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Your guide to danger-free DIY this year

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New year, new home. That’s how many people feel – and for those who already own a property, that often means that DIY home improvement projects are on the cards for the next few months.

However, it’s almost a cliché that the first thing you should buy for your workshop or toolbox when starting out on the DIY route is a first-aid kit, because of the large numbers of home handymen that get injured and even hospitalised every year.

But rather than let that deter you completely, just be sure to start slow, with smaller and easier projects, until you become familiar with your equipment and build up your skills – and to follow the following expert suggestions for avoiding the most common DIY injuries:

  • Always wear safety glasses or goggles, whether using power tools, stripping paint or just hammering in a nail.
  • Protect your hearing. Use ear muffs or plugs when working with noisy tools or mowers.
  • Wear a safety harness when working on a roof or tall ladder.
  • Wear gloves and overalls to protect your skin when using pesticides or installing fiberglass insulation materials.
  • Tie hair back and don’t wear loose sleeves or jewellery when using power tools.
  • Ventilate your work area properly, especially when using a paint sprayer or chemicals like paint stripper and varnish.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher or bucket of sand handy when working with any flammable substance.
  • Don’t run an extension cord over an area you will repeatedly traverse during the project, because you increase the odds of tripping over it or making it fray and cause an electrical short.
  • Clean up as you go, removing spent nails or screws, empty containers and bits of timber, tile or brick as you complete each section of a project.
  • Wear a mask to prevent dust inhalation if you’re sawing or sanding, but use a proper respirator if you’re working with high-fume glues and varnishes.

And finally, you will save yourself and your family much trouble by just admitting that there are some projects – like electrical wiring and plumbing – that really must be done by a qualified specialist.


How to fix your children’s DIY decor

Suddenly the house goes quiet, and you walk into a room to find your children beaming proudly at you over a carpet full of nail polish, or trying to hide a pet which has been mysteriously dyed bright green. What do you do, besides want to pretend you didn’t see it? Well, at BetterLife Home Loans we know how much you love your home, so we’ve compiled a list of how-to’s to help keep your carpets, wooden floors, walls (and pets) stain-free, no matter how artistic your children want to get.

Food colouring:

Food colouring

Food colouring is a persistent stain. Hydrogen peroxide (tested on a less-visible area first, to ensure you don’t bleach the surface) can be applied to the stain, left for a few minutes, and then wiped with a clean towel. For stubborn stains, brushing the peroxide into the surface works well. Rinse using a cloth and water, then dry thoroughly. If it is on skin, let it fade naturally, or apply baby cream to the area.


Drawing on wall with crayons

A thick paste made from baking soda and water dissolves most kinds of grease (including tough pan grease). For wall drawings, dab some onto the stain before gently rubbing with a clean cloth, rinsing and wiping it dry. For wooden floors or furniture, a cloth and a few drops of mineral solvent will do the trick. Always test an inconspicuous area first before applying a cleaning agent, to ensure you don’t damage your house or furniture.


Drawing on wall with crayons

For clothes, scrape off excess paint then if possible, saturate the surface with isopropyl alcohol. Once this is done, scrape the area with a butter knife or your nails, then wash as usual.


Vaseline Mohawk

Vaseline may be your best friend for a diaper rash, but certainly not for your child’s hair. Normal shampoo won’t do the trick if your toddler decides to style themselves a Mohawk. Pat baby powder or corn starch (Maizena) into their hair to absorb the jelly, then wash with warm water and shampoo. Otherwise, mix some baking soda into regular baby shampoo, then wash and rinse out.

Nail polish:

Child painting nails

Blot up the excess lacquer, then apply a small amount of acetone to stain and blot again. Repeat the process until the stain no longer responds. If it remains, apply a small amount of hydrogen peroxide, sponge with cold water and blot dry again.


Blue Tack/Prestik

If Prestik is stuck in your carpet, saturate the area with a citrus-based cleaning agent, leave it to dry and soften, then pick off. Use a cloth and cool water to rinse residue.


Ink-stained shirt

To gently remove ink, use a little bit of baby oil, or olive oil. Nail polish remover and rubbing alcohol work quickly, but are less gentle. Dab some onto a cotton ball and wipe the area, but be sure to avoid the eye and mouth areas if possible. If you’re removing ink from dog fur, wash your pup with a mix of warm water and dish soap, then rinse with warm water.



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Pantone Colour of the Year 2015: How to Use Marsala in Your Home

Marsala has been crowned as one of the most infamous Pantone Colours of the Year by the all-ruling democracy of The Internet. Happily, however, designers and decorators all over the world have pitted their wits against the colour, and displayed how beautiful and versatile it actually is. Below we’ve collected some of our favourite ideas on how to use this gorgeous, warm shade in your home.

Bounce off the walls

Marsala wall & deco

Marsala wall

Don’t be afraid to get a little crazy with your wall colour – Marsala is just bright enough to keep things interesting, while offering enough depth to not “over-do it”. As you can see, it works stunningly well with gold accents, as well as wood and neutral colours, like shades of cream or brown.

 Take the floor

Marsala rug

A well-placed Marsala rug can add just the right pizazz to an empty-looking room. The sultry colour exudes winter warmth and naturally, a rug will keep a little bit more heat in your home by covering a tile floor.

Marsala rug

Go through the roof

Marsala Ceiling

Every new generation of designers loves going against the rules of the previous one: painting a striking ceiling is the latest in-thing and the mark of true modernity. This ceiling is coupled with loads of white, cream and sand accents, as well as patterned wallpaper, which all combine to make the room feel spacious despite the “painted ceiling” taboo.

Part of the furniture

Marsala Accents

Ideas for Marsala furniture in your home range from couch covers to painting a signature bookshelf or cabinet this wine-red hue.

Marsala Couch

Pair it with lighter hues of cream, sand and camel for a lighter feel, or deepen it with a touch of chocolate brown for a more demure atmosphere.

Marsala Two-seater

Furniture in an interesting shade can add some colour without completely embodying the room. If you don’t want to take the plunge right away, try painting a small side table or cabinet first – you’ll be itching for more soon after.

A little here and a little there

Marsala flower arrangement

A wonderful way to combine the colour into your décor without anything too permanent is to add touches of it to your existing layout.

Marsala detailed scatter cushion

Scatter cushions are king. Go crazy with different patterns and sizes to spice up a modern look, or opt for a lush Marsala throw-rug or two. You’ll be winter-comfy and stylish all in one go.

Ombre Marsala/Cream scatter

If you’re dreaming of a stylish new studio to re-do with Marsala, but the home you’re in isn’t providing any inspiration, try our home loan calculator, or speak to one of our friendly estate agents today.


Image Credits:

Oxford Design studio

Why you should polish up your bathroom before selling

shutterstock_130480508As every estate agent will tell you, spotless bathrooms are key selling points when putting your home on the market – coming a close second to an attractive kitchen – and it may not be as difficult as you think to put a sparkle in your buyer’s eye.

While luxury homes sometimes offer bathrooms on the scale of a Roman bath house, with stretches of marble and impressive columns, under-floor heating, steam showers and even fridges and fireplaces these days, even a modest update of an ordinary bathroom can increase the appeal of your home and bring about a quicker sale.

What is more, homeowners can expect to recover at least 70% of the cost of any bathroom renovation once they sell, according to the latest Cost v Value report from Remodelling Magazine.

If you can afford it, you should consider replacing the old bathroom suite, having the floor and walls tiled and installing a vanity. Home improvement guru, Bob Vila, has some great DIY options to check out for inspiration.

But if you’re on a very tight budget, or need to sell urgently, try just repainting the bathroom in a neutral shade and installing a large new medicine/makeup cabinet and some additional lighting for a quick fix

Then make sure all surfaces, especially mirrors and fittings, are polished up to a sparkle, hang some new towels and add attractive extras such as flowers, candles and bottles of bath oil for a luxurious look.

For more budget-friendly bathroom update ideas, take a look at these tips to keep your budget in check.

The good-value kitchen revamp

Everyone knows that a good-looking kitchen is often the deciding factor in a home sale, but what homeowners may not know is that they don’t necessarily have to spend a fortune to create a kitchen that will really impress potential buyers.


For example, if you have steel or wood cabinets that are basically in good shape, a skilled painter can make them look great again by disassembling them, sanding them down, painting them inside and out and reinstalling. At the same time you should fit gleaming new hinges, handles and drawer pulls.

If you decide that the cabinets really need replacing, look around at the in-stock and DIY options available through companies like Builder’s Warehouse  ( and Lotters Pine ( before you consider having new cabinets custom made. These outlets also have a great range of readymade cabinet doors in standard sizes that you can fit to old concrete (built in) cupboards to give them a bright modern look.

Next you will need new countertops to go with the revamped or replaced cabinets. Most popular are modern, durable laminates available in a huge range of finishes and much cheaper than tiles or granite. But if you really want a “stone” finish, you should consider Caesarstone (, a quartz and resin compound that also comes in a wide range of colours and is very durable.

But before you even think about cabinets and countertops, you need to deal with the basics that will also help to give your kitchen that freshly done look. These include: 

  • Plumbing. You can keep costs down by not changing the position of the sink or the outlets for a dishwasher and/or washing machine. However, you might want to put in a new sink and get a plumber to fit a shiny new mixer or taps.  
  • Electrical outlets and light fittings. Get an electrician to check that all the electrical switches and outlets in your kitchen are safe (especially if they are anywhere near water) and consider installing new cover-plates and even a couple of new outlets if you’re currently using multi-plugs. At the same time, the light fittings can be quickly and easily updated from an extensive selection at stores like the Lighting Warehouse ( or one of the Radiant dealers around South Africa ( Pick fittings that are “neutral” or clinical in design, easy to install and preferably use LED globes. 
  • Flooring. Ceramic tiles are the most durable floor surface but they are expensive (and disruptive) to install so if your floor is not already tiled, you should opt for something else. Marley tiles (see are a practical choice as they are easy to clean and easily replaced if damaged. For a more luxe look, cushioned vinyl tile or sheeting is an excellent and relatively inexpensive option (see
  • Walls. Don’t worry if the kitchen walls are not fully tiled. Just repaint with a matt, washable paint in a pale neutral colour (see And don’t forget the ceiling, which should preferably be white, and the doors and architraves.

Start a toolkit and get hooked for life

You may not be a DIY enthusiast now, but there are many everyday situations you will encounter as a new homeowner or tenant that require you to have at least a few basic tools on hand, and that’s how it starts.

Although you can probably change a plug with a nail file or a knife, it’s a lot easier with a screwdriver – which can also be used for all sorts of other tasks. Similarly, a hammer comes in really handy when trying to hang pictures, and a tape measure is really useful when trying to decide if a new piece of furniture would fit the space you have available.


Besides, the more small repairs and alterations you are able to do yourself, the more money you will save. And there is plenty of how-to advice available on the internet these days, even if you are usually all thumbs. This will of course require you to expand your “repair kit”, and experts suggest you gather at least the following items:

  • A can of Q20 for oiling hinges and unsticking locks
  • A roll of duct tape
  • A pair of pliers and some wire cutters
  • A utility knife
  • A putty knife
  • A straight edge
  • A small spirit level
  • A plunger
  • Some picture wire
  • Some strong string
  • Some cable ties
  • Sandpaper in fine and rough grades
  • Screws and nails in various sizes
  • A bottle of wood glue
  • A can or tube of contact glue
  • A tube of waterproof silicone sealer

Also on your list should be some items that will make your forays into basic home maintenance easier and safer, including some rubber gloves, a strong torch or work light, some safety glasses, a pair of ear protectors, and a first-aid kit.

With this little lot, and some expert advice from your favourite handyman site, YouTube instruction video, or magazine (see‎, you’ll soon be able to take many household items apart, mend them and put them back together, cut cables to length, trim and lay carpet, reseal your bath, change door locks, unblock a sink, and handle a host of other household “chores” that you might previously have paid someone else to do.

The more you do and the more confidence you gain, the more you’ll probably want to do. Successful DIY (yes, that’s what this is now) is known to be addictive, and you’ll know you’re hooked when you start thinking about buying an actual toolbox to hold all your gear.

However, you’d better not buy a small one. The minute you start thinking about putting up shelves, you’ll need space for a drill and possibly a saw or two. And then there’s that electric sander you need to speed up the repainting or revarnishing jobs, the set of Allen keys for assembling flat-pack furniture, more screwdrivers, the rubber mallet, the tile-cutter, a crowbar… you get the idea.

Come to think of it, perhaps what you really need is a workshop.

Designer pieces for your home

Every dream home needs the perfect designer pieces to accompany it. We’ve compiled our favourite pieces from South African designers and fashionable retailers of designer furniture to give you some ideas to help you complete your home. From reception desks to outdoor loungers, you’re bound to see something you like.

Dream wonderful dreams as you sleep peacefully on this beautiful Oak Queen Pallet Bed. It is a stylish, simple and clean sleeping unit that retails from Weylandts for R5495. It would go well in an industrial, modern home surrounded by beige and white. The recycled pallet look is very fashionable currently, and the wheels make it easy to move (though hopefully they are sturdy, as you wouldn’t want to move around in your sleep!).



This Tuxedo Chair from Herman Miller is exquisitely detailed. It comes either with or without arms, and the price is available on request. It has a sort of retro 70’s feel to it, and could be a nice contrast to an ultra-modern home, or would fit right in with any retro designer home.


Build the perfect library with your very own stunning Library book shelf from Coricraft. This walnut antique-style bookshelf would be a wonderful addition to any study or lounge. The ladder gives it that ‘old Victorian home’ feel, and it would be great as a shelving unit or book shelf. The book shelf retails at R19995 from Coricraft.


Make your outdoor area somewhere special with this stunning Voyage Outdoor Daybed by Kenneth Cobonpue. The ‘lounger’ is for sale at Weylandts, and retails from R48,500. Its stylish frame would look great in any outdoor setting, and its comfortable mattress and soft cushioning are ideal for lounging around the pool on those long lazy summer days.



This Lampung Reception Desk with Burgundy Inlay would make a wonderful addition to any home entrance. It is simple and elegant, with several fine details added to give it the perfect finish.


Summer colours for your home DIY purposes!

Summer is usually a time for bright colours and vibrant hues, and whilst we do LOVE a splash of colour, more subtle tones can complement the vibrancy of the summer sun. We have compiled a number of colours that we think are sure to enhance your home and give your home some summer style.


Add this colour to liven up a drab white room if you are looking for a space that is calming, comforting but also a little exciting, all without having to throw bright red all over the show. Aqua goes very well with dark, rich colours such as the brown floors pictured below. Aqua is a happy fairly bold colour, so can be used to punctuate a room. For example, painting just one of your walls aqua can go a long way towards livening up a room.

Design Dazzle aqua

Image courtesy of Design Dazzle

Misty blues and soft greys

These colours can give a lovely calming feeling to any room, allowing the summer light to bounce off them, and always go well with white and other light colours. The blue and grey complement each other very well, especially when coupled with white.  Adding flowers like tulips and orchids around the room can go a long way towards completing this mild and modern colour scheme.

contemporary-design-pale-blue-living-room by apartments I like

Image courtesy of Apartments I like

Pale yellow

Colours like daffodil, iris and even certain orchids can be your inspiration. Paint walls, cabinets or chairs this wonderful colour, or even buy duvets and pillows of this shade, to make any room happy and light. Don’t overdo it though, as yellow can be quite a jarring colour. It is important to get the right shade for your home. If a yellow wall faces the sun, it can often reflect a lot of light, which can be very harsh on the eyes. Yellow cushions can also make a room playful and fun.


Image courtesy of Cottage Blue Designs

Faded brown

Brown, beige and ivory go well together to create a peaceful surrounding in a light, open lounge area, especially if the lush greens of your garden area provide a nice background, giving a nature-like feel to your home. If you do not have a lovely green garden in view, consider adding a few plants such as palm trees or even bonsais around the room, as these can provide a stunning contrast with the brown, making a room fell more ‘earthy’.


Image courtesy of Infoteli

Awe-inspiring festive home decorations

Marvel at these wonderful home decorations from around the world. Lights, trees, baubles and reindeer… see the glitz and glam of the festive season, and perhaps get inspiration for next year!


A classically decorated red and white home. This home seems straight out of a story book!


A less classic, but more festive, home. Giant snowmen, candy canes and Santa on the roof. This home screams ‘Fun!’


A tastefully decorated shop window.


It’s not Christmas unless you have a life-sized reindeer tacked on to the roof of your car.


These outdoor decorations are fantastic, and seem to have been done by a perfectionist.


Tasteful wasn’t really on the agenda here, but ‘wild’ might have been.


A simple and clean, but still quite ostentatiously decorated home. Though we aren’t entirely certain if those are flamingos or reindeer.


This home is decorated like a castle, and even has a princess crown on top!


Can you guess the theme? We are not sure what is happening here, but clearly Santa, his reindeer, a snowman and all the wintry creatures decided to have a party.

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