The TV show Home Rescue, on RTÉ, has been such a hit with viewers that this season it has been cut from 30 minutes to an hour. It was the accessibility of the ideas presented that really won over the audience. That and the fact that architect Róisín Murphy isn’t afraid to speak plain English and builder Peter Finn knows exactly what will work and what won’t. They provide simple, actionable ideas for real homes.
And the public is throwing themselves into DIY in droves. Part of that surge in popularity is due to the pandemic shutdowns, but Murphy also cites Gaff Goddess Laura de Barra as turning women into required skills. Murphy believes there are jobs we can all turn to around the house, starting with a simple task like shelving.
The fact that the tools have also improved helps, she says.
“They have become very light. So what was a game of strength has become a game of skill, creating a more equal playing field for women who want to do it for themselves and not be beholden to anyone else.
This is important especially since the genus handymanus seems to be on the verge of extinction. Try asking someone to do odd jobs around the house and you’ll find that you’ll improve your skills faster than waiting for such a person to come to your door.
Finn, a father of three, also believes in educating everyone to become practical people. He asks his three daughters to help him.
“These are life skills that everyone should know. The feeling of satisfaction, the achievement of a goal is immense. This will give you a nice little adrenaline rush.
Putting up a shelf is a very satisfying thing to do, says Murphy. A builder’s board, of the type used in scaffolding, is thick and sturdy and can be used as open shelving with galvanized brackets underneath or as a simple mantel. There are many tutorials online. The main consideration is the type of wall you will be drilling into and that you are not touching electrical wires or water pipes.
It’s a job most people can do, says Finn. All you need to do is prepare the surfaces properly, fill in the cracks and sand the areas for a better finish. You will need covers for furniture and flooring and regular good swipes to minimize marks. Invest in mid-range brushes and rollers to minimize brush drop.
That paneling you see in period homes is really easy to replicate. Slats attached to the wall using an adhesive like No More Nails create the illusion of paneling. In homes with standard ceilings as low as 2.4m high, install panels only two-thirds the height of the walls to maintain a sense of space. You can also change the color seasonally.
Make a trap door or remove a wall
In a small mid-terrace house that has a front room and a back room and a scullery kitchen, you can create a better sense of connectivity between the rooms in the back by drilling a hole in the partition and installing a hatch, an idea that used to be in each of these houses. Don’t be mean to it, she said. Make it a decent size, say 120cm wide. It allows you to define a kind of breakfast bar between the two spaces and generates an open plan impression without having to use steel beams. The Tallaght house above has had a wall removed in the kitchen.
Divide to conquer bedroom clutter
Built-in wardrobes in a small bedroom can overwhelm the space. Sometimes it’s easier to create a dividing wall and install lots of chest-deep drawers with clever hanging space above them instead of installing the expensive and bulky built-in type. By not using doors, you gain floor and traffic space, Murphy says. You can bring a textural feel to the panel that separates the sleeping area from the storage area. It also means that when you’re in bed, you don’t see any of your clothes hanging out.
Frame a bed with a simple headboard
A high, flat headboard will create the illusion of space in a small bedroom. The arches are big, says Murphy. An easy way to make a headboard is to cut out MDF boards and paint them in a striking color – seen here in Colortrend Honky Tonk Blue. These can be glued to the wall using No More Nails.
A window on other functions
In a small room, a window sill can act as a shelf, but the reality is that most are too narrow to really serve this function. By extending the threshold by about 10 cm and equipping it with a new wooden top, you get a dressing room with a shelf. By covering the window frame and sill with mirrored, beveled and custom-cut panels on all sides, you also reflect light into a darkened room.
Move a radiator
Moving a radiator gives you more wall space for furniture, Murphy says. In this house in Tallaght, she raised it to sit above the bench seat so that it would also provide warmth for the back. Also consider upgrading the rads to more efficient models. This is easier to do in a house with wooden floors than in a house with a concrete floor. You will need to hire a plumber for this.
Lay a new floor
Start with a bedroom. Strip the original ground. If it is a concrete base, use a floor leveling compound to even it out. On a wooden floor, use sheets of plywood. Invest in a base layer to make it sturdier underfoot. Remove the skirting board for a neater look – you may need a new skirting board to match the new floor. If the room is deeper than it is wide, place the boards parallel to its exterior walls. In a room run the length of the space. Most laminates are similar in depth to carpet, but if you find the door is binding now, unhook it and plane a few millimeters from the bottom.
give me shelter
If there is a return to restrictions, a sheltered space in the garden can be a lifesaver, Finn says. It can become a home gym as well as a meeting place for friends and family, all safe and sheltered from the rain. All you need are four-inch-by-four-inch structural base joists and corrugated iron. It’s a pretty simple build as it’s lightweight but watch some tutorials online before you start.
Home Rescue – The Big Fix is on RTÉ 2, Thursdays at 9.30pm