When all you can see is the four walls of your home, you might as well start improving them. Whether you’re a hardened DIY-er or opening a toolbox for the first time, there are plenty of tasks that can bring some satisfaction to your isolation.
These manageable projects can fill your time, save you money, and improve your life well beyond lockdown…
1. Reseal your bath
Remove old sealant with a Stanley knife and scraper, then scrub the join clean. Make sure to fill the bath with water so that it’s at its heaviest before you begin, as you want the gap between tile and tub at its widest when resealing.
When you’re ready to go, apply the sealant in a steady line along the join with a cartridge gun. If you’ve never used one before, practise first on a piece of card or tile. Smooth the sealant down with a wetted finger or spoon, and give it a day to dry. On that note, you might want to shower before you begin.
2. Fix sticking doors
If your door has always stuck, you’re a victim of shoddy craftsmanship, but even well-installed doors can start to stick after a while, and the problem may lie with the hinges.
Many screws eventually wiggle loose of their own accord, causing hinges and doors to sag, so first try tightening every hinge screw with a screwdriver. If that doesn’t work, you could try replacing the screws with longer ones which will drive deeper into the wall, and draw the door inwards towards the jamb.
If your tinkering doesn’t help, route three is to sand down the contact point, which you can do with a piece of sandpaper wrapped around a wooden block.
3. Bleeding your radiators
Bottom of the list when it comes to household glamour, bleeding your radiator is nevertheless a nice easy start for a DIY debutante. Run your hand over your radiator, and if it’s cool at the top and warmer near the bottom, that means there’s air in the system and it’s in need of a bleed.
Turn off your central heating, and loosen the bleed valve on the side of your unit with a radiator key, with a mug or rag ready to catch excess water. Once the hissing stops, re-tighten the screw, and turn your central heating back on.
4. Lag your pipes
A straightforward money-saver that should top everyone’s lockdown list, insulating your plumbing boosts efficiency by minimising heat loss, and is so simple it’s barely even DIY. Foam boiler jackets and pipe insulation can be wrapped around by hand, and your main stumbling block is ordering the right size.
Make sure to carefully measure the circumferences of your boiler and pipework before your purchase, and opt for material at least 75mm thick. According to the Energy Saving Trust pipe insulation will pay for itself within two years, while a dedicated boiler jacket will reward your outlay in months.
You should only attempt to insulate exposed plumbing – i.e. pipes you can reach with no more than a stepladder. Anything that requires holes in walls should send you running for the phone book.
5. Unblock your sink
The on-your-back, under-the-sink selfie might look great for a #DIYLife Instagram post, but most blockages won’t need nearly so much elbow grease.
Minor blocks can be dissolved with a couple of teaspoons of baking soda followed by a cup of white vinegar, or with a plunger if you have one around. For more durable substances like hair try rooting around with a straightened coat hanger, making sure you twist the wire to pick up strands.
If none of that works, unscrew the U-bend – but only after changing into old, disposable clothes. The pipe is usually secured by a large plastic ring-nut beneath the basin, so remove this with a wrench and clear the blockage manually. It sounds obvious, but remember not to wash your hands until the U-bend is firmly back in place.
6. Fill cracks in the walls
Even small cracks can act as a portal for wind, rain and rodents, and ordinary powdered or pre-mixed filler can easily plug holes in the masonry. Thick layers can take up to 24 hours to dry, but once hardened should hold for years. Cracks that will have to withstand movement – seams, joints, windows and doorways – are best bunged up with caulk, a particularly flexible sealant often used in industry.
7. Draught-proof your home
A classic “sausage dog” draught excluder can work wonders, and you can easily make your own with a sewn up strip of fabric filled with old tights and socks. If that all sounds like too much effort, you can just shove a rolled-up towel at the foot of your front door. It’s not as though you’re using it much.
If left unattended, letterboxes and keyholes will circumvent even the best floor defences, so plug them with brushes and covers respectively. The more effectively your home retains heat, the lower your heating bill, so if chilly toes won’t spur you into action, extra spending money might.
8. Put up a simple shelf
Buy a couple of L-shaped brackets online (make sure you get the right screws to go with them), along with a finished shelf or piece of wood. You will also need a drill, and a few rawl plugs to hold the screws in tight.
Mark where you want your shelf on the wall, and ensure there are no electric wires or pipes beneath the plaster. Put up one of the brackets, then use a spirit level – or a spirit level app on your phone – to ensure your shelf will lie flat, before attaching the other bracket and the shelf on top.
9. Clean your gutters
It’s not the most fragrant way of getting fresh air, but at this point we’ll take it. Clogged gutters can cause a build-up of leaves, sludge and rainwater, which can damage your roof and seep into the walls of your home, as well providing a serviceable nest for rodents, bugs and other pests.
The first option is to prop a ladder carefully against your exterior, ready your gloves and trowel, and get stuck in. The second is to snap up an extendable gutter cleaner – somewhere between a hose, a shovel and a periscope – and control proceedings from the ground. It’s eccentric, a little more expensive, but altogether much more fun.
10. Build your own shed
We know, this sounds ambitious, but bear with us. The wonders of the internet mean that you can order a flat-pack shed unit direct to your door, and if you can handle an Ikea wardrobe you can (probably) manage this too.
Do check what is (and isn’t) included in the kit, and what level of skill is expected. Your neighbours may not thank you for filling lockdown with bashing and crashing, but remember, they can’t come within two metres.