Decorating with shiplap seems to be all the rage these days thanks to Fixer Upper and other popular TV shows. Consistently the most popular post on this blog right now is No Joanna, That’s Not Shiplap which I wrote to poke a little fun at Joanna Gaines for her seemingly constant diagnosis of shiplap whether a wall is true shiplap or not.
It’s all in good fun, and because of her and Chip the world has gone shiplap crazy! People ask me all the time where they can find shiplap or if this or that qualifies as shiplap and most commonly how to make shiplap. I figured answering this last one would help my DIY readers with their shiplap needs the most.
In this post I’ll show you exactly how you can make shiplap from almost any piece of lumber old or new. You need only have the wood and a table saw. Even if you have only minimal DIY skills you can make shiplap on your own.
How To Make Shiplap
Select Your Stock
Depending on the final look you want there are a ton of wood options you can use to make shiplap. Almost any 1x material (nominal 3/4″) is a good choice. You can use select grade for a super smooth look or common grade boards, pine, cedar, really any type of solid wood that suites your needs.
You can also use salvaged boards for that awesome rustic look we love. You can stain or paint or leave it raw. This part is completely up to you and only you. I will say that traditional shiplap is usually between 5″ and 8″ wide so using boards in that range will yield the most realistic looking results. For these pictures I used some salvaged 1×6 pecky cypress boards around my shop.
Set Saw Depth
You have to set both the height of your blade and the rip fence to make the 2 cuts necessary for shiplap. Usually a depth of half the thickness of the board is best. So for a 3/4″ thick board that would mean setting the blade height to 3/8″ as well as the rip fence to 3/8″.
If you have a dado blade then you can do this in one pass. It’s not necessary though it does make it much faster if you have a lot of shiplap to make. To use a dado just set the thickness of your dado to the same 3/8″.
Lay the board flat on the table saw and rip the back face once. Then flip it over and rip the front face on the opposite end of the board. You should be left with a single saw kerf on opposite sides and faces of the board.
Rip on Edge
Now stand the board up on its edge and without changing the settings on the saw rip both edges of the board. A 3/8″ sliver of wood should come off of each edge. Your board should now have two 3/8″ rabbets on opposing sides and will resemble the letter “Z”. For the wood dorks like me this joint you have just created is called a half-lap joint.
Depending on the look you want you can space your boards right up against each other as this half-lap joint will allow them to self-space tightly. Or you can get that joint to show a bit more if you’d like by using a spacer.
What spacer should you use? Good question. I use a nickel. Raid the coin jar and grab a handful of nickels and place them in the joint so that there will be a small gap between the joints before you nail things in place. This helps give the wood some space for expansion and contraction with the weather as well as adds some visual interest to the wall. Really you can use any thickness spacer to attain the look you want.
Nail it Up
Start at the bottom which is easiest, and make sure that first board is perfectly level otherwise the whole wall will be askew. Plan your layout as best as you can to avoid awkward small pieces. The top most board will not need the top rabbet cut out of it so that the wall looks uniform.
I prefer to nail with 15 or 16 ga nails since they have more vertical holding power to keep things from sagging. Make sure you are nailing into the studs just like when installing beadboard and you’ll have no problems. If you have trouble finding the studs try these tricks. Don’t forget to set the nails back behind the surface so you don’t get any snags or scratches.
Now you know how to make shiplap on your own so there’s no reason to not add some to your house if you don’t already have this stylish wall covering. Shiplap adds a ton of character and warmth to a room and with this technique you can make more than enough shiplap without having to comb through salvage yards for hours on end.
If there is any other way I can help you get your shiplap on leave me some feedback in the comments below.
What is picture rail? It’s common in older homes built before WWII and more common the older the home is. A lot folks don’t understand this simple piece of stock molding that is sometimes mistaken for crown molding or other things, but picture rail has a very specific design and function.
Maybe your old house has a picture rail and you want to know how to use it properly. Maybe it doesn’t and you are thinking about adding one for some style and pop to your walls. In this post I’ll tell you what it is and what it isn’t, how to recognize it, and more importantly how to use it.
What is Picture Rail?
Picture rail is a small molding usually about 1 1/2″ to 2″ wide installed horizontally on walls within the top couple feet of the wall. Sometimes it is installed right up against the ceiling only being spaced down from the ceiling about 1/2″ which can confuse people into thinking it’s a very small form of crown molding. But crown it is not.
Picture rail is not just a decorative molding, it actually serves a very specific function. It is designed with a small lip on the top of the molding in order to accommodate a picture rail hook. The picture rail hook is by far the best way to hang things on a wall without causing any plaster damage. When installed properly by being nailed into the wood studs with larger finish nails picture rail and support heavy loads being hung on walls like large mirrors or paintings that normally require drilling holes in the plaster and installing anchors.
While it might work for mirrors I don’t think I’d try hanging a flat screen TV so don’t blame me if you try that one! If you do need to install other items on your plaster walls but don’t plan to use picture rail here is a good post to guide you to success: How To: Hang Things on Plaster Walls.
One of the great things about picture rail is that it makes the relocation both in height and position on the wall amazingly simple. To move something left or right on the wall you just slide the hook to wherever you want it positioned. If you want something to be higher or lower you can simply shorten or lengthen the wire on the back of you picture. No more trying to find a stud or drilling another hole.
The Wrong Way to Use Picture Rail
There’s a right way and a wrong way to use anything and picture rail is no different. There are two big mistakes I see when using picture rail and both can spell major disaster. Don’t make these mistakes unless you like the sound of things breaking.
Don’t Nail the Rail
I’ve seen people use picture rail in a way that I can only assume they learned from seeing pictures of it on-line. It’s hard to notice the picture rail hook, but this is the linch pin for a successful installation. If you try to hang pictures by putting a nail into the picture rail and then hanging the wire on that nail you’re in trouble. Picture rail is a small piece of molding and nailing through the face of it can easily split the wood enough that your picture may eventually come crashing down when the molding breaks.
Solution: Always use picture rail hooks and never use nails.
It’s NOT Plate Rail
Plate rail is a whole other type of molding designed to hold and display plates along a wall. Plate rail is not a specific design of molding but rather an application of trim to create a very wide shelf that can display things. If you try to display plates or other collectables by setting them on top of your picture rail you are one bump away from shattered china. Picture rail is far too narrow to have anything displayed on top of it with any sense of security.
Solution: Install a wider molding to use as a display or plate rail.
Picture Rail in New Houses?
While picture rail is typically found in old houses with plaster walls it can be a fun way to dress up plain drywall and give it a fancy old-world feel for very little money. If you plan to install new picture rail whether you have a new house or old house make sure you install it with strong nails. I recommend installing by nailing to every stud with a 2 1/2″ 15 ga. nail if you plan to hang anything of significance on your picture rail. 18 ga. brad nails, no matter how long, just won’t have the holding power you need for this hard working molding.
In my last renovation update post, I shared our DIY plastering. But one thing we didn't plaster (did you catch it?) was the ceiling. Why? Well, because after my not-so-great attempt at the bathroom ceiling and some of Grants imperfect walls (although once painted looked fine!), we were somewhat worried. Unlike walls, there's something about ceilings that just shows up every imperfection. We spent some serious dollar on getting a roof window in this room, which we wanted to be the feature of the ceiling, not a bazillion plaster imperfections. In short, plastering a ceiling is so much harder than plastering walls and we just weren't sure we could pull it off to the standard we really wanted.
And of course, after spending money on a DIY plastering course, we obviously didn't want to fork out on a professional plasterer either. So the alternative was a cheats solution. To not plaster it. To totally cheat-out!
Modern new-build homes are the masters of cheating, because they're all about little cost, fast turnarounds and maximum profit. And one of the techniques many new-build sites use, is to not plaster walls. It cuts out the cost of a plasterer, the time plaster takes to dry and the time it takes to plaster as well. It's basically a win win situation (although the finish is a little more matt and never quite a match to plaster!) and we thought we'd give it a go.
So basically (in-case I sound mad!) the idea is that the plasterboard is prepared in such a way that it can be painted straight onto. Instead of plastering, all the joins are carefully filled and blended out so that it should look completely seamless. It sounds easy, but actually there is still a lot involved to get it to look good and there's still plenty of dust - my renovation nemesis.
But it was so worth it! The finish is great - you'd literally never know - and it was well worth the effort. So if you're interested in cheating out on plaster costs, keep reading to see how! If you're new here, you can read how we boarded the ceiling in this post as well.
Tools/Materials Required:Scrim Tape (The sticky kind is best for DIYers!)
Pre-Mixed Plaster Skim
Wide Jointing/Taping Knife
Lots of Sandpaper
Dust Mask and Eye Protection
Step 1 - Apply Scrim Tape over Joins
After having boarded up the ceiling, the next step is to apply Scrim tape over all the joins. The sticky mesh kind of scrim-tape is far better for DIYers - I made the terrible mistake of using the professional non-sticky stuff in the bathroom - it was a bloody nightmare and bubbled like hell. Sticky mesh all the way here! Try not to overlap the tape too much, but make sure all joints are completely covered. The idea of this tape is to give strength to the joins and make sure the boards wont crack along them, should there be any movement. Obviously you'll want to make sure any screw heads are fully sunken into the boards as well ;)
I've also used some scrip tape over the angle bead around the window as well, as we'll also be using the same non-plastering technique there too!
Step 2 - Apply a Jointing Compound
Jointing compound is basically a very tough version of poly-filler and specific for using in the gaps between plasterboard joins. I've only used the Wickes own-brand jointing compound so far, which is sandable but bloody hard work with. It's formulation is much thicker than filler and it sets crazy fast, (so make sure to mix a little at a time!) but it really does a good job. The key here is to use the right tool to apply it! and I cannot recommend using a wide taping knife enough. It's a very wide filling knife, which is perfect for spreading the compound out over a larger surface area. I use a process of applying the compound, taking any excess off the knife and then going back over the join, to then take off any excess from the ceiling as well. Although the compound is sand-able, it's not the easiest thing to sand and if you leave too much excess up there, you'll be having nightmares! I've also used this compound on the angle bead around the roof window too.
Step 3 - Sand Jointing Compound
Although this stuff is "sandable" don't over-estimate the use of that word - you really don't want to be leaving oodles of excess on the ceiling/wall. TRUST ME. It's sandable yes, but it takes a lot of work to really sand down. So be sure to remove excess as you go! That being said, it will obviously still need a sand as it needs to be smooth, not rough. Here comes dust-mania part 1! If you're working on a ceiling, I thoroughly recommend using a hat to protect your hair from drying out - and a dust mask is essential too!
Step 4 - Apply a Pre-Mixed Plaster Skim
So I know some people would go back over with more jointing compound, but I prefer to use something a bit lighter and pre-mixed plaster skim is my new best friend. Again, it's much like poly-filler in many senses, but it's designed to be spread out in large amounts at once and act just like plaster really. It's the perfect consistency to work with and much more sand-able than actual plaster - which is another reason I've chosen to use this over another layer of jointing compound.
This top layer needs to be really well blended out and personally, I just don't think the Wickes jointing compound has the right finish to be painted straight onto. This stuff is great, no mixing required and it's essentially like adding plaster straight over the jointing compound - much like you would do if you were to plaster, but you can feather the edges properly so it's completely invisible! I used the same taping knife to apply this stuff and it worked a bloomin' treat!
Step 5 - Sand (Again!)
Yep, again! Unlike normal plaster, the pre-mixed plaster skim is waaaay more sandable. The key this time is to really focus on the edges where the plaster skim meets the board. You don't want to be able to feel any bumps or lines with your finger. Expect much more dust as you really need to go to town on getting it perfect. You may also need to touch up with plaster-skim on any areas that aren't quite perfect. Don't scrimp on being a perfectionist on this step!
Step 6 - Paint
And just like that - you're ready to paint! There are plasterboard primers out there which you can use, but I've just gone straight on with paint to keep costs down. The primer may well give a slightly less matt/rough finish, but for a ceiling - you're never going to be close enough to see the paint finish when dried, so we haven't bothered!
And that's it! Six steps, low cost, bit of effort, but so bloomin' worth it! The less plasterboard joins you have to do, the easier this would be to do. So in hindsight, we probably should have used bigger boards! But nevermind. The finish is pretty darn bob-on! There's probably only one join that's ever so slightly noticable in certain lights, but I certainly don't think our plastering skills would have been any match for this finish!
I love how the roof window really is the main feature. No imperfections, no messy hanging pendants in the center of the room - it's just solely the window on show. Which I freaking love! I have to say, although it does let heaps of light in - I do also worry slightly about being spied on by neighbours in the evenings, so a roof blind may also be an option for us in the future. I think a remote control system for blinds (like these!) particularly velux blinds, would be pretty cool stuff - but I'm not sure our budgets can reaaaallly allow for that. We'll have to see! Let me know if you have any suggestions or experience with hard-to-reach roof windows and privacy though!
So here's a snap of the newly painted ceiling with the roof window as the main feature in all its glory!
New Tools Purchased:
Jointing Knife £7
Scrim tape (free from previous jobs!)
Jointing Compound (free from previous jobs!)
Pre-Mixed Plaster Skim £16
Historic wood windows are kind of like the rock stars when it comes to preservation and restoration. Everybody talks about them, most people understand the need to preserve them and you’ll find dozens of workshops around the country where homeowners can learn to restore them on their own.
I even wrote a book to teach people how to walk through the restoration process we use in my shop every day called Old Windows Made Easy.
It makes sense why these are so popular. They are everywhere and they are simple to understand. They’re just wood, putty and glass. Well, steel windows are not much different except instead of wood you’ve got steel, so why don’t they get the preservationist’s attention? More to the point of this post, do they deserve attention like wood windows?
Are Steel Windows Worth Saving?
While not as common as wood windows, steel windows make up a huge portion of the historic windows still remaining in this country. They were used heavily in industrial buildings in the late 19th and early 20th century and then became extremely popular in residential buildings in the early and mid 20th century.
From English Tudors to Mid-Century Modern homes these steel windows were a constant fixture in a variety of designs. They are an important part of the historic fabric and definitely contribute to the original appearance of the building.
Worse even than the replacement of wood windows, the replacement of steel windows almost always looks jarringly out of place since the style of these replacement windows is so completely different from the original steel.
While the argument to save these steel windows simply for aesthetic reasons is pretty overwhelming in my mind, I want to offer you some other reasons why steel windows might be worth saving.
1. Steel Windows Are Long-Lasting
But they rust, right? Yes they rust, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t some of the longest lasting windows ever manufactured. Rust is something that can be repaired and rust can be prevented. Just like wood rots steel rusts. It’s only when you don’t provide your windows with a little maintenance that things can get dicey. If they lasted the first 80 years they can last the next 80 years.
2. Steel Windows Are Secure
The frames and sash on steel windows are solid rolled steel that is extremely strong and with the typical multi-lite designs they create one of the most secure windows ever. Security may not have been a big issue back in the day, but today having a secure and burglar-resistant window is a definite plus. The design of steel windows is essentially like having bars built into the architectural design of the window.
3. Steel Windows Are Efficient
Yes, I know the rumor about how leaky steel windows are, but it simply isn’t true. Looking at an 80 yr-old steel window that won’t close because it’s bent out of shape and caked up with tons of paint is like complaining that your Porsche which has never been washed or had it’s oil-changed is a junker. No, it’s just not been cared for at all.
Testing done by the Windows Preservation Standards Collaborative revealed that restored steel windows are incredibly efficient. That efficiency comes from the interlocking design of the sashes and frames that when closed provide exceptional air sealing (even by today’s standards).
There are weatherstripping options though they are rarely necessary, and replacing the glass with laminated or low-e options often can help steel windows make extraordinary gains in energy efficiency.
4. They Can Be Restored Simply
Just like wood windows, steel windows can be restored fairly easily by homeowners and DIYers. I’ve written an eBook called Steel Windows Made Easy that outlines the specific step-by-step process for restoring steel windows that is tailored to the DIYer.
Hopefully, I’ve been able to convince you that steel windows are worth saving through this. I cheer on these underdogs whenever I see them because it’s too often that they are torn out and replaced. America was built by steel and these windows are just one example of our fantastic history. Just like most high quality materials installed in historic buildings steel windows were meant to stand the test of time…if you’ll only let them.
You may have thought that you can only buy glazing putty from us here at The Craftsman Blog, but did you know you can make your own glazing putty in a pinch? That’s right! It just take a couple basic materials available at home improvement or paint stores and you can make traditional glazing putty just like the old timers did.
The commercial putties on the market like Sarco MultiGlaze that we sell are a little better than homemade recipes and always more consistent, but the homemade stuff can work great when you just need a little batch. Or maybe you are one of those hardcore DIYers who like to make everything yourself either way it’s a fun project.
Glazing putty doesn’t keep forever so just make a batch large enough to handle what you plan to glaze in the next week or so and then make some more if you need it later.
Traditional linseed oil putty was made from only 2 items.
You can find linseed oil at most hardware and paint stores. Using boiled linseed oil will result in a faster curing putty whereas raw linseed oil putty results in a longer lasting flexibility with the putty so there is a trade off. Whiting is a little scarce these days, but I do sell it in my store if you can’t find it locally.
You can also add Zinc Oxide to help control mildew growth on your putty if you live in a region that is particularly hot and humid like we are down here in Florida. I find that adding about 1/3 cup of zinc to 1 quart of putty does the trick.
How To: Make Your Own Glazing Putty
This is about as easy as it gets. Mix some linseed oil with the whiting until you get to a workable consistency like Play-Doh or if you are a bake, actual dough. The consistency of your putty is completely dependent on your preferences. You may want it softer or firmer depending on your needs.
Personally, I have found that the best consistency for glazing with a putty knife is thicker than you initially think. The putty should be firm enough that it won’t slump or sag when rolled into a ball.
Mix the two together in a bowl or other container to initially blend the ingredients. Eventually, you will have to pull it out and spread it on the table to knead by hand like a baker to get it all mixed thoroughly. Knead the putty and work it until it is a consistent texture throughout.
Once you learn how to mix your own putty you’ll never be in a pinch for putty again. Like I said before, homemade glazing putty isn’t quite as easy to use or as long lasting as the commercial stuff, but for the ease of making a small batch, you can’t beat this recipe. Happy glazing!
Whatever unique or creative treatment they design for their patients the Hippocratic Oath stands as the first and most important pillar to guide their decision. Do No Harm. The treatment maybe be routine or experimental but whatever it is it should…do no harm.
I think the same oath should guide us in repairing and restoring old homes whether you are a professional or a weekend warrior. You may not be the greatest painter or glazier or carpenter, but if you can be guided by the premise to “Do No Harm” then whatever work you do is of immense value.
Thoughts For Homeowners
You don’t have to be Tom Silva to maintain an old house, but I do think you should have a sense of being a caretaker for the next generation. Your old house has already survived the generations before you and it is your responsibility to keep it intact for the next generation.
If you are the one who tears out the original windows and gets vinyl replacements then that is like amputating your home’s hands and leaving it crippled for the next owner. Window replacement is not only dropping an architectural A-bomb on your house, it is also the financial equivalent of paydays loans. Read the facts about window replacement here.
If you are worried about doing something wrong then thank your lucky stars for the internet. Go to google or search right here on the blog for information about the work you need done. There are answers out there to be found if you look for them.
I will tell you that there are some places to be assured you will get the wrong answers. Rarely have I heard sage advice in the aisles of Home Depot, Lowe’s, or Menard’s. These are not historic restoration folks. They don’t understand old buildings and their quirks. Look elsewhere.
What can you do?
Do no harm. Extend the life, make a temporary fix. It may not be pretty but sometimes the best solution is a band-aid or a tourniquet. That is what will keep the patient alive long enough to get it to the doctor. And there are old house doctors in almost every town across the country.
If you have trouble finding someone local visit my Directory. I’ve listed hundreds of companies that know how to take care of old buildings to help you find the right person for the job.
The easiest way to keep something alive if you are completely un-handy is to put a coat f paint on it to keep it protected from the elements. Paint can always be removed or changed so it’s a safe way to protect exterior elements.
Thoughts For Professionals
We should be held to a higher standard, shouldn’t we? We should also accept homeowners where they are. Maybe someone stabilized an old window with caulk and L brackets. Maybe they patched siding with spray foam. Homeowners make mistakes just like we did when we started and we should be there to help them learn and help fix what they don’t understand how to do.
We should also think about the next guy when we do a repair or restoration. Don’t use materials or techniques that make our work difficult to follow or repair in the future, because yes even our amazing work will need to be repaired by the next guy and he will either love us or hate us.
The carpenter that uses 60 nails along with a tube of liquid nails to put on a baseboard is no friend of mine. Don’t be that guy!
You may think you know better than all the rest of us, but think of the quality of work you did 5 years ago or God forbid 10 years ago! How good did you think you were then? Have you changed anything since then? Do you prep your paint jobs a little better due to what you’ve learned? Do you use better wood? Better paint? Better techniques?
I sure hope you are growing in your craft so before you think you have perfected your techniques think again and realize you, and all the rest of us, are still making mistakes that someone will have to fix later.
It’s all fine as long as you Do No Harm. I would say that if your work cannot be reversed then you are doing harm. If you are throwing away an original piece of a historic building then you are doing harm.
It’s time to hold ourselves to a higher standard and that standard is simple. Do No Harm.
Say you’ve got an old house full of old hardware that has developed a nice patina over the years, but you have a few missing or broken pieces of hardware. Maybe a missing window latch, a door escutcheon, and a couple finger lifts. You can always find replacement hardware no problem, but the chances of it matching the color of your old stuff are pretty slim.
I’ve fought this battle for years in my business. I’ve bought the oil-rubbed bronze faux finishes available at hardware supplier only to scratch the surface or scuff the screws and then they don’t match anymore. I’ve spray painted which never looks quite the same, plus it gums up movable parts.
A couple years ago I started experimenting with bronze aging solutions. I’ve tried a bunch of them and customized them to get the right finishes we need for our projects and finally came up with a good formula that does almost everything we need for aging hardware.
It wasn’t until one of my crew mentioned that I should sell it that it even crossed my mind. So, after a little packing and finalizing the formula I’m happy to offer you my new bronze and brass aging solution which is my custom blend called Austin’s The Patinator.
How The Patinator Works
Aging solutions are very simple. They consist of a variety of acid compounds that greatly increase the speed at which the metal ages. Kind of like soaking iron in salt water but on steroids. You soak in an aging solution to cause the metal to age in minutes what would otherwise take years or decades.
You’ll need just a few items to age your hardware to a nice patina.
Step 1 Prep
Make sure your hardware is clean of any sealer or lacquer. A lot of new bronze hardware is sealed with lacquer to keep it from aging which will also keep The Patinator from doing its job. You can use lacquer thinner and steel wool if it does have this protective layer on it. How do you know if your hardware has been lacquered? Dip it into Patinator and if after 10-20 seconds you don’t notice any color change then it likely has been sealed. If you are aging older hardware then make sure there is no paint or other gunk built up on the surface.
Put your gloves and safety glasses on and get ready to age some hardware.
Step 2 Pour Up Your Soaking Bins
Fill one container with aging solution deep enough that the hardware will be submerged and fill the other with rinse water to the same height. You can pour the used Patinator back into the bottle when you are all done and use it over and over again even though the liquid will have darkened.
Step 3 Soak & Rinse
The Patinator works fast so you will likely not need to keep the hardware submerged for more than 30 second to 1 minute. If you want a slower working time you can dilute it with water to suit your needs.
Place as much or as little hardware as you can handle into the solution and mix it around to make sure every part is coated well. Let it soak until you have reached the color you desire, and immediately remove the hardware from the aging solution and place it in the water to stop the reaction. Again mix things around to make sure all sides are cleaned.
Don’t forget to do the screws too so everything matches unless you like those shiny bronze screw heads against old dark bronze like I do.
Step 4 Wipe Off
Wipe the hardware down with a cotton rag to get the excess residue off. You’ll be left with a satin sheen and a living finish that will continue to age naturally. You just gave it a head start!Click to view slideshow.
What If I Mess Up?
If you went too far with the aging process don’t fret. You can use a wire wheel or steel wool to clean off the patina and start again until you get the right appearance. It’s best to test just one piece so you can get a feel for the timing and results before committing a whole batch of hardware to The Patinator. It can be polished off just like rust on old steel.
I hope this new product helps you get that restoration job done faster, easier and better than before. I know this will give you professional results just like we get at our company. You can buy your bottle of The Patinator in our store. Stay tuned for more good stuff coming out every month!
Spring, Spring, Spring! Have I mentioned that word enough on the blog lately? I'm so bloody thankful Spring is here! For me, it means one main thing - gardening. I absolutely love gardening, more than I love painting walls (which if you don't know, is a freaking lot!). I'm not going to lie - I'm no professional gardener. I have a lot to learn, but my garden is my "happy place". Dust cannot accumulate, mess is easily hidden thanks to the alley at the back (much to our neighbours dismay, I'm sure!) and it's just a pretty place to sit and listen to birds and silence. Who am I kidding, it's mostly the dogs yapping and kids screaming in the background. But I don't mind any of that on a beautifully sunny day!
With the Sunday prior to the Easter weekend pinned as "First Cut Sunday", Flymo sent me their new lawnmower, the Mighti-Mo 300 Li to review for this years first garden trim! And just take a look at this grass - it was in a SERIOUS need of a mow!
I think a well cut lawn can actually make or break a garden. Overgrown plants can be quite attractive at times and even weeds can be passed off in a "wild garden" theme. But a long lawn is just untidy and a serious nuisance when it comes to picking up dog poop. (Sorry if that's TMI!) Of all the 'around the house' jobs I'm likely to slack at - mowing the lawn is not one of them. I love a short lawn, one that almost looks carpet-like and since our grass grows crazy quick, I end up doing plenty of mowing over the Spring/Summer months and I actually rather enjoy it! So I was pretty chuffed to be able to review this new mower and was especially excited about it, because it's freaking cordless! Douglas was also pretty excited and was insistent on being in this shot...
He does however make for a good size comparison - and as you can see, it's pretty small and compact! Which aside from being cordless, is one of the other main features. Setting up the mower was a complete doddle, all you have to do is attach the handles in two places (no tools required!) and slot the grass compartment together. It's super quick and easy and there was very little instructions to read.
So as I mentioned before, it's cordless! Which means it is powered by a battery. A pretty huge battery! It only came half charged, but took just under an hour to charge the rest, which I was actually really impressed by! The battery slots into the top of the lawnmower and has a clever 'key' which locks and unlocks it in place. There was no time indication of how long the battery would last for - only that it can mow an entire tennis court on one single charge (equivalent to 250sqm!). I've managed to use the battery twice without charging it so far and I'm pretty certain I'll be able to get a third use out of it as well. Which is GREAT if you're forgetful at charging up devices like I am ;)
Being compact in size does mean that the grass box isn't as big as our old mowers and what we're used to, so it does need emptying a little more often. For a lawn of our size, I had to empty it 2 and a half times, but obviously this is dependant on how long the grass is too! The plus side to being smaller (although it does still have a reasonable 30L capacity!) is that it does keep the mower light (our old one would sometimes go off-balance as the box filled up) and it's also easier to empty. Not just because it's lighter, but also because the emptying compartment is narrow enough to perfectly into a rubble bag without spilling the grass everywhere, which was greatly appreciated I can tell you! The only improvement I'd have to liked to see, is some kind of indication to when the grass box is full. Our old mower had a little flap that poked up with restricted airflow. This one doesn't have anything so you do have to be "on it" yourself as to when you need to empty the box.
For the first mow of the season, it's always best to set the mower to its highest cut before working your way down, making sure never to cut the grass more than half its height. Obviously our first cut was set at the highest cut, but the mover can in fact cut at 5 different varying heights from 65-25mm, which is perfect for different times of the year. Although I like my grass short, in summer when there's less rain it's important not to go too short in case of scorching the grass, so it's always good to have that option. The mower also uses a proper metal blade (opposed to plastic ones) which Grant was very much pleased about it. It means it can be sharpened without having to buy a new one, should it blunt over the years.
In terms of how the mower actually cuts, I was really quite impressed. It definitely mows closer to any walls/obstructions than our old one and it's much much quieter too. It's so easy to manoeuvre and it still leaves the 'mowing lines' which I personally really like to see. It doesn't however have a built-in roller, so if you like your grass flattened, you would have to do that separately. But in my experience of built-in rollers, they're usually plastic and not that great anyway.
I probably wouldn't recommend this mower if you have a very very big garden (in which case, get yourself a ride-on-mower already!) but for an average-sized garden, it's fab and it really does make mowing the lawn so much quicker and easier to do. There's no folding up the cord, stopping/starting to move the cord, faffing about with an oversized grass box (and grass going everywhere!) and you don't have to struggle getting it in/out of storage. Basically, it just makes life that little bit easier.
Here's some photos of our garden after its second cut this year (I was keen to get it shorter pretty fast!). You can see our garden does still need a bit of work but it's certainly looking bright and Spring green already! Doesn't a freshly mowed lawn just make so much difference?
To summarise everything up, incase you're a TLDR ("too long, didn't read") kinda person:
If you can't already tell, my overall verdict is that it's a bloomin' great mower. It's certainly a cheap mower (retails around £199), but I believe a mower is an investment and buying a good one will last for many many years. I loved not having to battle with a cord and it really makes an everyday chore quick and simple and leaves you really no excuse to not get the job done! I genuinely think cordless is the future for all things electrical, but this one is a practicality miracle that makes you wonder "why aren't ALL mowers like this?!". If you'd like to see more of its specs - you can check the mower out on Amazon here.
Do you have a cordless mower and love it as much as I do? Or maybe you have some first-cut of the season tips to share? I'm a keen gardener always looking for some much-needed advice!
*Lawnmower was gifted by Flymo for the purpose of this review. All thoughts and opinions are genuine and my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support this blog!
We're always talking about DIY and renovating. How to make a home better, how to rip out walls, pull of tiles, smash up a kitchen, tear up the floor - you get the picture. But what often doesn't get talked about are the dangers behind a renovation. There's many, but the most hidden and potentially dangerous of them all, is Asbestos. It's a word you've probably heard of, but do you know what it is? What it does? What it looks like? Where you can find it? Well, if you're renovating a house - you really need to know this stuff.
What is Asbestos?
Asbestos is a material that was used in the building sector for many many years. A whole 50+ in fact. Back in the day, it was regarded as a new-found amazing material and the dangers behind it were completely unknown. It's resilient, durable, has great insulating properties and it's fire-resistant too - it was the perfect building material. Years passed and people who had been working with asbestos started developing health problems, and only then was the discovery made at how dangerous this stuff really is. Asbestos is a material that once broken, releases fibres into the air. Tiny tiny fibres that cannot be seen with the naked eye - but they're sharp and in-bed themselves into your lungs once breathed in. They cannot be removed and they will sit there, forever. In small quantities, this is little threat - but in larger amounts (although exact measurements are unknown!) eventually these fibres can cause problems like mesothelioma (a type of cancer) and asbestosis (scarring of the lungs, causing problems breathing). Essentially and sadly all asbestos-related illnesses are currently incurable and most are fatal.
Asbestos is still currently the UK's biggest workplace killer, since it's tradespeople on building sites every day who are most at risk. But of course, if you're a DIYer or renovating, you're also at risk. Thousands people each year die from Asbestos-related illnesses and as such, it's so freaking important, as renovators we know about it. Where to look for it, the dangers of it, and how to handle it.
Does Your Home Have Asbestos?
In short, most probably. It wasn't mentioned by a surveyor when you bought the house? That does not mean your house is asbestos free. In fact, I'd say it's more reason for concern. Asbestos can be hiding far beneath the depths of a room than what a surveyor can see on his hour-long investigation. Any home that was built before 2000 may contain asbestos - that's a freaking lot of homes and one statistic I read suggested that around 2 in 4 houses in the UK still have asbestos in them. Unless you have guarantees your home is asbestos-free, I would treat any home as if it may have some lurking somewhere within it, especially if your home hasn't been renovated in recent years.
What Does Asbestos Look Like?
My grandparents had an asbestos roof on their garage, so for that reason I always thought of asbestos being a grey corrugated sheet. It is in fact, much more than that. And put simply, it does not look like one single thing - in fact, it has a whole range of disguises, which makes it all the more tricky to identify. Lots of materials "look like" asbestos and whilst there are many materials that look like it, they may not actually be it. So whatever pre-conceptions you might have of how asbestos "looks" - you may have been misled. Asbestos cannot be identified by naked eye alone, so it's more important to know how it was used and where you're likely to find it within the home, than how it "looks". That being said, here are some photos of asbestos found around the home.
Where Can You Find Asbestos in the Home?
As I said previously, asbestos is great for insulation and a great material for fire-resistance. This is already giving us some clues to its use, but here's a run down of all the places you may find asbestos within in the home. This list is not limited, and do please bare in mind - much like timber or MDF, DIYers in the past may have used it for a whole range of other uses not mentioned.
On the Roof - This can often be found in two forms - corrugated sheets and roof tiles often used over garages and sheds.
In the loft - Asbestos was used a loose insulation and usually looks like fluffy cotton wool in this state. This is the WORST kind of asbestos.
Around Pipes - It was also used as insulating lagging around pipes
On the Bath - Old bath panels can be made from asbestos
On the Floor - Old vinyl floor tiles may be made from asbestos
On the Ceiling - Ceiling tiles may be made from asbestos and it was also often used in artex as well.
On the Outside - Gutters and rainwater pipes may be made from asbestos.
Partition Walls of Sheds/Garages - Asbestos also comes in the form of cement board and may be used in walls of garages and sheds. (we had this kind, which you can see here)
Behind Fireplaces - Asbestos insulation board can be found behind fireplaces
Behind Fuseboards - Insulation board may also be found behind a fuse box
Behind Boilers - Or even behind boilers.
Water Tanks - old water tanks may even be made from it.
As you can see, it can be anywhere and everywhere! It's so important to be aware of where you may come across it, as essentially this alone is the awareness you need to be able to stop and think... Is it asbestos?
What Should You Do if You think You've Found Asbestos?
Don't panic and don't move the damn thing! Asbestos is only a cause for concern when it's disturbed. So if you have a garage roof made from the stuff, that's fine. As long as it's not breaking apart, there's no need to worry. It can stay there for years and years and you'll be absolutely fine. Asbestos in its solid form, is not any cause for concern, it's releasing fibres you need to worry about.
If you think you've damaged some asbestos during a renovation, don't panic either. It certainly doesn't mean you're going to drop dead. Most people who have experienced health problems from asbestos exposure have done so through a pro-longed exposure, so chances are - you're absolutely fine. And don't forget, it takes years and years for any problems to develop (we're talking usually a minimum of 25!), so don't let it torture you either!