How To Adult – Basic DIY
Outfitting a first home can be a real struggle. Spaces are often small, and budgets are likely tight. DIY can be a lifesaver. But if you’re like me, and woodwork sessions at school consisted of soldering random things and making a CD rack, you may feel like you’re up against an impossible task.
Necessity has caused me to have to learn the basics of DIY to be able to live alone, and actually have some furniture. So if you’ve moved into your first home and have some basic DIY to do here are some tips I hope will help.
Purchasing a Basic Tool Kit
The first step is to purchase a basic tool kit that you can use to put together furniture, fix simple things and hang pictures. I don’t really recommend buying any of those cheap ‘all in one’ tool kits. The quality is usually terrible. Just buy a couple of bits as and when you need them. You could keep yours in a bag or a box but keep them all together so you don’t lose anything.
What You Need
- Power Drill and drill bit set (putting up shelves, securing flat pack furniture)
- Tape Measure (to ensure you get the right size furniture and right length curtains)
- Spirit level (ensuring things that need to be totally horizontal or vertical are correct-like shelves)
- Screwdriver – flat head (used to either tighten or loosen slotted screws with a single indentation in the head)
- Screwdriver – cross head / Philips screwdriver (for screws with four cross points that look like an X)
- Hammer (putting up pictures, making furniture)
- Alan key (does often come free with Ikea furniture)
- Pliers (use to pull out screws/twist wires/for gripping small items where you can’t use your hands)
- Stanley knife (flat pack boxes are sometimes so hard to open a stanley knife makes life a lot easier)
- Wood glue (you can use this with your flat pack furniture to secure it and make it more stable)
- Rubber Mallett (for flat pack furniture as some of the wooden dowells would be damaged by a hammer)
- Picture hanging (you can buy a kit from most hardware stores with hooks and pins)
- Stud detector (not as fun as it sounds! Use this to find where you can put up a shelf and not damage the wall)
Constructing Flat Pack Furniture
The first few times you make furniture, especially if you are not the strongest person and have to do it by yourself, can feel incredibly long and frustrating. Just hang in there!
- Firstly set out all of the parts and screws, check against the instructions to ensure nothing is missing
- Make sure you are in a well lit area
- Set out all of the tools you will need for the job and cover the floor so you don’t scratch it/get wood glue anwhere
- Consider gluing areas that are going to be used on a regular and daily basis, i.e. the groove which the drawer bottoms sit in/ wooden dowels that hold the drawer front in place. You can use PVA wood glue for this or carpenters glue. You can get them anywhere like Homebase or B&Q. It will only take a small amount of time but will be worth it to have solid furniture that will stand the test of time.
- If using a drill go slowly so you don’t damage the furniture
- Check that each piece is aligned properly and can fit together before gluing or screwing it in place
- Use a spirit level to ensure that the item is properly square/flat when complete.
- Sometimes there is just a random hole in the item where it shouldn’t be….nobody knows why, it’s not just you.
Making Flat Pack Sounds Too Hard?
If you really can’t do it yourself and have nobody to help you there is an answer. It’s not the cheapest but sometimes if you can’t do a job you have to call in a professional. You can use a service to get people to come and make it for you. I am not going to recommend any specific company as I have never used one myself but just google ‘flat pack assembly’ and the town you live in and try and find reviews. There seem to be quite a lot of these available all around the country now.
Putting Up a Shelf
One of the most boring jobs of all time and one involving a drill, so don’t do it in the middle of the night or your neighbours will despise you. The most important thing is buying something called a wall detector. It detects where is safe to make a hole in your wall and can be purchased at any DIY store. While they cost around £30 it will last a very long time and mean you don’t cause damage to your home.
You should always be sure that it’s safe to drill before doing so, A detector helps to locate live electrical cables as well as wall studs, steel framework and non-ferrous metals such as copper piping. Things you do NOT want to try and drill through. You don’t need a leak or to electrocute yourself.
- Link to B&Q video of how to put up a floating shelf
- Here’s a link to a website to learn how to put up a regular shelf
- Link to B&Q video of how to put up ladder shelving
How To Put Up Curtains
I’m going to go ahead and assume you want to put up a curtain pole rather than those old plastic tracks. You know, since we aren’t in the 80’s any more. Curtain poles come in metal, wood or plastic. The curtains hang from metal eyelets, rings or loops of fabric. You can adjust the length of some curtain poles, and I recommend getting an adjustable one. I made my curtain pole wider than the balcony doors and it really helps block out more light.
- Think about the curtains you have bought/want to buy. If you want to hang very heavy curtains ensure the wall is plastered well and you may have to use longer screws than the ones you get with the pole in the pack to hold it in securely. Or just go for fairly light curtains!
- Measure the window and add on 5cm to each side of the window for the minimum length of the curtain pole
- Once you’ve bought the pole it should come with the fittings. Depending on the size of the window it will either have 2 fixings or 3. For larger windows you need a fixing in the centre to help hold the weight of the curtain
- Measure out using a tape measure, spirit level and pencil where each bracket needs to go
- If you have someone to help you then put the curtain on the pole and hold it up to the window so you know how it will hang/where the top of the curtain needs to go. That will show you the height the brackets need to go. If not you’re going to need a sturdy chair to get up and check yourself (don’t worry I managed it so it can’t be that bad)
- The end brackets for your curtain pole should be at least 50mm from either end of the window recess.
- Mark the positions for the two end brackets with pencil and then check they’re level with a spirit level.
- Then using your detector check that there are no wires where you have marked. It’s unlikely there would be next to a window but best to check!
- If all is good, mark where you need to drill with the pencil and drill the holes using a masonry bit.
- Insert some wall plugs as a normal screw will not securely stay in plasterboard or masonry without a wall plug. It’s plastic and will expand to securely grip the sides of the hole you have drilled, it’ll hold the screw in place without damaging your walls.
- Then screw the brackets into place.
- All is left is for you to put the pole with the curtains on it up and into the brackets
- If you plan on fitting tie backs to hold the curtains when they are open, do this after the curtains are hung so you can guage the placement better.