Fixing It Like a Girl!
If I wanted an indication about how non-handy I am, the discovery of damp in my flat was a pretty good one. I’d lived in a flat previously where damp turned into full-blown mould without my really understanding what to do about it. The power of Google was at my fingertips but I was convinced that I’d make things worse…. so I simply endured it until finally giving it a good scrub down when I moved out. This time around I was determined to actually do something about it and started awkwardly researching DIY.
Sure, my Pinterest is full of crafty DIY projects but I live in a flat that I don’t know how to maintain and I own a car that may as well run on pixie dust for all I understand about it. This means that I’m less informed, less responsible and – as a result – less independent. Young drivers are likely to spend more money on getting their car valeted than maintaining tyres or topping up other needs (I hear oil is one of them). This runs the risk of problems that the car owner can’t solve = expensive!
Getting back to my flat, my lack of knowledge was all-encompassing, made all the clearer by the fact that my current partner used to be a builder. Standing around, awkwardly watching him put up shelves and looking at his tool set like it was a collection of sonic screwdrivers, I made myself set a personal resolution. I decided that I was going to try to learn a thing or two about DIY. Inspired by incredible blogs like DIY Diva (American girl renovating a farmhouse and it’s amazing!) and Pink Toes and Power Tools, I was going to see what I could get done.
“Got a big problem? Use a big drill bit” – DIY Diva
Dealing With Damp
So, I mentioned damp earlier and it’s an annoying problem that is incredibly common in British homes. I was a little foggy on what caused damp until I did some research. The most easily remedied kind of damp is caused by leaks, often in kitchens and bathrooms. Though it wasn’t relevant for me, it’s worth considering if you’re experiencing some damp of your own.
Damp is also caused when houses are poorly ventilated and experience a lot of water vapour (basically, whenever you take a shower, bath, wash anything in hot water or even breathe) that has nowhere to go. It turns out that leaving windows open during the day can have a positive effect, as well as making sure that rooms are well heated. Opening the curtains with windows that face the sun is also a good idea (hoping I’m not the only one who leaves them closed most of the time out of laziness).
Although the word “damp” panicked me to my core, you actually don’t need to do anything to the wall in the case of water vapour/ condensation build up. Well, unless you’ve really let it fall into a state. Dealing with damp was actually pretty easy:
- Firstly, clean down the wall with a damp cloth, removing all traces of the build-up.
- Let the wall dry naturally.
- Paint over the wall with damp resistant paint (I used this one)
And that was it! Just a few hours’ work and I didn’t have to worry about my walls falling in around me. I suddenly felt confident enough to look for other areas for improvement that I might be able to deal with myself. Lots of DIY bloggers refer to home improvement as an addiction and I can see why. It’s amazingly inspiring to take responsibility over your home and know that your handiwork is helping to keep it looking good. So, where should you go if you want to start your own DIY craze?
This pic reminded us of that awesome feminist tale The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
Getting The Info
We really are so lucky to have the internet in this day and age, meaning that you can get step-by-step instructions on just about anything! Just make sure you’re getting your info from a reputable source. The Which? website is fantastic, though it’s frustrating that so much of their info is hidden behind barriers for those who subscribe. If you can afford it, getting a Which? subscription is a great way to get independent advice on anything involving purchases. They’re highly thought of for a reason (but not essential unless you feel the need).
For those of you who are as new to being handy as I am, I love checking out “The Art of Manliness”. Although the title announces their chosen demographic, this website features practical advice aimed at novices. Their info about power tools is very handy as well as a post about unblocking a toilet (which is up there as one of the things I never want to have to do). There aren’t many posts on the theme of home improvement but the info is very accessible and does have the newbie in mind.
It’s worth remembering that big shops like B&Q and Homebase also offer a wide range of tips and advice to their customers, hoping to inspire you into a new DIY project that will require purchases from their shops. You can even find manufacturers that are happy to offer plenty of advice online. Vufold sells bifold doors and you can find detailed installation info on their site if you feel like trying to construct your back doors yourself! I think businesses encouraging self sufficiency and DIY installation is a great thing and was shocked at the amount of advice I’d simply never noticed before.
Confidence is a huge problem for me when it comes to DIY. A lifetime of being told “not to touch” things has left me with a deep-seated anxiety that I fear is common amongst many women. Even taking on flat pack furniture can be stressful for some, though it’s a great place to start. My very first “DIY” project was the humble task of hanging a picture frame but when I pulled it off I felt like Wonder Woman! Perhaps one day I can work on the mooky pallet chair tutorial.
I’d advise anyone, especially young women, to learn as much as possible about keeping a house maintained. If I’d ignored the damp in my bedroom I could have ended up losing my deposit from my landlord, plus I would have continued feeling helpless… and damp can lead to mould (with its own health implications). Just like any other skill, DIY is something where you can research as much as you like and then find your feet with easy early projects. Find something in your home that you’d like to change and I guarantee there are tutorials out there brimming with advice. You’re also likely to find that you have handy friends who will be happy to help you. Take the plunge and you might be amazed at what you’re capable of!
Main photo: “I am surprised that the residents were inspired to clean up the community after watching us build tables.” Jania, 17, used power tools for the first time in a local project. Her work helped to install a greater sense of hope in the community.