DIY & Improvements

Unpredictable electrics, cold spots, floor drafts and how to fix them quickly

According to a study by, a maintenance company that provides local electricians in London, 64% of people feel unsettled in their homes due to unresolved maintenance issues.

Many people in the study reported feeling unsettled due to long-standing issues they didn’t know how to fix. And as with many problems, it’s the not knowing where to start that creates a barrier to finding a solution. So how can you go about quickly (and cheaply) solving some of the most common issues causing consternation in the home?

Cold spots

Have you ever walked into a room and felt an unexpected chill? The window is closed and the central heating has been firing all day, so what’s the cause? In most cases, ‘cold spots’ are caused by one of two things; leaking windows or under-performing heating systems.

The best way to check for the first cause is to take a cigarette lighter or candle and guide it around the edge of any windows or door frames, taking very special care not to put it too close to your curtains or anything else flammable.

If the flame flickers, it’s a sign that you’ve got a gap. These gaps can be too small for the eye to detect, but the flame will show if there’s air moving in or out of the crack. Take a pencil and gently mark the point where you suspect the leak. Now, you can either fill this in with builder’s putty, filler or you can call in a professional joiner.

If the flame test doesn’t throw up any clues, check your heating system. Put the heating on full power for five to ten minutes, then – taking care not to scald your hand (use a towel to be sure), feel around the radiator. If the radiator is hotter at the bottom than at the top, this is a sure sign that you have air trapped in your radiator. To fix this you need to vent, or ‘bleed’ the radiator.

All you need is a small bowl and a radiator key. First, put the bowl under the radiator valve to catch any water that flows out. Then, using the radiator key (these cost a few pounds from any DIY or even pound shop), turn the valve very slowly in a clockwise direction. If you hear air whooshing out, you’ve found your problem. Leave the valve open until the airflow stops. This means the trapped air has escaped. Close the valve and wait for the room to heat up.

Floor drafts

Stripped wooden floors have been trendy in the UK for over a decade now, and they do look incredibly chic. But there’s always an issue with floor drafts. In most homes, there’s a ventilation cavity under your floor to prevent damp. But this cavity relies on airflow. And if you’ve got cracks or gaps anywhere in your flooring, the cold air will have a chilling effect on your entire room.

Here’s a really good fix that’ll seal up the gaps and leave your floor looking great. All you need is some rough sandpaper, a butter knife and some polyvinyl acetate (PVA, or wood glue). First, vigorously rub a patch of floor to create some saw dust. If you’ve got varnished floors you can re-apply to give a consistent finish. If you’ve got ‘shabby chic’ unvarnished floors, you won’t really notice the difference, but if it bothers you, sand a patch that isn’t normally seen, such as under a sofa.

Take the saw dust and place it into a mixing bowl or into a clean pot. Then add some wood glue. Stir it with the butter knife until it forms a paste. Then ‘spread’ it into the gaps and leave it to dry. Because the paste is formed of sawdust from the floorboards, you’ve already got an instant colour-match. Hey-presto, cheap and quick floor filler.

Unpredictable electrics

If your lights flicker, your plugs spark or your appliances seem to have a mind of their own, this could be to do with old or failing electrics in your home. In fact, if you’ve ever detected an unusual ‘fishy’ smell during periods of high appliance usage (such as Saturday night when everyone’s watching TV), this could well be the smell of overheated wire casing.

Quite a lot of people in the study said that unpredictable electrics had them on edge, especially during winter. However, this is one area where we can’t recommend anything other than calling in electrician. But don’t be alarmed, the problem could be simple to fix, such as an isolated fault with the consumer unit or a fuse that keeps blowing.

It’s stressful when you’ve got nagging maintenance issues, especially if you’re not sure where to start troubleshooting. If in doubt, always consult a professional, but hopefully with this guide you’ll be able to tackle some of the smaller problems by yourself and with confidence.

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