Tips & Tricks

Tips & Tricks


All sorts of things might end up here - this is where I prattle on about how things can be done in different ways - and - at least for me, with excellent results.

This page is to be taken as more of a diary / "notes to self". In short, if you do anything on this page, you do so at your own risk and peril. If however you are capable of thinking for yourself and taking responsibilities for your own actions, then I am not going to be unhappy if you choose to get your own ideas from these pages.

1. Electric underfloor heating which is safe and CHEAP. Ignore if not electrically informed!

Most folks now have heard or seen of undertile heating - and yes, it is wonderful. It is however goppingly expensive stuff to buy - and although in fairness it IS extremely safe when properly installed, there are still folks who are a little unhappy about it in their bathroom etc.

For me, I was happy with the safety aspect, just not the cost of buying the special cable. And as I was only wanting to heat the workshop floor, I didn't really want to go too overboard. To do it with the "right kit", would have worked out approximately as follows:-

20 Metres Of cable £ 150
Thermostat £50

Not cheap - if you are a tight arse like me and want a snug workshop without being silly about it.

So my shopping list was changed a little:-

Room stat - £12
15-0-15 volt transformer £35
Wire < £ 2

I used cheap and cheerful single core electrical wire - (use 10/0.1,  16/0.2, or single 0.6mm ideally) - and then simply placed a series of masonry pins into the floor so that I can end up with the wire being threaded from side to side covering the whole of the floor. when I had finished, I had a resistance of approximately 3 Ohms. Fab.

Once the top layer of flexible screed had been laid (don't buy flexible underheating screed / adhesive, it costs a fortune. Make your own:  1½ parts sharp sand, 1 part cement, then use 50/50 water / latex liquid (toolstation / B&Q etc) for the water needed to mix it. You end up with a slightly flexible mixture which is suitable as both a screed for heated flooring AND a superb tile adhesive if you make it a thicker mixture. (When made a very wet mixture, this is better than the massively overpriced floor leveling compound)

Applying 30V from my transformer made the wire take 10A (I=V/R) 10A x 30V = 300 Watts of heating. If the room is warm, the transformer is switched off - though am now thinking of leaving it on during the night (economy 7) and treating the whole floor as a gigantic, hidden, night storage heater.

2. If you want cement to go off quickly, you can buy expensive additives - or pop into wilkinsons and buy the 1Kg pack of "dehumidifier replacement crystals". These crystals are EXACTLY the same as the ones used to make cement go off fast. Add about  250grammes per bag of cement. if you REALLY want to do this on the cheap, then just buy salt. Add upto 4% by weight of salt and the cement will cure two > three times faster than usual. DO NOT exceed this ratio though - as more than about 4% actually starts to RETARD the setting. If you add, perhaps 750g of salt per 25KG bag of cement, you will err slightly on the side of caution.

3. If you are wanting very "smoothable" mortar / cement, add a good squirt of a quality washing up liquid. Fairy etc.

4. Buy playpit sand (very clean) and add upto 1 part in 4 to a good quality exterior grade paint for a heavily textured effect. Using less will give you a more subtle "sandtex" effect. No great surprise to find that it is indeed SAND that is used to make these paints. Just works out boatloads cheaper to make it yourself - then you can also choose how fine / coarse you would like it too!