Property - DIY tips

January’s here and if you’re looking for easy ways to freshen up your home after the hordes of friends and family descended at Christmas, the kitchen is the obvious place to start because it was the centre of the action.

By The Newsroom
Sunday, 6th January 2013, 4:00 pm

One way to update it in no time is to change the splashback behind the cooker or hob. These splashbacks are typically made of metal (usually stainless steel), tiles or glass (ensure the glass is designed for the job, or the cooking heat will cause it to crack) and can make quite a statement.

The problem with a tiled splashback is that unless you use a dark-coloured grout, cooking splashes will discolour the grout. If this has happened to yours, you can replace the grout rather than retiling. Use a grout rake, or the Dremel Grout Removal Kit (£16.98, B&Q) and a compatible Dremel multi-tool, to remove the grout, or at least enough of it so that you can apply new grout over the top without seeing what’s beneath. The appearance of discoloured white grout can be improved by cleaning it (try HG Grout Cleaner, £3.98, B&Q) and applying a grout reviver, such as UniBond Grout Reviver in White (£5.98, B&Q), but it’s unlikely to stay white for too long. Cooker splashbacks come in standard sizes, but if you need a bespoke size, there are plenty of companies that make them to order. Glass splashbacks offer most choice, as they’re available in an enormous range of colours (and patterns), and often have matching upstands (for above the rest of the worktop). Upstands usually have to be made to measure, because of getting them the right length and having cut-outs for the sockets in the right places.

If you want to create a unique splashback and/or upstand, how about using wallpaper? You may think that wallpaper’s not suitable for kitchens, but vinyl ones are designed for use in kitchens and bathrooms. And, in fact, you can use any type of wallpaper for a kitchen splashback or upstand, providing you protect it properly by fixing a heatproof clear glass panel (try the Laminate Glass Clear Splashback, £40, B&Q) over it (or an acrylic/Perspex panel if it’s not above the cooker/hob). Provided they’re fitted properly, these panels work well because the wallpaper’s sealed in, so moisture, cooking splashes, dust and dirt can’t get to it, but you hardly notice the panel’s there.

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Whether you want to use the wallpaper for a splashback, upstand or both, the key thing is to make the wall as smooth and flat as possible to get the best finish. Wallpaper will cover lumpy and bumpy walls, but the clear panel on top won’t sit flat, making it hard to fix in place and seal properly.

If you’ve removed an existing splashback or upstand, some filling, sanding and wiping clean may be required, but probably nothing more than that because they’re usually screwed or glued in place. It’s a different story when removing tiles, as it’s hard to do so without damaging the walls, making it more of a new year challenge than quick pre-Christmas project.

Product of the week

Looking for a fun DIY Christmas present? The new Black & Decker Gyro Driver BDCS36G cordless screwdriver (£39.98, B&Q) is just the thing because, uniquely, it’s controlled by motion.

It uses gyroscopic sensors similar to those in computer gaming controls and handheld tablets, so instead of pressing a forward and reverse button, you control the direction you’re screwing in with a twist of the wrist - it’s that clever. You twist the Gyro Driver one way to drive in the screw, and the other way to remove it. This is also how you control the speed - it starts off slowly, so you’re less likely to damage the screw head, and to go faster, you simply twist it further.

The Gyro Driver is really lightweight, comfy to hold, and compact - it’s perfect for small hands, if you know a junior DIYer - and has a 3.6V lithium-ion battery that lasts for up to 18 hours on a full charge. It also has a built-in LED light, which comes in handy when you’re working in a cupboard or poor light.