In every DIYer’s journey, there comes a moment when you halt the drilling into next door’s water pipes, put aside the noxious solvents, hold off from irreparably damaging the structural integrity of your own home and collapse onto your half-finished wood laminate flooring with the sudden realisation that you have no clue whatsoever what you are doing.
And you then begin to cry.
My moment of epiphany should have come long before it actually did, yet, educated in the calloused hands of Handy Andy, Groundforce’s Tommy Walsh and Tim Allen alter ego Tim “Tool Time” Taylor, I brushed off many a disaster as trifling, and of course hilarious, DIY fare. It was when I took a hammer and chisel to my 1930s original fireplace that reality really came down the chimney like a demonic Santa and gave me the present of a swift, grounding kick in the sensitives.
Having levered the wooden structure off the wall I was left, to my horror, with a four-foot hole of sooty apocalypse. It was as if someone had excavated a coal mine in my lounge. Tears were shed.
The comforting thing is that I know you are reading this having been in the same position, or that you know full well that given the right opportunity that the above could be you. Not content with the smaller tasks that are well within our range, for some reason we cannot resist pushing ourselves that bit too far.
Conservative estimates put the number of DIY-related accidents as a result of that going too far at around 200,000 per year. The financial cost is much greater. Allianz Your Cover Insurance has found that bodged DIY jobs are costing Brits £4.4bn a year, with the average error coming in at £106 to fix. It also found that 29 per cent of people have been doing DIY more frequently in the last 12 months than they did in the previous year – so that figure is likely to rise even higher.
Unless you have the right home insurance package, it will be you alone footing the bill for these misdemeanours, as in order to be protected for damage you cause to property and possessions you need to have accidental damage cover on both your home contents and your home buildings cover. This fact perhaps needs to be explained to the legions of homeowners taking up DIY.
HSBC recently found that 52 per cent of Brits plan to do some DIY during the Bank Holiday weekends in April, May and June. That’s a lot of accidents waiting to happen and a lot of potential cost in repairs.
To try and help the have-a-go homeowners, we have put together a list of a Top Five DIY Can-Dos and a Top Five Jobs Best Left to the Pros with the help of Barry Joslin, managing director of building company IW Payne.
DIY CAN Dos
With the aid of a dustsheet and a decent paintbrush or roller, a coat of paint really should be within most people’s ability range.
Barry’s Top Tip: “It’s all in the prep work – make sure any chips or holes are filled and that the room is free of dust so it doesn’t get in the paint. Don’t scrimp on the brushes either, a good paint brush will be worth the money."
2. Bleed your radiator
A radiator that needs bleeding is an easily fixable problem and there are plenty of online tutorials (this is a good one) to make sure you are on the right track.
Barry’s Top Tip: “If the radiator is only hot at the bottom, it needs bleeding so you need to release the air – a good tip is to slip a tea towel around the nut you loosen to catch any spray.”
3. Put up shelves
With decent tools this should be easy. Yes, the potential danger is a hidden wire, but Barry’s tip below should make this job an easy one.
Barry’s Top Tip: “Electric wiring usually runs directly above or below the switch, so stay clear of inserting nails or screws anywhere above or below a light switch or plug socket and you should be fine. To detect pipes is much more difficult, and you will need to look at hiring or buying a detector – you can pick one up for around £25.”
4. Laying a laminate floor Wood laminate is increasingly popular in today’s homes and it is shockingly simple to lay as long as you have a decent saw and the right kit. The internet is awash with tutorials explaining how to lay a floor, so use them!
Barry’s Top Tip: “Before you start, work out the most economical way of laying the boards so you don’t end up with lots of off cuts at the end. Also, if laying on a concrete floor use fibreboard not roll underlay for better insulation and acoustics.”
5. Tiling This is a controversial one as some pros will tell you never to attempt it, but actually tiling should be pretty easy as long as you take your time, plan it out in advance and have a spirit level and tile cutter handy.
Barry’s Top Tip: Fix a level wooden baton around the room and tile along that. Don’t go off the floor as it is often uneven. Also, make sure you use the right adhesive for the right surface.”
JOBS TO LEAVE TO THE PROs
If you want a good finish, a project is only as good as the plastering. And plastering is very, very difficult. “People think they can do it because it looks easy – when you get down to it though you really do need the knack to get it right and that comes from training and experience,” says Barry. “Remember, good tradesmen make things look easy."
Quite simply, you’re not allowed. Or rather, the rules governing what you can and can’t do are very, very complex and you should always seek out a professional for any rewiring job.
When it comes to gas and boiler plumbing, you need a certified expert to carry out any work. For other areas, technology has made things easier with the likes of push-fit pipe fittings, but it is still complex and water causes a lot of very expensive damage if it goes wrong.
4. Structural Work You could seriously damage yourself, you could damage the integrity of your house and an adjoining house, and this applies to internal as well as external walls. Seek out professional advice for any structural adjustments.
5. External roof work
Working at heights requires specialist kit and training and should not be attempted by a novice. Always hire a professional.