10 DIY tasks every self-respecting man should know
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If there's anything worse than having to fork out large sums of cash for a tradesman to do a minor job in the house, it's the accompanying shame at not being able to 'do it yourself'.
Not everyone is going to be able to erect a conservatory or tarmac a drive, but there's plenty that you can do with just a few tips that will help reaffirm your masculinity and maybe even get you out of the dog house with the missus.
Changing a plug
The simplest DIY task a man will ever have to do and therefore the most embarrassing when you fail. The best advice is look at the set up of the plug you're replacing and do the same with the new plug, but the colour coding is blue for neutral, brown for live and green/yellow for earth. If you're cutting off an old plug, you'll need wire trimmers to cut the plastic from the wires to make the connection. Other than this, all you'll need is both a philips head and flat screwdriver.
Related: How to replace a fuse in a plug
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Changing a pull switch
You know that feeling when you step into the bathroom and pull the cord and nothing happens? The pull switches in bathrooms break fairly easily but are about as simple to change as changing a plug. The most important thing to do is turn the electricity off - either just on the relevant circuit, or if you're not sure, completely. Use a voltmeter on the expose wires to be completely sure. You will need a replacement switch - only a few pounds from a DIY shop - and a screwdriver. Unscrew the cover and you will be faced with a similar set up to that of a plug. Just release the screws holding in the wires and slide off the switch. You can now unscrew the base, screw in the new one, and continue to work backwards through the steps. Don't forget to turn the power back on before you check it.
- You know that feeling when you step into the bathroom and pull the cord and nothing happens?
- The most important thing to do is turn the electricity off - either just on the relevant circuit, or if you're not sure, completely.
Painting a wall or ceiling
It may sound simple, but even a slightly messy job can make a room look terrible. To make sure you don't leave any messy traces get a screwdriver and loosen all the plug socket covers, light switch covers and smoke detectors so you can paint underneath them. With your hands you can also unscrew the cover over the base of the light fitting on the ceiling. Use a mini, long-handled roller for painting behind radiators. When painting the edges, or 'cutting in', start a bit out from the edge with a brush, sweep in and then run along the edge to get a straight line. Have plenty of paint on your brushes and roller, but not so much that they drip. Do the ceiling first, always have a wet cloth for wiping up any mistakes and cover the floor with sheets before you start.
- Related: How to fix the clicker on a pull cord ceiling light It may sound simple, but even a slightly messy job can make a room look terrible.
- To make sure you don't leave any messy traces get a screwdriver and loosen all the plug socket covers, light switch covers and smoke detectors so you can paint underneath them.
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Bleeding a radiator
Are your radiators cool at the top but warm at the bottom? If so, you've got air in your system and it needs to be taken out. Get yourself a radiator key from any hardware shop, or even the newsagents or garage, and look for a square valve at one of the top ends of your radiator. Turn the heating off and use your key to open the valve. You'll hear the sound of air escaping and as soon as water starts to spit out of the valve the job is done. Retighten the valve and move on to the next one.
- Related: The psychology of colour: What your home's colours say about you Are your radiators cool at the top but warm at the bottom?
- You'll hear the sound of air escaping and as soon as water starts to spit out of the valve the job is done.
Related: How to bleed a boiler & radiator
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Fix a dripping tap
One of the most common call outs for a tradesman is the dripping tap, but most of them can be fixed very simply by just putting a new washer in. The first thing to do is turn off the water and turn on the relevant tap to drain the pipe and make sure it's empty before you go any further. The water can usually be turned off under the sink or failing that, at the mains using your stopcock. Most taps have some kind of cover over them so remove this and you should be faced with a screw or nut. Sometimes all it takes is to tighten this, but best to check out the washer anyway, so unscrew it and take a look at the washer. Of course, you've already been to the hardware shop to get a replacement washer (most are a standard size), so replace it and work backwards through the steps.
- Related: How to bleed a boiler & radiator One of the most common call outs for a tradesman is the dripping tap, but most of them can be fixed very simply by just putting a new washer in.
- Of course, you've already been to the hardware shop to get a replacement washer (most are a standard size), so replace it and work backwards through the steps.
Related: How to fix a leaking tap
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Unblocking a drain
If the drain outside the back of your kitchen is overflowing you obviously have a blockage somewhere in the system. It may be just a few leaves in the first drain, but it could be a blockage further along the line. Prise up nearby drain covers to see if there is sitting water in any of them. If there is, the blockage is between that drain and the next empty one. You can buy drain rods to shove down, but you could also have a go with a garden hose if you want. If the blockage is beyond your property you might have to call in the local authorities.
- Related: How to fix a leaking tap If the drain outside the back of your kitchen is overflowing you obviously have a blockage somewhere in the system.
- You can buy drain rods to shove down, but you could also have a go with a garden hose if you want.
Related: How to unclog a sink
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Putting up a shelf
Another of those traditional yardsticks of masculinity, putting up a shelf has sorted the men from the boys for years. The two lynchpins of success are straightness and solidity so for these you need a spirit level, rawl plugs and decent screws. First, decide where you want your shelf and hold it in position - brackets and all. Check the level then mark the places where the screws should go with a pencil through the screw holes. Take the shelf down, take your electric drill (using a masonry bit if necessary) and bore the holes. Put in your rawl plugs, then screw in the brackets and shelf. You should now have a perfectly straight shelf to impress your friends with.
- Related: How to unclog a sink Another of those traditional yardsticks of masculinity, putting up a shelf has sorted the men from the boys for years.
- Take the shelf down, take your electric drill (using a masonry bit if necessary) and bore the holes.
Related: Video on how to put up a shelf
Fill a hole or crack in the wall
Walls are constantly getting holes in them, be it from a door handle, chair leg or fist. It's a sure-fire way to bring down the tone of your home so you'll want to fix it sharpish. If it's a large hole in plasterboard, slide a bit of card or wood in behind the hole and keep it in place with a bit of string pulled tight from your side. This will give something for the plaster to hang on to. You can buy powder filler that you make up yourself and apply with a wallpaper scraper or other flat tool, making sure to leave a little bit rounded out to allow for shrinkage. When it's dry, sand it flat with a bit of sandpaper wrapped around something flat, then paint.
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Putting up curtains
A similar process is used here as for putting up a shelf, and the virtues of alignment and strength are as important. You will almost certainly need two people for this however. You must make sure there is enough room for the curtains to concertina up between the rail and the window, so before you drill anything you need to have a dry run. When you're sure you've got it right, get the spirit level out, although if you're in an old house with less than geometric architecture you should make sure the curtains look right, rather than standing out by being the only straight thing in the place. Always try and use rawl plugs, unless the rail and curtains are particularly light and you're drilling into wood.
Related: How to hang curtains
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Replace a broken toilet seat
The difference between a relaxing toilet break and a perilous rollercoaster ride of slipping and sliding around is only really two screws. Don't be scared of the toilet seat - get on your hands and knees and have a look under the hinge. The screws might just need tightening. If it's broken, however, get down to the shops and grab a new seat. The screws are usually always provided with the seat.
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Robert Macintosh is a full-time journalist based in Northern Ireland. He has accumulated eight years’ experience since 2005, writing for magazines, newspapers and websites in various countries. Macintosh has specialised in politics and entertainment. He has an honours degree in social anthropology, an NVQ level 4 in newspaper journalism and an AS Level in photography.