Decorating FAQ

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By John Laird edited by Matthew Marks; additional material from Rick Hughes

You should be able to remove old sealant with a sharp razor blade and some care. Run the blade down the wall and along the bath to release the edges, and with a bit of luck the strip should come out in one go - good stuff has more of an affinity for itself than the surrounding material. If it has squeezed down into a crack, it may be easier to cut through the strip and leave the rest behind - if it's well stuck, I'd figure you may as well leave it. Then make sure there's no residual dust and that the surfaces are completely dry. Meths has been suggested as an aid to remove old sealant, and certainly cleans the surfaces.

As for mould resistance, I've never had any problem with the more expensive, high-silicone varieties. Whatever you do, don't buy cheap stuff ! You should be able to tell the difference from the pack - if "silicone" doesn't appear, or if it doesn't tell you that a vinegar smell is released during curing, leave well alone. Wickes charge about 4-5 pounds for a 310ml tube. Get a sealant "gun" as well. Cheaper sealants are acrylic-based and much less durable.

  1. Cut the nozzle to the right size. Easily said, of course, but in fact too small an aperture is just as difficult to deal with as too large.Â
  2. Try to squeeze the stuff out *all in one go*. Don't squeeze the gun too hard, and you should be able to go round a whole bath in just a few minutes. This leaves you free to get on with the smoothing without worrying about the gun oozing all round - release the trigger pressure when you've done and lay it down somewhere you won't stand on it.
  3. Find a smoothing implement with the right curvature. Whatever you do, don't try to use a wet finger. Attempt no 1 at our bath went wrong this way, or rather it failed the "spouse test" despite being serviceable! (Nos. 2 and 3 were cheap sealants, no 4 was back to silicone.) I eventually found an old, rounded kitchen knife had just the right shape.Â
  4. Keep the knife (or whatever) wet at all times, and clean it frequently with copious quantities of kitchen towel, re-wetting it before moving on. (this stuff is *sticky*).Â
  5. With care, it is possible to go over the strip a couple of times, the first pass getting rid of excess sealant (as well as squeezing it into the gap), with the second pass putting a smooth finish on. Try to "cut" through the excess sealant on both surfaces with the edge of your knife. Then leave it all alone for a couple of days.Â
  6. Finally, remove the excess strip outside your "cut" edge, with a sharp blade. If there's only a small amount, you may even find you can rub it off with a dry finger. This is easier than trying to produce a perfect finish when the sealant is still wet - invariably you poke something into the beautifully curved corner and wreck it. Alternatively, you can lay down two strips of masking tape either side of the join. Once a skin begins to form, pull off the tape at an angle.Â

Et voila ! Easy really, after 3 or 4 goes :-)

CliveE 24-10-99, on removing silicone sealant:
I use a scalpel blade to remove as much of the silicone sealant as possible and then apply some Silicone Sealant Remover. This is available in small tubes which fit in your sealant gun, usually on the same shelves as the sealant itself. It costs around �6 for a 150ml tube. Follow the manufacturer's instructions which will normally be to apply a layer of the stuff, leave for 2-3 hours and then scrape the dissolved silicone off with a spatula. Repeat if necessary, and then clean up with methylated spirits.

Ian White wrote:
Try this method - it came from a full-time bath installer, and it does work. First lay down two parallel strips of masking tape, taking lots of care to get them straight and evenly spaced. Apply a bead of sealant, rather more than you're going to need. Never mind about the ripples, so long as it doesn't go too thin anywhere. Smooth down the bead using a finger that has been well soaked in a very strong solution of washing-up liquid (50-50). This prevents the sealant from sticking to your finger, far better than water alone. If any does stick, it just means that you haven't soaked that finger thoroughly enough yet, so just rub the sealant off in the soap solution. Push the excess sealant out on to the masking tape, and smooth both edges of the bead right down to the thickness of the tape. Then very carefully peel away the masking tape, and just run your soapy finger along each exposed edge of the fillet to remove the roughness. It produces a very professional-looking job. This obviously works best for long, straight runs like the edge of a bath. For curves you have to trim the masking tape first with a craft knife [or scalpel].

Update: See more detail on the modern tools available for smoothing (WIKI)


By [ Steve Barnes] 23/4/1996

1. Clean the tiles with a weak detergent, and remove any blemishes.

2. Clean with cellulose thinners to make sure there is no grease on the tiles. Be sure not to touch the tiles after you do this!

3. Paint with a plaster primer and allow to dry for 24-48 hours.

4. Apply your finishing coat (liquid gloss recommended).

MM: Tile paint is also now available!


By Matthew Marks 23/4/1996

As this crops up so often in the newsgroup, there must be an awful lot of people who hate the stuff :-). Anyway, the consensus seems to be NOT to sand it - not only does this produce a horrendous amount of dust but early Artex contained asbestos fibres - but to remove with a steam wallpaper stripper. Failing that, you can always skim plaster over it.


By [ Donald Gray] 10/5/1996

You can do a great job re-polishing plastics, especially harder plastics like Perspex. It depends on the depth of scratch on which technique to use.

Deepish scratches:-

1. Start off with "Wet & Dry" paper (say grade 600) using a soapy water as a lubricant. (The water is vital to keep the paper grains free.) Gently "grind" away at the area until you cannot see the original scratches. (The area will go like frosted glass, but don't worry at this just yet!);

2. Change grade of Wet & Dry to 800 and do the same;

3. Change to grade 1200 wet & dry. do same grinding... (The basic principle behind this is to substitute deep scratches with shallower and shallower ones.);

4. Once you have got through the 1200 grade process, thoroughly clean &dry the area;

5. Use "Duraglit" or "Brasso" BRASS polish to remove the "frosted" effect;

6. Once this looks nice and shiny, use a SILVER polish to give a final finish.

For fine scratches, start at 4) above.

SECRET: Take time; don't rush it. Even when you think the scratches have gone, give the process a bit longer. There are NO short cuts to polishing, but it can be done in less time that one thinks....

Most DIY or car maintenance stores now stock the finer grades of "Wet & Dry" papers. (Tip: I keep a penknife razor sharp using 600 & 800 grade!) Don't forget: Soapy water is ESSENTIAL.


By Colin Bignell 06/10/1999

Try one of the motor accessory shops, which should have kits for dealing with windscreen scratches.

By Kev 06/10/1999

You have two options - one as Colin suggests involves basically filling the scratch in with a resin having the same refractive index as the glass, so it doesn't show, and the second is polishing the scratch out. This involves much hard work and elbow grease. DON'T use any abrasives such as Duraglit - and definitely no abrasive papers of any kind, or you'll finish up with a scratch surrounded by a nice opaque patch. The professionals use Ceria (cerium oxide) or Jeweller's rouge (iron oxide). [NB both of these are very fine abrasives.] Ceria can be obtained from good craft shops, as it is used in gemstone tumblers. Use it as a paste (mix with water) on a soft cloth, and just keep on rubbing!

I should emphasise that household abrasive cream cleaners are all unsuitable as they either won't have any effect, or they'll scratch the surrounding glass depending on how much abrasive is in them.


By [ Ken Clark ]20/6/1996

For those who like me, have limited facilities and have difficulty drilling largish holes in sheet metal, there is a simple way of ensuring that you end up with a smooth hole without burrs. Position and secure the work as usual. Drill a small pilot hole as a matter of good practice. Take a piece of thin cloth about 3 x 3 inches and fold it twice to make a small pad. Place the pad over the small hole and bring the large drill down so that it takes the spinning cloth through the hole as the large drill makes it's way through the metal. If you practice on a couple of pieces first you'll rapidly see what is expected - it's easy, safe and it does make a beautifully smooth, round hole instead of the octagonal horrors I always used to make. Oh, and it doesn't matter too much about the colour of the cloth!


By Matthew Marks

People often ask how to prevent icy draughts coming up through gaps between shrunken floorboards. The boards can, of course, be removed and re-layed properly butted (and tools are available to ensure this), but this is a major job. Also, floor coverings will stop the air movement. Besides that, people have come up with various suggestions:-

  • papier mache, sanded afterwards
  • narrow strips/wedges of wood
  • silicone sealant, if it will stay put while it sets (NB you can't paint/ varnish this)
  • if tongue and groove, varnish will seal many gaps
  • if access to the underside of the floor is possible, polystyrene tiles wedged between the joists, or polythene sheet stapled to them (Note: do not allow electrical cables to come into contact with expanded polystyrene, as it leaches the plasticiser out of the cables. Protect with polythene sheet, etc.)
  • wax, but only if re-applied regularly


By [ Chris French] 15/4/1998)

Buildings built in the 1960's or earlier are likely to contain lead. While sound paint surfaces present no risk, particles or flakes of lead paint present a risk to health, especially to children if ingested.

Lead paint can be removed safely as long as some simple precautions are taken. The main aim is to avoid producing any dust containing lead or lead fumes which can be released if the paint is burnt.


Don't burn off with a blowtorch, as this produces lead fumes.

Don't rub down dry, especially with a power sander, as this produces lead rich dust, which will spread around the house.

Use a hot air gun (but don't burn paint), chemical paint stripper, or rub down wet, using "wet or dry" paper.


Dispose of all paint debris in a sealed plastic bag in dustbin. Don't use a normal domestic vacuum to clean up, as the filters are not normally fine enough to trap the lead dust: hire an high efficiency industrial one instead.

After Work

Wash hands etc. thoroughly before eating and after finishing work

This information was taken from a leaflet published by the

Paintmakers' Association,
James House
Bridge Street
KT22 7EP
Tel. 01372 360660
Fax. 01372 376069


By Mike Dean 15/9/1998

Painted or vinyl wallpaper can be hard to remove, as the paint/plastic stops the water you apply getting to the dried paste behind. You therefore have to score it with a special tool, or some nails hammered through a piece of wood. After this, apply the same technique as for ordinary wallpaper: use the hottest water you can stand, and put some washing-up liquid in it to encourage it to adhere to the paper. Most importantly: give it time to work.