic to
expose the three wires. Twist each wire together and connect to
correct terminal, tighten screws and replace cover.
Fixing a Fluorescent Tube:
Firstly, turn off light at switch. To test if starter is faulty
it needs to be removed and fitted with another. If the problem
remains, check the pins at the end of the tube for corrosion or
damage. A light sanding with fine sandpaper will remove
corrosion and pliers can be used to straighten bent pins.
Home Fire Safety: If fire
breaks out get all the family together and leave the house at
once, closing as many doors and windows as possible on the way.
Where there is heavy smoke stay low because smoke is less dense
closer to the ground where the temperature is lower.
Home Security: Never leave
keys hidden outside the house and itís a good idea to leave a
spare set with your neighbour. Lock away ladders and tools that
could be used in a burglary and install movement activated
lights to deter thieves.
Ladder Safety: When using a
ladder always make sure both the legs are evenly placed on the
ground. Use wide timber chocks to even up the ladder on sloping
surfaces and if possible, nail the chock to the floor to prevent
it slipping. Take care around power lines when putting a metal
ladder up or down.
Installing a Deadlock: A
double cylinder deadlock is generally accepted as the most
secure of all locks. Install one that has a strike flange to
protect the door jamb and solid steel pin that cannot be forced.
Avoid Electric Shock: Avoid
overloading a circuit with too many adaptors, which could cause
a short and look after cords to prevent damage. And always make
sure your hands are dry before touching any electrical
equipment, plugs or sockets.
Pool Maintenance: Before
starting up for summer, check your water test kit and buy new
bottles of liquid reagents because they only last one season.
Switch on the pump, check your poolís filters for holes and
tears and discard old cartridges.
Ceiling Fan Wobbles:
Check that the fan blades arenít out of balance by
clipping a clothes peg midway along the leading edge of each
blade, one at a time. Turn the fan on to a low speed and see it
the added weight stops the wobble. When successful, replace peg
with adhesive-backed lead-weighted tape.
Choosing the Right Nail:
Choose a nail that is twice as long than the timber being held.
Ensure that the nail is not longer than the combined thickness
of the timber being nailed together.