How to fix common wall and ceiling problems

How to clean tile grout


It’s not always necessary to rake out dirty old grouting - minor staining and fungal growths can be removed with a specially formulated grout cleaner. It contains a variety of detergents and biological agents to clean the grout and discourage mould.

If the grout is still stained, use a grout pen. A grout pen or tube can restore old grout leaving an anti-mould finish.

Watch a step-by-step video showing how to clean grout, with expert advice and top tips to help you complete the job with confidence.



How to stop water coming through your ceiling


You'll usually find your water storage cistern and tank in your loft or the upper floor of your house. But this means that if there's a leak, the first you'll know about it when water starts pouring through your ceiling. You need to act quickly or your ceiling could collapse.

Step 1: First, turn off your electricity at the main power switch, and your water supply at the main stop valve. Put some containers in place to catch the leaking water, then turn on all your taps and flush your toilets. This will empty your pipes and cold water storage cistern, and they won't refill while the main stop valve is off.

Step 2: Investigate the cause of the leak - which could be a burst pipe, problem with the roof or from a property above you. Then report this repair to us.



How to fill cracks and holes in plaster


Step 1: Rake any loose plaster from the crack with the corner of a filling knife or scraper. Using a small paint brush, dampen the crack with water to encourage the filler to dry slowly. This helps to stop it shrinking and falling out of the crack.

Step 2: Load some filler onto a filling knife and draw it across the hole at right angles to the crack, firmly pressing it in until the filler is raised just above the surface of the wall.

Step 3: Leave to dry, then smooth with 80 grit sandpaper wrapped around a sanding block.

Top tip - If you're mixing your filler from a powder, add a squirt of PVA adhesive to make a smooth paste that sticks really well.



How to prepare a wall or ceiling for painting


While it can be tempting to get painting as soon as possible when you want to decorate a room, it’s worth taking the time to make sure your room and surfaces are best prepared before you begin.

Below are the main steps to take before painting a wall:

1. Empty your room ready for decorating, and protect fixtures and fittings you aren't painting
2. Clean your walls to help paint adhere
3. Fill holes and cracks and smooth your walls for the best possible finish
4. Prime stained surfaces or those which have not been painted before

Once you've completed these tasks you should have a smooth, even surface ready to be painted.

Watch a step-by-step video showing how to prepare walls and ceilings for decorating, with expert advice and top tips to help you complete the job with confidence.

How to paint a wall


Safety first: Think about how you're going to reach all surfaces safely. You'll need a sturdy step ladder or work platform. Consider using a roller on a pole where possible so that you can work at ground level rather than on steps. If you have children or pets at home, keep them away from wet paint and whilst paint is drying


Step 1: Before you paint the bulk of your wall, paint into where the ceiling or coving meets the top of the wall, where the bottom of the wall meets the skirting board and around any windows and door frames with a small brush. This technique is called cutting in. You may also have light switches, sockets, heaters and radiators you'll need to cut in around.

Step 2: Pour emulsion paint into the reservoir of the paint tray until it is approximately one-third full. Dip the roller sleeve into the paint and spread evenly by rolling it firmly on the ribbed incline of the tray. You can use a roller with or without a roller pole to paint walls - whichever you find most comfortable.

Step 3: Work out from the edges by rolling paint in 1m wide ‘W’ patterns and go back over the W to fill in the open areas. The aim is to apply the paint evenly and always work from a 'wet' edge. The edges need to be blended in to stop a ridge of paint from forming. Use a light, even pressure when working with the roller.

Top Tip: Try not to work too fast or you will create a fine mist of paint spray. Each time the roller is dipped in the paint, move it to an adjacent unpainted area and work your way back to the painted area in overlapping strokes to blend in the wet edges.

Step 4: Whilst the paint is still drying, use a radiator roller to coat the wall behind each radiator in the room.

Step 5: Once the first coat of paint has been applied, leave to dry following the instructions on the paint tin. If you're applying more than one coat of paint, it’s a good idea to remove and reapply any masking tape that has been used to protect other surfaces between coats Remove the masking tape slowly at a 90 degree angle before the paint fully cures. If the new paint does begin to tear, gently score the edges using a retractable knife and straight edge. Reapply tape to the surfaces that need to be protected before you apply the next coat of paint.

Watch a step-by-step video showing how to paint a wall, with expert advice and top tips to help you complete the job with confidence.

You can also use this handy wall painting calculator to work out how many litres of paint you need to buy.

How to paint a ceiling


Safety first: Think about how you're going to reach all surfaces safely. You'll need a sturdy step ladder or work platform. Consider using a roller on a pole where possible so that you can work at ground level rather than on steps. If you have children or pets at home, keep them away from wet paint and whilst paint is drying

Step 1: Using a paint can opener, or a flat-head screwdriver, carefully open the paint can. Take a paint stirrer, and following the instructions on the can, stir the paint until an even, flowing consistency without any lumps is reached.

Step 2: Before you paint the bulk of your ceiling, paint into the edges of the ceiling and around any ceiling lights or alarms with a small brush. This technique is called cutting in.

Step 3: With the perimeter of the ceiling painted, it’s now time to paint the rest. Fill the reservoir of the roller tray one-third full of paint. Using a roller with an extension pole attached, dip the roller sleeve into the paint and roll it firmly up and down the ribbed incline of the tray to spread the paint evenly. Avoid overloading the sleeve to prevent paint splattering.

Apply the paint to the ceiling using the roller. Move the roller over the surface, using random strokes and a light, even pressure. Each time you dip the roller in the paint, move it to an adjacent unpainted area and work back to the painted area in overlapping strokes to blend in the wet edges.

Step 4: Once complete, allow the ceiling to dry following the advice on the paint tin. If more than one coat of paint is required, allow the recommended drying time and then repeat steps 2 and 3.

Top tip: Sometimes you'll need to apply multiple coats of paint to a ceiling or a wall within the same day. You won't need to clean your tools between coats of paint if you wrap them securely. Wrap brushes, rollers and paint trays tightly with cling film and put aside until you're ready to recoat. This prevents the paint from drying out until you're ready to get back to work.

Watch a step-by-step video showing how to paint a ceiling, with expert advice and top tips to help you complete the job with confidence.

You can also use these handy ceiling painting calculator to work out how many litres of paint you need to buy.

How to fix a broken tile


Watch a step-by-step video showing how to replace a broken tile, with expert advice and top tips to help you complete the job with confidence.


How to avoid damp and get rid of mould


When condensation builds up on a surface it can cause mould to grow. The most common places for this to happen are walls (especially in corners and behind furniture), ceilings, window frames and sills and is most apparent during the winter months.

If you deal with the root of the condensation, you should be able to sort out mould.

Find out how to avoid damp conditions and how to get rid of and prevent mould on our website.

However, damp can also be caused by leaking pipes, roofing and guttering. This is called penetrating damp. Pinpoint the source of the leak and report this repair to us.




If you have burst pipes causing flooding or a leak that can't be contained and is causing damage to the surrounding area, please call us.

Some repairs such as cracked tiles may be charged because they are not caused by general wear and tear. Once you have reported the repair, an advisor will confirm if this is the case. If the damage was caused by criminal damage and you have a crime reference number, you can provide this for the charge to be waived. Find out more on charges for repairs.

Some repairs such as hairline cracks in plaster and wiping away mould are your responsibility. Find out more about your responsibilities as a tenant.

If you would still like to report a repair to us, the easiest and quickest way is to do this online.


Copyright © B&Q plc.

B&Q has kindly given Southampton City Council permission to use these DIY tutorial videos to provide advice and guidance for council tenants. In using these videos, Southampton City Council is neither endorsing nor recommending B&Q products or methods. Other DIY self-help tutorials are available online. Simple repairs of this nature should only be undertaken if you are fit and healthy to do so and have the necessary tools and safety equipment. These repairs are undertaken at your risk and Southampton City Council accepts no responsibility for any damage or injury as a result of DIY repairs relating to these videos