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Home Life: Design doctor; Home Life editor DONNA HARDIE answers your DIY questions.

Q I WANT to make an S-shaped coffee table but is there a wood- like material I can bend around tight curves to make the sides?

AFlexiply is just that - plywood that can be folded to almost any shape you want

The product comes in 3, 5, 8 and 16mm thicknesses which can be screwed or glued to a wooden frame and then painted or varnished.

The Worldwide Wood Company on 0800 4583366 sells it in 8x4ft sheets.

QALL the tins of paint I buy mentions VOCs on the labelling. What are these and can I buy more ecologically friendly paint?

A Volatile Organic compounds (VOCs) are released as oil-based paints dry and do not cause environmental damage. Paint manufacturers are switching to more water-based alternatives. Natural Building Technologies (01491 638911) has launched 47 eco-friendly colours made from Casein which can be applied to walls and wood - just mix the powder with water and one of the natural pigments. A 4kg pack will cover over 30sq metres and costs pounds 14. Check out www.natural-building.co.uk

QHOW can I make my gutters work better? The sections over the side of our house are often full of stagnant water which smells.

A First of all check it isn't simply a blocked downpipe that's causing the problem.

Clear out any leaves and debris from the gutter and scoop out any remaining water.

If there's still a problem, the gutter may be at too shallow an angle. You should undo the gutter brackets and refit the gutter along that side with a slope of at least 25mm for every 15m.

Q MY mother's heavy velvet curtains have made her plastic curtain track bow in the middle. I said I would sort this out but how do I go about doing this?

A Plastic track can bow outwards if it has to support heavy or lined curtains.

Kirsch makes a heavy duty metal track which will cope with heavy curtains.

Fix it to the wall with screws at least 40mm long and space the brackets every 450mm along the track - avoiding the old screw holes. Tracks start from pounds 20. Call 01827 64242 for stockists.

QMY iron has started to overheat. What's the cause and can I fix it?

A The fault sounds like either a broken thermostat or a faulty selector switch. Unfortunately, both these are dealer repairs so don't try to fix it yourself. Incidentally, for dealing with more basic repairs and to keep your tools and electrical goods in good order, you could get a copy of Haynes Electrical Appliance Manual.

Priced at pounds 14.99, you can buy it at bookshops or direct by ringing 01963 442030.

Q WHAT can I use to cover the alleyway between our garage and kitchen? I need something that's waterproof but doesn't block out the light.

A Corrugated plastic is lightweight and easy to cut with a fine-toothed hand saw.

Ariel (01246 281111) makes Vistalux sheeting with a ten-year guarantee which is resistant to breakdown by the sun's UV rays.

Overlap each sheet by about 50mm and make the roof pitch at least 25 degrees.

Vistalux is on sale at builder's merchants for around pounds 28 per 1m x 4m section.

Q OUR terraced house has small door openings and my local DIY store refuses to cut a few millimetres off the sides of the new doors. How can I tackle this without ruining the doors?

AUnderstandably, your local DIY store doesn't want to be responsible for cutting too much off.

Hire or buy a power planer. You can find DIY models for less than pounds 40 so it's probably worth buying. Mark the exact width you need on both sides of the door with a pencil line.

Set the planer to take off 0.5mm and make a series of shallow cuts until you reach the lines. Remember to press down on the front of the tool at the start of the cut and transfer this pressure to the back of the tool as you reach the other end of the door - this reduces the chance of taking too deep a scoop out of the door at the corners.

QAFTER spending a lot of time laying a garden path from sections of limestone, we are looking for something out-of-the-ordinary to fill in the gaps between the blocks. Can you help?

A Garden centres should be able to supply a variety of cobbles and coloured spar.

The latest addition to the Cem-Pak (01924 452644) range is crushed glass fragments.

These have been in a drum roller so there's no sharp edges to worry about. Colours are plum, green and blue and they look fantastic all year round. A 25kg bag costs around pounds 28.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Hardie, Donna
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 3, 2000
Words:791
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