Bi-folding versus Sliding Doors

If you’re planning a home renovation project that requires large, glazed door solutions, you’ll most likely be making a decision between bi-folding and sliding doors. Both have grown phenomenally in popularity in recent years, and while they are similar in some respects, they have unique features that may affect their suitability for your home.

Bi-folding doors

Express-bifold-FoldingIt goes without saying that bi-folds create a wow factor – when open, they completely transform the space, bringing the outdoors in. We recommend bi-folding doors for a size up to four metres; within this measurement, bifolds look much more impressive than sliding doors. A greater clear opening can also be achieved, creating more sociability between your indoor space and garden.

Express Bi-folding Doors wholeheartedly encourages bi-fold customers to opt for integral blinds, which are both stylish and functional. Big benefits include no cleaning or maintenance, as well as the blinds fitting perfectly into your bi-folding doors. Less bulk means more light, and that’s exactly what we want to achieve! On the flipside, however, you must remember that with a bi-folding installation comes extra framework, which some may want to avoid. That’s where sliding doors come in…

Sliding doors

Express-bifold-SlidingA more traditional option, sliding doors may be the perfect choice for you. They tend to look better when they’re closed, as the large panels of glass welcome light into the home without being broken up by framework. For installations over the four metre mark, they are the ultimate choice; the wider the door, the wider the clear opening.

Express Bi-folding Doors offers sliding doors with 2, 3, 4 or 6 panels, so you can select the most appropriate one for your home. And of course, as with bi-folds, they come with the same colour options and guarantee, so you can sure they fit into your home seamlessly as well as having peace of mind.


Save Money With A Green Bathroom

Going green is the morally right thing to do and, as it will often save you money, it is also the practical thing to do. While it may seem like you personally can’t do much to help the environment and prevent climate change, that’s far from the case. Indeed, this guide, produced by Splashdirect, is split into 3 sections to show YOU how YOU can make a real difference by doing very little with your bathroom.

Eco Living
Image courtesy of ponsulak/

1. Always Choose Recycled Products:
Worldwide 27,000 trees are cut down each day, solely for toilet paper. Choosing recycled toilet paper will drastically reduce this figure, so don’t be a prude: using recycled toilet paper isn’t disgusting, it makes sense.

Why stop there? Choose bathroom cabinets and countertops made from natural or sustainable resources, such as stone and glass.

2. Green Cleaning:
When the time comes to clean your bathroom, use non-toxic cleaning products as toxic ones are hazardous to both the environment and your health.

Rather than shelling out large amounts of money on cleaning products, consider creating your own from everyday household items. A simple solution of one quarter vinegar with three quarters water, for instance, will tackle stubborn grime and remove limescale from shower screens.

3. The Importance of Saving Water:
WaterAid reports that 768 million people don’t have access to clean water, resulting in the premature and unnecessary death of 2,000 children per day. With water being so precious, we should be doing everything we can to reduce the amount of waste.

Begin with Your Toilet:
With a family of four estimated to flush the toilet approximately 14 times per day, it is easy to see how the toilet accounts for 25% of all bathroom water usage. Your toilet should, therefore, only be reserved for flushing: NEVER be tempted to flush creepy crawlies or tissues.

To save water, upgrade to a dual flush toilet. With a dual flush toilet you have two types of flushes: a 3 litre one and a 6 litre one. The 3 litre flush will empty the cistern only halfway and is suitable for liquid waste, whereas the 6 litre flush will completely empty the cistern and will be ideal for solid waste. You don’t need to perform a complete flush each time you visit the toilet so this simple upgrade will easily help cut costs.

Use your Taps Wisely:
With the average leaking tap wasting 90 litres of water per week, and 4,680 litres per year, failure to fix a leaky tap is not only annoying but incredibly wasteful.

To save even more water, consider an aerated tap. These feature a filter which is able to mix the water with air to reduce the output without compromising on pressure.As your mother always said, “Never leave the tap running whilst brushing your teeth.” This is of the utmost importance because the average tap will release approximately 6 litres of water per minute. So if you brush your teeth for two minutes, twice a day, this will result in a waste of 24 litres per day.

Avoid Wasteful Baths:
Whilst you may be partial to your bath, showers use 40% less water, so it’s a no brainer: Always choose a shower instead of a bath.

It would, however, be unwise to completely ditch your bath because it is impossible to achieve the same state of relaxation and luxury which is synonymous with a bath; so reserve this purely for a treat.

As with taps, consider a water saving shower head which has an inbuilt aeration process. These will effectively inflate the water with air to create larger water droplets. The large droplets will provide the same water coverage, but can reduce the amount of water by up to 75%.

Paul Durkin is a full time blogger for Splashdirect where he aims to make life easier for the average person through a series of DIY tips and buyer’s guides.

How to choose and lay tiles

Grouting dark tilesTiles have been around for centuries but it’s fair to say that the choice of styles and designs has never been greater. A time-travelling Roman would still be able to find familiar mosaics incorporating stone and glass, but the majority of tiles used today owe their existence to the development of the ceramic tile industry in The Netherlands in the 17th century. With a resurgence in interest in authentic period details, Victorian tiled panels are in demand once more and friezes are appearing in courtyards.

To lay tiles on walls, ceramic and porcelain tiles reign supreme but glass and natural stone also have their place. Ceramic and porcelain floor tiles are widely available, but hardwearing natural stone tiles such as limestone, slate and travertine are frequently chosen for floors and are ideal for areas such as conservatories and orangeries. Even with stone, there is a surprisingly wide range of colours and effects. With ceramic and porcelain tiles, the sky’s the limit on choice of colour and finish – glossy, matt, sparkly, crinkled or smooth. For something really unique, there are hand-made and hand-painted tiles on offer.

So having chosen your style of tile and decided to tackle the job yourself, how do you lay tiles to achieve that perfect hard-wearing decorative finish on a wall or floor? As with so many DIY jobs, preparation and planning is the key to success.

Work out how many tiles you will need, by careful measuring of the wall or floor and calculating the number of rows of tiles in each direction. If tiles of different sizes are to be used and a pattern or border introduced, it will be easiest to set out the design on paper. Count any part tiles as a whole and whatever figure you arrive at, add at least 5% to allow for breakages or miscalculations. Some tile suppliers have estimation grids on their websites.

Prepare the wall or floor to make sure the surface is smooth, clean and dry. Modern adhesives allow new tiles to be laid on old, provided they are not loose, but if the wall is currently papered, this will have to be removed. Make sure there are no ‘nibs’ of wallpaper left. Painted walls will just need to be thoroughly cleaned. New plaster must be completely dry and might need a coat of primer.

It is possible to lay tiles straight onto concrete floors as long as they are level, dry and free of dust. With floorboards, a layer of plywood will need to be fixed on top before tiling commences. And remember that not all suspended wooden floors can bear the considerable weight of ceramic or stone tiles.

Essential tools are a notched trowel for spreading adhesive, a tile cutter, grout float and spirit level. Nippers for trimming edges are also useful and safety goggles to protect eyes. Different types of adhesive and grout are available depending on the type of tiles, the surface they are being fixed to and how much water they will be encountering. Manufacturers provide detailed explanations of suitability.

Decorative wall tilesAn important part of the planning stage is working out the starting point and order of tiling to minimise the number of tiles that need to be cut and avoid having very thin slivers of tile. Obstacles such as window reveals and door openings often mean that the centre point is different to where it would be on a plain, uninterrupted wall. Mark the starting line and nail battens to the wall as support strips.

Check, check and check again with a spirit level. A row of tiles that are not horizontal will cause untold problems. Setting out floor tiles is easier as they can be dry laid on the surface and moved around to find the best arrangement. Try to avoid having a lot of cut tiles where the eye falls as you enter the room. When it comes to the actual fixing of the tiles, don’t get caught out like in the old comedy films. It might be stating the obvious, but make sure you work back to an exit and don’t get trapped in a corner!

Apply the adhesive evenly using a trowel or spreader. The notches produce ridges that help to create an equal amount of adhesive under each tile so that they sit level. Only cover about 1m² of the wall or floor with adhesive at a time, so that you can lay tiles before the adhesive starts to dry. Some tiles have built-in spacers but others will need to be separated by small plastic spacers that are removed once the tiles have set. Spacers ensure a uniform distance between each tile giving aesthetically pleasing grouting. Wipe away any excess adhesive that squeezes out as more tiles are placed and keep using the spirit levels as you add more rows.

Once the adhesive has set, the tiled area should be grouted. Grout is now available in several colours so you can choose whether you want it to blend with the tiles or go for dramatic effects with a contrast colour. Use the float in long, diagonal strokes and make sure the joints are firmly filled. Compressing the grout with a blunt tool gives a professional finish. Frequently wipe the surface with a damp sponge as dried-on grout is very difficult to remove. Allow the grout to dry, then polish with a soft cloth. Stand back and admire your handiwork!

How to put up wall shelves

Wall ShelvesWe’ve all seen the old comedy sketches where a DIYer steps proudly back after filling up newly-installed wall shelves – only for them to immediately collapse or for everything to slide off onto the floor. But in reality, creating sufficient storage and display space is serious business. The ability to make and fit shelves is a valuable skill that will bring a smile from grateful family members in homes everywhere.

Although there are many pieces of furniture offering ready-made rows of shelving, building your own wall shelves is not only much cheaper, but also more versatile. Shelves can be fitted into alcoves and tailored to suit the room function. The shelving can be arranged in a layout to suit different sized books, vases and other display items, pots and pans or clothing accessories.

So where to start? The most basic way to create more storage is to buy ready-made shelves in wood, board, glass or metal and place them onto brackets or shelf support strips which are simply attached to the wall. Brackets are on show, so choose metal or wooden brackets suitable for the room décor. Fixed brackets screw directly into the wall and the only tools required are a drill with masonry bit, spirit level, screwdriver and wall plugs. An alternative is adjustable shelving, using brackets that slot into pre-fixed uprights and can be easily repositioned.

A drawback of ready-made wall shelves is the pre-determined lengths. To make the best use of available wall space, buy lengths of timber or manufactured board and saw to the exact size required. Whichever option you choose, remember that all shelves will sag under heavy loads if the support brackets are too far apart.

Spacing of brackets varies with the type of board used and the expected load.

A useful guide is:

  • With 12mm particle board and ready made veneered or melamine-faced shelves, allow 450mm for heavy loads and 600mm for light loads.
  • With 19mm particle board or 12mm plywood, this can be increased to 600mm for heavy loads and 750mm for light loads.
  • For 19mm plywood, blockboard, MDF or natural wood, space brackets at 750mm for heavy loads and 900mm for light loads.

Brackets are available in various sizes. For adequate support, they should span between two-thirds and three-quarters the width of the board.

Accurate positioning is vital. Draw a pencil line across a straight batten to mark where the shelf is to go and keep using the spirit level to check all horizontal or vertical lines. Make sure the overhang at each end is equal. With adjustable shelving, the uprights should be placed so there is a quarter length of the shelf at each end.

When fitting several shelves into an alcove, measure for each shelf separately, as the walls may not be square. Brackets are generally not needed here, as the back and side walls provide support. Instead, the shelves can sit on top of inexpensive wood or metal support strips. With wooden battens, cutting the front ends at an angle and painting them the same colour as the walls makes them less noticeable.

A power jigsaw makes light work of following a scribed line to cut wall shelves to the required size. If sawing through lengths of veneered plywood or MDF, you will be left with an unattractive exposed edge. Solid wood trim can be bought to cover and protect this.

More advanced DIYers will be able to make attractive shelf units with timber ends; but for the majority of amateurs, shelves fixed to brackets or support strips are the most straightforward way to provide loads of useful storage space.

So now you can put up your shelves with confidence; let us know how you get on and send in some pictures of your work!