Instagram DIY sensation turned author Laura DeBarra tells all.
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Corkonian and property portfolio developer Laura DeBarra has been dubbed Ireland’s answer to Mrs. Hinch, but it’s not her cleaning skills that have her Insta follower count rising, but her #SheIY skills. In her line of work, she was constantly coming across little problems that could be easily fixed, if only tenants and homeowners knew how. This led to her sharing tips online, which have resulted in her lovely book, Gaff Goddess.
“While I was decorating properties at work, I would often come across something that needed to be fixed as a result of misuse or wear and tear. This combined with a never-ending list of tenant repair requests meant that I had notebook after notebook full of lessons learned or the best ways to carry out different tasks. There were some things that just kept popping up, thins I realised just weren’t common knowledge but could make a huge difference to the way our homes run. I had put some up on Instagram but my skills and time there are pretty limited, so I started to write these up to make it into a PDF for friends. I planned on giving it to anyone who was moving into a new house to make life a little easier. It also was really useful for work as I could now send parts to tenants. I started to think of it as a home bible that could help save people time and money so when my publishers Penguin got in touch to ask I I would consider writing a book, it was a no brainer!”
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Laura says that her message is that home care doesn’t need to be terrifying, or cost the earth. “It can be fun, and makes a huge difference in how we feel about our space. It’s something men and women can enjoy without needing extensive knowledge or a lot of practice. I see so many people living with blown bulbs, leaking showers, not making the best use of space and it’s usually because they just haven’t learned how, not because they are ‘useless’ or bad at doing it themselves. I wanted to make people think differently about DIY and the stereotyping around it.”
Laura’s tips on keeping an eye on your home as time goes by, extracted from Gaff Goddess.
Wall cracks are super common, especially in new builds. When they’re of the tiny variety seen near windows and doors, it’s usually the building settling into itself and they can continue to appear for a few years after the property has been built. They are easily repaired with some filler and a coat of paint. I’ll cover how to do this later in the book so you can rest assured it’s on the easy-to-repair list! The more sinister cracks are the ones that don’t tend to run in a straight line and are wider. They’re more common in older properties and can sometimes be a sign of the foundations moving. I would have a professional check out any that are over 2mm wide.
If, once you’ve filled all your cracks, you still find that there are other issues with your property’s walls – marks, stains, discolouration – you’ll find that a simple coat of paint can cover these easily. If you have an older home, I’d advise using matte paint that won’t bounce light from dents and imperfections, thus highlighting them. It will instead create a smoother look to the walls and woodwork.
Poor or inadequate ventilation in a bathroom can lead to a world of pain. If there’s black mould on your walls or ceiling, the paint is peeling and it takes a long time for steam to clear after a shower, you might need to install an extractor fan or you might have an underperforming one in place. The easiest way to see whether it’s in full working order is to hold some tissue paper against it when it’s on. Remove your hand and if the power of the fan alone can hold the tissue against it, it’s working fine. When I’m inspecting a new property, I like to put a length of four squares of tissue against the fan to really put it through its paces. If it fails this test, it’s time to call in an electrician to assess whether it can be repaired.
Mould can be super dangerous for anyone with asthma or allergies, and it should be dealt with as soon as you notice it appear.
If you spot any damp patches on walls, ceiling or floors, I’d advise acting on these immediately – leaking water can cause a lot of damage very quickly. Leaks from an adjacent property can also affect your home and your neighbours might not be aware of the problem. So, if you can’t find the source of the leak within your own home, check if it could be coming from your neighbours’ pipe, or even an external one. Smaller leaks are usually caused by loose or worn fittings and can be fixed easily there and then. One of the most common leaks I see is under the kitchen sink.
It’s almost always the result of pipes having knocked during use of the cupboard underneath, or someone having unscrewed them to unblock the sinks and not tightened them enough afterwards.
If I see water sitting on the floor of a cupboard under the sink, I tighten all the fittings, put down some kitchen towel or a cloth and run the tap full blast. If the towel or cloth stays dry I know the fittings are back to working as they should. If it doesn’t stay dry and water is still escaping from the joints of the pipes, it could mean a washer needs to be replaced. A plumbing washer is essentially a rubber seal that prevents water from leaking through a threaded fastener. So when you see a screw-in part in a pipe, which is a nut, there will always be a washer present inside.
If, as you do your assessment, you find yourself staring at a long list of issues and losing your mind a little, do not fear. One thing that can make a huge difference to your home is flooring. A large inexpensive rug can cover a host of issues, such as ugly old carpets or worn-out floorboards, and give you some time to focus on the more pressing and less expensive jobs at hand. Rugs are also a quick fix if you find yourself renting and stuck with carpets you hate. Remember, if you’re placing a rug on a laminate or slippery floor, make sure it is secured firmly with a rug grip.
Gaff Goddess is out not, published by Penguin Random House, €14.99