/ Home & Energy

Are you a drilling disaster or a DIY demon?

Drill bits

What is it with Brits, bank holidays and DIY? Half of us are scared of do-it-yourself, yet over the Easter and royal wedding weekends, millions of us will strap on our tool-belts and trek to the local DIY store to stock up.

But just how many of us actually know what we’re doing with paint, plaster and power-tools?

According to a recent B&Q poll, 66% of homeowners have unfinished DIY jobs around the home with over half saying that they don’t know how to finish them off. So it looks like we’re keen to tackle jobs, but our lack of DIY knowledge often means they don’t get finished!

Easy jobs can go wrong

As I know to my cost, even something seemingly easy – like drilling a hole – needs care and attention to do it right and to get the best out of your drill.

When I first hung a curtain rail I broke the first two drill-bits in the process – I learnt that day that drilling holes in a concrete lintel with a 10v drill-driver just won’t work.

Another report by AA Home Emergency Response, which Patrick Steen discussed in a recent Conversation, suggests that DIY is a dying art. Apparently, many fathers aren’t passing skills down to their sons, never mind their daughters.

Top drilling tips

So how exactly should you use a drill without damaging it and the wall in the process? DIY expert Roger Bisby from selfbuilder.net has ten top drilling tips – such as looking for hidden pipes and cables and avoiding drill ‘jamming’.

If you’re lost already, check out the video Roger filmed for Which?, which explains how to look for hidden cables and pipes, how hammer-drilling works and how to stop your drill from jamming. And if you don’t know your chucks from your torque-settings, he also gives us a video-tour of his drill to explain all the key-features.

Are bank holidays a DIY-fest in your house? Have you got any DIY hints and tips that Roger hasn’t covered – or have you got any half-finished DIY jobs that you wish you hadn’t started?


Cordless hammer drills are not good value for money unless you are going to use them frequently. Cheaper models will not have enough power. A more expensive model will do the job, but the batteries have a limited life and spares can be very expensive. A mains powered hammer drill is the best option for occasional use and will probably last for many years.

Matt – I agree with you about the convenience of cordless drills and the advantages of having two. Owning two is not a luxury, and an electric screwdriver comes in very handy for smaller jobs too. My comments were just about cordless hammer drills.

I hate messing around with extension cables and have use a powerpack containing a 300 watt inverter to run sanders and other small power tools. I got this to work on a boat but use it in the garden too.

I had a 10 minute DIY job to do this bank holiday weekend, and managed to successfully put it off till 9 o’clock on the Monday. Still, I did it well!

The drilling tips video is useful. Many adult evening colleges run DIY courses. I’ve never done one, but they probably provide a “safe” environment to learn and build confidence. Has anyone tried one?

Not so fast! We realised last night that I had painted very small parts of the wall (a touch-up job basically) with wood and metal paint, not matt emulsion!


At least it was the same colour! I can blame some of it on being passed the wrong tin of paint, but I should have checked etc etc.

Does anyone know whether you can paint matt emulsion over wood and metal paint? 🙂

Sadly the kind of jobs the majority of us now have mean the skills to do even the most simple DIY jobs are just not there. I bet less than half the population can even change a three pin plug.
I’m lucky in a way in that I learnt some practical skills at school and went on to complete an engineering apprenticship, but I’m late 50’s. Younger people not benefiting from any practical grounding shouldn’t really be allowed to even pick up a power tool nevermind start wacking holes into things, someone will get injured and a lot of expensive property damage will be done.
Bring back some woodwork and/or metalwork to the school classroom. Give them at least some basic skills to build on should they wish. Better for their own self esteem and certainly better for their future bank balance.

I agree with Chris about teaching woodwork and metalwork at school.

A lot of DIY can be learned from parents and friends and providing that care is taken it’s probably safer than using the roads. Start off on small jobs and become more ambitious as you gain experience.

It is difficult for the novice to do a good job at tasks such as plastering and bricklaying, but the novice can sometimes do a better job because they can afford to spend more time on it than a paid professional. Power tools are affordable and make DIY a lot easier than it was when most people were involved in DIY.

Paul McCredie says:
10 May 2011

I agree that cordless drills are convenient and can speed a job up tremendously. However for occasional use give me a mains tool. Cordless tools that are not used regularly don’t give value for money due to battery deterioration.

I think that the government are making the DIY environment more hostile. There is less and less that you can do without either having to employ a tradesman or get building control involved. (Windows, Plumbing and Electrics are just some examples.)

Jenn Davies says:
25 March 2015

I’m as interested in DIY as the next person, but I know my limits. I’d rather spend my time working with something for my own interest, not because I need to have it repaired. Concrete drilling especially just sounds dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing. Leave that to the professionals.