If you’re looking for a stocking filler for a DIYer, consider 9 in 1 Multi Tool from Lakeland kitchenware. Made from stainless steel, this pocket-sized set contains several basic tools in one – a claw hammer, metal pick, knife, bottle opener, tile saw, flathead screwdriver, penknife, Philips screwdriver and pliers. The Multi Tool is perfect for quick jobs that don’t require a full-sized tool, and comes with a carry case with belt loop. It costs £8.80 from

Good news if you ordered a kitchen or bathroom from MFI before it went into administration.

Homebase will beat prices quoted by MFI on complete kitchens and bathrooms before 24 November 2008, providing customers can produce evidence of the price MFI quoted at the point of purchase. Homebase will also try to honour lost deposits, though this should be refunded by your credit card company if you paid on a credit card. And if you order your new kitchen by December 10 (the bathrooms deadline has passed), Homebase will deliver it before Christmas.

Homebase is the first national DIY retailer to have achieved the government’s Trust Mark gold award for installation. This guarantees that all payments on installed kitchens are safeguarded and insured free of charge. In addition, all Homebase kitchens come with a 10-year product guarantee and a two-year workmanship guarantee on installations. The Homebase advice line is 0845 601 0441.


Q: I’d like to make an opening in my dining room chimney breast and put a fire surround in. Can I just knock out the hole and leave it at that?

A: If you want a working fire, don’t do anything before seeking expert advice. If the surround will just be decorative, you could (with some elbow grease) create a large enough hole to get the right effect, but the problem is that the chimney will suck heat out of the room, which isn’t good news at this time of year. To stop this happening, try blocking up the hole to the chimney above with loft insulation or an old curtain or two, or, better still, plaster over it so you have the opening for the surround but it’s sealed off from the chimney above. Plastering is hard to do, so get a professional in if in doubt.

If you leave your wooden garden furniture out all year long, ensure it is adequately protected. A waterproof cover is a really good idea, but if you don’t have one, check your furniture for wear and tear, such as mould and mildew. If it’s being affected by the wintry weather, choose a sunny weekend and scrub it with a mould and mildew remover, or blast it with a pressure washer, allow it to dry and then apply a couple of coats of paint, wood oil or varnish. I would normally recommend doing this in late spring or early summer, but if your furniture is being damaged by the elements, it’s best to act now because the weather will only get worse.

TOP TIPS FOR… planning a kitchen

Kitchens can cost serious money, so you don’t want to get it wrong. Start by deciding whether you want to work with some or most of what you’ve already got, or whether you’d prefer to start from scratch. Most importantly, does the current layout work for you or could it be improved? To work well, the fridge, cooker and sink should be in a triangle so you can move easily between them.

To get ideas for your new kitchen, visit DIY stores and kitchen showrooms, look in magazines, brochures and online, and watch home improvement TV shows. Many kitchen retailers will design your kitchen for you and talk you through different options. Simply take your kitchen measurements with you when you go, including where the utilities are, and have an idea of how much you want to spend.

Some (cheaper) kitchens are available to take away that day from DIY stores, but most need to be ordered and this can take weeks, even months, so plan your project accordingly. The higher spec the kitchen, the longer it’s likely to take.

Have you forgotten any elements of your new kitchen? Your units, appliances, splashback or wall tiles, and worktop are likely to make up the bulk of the cost, but don’t forget the flooring, lighting, paint and/or wallpaper, handles, taps, kickboard, end panels, pelmet, etc, all of which will add to your budget and the length and complexity of the project.

Who will be installing the kitchen? If you plan to do it yourself, this will keep costs down considerably, but are your DIY skills up to it? Don’t tackle electrical and gas work yourself and only do the plumbing if you’re a very experienced and competent DIYer. If you need to get professionals in, get quotations and plan the work well in advance, as good tradespeople tend to be busy. The recession means you may be able to get a good deal because there’s less work to go round.

By Andrew Wilcox

I love sheds Founder & judge of Shed of the year - Wilco writes mainly about sheds. About the blog Enter your shed into #shedoftheyear