Home repair hints and tips 

It is important to keep your home safe and in a state of good repair.

Below are some hints and tips to help you deal with common home repairs that you are responsible for fixing and are not covered by Great Places' repairs service.

This information is designed as a guide only. If you do not feel confident about carrying out these repairs yourself then we recommend you contact a suitably qualified tradesperson. Great Places cannot take responsibility for any damage caused to you or your home in trying to carry out these repairs.

If your fuse box keeps tripping it means you have a faulty electrical item or wiring somewhere in your home. Working out what is wrong is a process of elimination, and you can often do this by following these simple steps:

  • Unplug everything in your home — removing all plugs from their sockets.


  • Switch the electricity supply back on (by flicking the switch that is facing the wrong way to the others at the fuse box), then push the RCD down so it is green.
  • Start plugging items back in, one at a time, until the electricity trips again. This will identify that the last appliance plugged in was the faulty appliance.
  • Do not use this item again until it has been checked by a qualified electrician or replaced.
  • If you still have no power after conducting this trip test, please contact us.

Smoke detectors can be battery-powered or wired into the mains. But nearly all smoke detectors, including those that run on household current, contain a battery (they use this battery to provide backup power in a fire).

Smoke detectors with fully-functional batteries are critical to the safety of your family and home so if you hear beeping or chirping from your alarm it means the battery is low. Do not ignore this. Change the battery immediately. Do not ever remove the battery without replacing it with a new one.

  • Remove the cover or body — pry the cover open/unclip the body of the detector from its base with a slight twisting motion. Inside, you will find three main parts: the sensing chamber, a loud horn, and a battery (and in some cases, house voltage power source).


  • Replace the battery — unclip the old battery from its holder. Most detectors use a nine-volt battery and you need to install a brand new, lithium nine-volt battery. Make sure the +ve and -ve terminals are properly aligned.


  • Close up — snap the cover shut or lock the body of the smoke detector back into its base.
  • Test it — press the test button on the surface of the detector to make sure the battery is working. When the button is pressed, the detector should beep or chirp.


  • Unscrew the doorbell using a screwdriver or drill if the doorbell is mounted.
  • Open the battery compartment of your doorbell.
  • Remove the old batteries from the doorbell and replace them with the new batteries.
  • Close the battery mount.
  • Test the doorbell to make sure it works.    

Changing the light bulbs in your home is your responsibility. Great Places will only attend if the bulb has been changed and we have identified a faulty light fitting. A re-charge can be added to your account if we are called out and the problem is a faulty bulb.

You can purchase replacement bulbs from DIY, hardware stores and supermarkets. Follow these tips to change them safely.

If you do not feel confident to change these yourself then we recommend you contact a suitably qualified tradesperson.

Strip/fluorescent light

strip_light If your light isn't coming on or is flickering/coming on intermittently, then your bulb needs replacing or you may need to install a new starter motor.

Changing a bulb 

  • Turn off the light switch (if you want to be extra careful turn off the lighting fuse on your fuse board too).
  • Remove the cover (diffuser). You do this by:
    • Pulling the white 'click' at the end of light off, while holding onto the cover (once the click has been removed, the cover will fall down)  
    • Putting your hand behind the cover, around a quarter of the way down, on each side and unclicking the cover.
  • Turn the long bulb 90 degrees and it should fall out (if it does not come out then turn and wiggle until the pins disconnect from the fitting).        
  • Insert a new bulb and twist it 90 degrees to secure it.       
  • Retrace your steps to re-fit the cover.

Changing the starter motor

  • Turn off the light switch (if you want to be extra careful turn off the lighting fuse on your fuse board too).
  • The starter will either be visible on the light fitting (on the side above cove/bulb level) or it will be situated under the bulb (it can only be changed once the bulb has been removed). It is round/cylindrical shaped.
  • Turn it anti-clockwise — it should pull out easily.
  • Put the new starter in to the fitting and turn clockwise to secure it.

    Enclosed light fitting


    You may have an enclosed light fitting in your bathroom. We have to fit these lights to meet current electrical regulations and they are fitted as standard on new build properties. We replace any faulty bathroom pendants with these new fittings in all our other properties too.

    Which bulbs do they take?

    These types of light fittings usually require one of the two bulb types below. However, there can be slight variations so we would always advise you follow the steps below for changing the bulb then take the old one with you when purchasing a replacement. Check whether the bulb has two or four pins on connection.
    • 16W 2D lamp — two or four pins
    • 28W 2D lamp — two or four pins

    Changing the bulb


    Turn off the light switch (if you want to be extra careful turn off the lighting fuse on your fuse board too).

    • Remove the cover.
      • Type A – screw fixed cover. This cover is held in place by screws, and when undone will come straight off.
      • Type B – non screw fixed cover. Gently push the cover inwards and towards one side, and the cover will pop off.


    • Remove the bulb by holding it firmly in the centre (not the tube itself) and pull it out. If the unit is stiff, just gently wiggle the lamp on the way out. There are no catches or clips to release the lamp.
    • Re-fit the cover.
    • If you are unable to change the lamp, try asking a friend or relative to help. 

    You can also search YouTube for videos that show you how to change bulbs.



    Step one: unblocking a toilet manually

    If you know what’s blocking the toilet — and you think you can dislodge it manually — use your gloved hands to do so. If you manage to remove the blockage, be sure to complete step two to flush debris down the drain. Your toilet’s function should return to normal.

    Step two: using hot water and gravity to flush manually

    Unblocking toilet pipes can be as simple as pouring hot water into the toilet bowl from a height. The hot water should help dissolve blockages and gravity will push water harder through the pipes than a normal flushing process. Be careful not to scald yourself.

    Step three: unblocking a toilet with suction


    Everyone knows you can unblock toilet pipes with a plunger, but did you know there are different types of plungers — and you need to choose the right one for your toilet?

    Ask at your local DIY shop for the right model and then get to work: slowly push down on the plunger to produce a vacuum over the hole, then sharply pull the handle up to dislodge the clog. Make sure the toilet bowl has water in, or you won’t get the right effect. Repeat as needed to dislodge debris and clear the blockage.

    Step four: Using a commercial drain cleaner for toilets 

    This is the last step you should try before calling out a plumber. Only use this method if you’re sure the blockage is organic, not plastic or metal. Read the instructions carefully and be sure to take any necessary safety precautions.

    Please note that if items not designed to be flushed down the toilet such as nappies or wipes are discovered as the cause of a blockage and you ask us to attend after you have tried all of the above methods to unblock the toilet you may be recharged for the call out.

    How to unblock a sink

    1. Clear the plug hole thoroughly.
    2. Pour baking soda down the plug followed by vinegar*.
    3. Wait a short amount of time and then flush through warm water.
    4. If necessary, pour a small amount of bleach down the sink and leave overnight. Then flush through warm water.
    5. If the blockage is still there, look beneath the sink and locate the first bend in the pipe that falls down from the plug hole.
    6. Place a washing-up bowl beneath the bend and slowly unscrew the U-bend, allowing water to drain at a steady pace.
    7. When the water has completely drained, clean the U-bend thoroughly. (A hooked coat hanger may help you reach anything lodged in the tube).
    *Make sure the vinegar is completely flushed away before pouring bleach or any other chemical substance in to the sink.


    • Turning off the water — your stop valve is a metal tap that you can turn off by rotating it clockwise until it’s completely closed. Don’t force it if it’s stiff – just spray a WD40 on the spindle to free it up.
    • If it’s an isolated leak...then turning off your isolation valves will be just as effective. They control the water supply to washing machines, dishwashers, taps, electric showers and toilet cisterns. Turning off here means you won’t need to go without water in the rest of the house. You can do this using a flat-head screwdriver. Again, turn the valve 90 degrees so that it’s across the direction of the pipe.
    • Damage control — grab a bucket and place it under the leak. If it’s a minor pipe leak, grab a towel and wrap it around the pipe. It’s possible to limit the amount of water spraying out by reducing pressure in the system so turn on your taps to do this. If the leak is near electrical fittings, turn off all electricity at the fuse board.

    1. Remove the old toilet seat wearing rubber gloves— there should be two wing nuts holding the old seat on to the toilet bowl.
    2. Check the size of the old seat to ensure your new one fits.   
    3. Install the new toilet seat by sliding the plastic bolts into the slots on the back of the new seat and tighten the screws.

    Painted doors can sometimes stick (usually because of a paint build up) or stop closing properly but you can fix these things yourself.    

    • Start by sanding down the area that seems to be sticking with a sanding block. If this doesn't work use paint remover and scrape away excess paint. You might need to remove the door to do this. 
    • Once the area dries and is sanded smooth it can be repainted with a thin coating of paint. 
    • Allow paint to dry before closing the door again. 
    • If the door is not hanging straight or closing properly open the door to check the hinges.         
    • Check screws are secured and tighten them if needed.
    • If the screw has threaded, remove them and use plugs — long screws are the best to use.          

    Sometimes door hinges are too shallow, causing the hinge leaves to bind. This is also easy to repair and can be completed within a matter of minutes.        

    • Remove the door from its hinges then remove the hinges.
    • Use a small chisel to slightly deepen the recess before re-attaching the hinges and re-hanging the door.




    • Remove the screws from both sides of the door handle. If you can't see any screws, there will be a door plate covering them. This can be easily removed by flicking off the plate with a flat-head screwdriver.


    • Once the screws are removed, pull out the old handles. Take out the screws from the faceplate in the edge of the door (the faceplate links to the cylinder of the handle which controls the handle lever or latch). 


    • Pull out the handle cylinder. If the plate is hard to remove by hand, use a flat-head screwdriver under the edge of the plate and apply gentle pressure to pry it out. 


    • Insert the new cylinder and screw it into place. Make sure the faceplate is secure and screws are flush — otherwise the door won't close properly.

    A storage heater is wall-mounted and looks a bit like a radiator. It works by drawing electricity at night, and storing it as heat in a ‘bank’ of clay or ceramic bricks to use the next day.

    Storage heaters work best if the household is on an Economy 7 tariff. This is an arrangement with an energy supplier allowing you to access electricity at night at a cheaper rate than during the day — typically a third of the price.

    The hours of cheap electricity are normally 12 midnight until 07.00 in winter, and 01.00 to 08.00 in summer. 

    Night storage heater controls can be a bit confusing. Depending on your needs and circumstances your ideal settings might be different from the standard settings. Or they may change from day-to-day.

    Watch our storage heater video guide

    Input and output controls

    Every storage heater has a set of simple controls. The input setting allows you to regulate the amount of heat stored at night — even though night-rate electricity is cheap, there’s no point paying for more than you need. If it’s not particularly cold, or you’ll be out of the house for most of the day so won't need as much heat, set the input lower.

    The controls have an output setting that allows you to control how much the storage heater gives off — allowing you to release it gradually, saving some for the evening.

    Set the timer

    Some storage heaters have a timer that gives you even more control over the output. So you can programme your heater to come on at a time that suits you, for example when you get up in the morning. Others include a control regulating the amount of charge the heater draws at night.

    Some storage heaters have a ‘boost’ setting. This uses ‘peak-rate’ electricity directly from the mains, so should only be used if the stored heat has run out.

    Home heating advice 

    For information on home heating, including how to set the programmer on your electric panel heater, visit our home heating and environment advice page. 


    Condensation is caused by water vapour/moisture from inside your house coming into contact with a colder surface, such as a window or wall. It usually occurs during the colder months, in the corners of rooms, north-facing walls and on or near windows. It is also found in areas where there isn't much air circulating, including behind wardrobes and beds. It can then soak into wallpaper, paintwork or even plasterwork and cause black mould. 

    Condensation and mould growth

    Most homes will be affected by condensation at some point, caused by everyday activities such as:

    • Cooking
    • Washing
    • Drying clothes indoors
    • Breathing

    The amount of condensation in a home depends upon three things:

    • How much water vapour is being produced by activities in the house
    • How cold or warm the property is
    • How much air circulation (ventilation) there is

    Turning up the heating will reduce condensation but it won't sort the problem. You will need to address all three of the points above.

    Black mould

    Mould spores are invisible to the human eye and are present in our homes and outside. They only become noticeable when they land on a surface and grow.

    For mould to thrive it needs:

    • Moisture — from condensation
    • A suitable surface
    • Suitable temperature
    • Oxygen   

    By dealing with the causes of condensation you will deal with the problem of mould. This five-step plan can help reduce the amount of condensation and black mould growth in your home. You need to do the below every day.    

    1.  Produce less moisture
    2.  Remove excess moisture
    3.  Ventilate to remove moisture
    4.  Heat your home a little more
    5.  Deal with black mould

    For more detailed information refer to our booklet.

    Other types of dampness

    There are three other main types of dampness that could affect your home.


    Rising damp 

    This is caused by water rising from the ground into your home, either through natural brickwork or via a broken damp proof course (DPC). A DPC is a horizontal layer of waterproof material put in the walls of a building just above ground level. It stops moisture rising through the walls.

    Rising damp will only affect basements and ground floor rooms and will rise no more than 12 to 24 inches above ground level (300mm to 600mm). It usually leaves a ‘tide mark’ and you may also notice white salts on affected areas. Rising damp will be present all year round but is more noticeable in winter. If left untreated it may cause wall plaster to crumble and paper to lift in the affected area.

    Penetrating dampness

    This type of dampness is only found on the external walls of the property or in the case of roof leaks, on ceilings. It appears because of a defect outside, like missing pointing, cracked rendering or missing roof tiles that let water in. Penetrating dampness is far more noticeable following a period of rainfall and will normally appear as a well defined ‘damp-patch', that is damp to the touch.

    Defective plumbing


    Leaks from water and waste pipes, especially in bathrooms and kitchens, are relatively common. They can affect external and internal walls and ceilings. The affected area looks and feels damp and stays damp whatever the weather conditions. Checking the water and waste pipes serving the kitchen and bathroom and the seals around the bath, shower and sinks; plus the external pipework, such as guttering, will help you find the problem.

    Black mould will rarely be seen with these other forms of dampness. If you think you have any of these three types of damp please contact us.

    Shrinkage and small cracks to walls and woodwork are very common in new build properties — as building materials dry out and settle — and don't represent a serious problem. Most can simply be filled and painted.

    Keeping your home's temperature even and well-ventilated will help, so don't overheat the property if you can avoid it and open vents and windows whenever you can. Trickle vents should be open at the top of your windows.

    For information on home heating, including how to set the programmer on your electric panel heater, visit our home heating and environment advice page.