Sunday, 26 April 2015

Actually starting the build

I wrote a piece for Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine a while ago about the order to do things in when building a dolls house kit.  this is how I am not doing anything I said so far:

1. Preparation

Check all the pieces against the list or diagrams in the kit. There is nothing more frustrating than cracking on with your build only to discover there is something missing or broken. 

I don't have a parts list to check them against - so far I have one broken door and one hinge missing.  After suggesting to DHD they might like to include a parts list the guy wrote back to say that they do but my packer must have forgotten to enclose it. Worth saying he has always responded very quickly to any issue - ten points for that these days.

Paint all the pieces of your kit on both sides with a thin undercoat of white flat paint to seal the MDF. You can also use MDF sealer but you don't need to shell out for that - ordinary paint does the job. It will help the wallpaper stick well and it will give you a true colour when you paint. The colour of the raw MDF can affect the finished shade of the paint you choose. You should try to avoid any areas that need to be stuck together with wood glue. All the edges and grooves are the obvious example.

Can't realistically do that as a lot of this kit is not grooved or slotted in any way so painting and then gluing may not be the way to go if I am hoping for a good bond.  Indeed the instructions say to glue and pin.  I really don't want to pin as I don't want them to be visible
Suggestions welcome.

2. Dry Build

Build the kit according to the instructions (but, of course, no glue). Use masking tape to hold the structure together so you don't have any sticky residue left behind from any other kind of tape. Usually you could do with another pair of hands for this job. 

Absolutely no way to do that - a large heavy kit and without grooves to hold things in place it just can't be done.  This is a real issue for me as I like to have a good look around and mark up things I might need to know during assembly or even before assembling.

3. Make good notes

Have a good look at where you might want to make any physical/structural changes to the kit. Don’t write on the wood unless you know it will be covered with paper – it often shows through paint. I write on a piece of wide masking tape and stick on the wood. You could also use photographs or draw diagrams - don't trust to memory. When you disassemble it you will be astonished by how the pieces transform themselves when they are de-constructed.

Now it is also the time to decide what will be painted and what will be papered and where any trims will go. Again, mark the areas with notes written on wide masking tape. De-construct.

If you are not doing any alterations to the kit you can skip to number 5.

4. Altering the kit and second dry build

Do any structural changes such as cutting out extra windows or doors. Do a second dry build. I know this is a step you’ll be tempted to skip because you just want to get on with it. Try not to. This is your only chance to check you are happy with the new look and if it has had any knock-on effect to anything such as decorating plans or staircases etc.

Simply unable to do numbers 3 and 4

5. Do as much as you can while it is still in pieces

At the very least paint (or paper) all the ceilings. They are really hard to do when the house is built. Do your best to finish as many surfaces as you can while you can work on them flat. I always do the ceilings and any painted walls (two coats). I also do the brick finish on the outside walls and put the tiles on the roof, at the very least. This is also the time to add in any interior structural details like chimney breasts, built-in cupboards etc. I must admit I have never managed that step because I usually decide I want that stuff when I see the house coming together; so don't worry if you can't plan that far ahead. Some people completely finish the wall before the build – wallpaper, doors, windows, curtains, everything. I am too fussy about the joining up in the corners to do that. You must decide.

Again, no can do - too many large pieces to be dealing with all around the house plus as I said at the beginning I don't want to try to glue the wood together through paint.

6. Assemble the building

I have only ever followed the kit instructions to the letter - if you are new to the game you must definitely do this - do not think you know better. Sometimes an instruction seems odd or not necessary so you are tempted to change it or skip it, but further down the line it usually makes sense.

I have done a small part of the basement so far and already deviated from the instructions as they seemed to do a couple of things in a potty way.

7. Wallpapering

Wallpaper the walls. You can also do any wall tiling if you know where it is going to go. Usually for me that has to hold off until I am ready to fit a bathroom or kitchen as I am not sure where things will go and, generally, at this stage it is also unlikely that I have bought all I need for those rooms.

By now you can see how this is going

8. Put in doors and windows and most trims

Fit the doors, door frames and their trims. Glaze and fit the windows and their trims. Doors and windows should have been painted or stained to their final finish before fitting. You can also fit any wall trims such as dado rails, picture rails and coving.

Hopefully after building and priming and painting ceilings I might be able to rejoin this list at number eight!!

9. Electrics

Put in the lights and any lit fires. I don’t fix the fires in place if I know flooring will be going under them. Your choice of floor covering will determine this. Putting them on carpet would be odd but not on a stone or wood floor perhaps. This is the order of build for a round-wire system. I suspect the copper tape system goes in at a much earlier stage.

10. Put down the flooring

Put down the floors using double-sided sticky tape in case you ever need to remove them.

Get any fires in place. Fit the skirting boards, thinking about whether you need to leave gaps for bathroom fittings or kitchen cupboards or any other fitted cupboard. This may have to be done later.


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PS I have just bought three new floors from B & Q.  The larger stores will cut pieces for you and very accurately - nothing smaller than 23 cms by 50 cms - hope I've  remembered that correctly.  You should see the machine go through three layers of MDF like butter.


  1. That made me laugh! I know you'll proceed with whatever strikes you at the time - guidelines or not. Enjoy playing.

    1. Yeah, don't you just love these types that pontificate in magazines - no idea about real life. Well, it is up and, so far, still standing. That will do. Marilyn

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  3. I purchased a Fairbanks DHE already built ..... help !!!! Almost none of these points there will be able to adhere to! For this I am still firm

    1. OOOOOHHHH Blanche, you actually have taken possession of my absolute favourite DHE house. I had a Mountfield - its smaller sibling - for a while and I so wish I hadn't passed it on. I think I did that because it wasn't a Fairbanks and I was never quite satisfied. I even killed my blog that went with it..... how daft is that. Anyway lots of luck and joy getting the house how you want it. If you are doing a sort of thirties to fifties version this Mountfield Blog would inspire you: Have fun. Envy, envy, envy...... M