3 DIY Projects for Your Edinburgh Home During Lockdown – Part 1

Lockdown is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, staying at home keeps us safe and allows us time to learn new skills, take up a hobby or, heaven forbid, simply relax – an alien concept for people who are used to juggling the high demands of modern life. However, there is only so long a yoga novice can sit in the lotus position before boredom…or cramp…sets in. Inevitably, your zen-like state will come to an abrupt halt when the door creaks open and the dog wanders in leaving you wondering when the hinges were last treated. Then you spot the mould on the window frames and make your mind up that it’s time for a spot of DIY – but where to start? To help you, Edinburgh-based builder and period property restoration specialist, Mackenzie Hughes has compiled a list of the most urgent maintenance jobs you may want to deal with to keep your property in tip-top condition. They have also been grouped into 3 separate projects –exterior, interior and garden projects which we will publish over the next three weeks beginning with the exterior. We hope it proves useful.

Safety first

Before starting any maintenance jobs on the list think ‘safety first’ and assess the risks to avoid ending up at A&E when the NHS is stretched to its limit. For example, some of the jobs we’ve listed require the use of a ladder so here is a link to a PDF from the Health and Safety Executive on ladder safety which we recommend you read. Here is also a link to a great little YouTube video on the same topic. Although it’s American the principles are the same.

Of course, if you would prefer, you can hire a local trades person to take care of exterior jobs – just make sure they are insured, come highly recommended and that you continue to stick to social distancing rules. Speaking of social distancing, many of the DIY superstores have now opened albeit to a mixed response from the public and you may prefer to shop online for everything you need so we have supplied web links to companies that do home deliveries. It would be worthwhile checking their delivery schedules however, as there may well be delays at this time. 

Property exterior

Roof – When tackling a home maintenance project its best to start at the top and work your way down. However, replacing damaged roof tiles on your property is a job best left to the professionals, so you should hire a specialist roofing company once the lockdown is over as it would best to attend to this before winter comes. When replacing old tiles don’t look for cheap substitutes but replace like for like…not just for the aesthetics, but also to retain the heritage of your property which will help retain its value. The type of roof covering you have will largely depend on the period in which it was built. For example, if you own a period property your roof covering can include Welsh slate, Scottish slate, clay slate, copper or lead.

Example of Scottish slate on the roof of an Edinburgh New Town property 

Image courtesy of Real Homes

Gutters and drainpipes – Blocked gutters mean rainwater will overflow and run down your walls which in turn can cause dampness. Repairs can cost dearly so a little annual maintenance will pay dividends in the long run. When clearing away debris from gutters always work from the top of the downpipe to the stop end of the gutter to avoid leaves or other debris falling into your drainpipe. Also check on the condition of your drainpipes and if they are original cast iron it would be useful to give them a coat of bitumen to help preserve them. 

Most modern homes have plastic gutters which are easy to replace. B&Q online also has a handy DIY guide to replacing your gutters.

Repointing stonework – This is a job you can carry out yourself with a bit of advice and the right tools so here are some pointers (no pun intended) to steer you in the right direction. Our homes are made up of a series of building blocks whether stone, brick or some other material glued in place by mortar. In period homes this mortar may have been a mixture of sand and lime (or even earth and lime) with the facings of the joints finished off (ie pointed) with a lime mortar. The reason for using lime mortar is that it allows your home to breath and water and moisture to evaporate. Modern ‘superwarm’ homes tend to use a cement mortar and cement pointing so it’s important to know which type of mortar to use. A word of caution; never use a cement mortar to repoint a period property because when it hardens it can trap moisture and damage the stonework.


Image courtesy of

When to Repoint Your Walls

You will need to repoint your walls when the mortar has receded some 5 to 10mm back from the face or some of the masonry is damaged or showing signs of dampness. Here are some tips on how to do it. There is also a more indepth ‘how to’ guide on Homebuilding UK.

  • First of all, only use hand tools. You can buy a pack of inexpensive repointing tools from Toolstation
  • Use appropriate lime mortar which should be matched to the old pointing as closely as possible. You can buy lime mortar online from Masons Mortar.
  • Rake out old pointing to around 10mm deep using a joint raker or hammer and chisel . Large joints will need to be raked deeper but take care not to compromise the stability of the masonry. Dampen the joints with a fine water spray
  • Mix the mortar in a bucket with water (or hire a small cement mixer) until it has a thick porridge-like consistency
  • Dampen the joints with a fine water spray then put a quantity of lime mortar onto the flat of a mortar trowel or hawk and place it up to wall so you can force the mortar into the joints using a pointing iron or small trowel. Make sure it is well packed but avoid getting it on the masonry. If the joints are very deep this will be a two-stage process.
  • Use a dry paint brush to brush away any excess mortar and allow it to dry protecting it from the sun and wind.

After you’ve tackled the exterior of your home you can take a well-earned rest; it’s time to unroll the yoga mat again! In the next blog we will guide you through some key DIY jobs for the interior of your Edinburgh home. Until then, stay safe and if you need further advice on any of the topics covered above contact Mackenzie Hughes

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