Handy home hints from the experts

YOU ASKED: So here are our expert's answers to your DIY questions.
YOU ASKED: So here are our expert's answers to your DIY questions.

DIY re-grouting

We had our bathroom renovated by a builder who employed a brickie to lay our floor tiles. We requested them to be re-laid after a shoddy job first time round and we were happier, though not completely, when redone. After some months we became aware that the grouting does not fill between the tiles well, gaps have let dust and grime collect. It appears to us as if not enough grouting has been used. Can we overcome this problem ourselves by trying to re-grout the floor or do we need a more qualified person to remedy this unsightly finish? This job was done 5 years ago.

- Faye

Answer from George: 

Replacing grout is a relatively simple process and if you're a handy sort of person then I say go for it yourself (unless it's a 'wet room' - bathroom). The best way to remove the existing grout is with a multi-tool and a specific carbide grout removal blade/disc. A DIY range multi-tool can be found for under $100 at hardware stores. Ask a store employee to help you select the right grout while you're there, and purchase a grout sealer. If you have tiles on the walls you will also need silicone to seal the floor to wall junctions. Replacing the grout is as easy as following the instructions on the bag, cleaning up with a damp sponge and then sealing once the grout is dry. If in doubt, watch a few Youtube videos and practice on a small area (you already know how to remove it again if needed). That said, if the area includes the shower I would recommend a professional do the work, as the last thing you need is waterproofing issues. 

Removing 1930s wallpaper 

I have a 1930s three bedroom home and it desperately needs an interior update but to do this I think I will need to remove the wallpaper. It looks like there are several layers dating back to the original. What is the best way to tackle this and what is the cost likely to be? 

- Stacey

Answer from George: 

The best way to tackle this is to firstly confirm what your wall substrate is (go to www.renovate.org.nz). Being 1930's it's likely to be 'Gibraltar' plasterboard, and if you can get the wallpaper off without damaging the board then it will probably only need a few plaster touch ups before being ready to re-wallpaper. If you are after a paint finish though, the room will no doubt need skim-coating with plaster and this can get expensive (if you need to get a gib-stopper in, it's a good time to get an electrician to run some new powerpoints before they get there). Removing wallpaper is a labour intensive, yet simple job, and tackling it yourself will save a lot of money. Just arm yourself with a spray bottle full with warm water and dishwashing liquid, a wallpaper tiger, and some good tunes. Keep in mind - the less you damage the board behind the less it will cost to prep it for wallpaper or paint. The expensive, but inherently best option, is to remove the wall linings altogether, insulate the walls and seal the windows, run some more powerpoints, then re-line with new plasterboard. Bear in mind though that obtaining the same style trims now can be a costly process. As far as predicting the cost it really depends on what your working with and how far you want to go. Get a free quote from a painter/decorator, they will no doubt have a good prediction of the cost of the prep work as well after seeing the job. 

The long dark hallway

We are about to add two new bedrooms onto the front of our house.  Hugely exciting for us! Although it will leave us with a very (very!) long hallway with no natural light. We are looking into the option of adding in a solar tube but this may have to be in phase 2 (or 3) of the renovations. What suggestions do you have to ensure that we don't open our front door into a long dark cave?

- Camilla

Answer from LeeAnn: 

If you keep your bedroom doors open along with any other rooms that are off your hallway you will steal some natural light that way to start with.  I would consider a fresh white base, such as Quarter Black White from Resene, and then add some interesting and colourful art pieces along the hallway to help draw the eye along the space, then if you have a door at the end paint it a bright colour.  Pendant lights are a great idea, multiple if it's a long space and you have the room to hang them.  Also consider lamps down the space too, either on a sideboard, table or shelf, or hang them from a hook or bracket on the wall with the flex plugged into a wall socket.  Good luck!  

Plants for a rental

I rent but I do like to have plants around the place, mainly in planter pots. Which ones do you suggest I buy? Preferably ones that last a long time and don't require a lot of maintenance. And what are some quick easy fixes for making the gardens look tidy - without having to spend a lot of time or money.

- Lydia

Answer from Kirsten: 

When you are renting, choose a selection of of pots that work well together and that are not too big if you need to transport them at a later date. Depending on whether the pots are located in the sun or shade makes a huge difference to what your plant selection would be. A great sun option would be Xeronema callistemun (Poor Knights lily) or Phoenix roebelini (dwarf date palm) for a more tropical look (but be careful of the spines!). Shade options that handle pots well are Cycas revoluta (cycad), Rhapis excelsa (lady palm). It's important to remember that all plants need feeding and watering from time to time, and nothing really does well if left to its own devices unless its a succulent of some sort. Adding crystal rain to your soil mix will help with water holding capacity.

Secondly, there is no such thing as a tidy garden without maintenance but here are some simple tips;

1.Create a mowing strip between your planted areas and lawn, making lawn mowing easier and creating tidy    structured edges.

2.Mulch your gardens with 100mm thick mulch to keep soil moist.

3.If you spend the time preparing the garden prior to planting by removing all weeds and incorporating good soil, your garden will not only flourish, but weeds will be kept at bay.