author of Lanark and Unlikely Stories Mostly

sequences by


Reading from his new collection of poetry ‘OLD NEGATIVES’ on Thursday 2 March at 7.30pm Tel: 031 225 3436 to reserve signed copies OPEN MONaSAT 9.30am—10pm; SUN noon-7pm

WATERSTONE & CO LTD 114—116 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 4LX


remover such as Nitromorse, a scraper, wire wool and a lot of elbow grease. A hot air gun and a scraper can also be effective but either way it is a slow time consuming task - skirting boards are particularly awkward involving hours spent on your hands and knees. An alternative is to take the doors. shutters, skirtings and facings to be dipped and stripped. This involves immersing them in an acid tank and hosing them down afterwards. It‘s quick and simple but can damage the wood which will need to be thoroughly sanded down to remove the woolly surface caused by the acid. Dipping anything made up of panels, such as doors and shutters. tends to cause problems as the panels swell when soaked, bursting the joints which are then left open and loose when the wood shrinks again as it dries.

If the woodwork is to be left with a natural finish it will need to be sealed to stop it drying out too much and to enhance its colour. Use beeswax or similar polish/restorer or a clear polyurethane varnish (preferably matt finish). Light wood can be stained darker or a colour stain can be used: both should be coated with two coats of a clear varnish. Rub down between each coat with fine sandpaper to remove the raised grain of the wood caused by applying the first coat.

If the wood is to be painted it will need to be primed first with a

suitable primer/undercoat, and then

two top coats. For the best results apply the first top coat using cross strokes and finish with the vertical strokes for the final coat.


Timber floors can be sanded down and sealed to give an attractive finish ifthey are in good enough condition and don’t have too wide gaps between the boards. The equipment can be easily hired - note that two sanders are needed, one for the main areas and another for the edges. Before starting, go over the floor carefully pulling out or driving down any projecting nails. Poor floors can be relaid or covered over with secondhand boards which are often available from demolition or salvage companies. Make sure the tongues and grooves are in good enough condition to fit together well and check that it has not come out of a property infected with rot. For a new look, hardwood strip flooring in oak, ash, beech or elm can be laid on top of the existing boards.

Linoleum, cork and vinyl require an even surface and it is recommended that hardboard is laid first. This should be moistened and nailed down wet so that as it dries and shrinks it holds tight to the floor. Linoleum has come a long way from the type of thing your granny had. which your parents then covered with a fitted carpet. These days it is available in a variety of colours and grains. You could be adventurous and use two or more colours cuttings

in borders or central features.

Tiles need a strong level base which is fine if the sub-floor is concrete or stone but timber floors may need to be strengthened to prevent movement or bounce which can crack the tiles joints. Again laying hardboard levels out some bumps. but a laytex screed may also be required. In some circumstances. it may be worth laying exterior grade marine ply as a base for the tiles. Tiles can be natural hand-made terracotta or machine made. glazed or unglazed. In wet areas. unglazed tiles are safer as they are less slippery.


Consider using uplighters for rooms with high ceilings and those with attractive cornices. Halogen floodlighting is best as the light is bounced from the ceiling and reflected into the room. Fluourescent lighting can be used to illuminate worktops but is best concealed behind a pelmet or under units. Track and spot lighting works well in more modern surroundings and allows the lights to be individually directed. Dimmer switches enable the intensity ofthe light to be controlled to give a different atmosphere. Low voltage (12volt) lights are also available and give a brighter. purer light but the bulbs are expensive and have short lives. A transformer is needed to drop from 240volt mains supply.

Furniture and Fittings

New furniture is a matter of personal preference and budget. Habitat is a good source of basic new items and there are many good specialist shops with more individual selections. Secondhand furniture is an economical alternative and attractive pieces can still be obtained quite cheaply though they may need repairing and restoring. lfyour budget is tight have a look in the Goodwill shops and the Barras in Glasgow or the Lane sales (North West Thistle Street Lane) in Edinburgh. Sam Burns’ yard at Prestonpans also often has unusual serviceable pieces along with the junk. Damaged upholstery can be replaced or recovered and an ugly cover on an attractive chair or sofa can simply be hidden under a loose piece of material.

Making your own furniture need not be difficult. Shelves, tables and beds or frames for futon mattresses can all be put together with basic skills. Table legs and shelfbrackets are available from DIY shops and Habitat while the table tops or shelves can be made from chipboard. blockboard, pine, painted metal or toughened glass. If a manufactured board is used. it is best to fix a hardwood strip along the edges to protect it and give a clean finish.

58 The List 24 February 9 March