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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.

emulsion

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 first4magnets.com are available in a range of colours. I was also recommended push pin magnets from Ultramagnets.com.

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.

magnetic_wall3

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

How to Remove Mould from Fabric

This blog is, I have to confess a little thrown together, as the content for it appeared completely by chance, but in connection with the research I was doing for my recent blog and video on how to remove condensation.

I borrowed a Karcher WV50 Window Vac from my friend Polly for the video I was preparing, and after using it (wow, what an AMAZING product – I so wish we had one of these), I dropped it back round at Polly’s house. starbrite mildew stain remover spray

We got talking (we both share a bit of a passion for DIY!) and she excitedly told me about a stain remover she had bought to remove mould from her roman blinds. Before replacing the windows in her cottage with double glazing she had quite a bit of condensation and as a consequence the back of her blinds, and her bathroom roller blind had gone very mouldy.

She told me about how this spray had completely removed the mould from her blinds, and excitedly said that we should give it a go on a bathroom roller blind that was completely beset with mould – and which she hadn’t yet tackled. Unfortunately I had neither my phone nor video camera with me, so all photos in this blog are kindly provided by Polly. I’m just a little gutted I don’t have a video to show you this amazing spray in operation.

roller blind mouldy

So off we went upstairs, and suspended the roller blind over the bath.  We liberally sprayed the Mildew Stain Remover directly onto the blind. The stain remover spray began to work almost immediately, and the mould started to turn paler and then disappear. After 10 or 15 minutes, we gave the blind a rinse under the shower to remove the spray and mould residue and resprayed a couple of areas where the mould had been heaviest. We then rinsed it again and left it to dry.

mouldy roller blind after mildew stain remover treatment And the finished result is, I think you’ll agree, pretty staggering! The blind, which I would have been tempted to throw away looked almost brand new!

Clearly not all products can be rinsed clean in this way, but we rinsed the blind because I knew a single layer polyester fabric like this would be fine to rinse.

I believe the manufacturers’ instructions don’t recommend spraying the product on clothes and other fabrics, but the reviews Polly read before buying it suggested she ignore this as other users had achieved such good results with it. For the roman blinds in the rest of her house, Polly had simply sprayed the lining on the back of the blind where the mould had formed. She didn’t need to rinse the fabric after applying the stain remover and is really pleased with the results.

 

 

Fixing a roof leak with lead soakers

I got an awful feeling of dread when I recently looked up at the upstairs corridor ceiling  of our Victorian cottage to see a dark grey damp patch forming in one corner. We had a leak.

Our cottage was originally two cottages, and the leak was coming from somewhere up on the roof, around the parapet wall between the roofs of the two cottages (below). Most of the roof dates back over 100 years, and is not felted under the tiles, so this sort of thing is something I always dread.

leaking victorian roof

The leaking roof – shown with the old lead flashing stripped off

So as with all leaks I set about looking for the cause. The roof was luckily easy to reach, as a central valley runs the length of the (now one) cottage, and it was into this central valley and the ceiling below that the water was leaking.

I thought back to a leak I had in a similar cottage I lived in down in south east London several years previously. The roofer I found back then had told me that the leak was partly due to water sinking down through old mortar between the bricks on the parapet wall (“we have a lot more rain today than the buildings were designed for back then” he said), so he installed coping stones on top of the parapet wall and that seemed to fix the problem.

I had some old tiles lying about (it’s amazing the stuff that the previous owners left behind – these were half buried under a tree at the top of the garden!), so I covered the parapet wall with these and also put a new render bead on the course of bricks that protruded out from the sides of the parapet wall (above left).

The next bout of rain arrived and the damp patch on the ceiling got bigger, so it was back to the drawing board.

The next thing I did was spread polythene across the lead valley directly above the damp area, tucking it under the roof tiles on both sides – to see if the lead valley was the cause. No it wasn’t, and the damp patch got larger.

So now I knew the roof itself was to blame, and a bit of digging around in the roof confirmed this – water was dripping down the bricks of the parapet wall inside the roof. Before you start wondering, I hadn’t immediately thought this was the cause as there was a huge piece of lead flashing running down the roof, rendered into the parapet roof.

I tried to call the roofers who had done a bit of repair work when I bought the cottage, but I couldn’t get them to return my calls, and with money tight as ever, I decided I would have to fix it myself.

The first thing I did was to research on Google to find the the methods of butting tiles up to a parapet wall or chimney so as to make them watertight.

soakers and flashings

Different ways to butt tiles up to a parapet wall or chimney

I’d seen the roofers previously repair another roof at the cottage with lead soakers, so I thought I’d give this a go) because it seemed a little less complicated than creating step flashings, and ii) because I figured I’d need to render the wall afterwards anyway (which I think you probably need to do to prevent rain water getting in between the parapet wall brickwork and the top of the lead soaker.

So I needed to buy a roll of lead, and some new tiles, as the tiles under the lead flashing were broken and disintegrating.

code 4 lead flashing

A roll of 240x3000mm lead flashing set me back over £45!

Buying the lead was the easy bit (picked up from a local builder’s merchants), but at over £40 I was a little horrified at the price!

I decided to buy the tiles directly from the manufacturer as Dreadnought tiles were reasonably near by and I was able to buy 100 or so (with some tile-and-a-half-tiles to create the staggering effect) machine made clay tiles and pick them up on my way back from a work trip in London. The tiles were another £150 or so, and I’ve since found out I could have saved a bit of money by buying recycled tiles, so do a bit of Google-ing if you find yourself in a similar position!

So on the next available sunny day (few and far between recently) I flung a few dust sheets and blankets on top of the lead valley to protect it and set about stripping off the old tiles.repairing battens on a roof

Once these were gone, the next job was to repair the wooden roof battens that had either gone rotten due to the leak, or just disintegrated with age. I cut some strips of treated wood I had left over from a fence repair to the right size and screwed these in place. If you have to do something similar you can find battens in any good DIY store (Wickes, B&Q etc).

Then it was back down the ladder to make the lead soakers, which I did by rolling out the lead flat, and then following the dimensions I had seen in the diagram (above) on the internet, I marked out and cut the lead with a stanley knife, and then bent it round a plank to the required shape. DIY lead soakers

I was pretty pleased with the end result!

The next stage was the really satisfying bit of laying the new tiles, interspersed with my new lead soakers.parapet wall with lead soakers

Whilst laying the tiles and the soakers was straight forward, the difficulty came in linking these into the existing roof, as the new Dreadnought tiles were hard as granite, and difficult to cut with my rather small angle grinder.

The important thing was to ensure that there was a decent overlap as the old and new tiles dovetailed into each other up the roof. Where possible I inserted new tiles and trimmed the old ones down with my Bosch4-1/2″ angle grinder as these were much softer to cut than the new Dreadnought tiles.

DIY roof repair

The tiling is complete and the parapet wall rendered

With the tiling finally complete all that remained was to tidy up the old stepped lead flashing at the top of the roof around the chimney and with only a couple of hours of daylight left, I hastily prepared a sand and cement render mix (4 parts sand to 1 part cement with waterproof PVA waterproof the render and make it easier to work with) in my wheel barrow, mixing it up with a spade, and troweled it onto the parapet wall.

It wasn’t due to rain that evening but the temperature was lower than I would have liked to apply render in, so I covered the parapet wall in an old sofa throw to protect it from any frost during the night.

The job was complete, the roof water tight, and the leak fixed, and more importantly, with an old roof that doesn’t have the added protection of roofing felt, regular maintenance is very important and I now know how to do it myself. Bring on the next DIY project!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ryobi RCD12011L cordless drill/driver

I was recently preparing for a week long trip to Verbier, Switzerland to fit out a chalet with curtains and other soft furnishings we had made. And for this, I needed to put together a travel tool kit.

With a 25kg weight limit on hold baggage I needed something light weight, and that’s when I decided I had to have the Ryobi RCD12011L 12v cordless drill driver as my travel companion.

ryobi RCD12011L 12v cordless drill driver

I’ve seen this drill driver before – it first caught my eye when I was wandering around B&Q researching the perfect tools for a starter tool kit for my blog. I reckoned at the time that this lovely little piece of kit would be the perfect starter drill driver for someone putting together their first tool kit. Why? because for the first time DIY’er putting up the odd shelf, you don’t really need an 18v power house. You want something relatively small, light weight, but decent quality.

So what do I love about the Ryobi RCD12011L?

Price: well, at £57 you’re getting a lot of power tool for your money. At just over 1kg it feels weighty enough for you to know there’s a lot of good quality engineering in the tool whilst obviously being incredibly light weight when compared to the 18v combi drill driver alternatives. In short, when you grab hold of this little tool, you know you’re holding a quality tool.

Specs: Ryobi have pretty much packed into this tiny bundle everything they offer in their larger 18v drill drivers.

  • You’ve got 22 torque settings (the settings that you adjust when you’re powering home screws, and you want the power to be just right).
  • the keyless chuck has a capacity of 10mm – so in layman’s terms it will fit a maximum drill diameter of 10mm
  • An LED illuminates the area that you’re drilling or screwing into. I always thought LEDs were a bit of a gimmick, but out in Verbier I really benefited from it, and even used it as a temporary torch when I was screwing up into a dark space behind a curtain!
  • A fuel guage on the side tells you how much battery you’ve got left. Again, I found this incredibly useful. For a little 12v battery (the black bit you can just see at the base of the handle), I have to say I was a bit sceptical about how much usage I would get between charges. Admittedly most of the time I was only screwing into wood, but I was really impressed – charging it up only a couple of times whilst I was out there. The fuel guage is great, because with Lithium ion batteries you don’t get any warning when they’re running out of juice – they literally just stop, so the fuel guage gives you invaluable warning.
  • the 12v 1.3Ah Lithium-ion battery comes with a charger – as you would expect (or hope!)
  • Electronic variable speed – with both forward and reverse gears gives you all the versatility you need – particularly when using the RCD12011L as a screwdriver.
  • Canvas case – incidental but still very important, it comes in a great little canvas case, which as you can see from the picture below, formed the perfect carry case for my miniature travel tool kit.

Ryobi RCD12011L drill driver in case

So if you’re thinking of buying the Ryobi RCD12011L – perhaps as I did, for a lightweight tool to take on your travels, or maybe for your household tool kit, you’ll need some drill/ screwdriver bit accessories, and again strolling around B&Q my day just got that little bit better when I caught sight of Ryobi’s 40 piece drill/screwdriver bit accessory set – pictured below.

Ryobi 2-8mm 40 piece drill bit accessory set

The 40 piece accessory set comes in a roll out fabric case

I couldn’t take my enormous, unwieldy Makita 252 piece accessory set with me on the plane and so the 40 piece set pictured above was perfect in that it had every conceivable accessory bit I would need for my Verbier project, all beautifully packaged in a fabric tool belt that rolls up into a tiny little package that fit neatly into the drill driver case.

So that was it. All I needed to do was add a couple of other tools to my kit – spirit level, multi tool and wire cutters – see photo above (plus some screws and wall plugs – not pictured), and I had everything I needed for my trip – in a tiny case that weighed in at a mind bogglingly light 2-3kg!

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