Five tips for DIY basics

Be safe when using ladders in the home. Photo: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

Be safe when using ladders in the home. Photo: PA Photo/thinkstockphotos

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1. Accurate measuring is vital for all sorts of DIY tasks, but it’s surprisingly easy to get wrong.

If you can, get someone to help you measure or check your measurements, especially if you’re measuring a large area or can’t afford to make a mistake. Digital measurers can’t be used to measure everything, but they make a lot of measuring quick and easy. With a digital measurer, you simply point the laser dot where you want to measure (ensuring you know which end of the measurer the reading is being taken from) and press the button to ‘fix’ the reading, which is extremely accurate.

2. A metal ruler is a must for DIY because it’s sturdy and rigid and you can’t score into it accidentally with a craft knife. The main problem with metal rulers is that they can slip on smooth surfaces, so make sure you spread your fingers out along the length of the ruler to hold it down. Go for a ruler that’s calibrated right up to the end, as this makes measuring and marking much easier.

3. Felt-tip pens are easy to see when you’re marking, but they can be too thick for precision work. A sharp pencil is often better, but pencil lines can be hard to see on some surfaces and can get erased in the process of cutting, such as when using a water-cooled diamond-wheel tile cutter.

4. Working safely on ladders is a must, and not doing something as simple as extending a stepladder fully can be dangerous. Many ladders come with instructions about how much weight they can take, which side you can climb up (if you can use both sides), how to lock them in place and other ways to use them safely. Never stretch or overreach when you’re up a ladder because this could destabilise you and it, and make sure you wear sensible shoes that won’t slip off. Your ladder should have non-slip feet for safety, but the feet also help to prevent damage to flooring indoors.

5. Outdoors, extension ladders should be placed on a firm, level surface and the top should rest against something solid, i.e. not things like gutters and windowpanes. To stop the ladder from slipping, secure both the top and bottom with straps or ropes and clips or hooks, ensuring they’re anchored to something immovable, or put something really heavy against the bottom of the ladder so it can’t move.

If you can get someone to hold the ladder while you’re up it, even better. Extension ladders can be particularly dangerous on ‘shiny’ floors, such as tiles or floorboards with a gloss finish - I know someone whose unsecured ladder slipped on a wooden floor, causing him to be hospitalised.