- Get a better handle on glass and mirrors
If you need to move a large pane of glass or a mirror, and wish there were some way to get a better grip, cut off two short sections from a garden hose (four sections for a two-person job). Use a sharp knife to slit each piece down the middle, then slip them onto the top and bottom edges of the glass. Never attempt to move a large sheet of glass when it is windy.
Give external padlocks some necessary protection in winter by covering them with plastic sandwich bags. The plastic wards off rust and prevents damage when moisture seeps inside the lock.
- Juice out concrete patio rust stains
When unsightly orange rust stains are defacing your concrete or stone patio, you can remove them with the citric acid found in powdered lemonade, lemon-lime or orangeade drink mixes. Wet the surface with water, and then pour the powder over the stain. Cover it with a sheet of plastic to keep the moisture from evaporating and put a weight on top to hold it in place. After 30 minutes or so, remove the plastic, scrub with a stiff-bristled brush and rinse. Repeat if necessary.
- Replace slipped slates and tiles
If a roof tile or slate has slipped out of place, it needs to be replaced as soon as possible — or water could get into the roof space and cause untold damage.
Tiles are easiest — you can normally prise up the surrounding tiles and re-hook the tile over its supporting batten. To re-fix a slate, you’ll have to make yourself a ‘tingle’ from a strip of thin lead, around 25mm wide and 230mm long with a small hole drilled in one end. This is nailed in place under the slate (exactly in the gap between the two slates below with the nail through the hole), the slate replaced and the end of the ‘tingle’ bent up and over to hold the bottom edge of the slate in place. Caution: don’t attempt roof repairs without proper access equipment — a proper extension ladder to reach up to the roof and a roof ladder (hooked over the ridge) to get up on to the roof.
The next time you need to clean the leaves out of your gutters, don't worry if you haven't got a proper gutter scoop. You can make one out of an empty plastic bottle with a handle (for example a bottle that used to contain toilet cleaner or fabric conditioner). Turn the bottle so that the handle is on top and use a utility knife to cut the end of the bottle so that the handle side is shorter. Leave the cap on the bottle and you have a perfect scoop that should fit virtually every size gutter.
If your steel gutter has sprung a leak, patch the hole by applying a generous coating of silicone sealant to the hole or crack and then covering it with a piece of heavy-duty aluminium foil. Repeat the process and finish off the job with a top coat of sealant.
- A quick fix for a loose brick
You don't need to mix up a fresh batch of mortar just to replace a single loose brick in a retaining wall or porch step — but never a brick on the house. Simply get out the two-part epoxy adhesive and apply it to the sides of the brick where the mortar has come loose. Let it cure for 24 hours, then seal any remaining gaps with building silicone sealer.
- Instant ageing for new mortar
If you think that new mortar joints are going to stand out like a sore thumb against the old cement, you can try 'ageing' them to match by dabbing the wet mortar with a damp black tea bag. (You may need to experiment a bit to obtain the right shade.)
- Pour your own stepping-stones
If you want to put leftover cement to good use, why not make a few concrete stepping-stones? Use a couple of plastic garbage bin lids as your moulds. Coat the inside of the lids with a thin, even layer of motor oil so that the cured concrete will slide out. You can even add your own decorative touches by etching shapes in the wet cement using leaves or other objects.
- Cover fresh concrete with hay to prevent frost damage while it sets
Any builder who works outdoors has probably had the frustrating experience of working with concrete when the temperature falls. To minimize problems, keep the area covered with hay before the pour, then after the concrete is placed and smoothed; cover it with plastic sheeting followed by hay.