Gazette: Trade plumbing header


A DIY  guide to removing grout from tiles

Freshening up the grout in between your tiles can have a dramatic effect on the overall appearance of your floor and it is certainly a cheaper option than replacing the tiles themselves. Removing grout is a laborious task but the end results make it worthwhile.
1. Safety is important when it comes to this DIY job so the first thing to do is to cover any furniture, appliances or valuables with dust sheets to protect them from bits of grout that may fly up during the process. You should also protect your eyes with safety goggles and may want to consider wearing protective gloves to protect your hands from the wear and tear of the repetitive movements.

2. Visit your local DIY store to purchase a grout scraper. One with a carbide but is preferable and will cut through the old grout more efficiently and make removing it an easier task. You many need to invest in a three or four of these scrapers, especially if you are working on a large floor area - the carbide tips will wear down after some use and become less effective.  The good news is they relatively inexpensive  at around £3 to £4 each so they won't break the bank.
You can also purchase a electric grout remover  - Bosch have one at around £46.99. This will make the job a much quicker one but you may wish to consider how much use you will get from such a machine and if it is good value for money.

3. Start the grout removal by using the grout scraper to cut a line down the middle of the grout. The use the scraper to scrape out the grout. If you are worried about chipping your tiles you could stick painters tape on the edge of each tile, but this may not be necessary as long as you work carefully.

4. Repeat this process across the tiled area until you have removed the grout. You could also use a small chisel and hammer to remove any stubborn bits from the edges of the tiles. You need to tap lightly to avoid any tile damage and make sure you are wearing your protective goggles for this job.

5. Remove the painter tape from the tiles, (if you have used it), and sweep up the broken pieces of grout from the top and in between the tiles with a small broom and dust pan, then using a non-scratch scouring pad  gently scrub the edges of the tiles to remove any remaining grout. Leave tiles to dry and then being your regrouting.

Top tip

If  the idea of grout removal doesn't appeal, or you simply don't have the time, there is another cost- effective way to spruce up the grout with half the effort.  Grout pens are a cheap and easy way to brighten up grubby or discoloured grout. The Grout Pen from International comes in three colours, grey, white and sand, and costs just £5.98. One pen covers up to 37m and most grout will require two coats. Visit your local Wilkinson store to pick one up.


A DIY guide to unblocking a kitchen sink

A blocked kitchen sink occurs in most houses at some point and it is a relatively simple problem to solve. 
There are a number of ways to clear a unblock a sink:
1. The Plunger
Fill the blocked sink to about half way and place a clean toilet plunger over the plug hole, making sure it has a good seal. The using press down using sharp short movements and the blockage may dislodge. You will probably need to try this a few times to completely clear it. Run the water to check the pipe is clear and clean up afterwards.
Repeat the method several times in quick, forceful motions. The water will drain quickly once the sink is unblocked, or you may hear the obstruction loosen.
2. Chemical Unblockers

Chemical sink unblockers can be purchased in most supermarkets nationwide. They are a specially blended chemical mix that work to dissolve the blockage in the pipe when poured down the drain. Use according to the manufacturer's instructions as directed on the packaging. Always ensure they are stored out of reach of children.

3. Heat method

Using a heat source may melt away any greasy unblockage from  the U-shaped pipe (waste trap) under the sink. You could use a microwavable heat pad and hold it around the pipe or you could use a hairdryer to direct heat on the pipe. Turn on the tap and let it run to see if your efforts have been successful.

4. Remove the waste trap

If other methods of unblocking are proving unsuccessful then you could remove the waste trap (u-shaped pipe) and empty the waste from it manually. Place a bucket under the sink and position it under the trap to catch any water that may escape. Carefully unscrew the trap and scrape out the blockage and dispose of it in the bin. When it is cleared screw the trap back into place and tighten it, as before.  Run the water to check that blockage is clear and check that the waste is not leaking.


Remove old tiles quickly and efficiently with our DIY guide

Removing and replacing old tiles can transform your bathroom or kitchen. It isn't the easiest of projects and does require a lot of elbow grease and patience but the results are very satisfying.

As with any DIY job safety is paramount so ensure you are protected with goggles and some heavy duty rigger gloves (found in most DIY stores from around £2). You will also need a wide bladed cold chisel, a scraper and a club hammer.

Cover any surrounding areas like worktops or expensive belongings as tile chips could cause damage or scratches and clear the room as much as possible to allow for a clear working area.

Take the chisel and starting along a grout line or at the edge of the tiling, chisel under the first tile, using the chisel to prise it up from the floor or wall. If you are working with large floor tiles you may wish to use the club hammer to hit the centre of the first tile to break it up. This is not recommended with wall tiles as you may damage the plaster board or solid wall behind.  

Continue this method working across the floor or wall. If floor tiles have been fixed with mortar, this may prove difficult to remove. Try to break it up with the hammer and chisel, then use the scraper to remove the remaining bits. If floor tiles have been fixed with adhesive, try softening it with a heat gun and scraping it to remove. 

When working to remove adhesive from walls, work carefully and try to avoid damaging the wall behind. Plaster board can easily be replaced in sections or any chips or holes can be rectified with plaster filler.

It is also possible to replace just one or a few damaged or cracked tiles. Simply drill up to four holes closely together in a vertical line on the tile and carefully use a chisel and hammer to break it up from this line. Remove all the old tile pieces and any pieces of loose or old grout from the edges with a craft knife of chisel. Repair any plaster holes if working with wall tiles and wait for the filler to set completely. Then simple apply adhesive to the new tile and place into the gap, making sure it's flush with the other tiles. Regrout and wipe off the excess before it hardens for a clean finish.  

Wearing the rigger gloves, carefully place the pieces of broken tiles in to rubble sacks and dispose of accordingly.


How to Fix a Running Toilet

If you flush your toilet and the water decides to carry on running you’ll need to follow these simple steps:

1) Check the chain that connects the handle to the “stopper” (the stopper controls the release of water). The handle opens the stopper valve and allows the water to flow but, if this hasn’t closed properly, it will continue to gush longer than expected. Just lightly jiggle the chain as this may help to readjust the valve and stop the water. If it’s disconnected entirely, the toilet won’t flush at all.

2) If the problem persists once you’ve checked the connection, have a look at the stopper valve. It can sometimes seal the tank if it’s not seated properly so, in order to correct this, make a minor adjustment to the hinge on the valve. If not, replace the valve and try again (ask staff at your local hardware store for advice on how to do this).

3) No luck? Check the float. The traditional float is a buoy like device that’s attached to the end of a rod but contemporary floats are usually donut-shaped and go up’n’down the overflow tube. Either this or an internal float that closes the valve when the water hits a certain level. Their primary function is to control the valve that fills the tank after a flush. If the tank isn’t filling up enough to make the toilet flush properly, the float is probably leaking. In which case – pop to the hardware store and buy a new one. (Sidenote: you can check this by unscrewing the float ball / donut to see if you hear water inside when you shake it). If it’s not leaking adjust the float mechanism so that it isn’t pressing against the side of the tank or the overflow tube. Also try descaling the ball valve (having removed it from the tank first). 

4) So, you’ve tried 3 steps but to no avail? Check the underside of the rubber flapper to see if there is any mineral build-up. Use bleach and a steel wall scrubber to remove this. If the leak continues, take the flapper off of its hinges, disconnect the chain and put a new one in place. The next step is to install new toilet guts but, since this is quite an undertaking for amateur repairmen, it’s best to leave this up to your local plumber.



How to Fix a Dripping Tap

The first thing you need to do when repairing a dripping tap is to make sure that it has been turned off at the isolation valve. This is usually located on the water supply pipe below the sink. After identifying it you can adjust the valve with a slot-head screwdriver by turning the screw slots 90 degrees to the direction of the pipe so you know you have stopped the water. In place of this there may be a handle. If so, simply shut it off.

Next step: use the slot-head screwdriver to flip the tap lid off or, if you have easy access to the small screw that connects the tap head, loosen it until you’re able to remove it. Some of them may require you to use an adjustable spanner or, if they’re easy, you can simply unscrew them by hand. Remember to also remove the shroud part of the tap with slip-joint pliers or, again, simply by hand. If you’re using the former place a cloth around the shroud to avoid scratching the surface.

After this, place the cloth around the main tap body and utilise your slip-joint pliers to keep the tap body in place while you grip the nut section with an adjustable spanner. This is at the base of the exposed valve. Having used the adjustable spanner to undo it and remove it, move onto step four: replacing the washer. Sidenote: if it is a ceramic disc valve it must be replaced with a new one.

If the valve has a rubber washer, flick it off with the end of a slot-head screwdriver and fix it with a new one. Though take into account that some designs require you to unscrew a small nut with an 8mm spanner in order to release the washer and change it over. If it’s hard to get off put penetrating oil round it and try again. Also make sure you check the valve seat inside the tap body. If it’s coarse, uneven or scored it will still let water by. In this case a new washer will not be effective.
Once you've completed these steps reassemble the tap, readjust / turn on the isolation valve and check that your job is done. No more drips!



How to get rid of Mould in the Bathroom

Along with dry rot, rising damp and other types of infestation and moisture problems in the home, mould is a common nuisance for property owners. There are 6 different categories of mould that can be found in normal domestic environments: Penicillum (an allergenic mould that’s in soil or decomposing food materials), Cladosporium (a black or dark green mould that grows on dead plants, paint and fibreglass air ducts), Memnoniella (found in cotton and paper), Stachybotrys (a toxic black mould that grows in walls and on ceilings), Mucor (found in soil and animal droppings) and Alternaria (soil and plants).

Since mould in the home thrives in damp or steamy areas the bathroom is most susceptible to fungus growth. The best way to prevent this is to regularly clean the zones that will have the most moisture (i.e. shower and / or bathtub). Once you’ve cleaned these, wipe dry to reduce any excess moisture. As an additional measure for extra protection you can buy plastic inserts from home and cleaning solutions catalogues that you slot over the bathtub or the shower flooring. 

Also, if you keep the humidity below 55% and maintain this by making sure the bathroom is well ventilated you will see a noticeable decline. Turn on your bathroom fan for about 5 minutes after a bath or shower to reduce the amount of steam or, if you don’t have one, open the window to let the steam out, circulate the air and minimise condensation.

If the mould is persistent and has spread to a large area you should use the following methods to try and combat it: 1) Mix a solution of liquid soap, one cup of baking soda, eucalyptus oil and water. Transfer it to a spray bottle. Douse the effected area and allow it to dry. Once dry, repeat this step but scrub with a brush or a scouring pad. Rinse and repeat until the mould is gone. Or 2) Pour undiluted mild white vinegar into a spray bottle. Target mouldy surfaces and then wait for an hour. After an hour use hot water to clean up any remaining residue and dry the surface with a towel. Since vinegar is reported to kill 82% of mould species this is an extremely effective treatment.