/ Home & Energy

Have you tackled a home DIY project this year?

Home improvements saw a surge in popularity in recent months, especially as DIY stores re-opened. Did you take on a project? How ambitious were you?

According to Opinium research, four in 10 of us made home improvements during lockdown and painting walls was one of the most popular choices (63% picked up their paint brush or roller).

Another third upgraded the area they’re working from home in, while 8% built a bar in their home or garden.

See all our DIY and home improvements advice guides

Spending more time at home means more time considering your surroundings – and how you might like to change them. Whether that’s adapting to more family being at home more often, home working, or simply wanting to make your space feel different.

Which? staff get stuck into DIY

My home improvements over the last few months have been limited to painting my tiny bathroom and making curtains. Others at Which? have been more ambitious:

Amy, from Which? Trusted Traders, has done lots of decorating:

“All in all it has gone well but I have a new found respect for professional decorators! The walls look great (if I do say so myself) but our taping around the coving and skirting boards leaves much to be desired. Definitely the last time we’ll be doing it ourselves!”

Senior editor Lisa built a bench:

“I had my garden redone and I asked the company to save me the leftover wood as it was good quality. They’re a Which? Trusted Trader and also chopped it up for me. I’ve turned it into a serviceable bench and am very proud of it, seeing as the last thing I made out of wood was a pencil case in CDT when I was 12.”

Rosie, also from Which? Trusted Traders, painted her lounge wall and built new trellis in the garden:

“It was the first time we’d painted in our new home – or ever. Our friend advised to paint on paper first and hold it against the wall. We thought we had found the perfect colour and bought two tubs. But when we started painting we realised that paper is not the same as the wall! We returned the paint and luckily tested out a new pot (on the wall) which turned out great!”

More ambitious changes will require the input of a professional – unless you’re a very experienced DIY-er.

Which? Trusted Traders can help you find a reliable, reputable trader near you.

Share your DIY stories and plans

We’d like to hear what DIY projects or home improvements you’ve been tackling over the last few months – especially if they’re unusual. Did they go to plan?

What bigger projects are you planning (or would you like to)? Would you consider a garden room?

Let us know in the comments.

Amit says:
25 August 2020

I have begun building an outdoor bar area for the back garden which has been newly landscaped. Keeping me busy but successful so far!

I have painted the outside of the house, garage, outbuildings, etc: several walls, 40 Georgian windows, 19 doors and a wooden conservatory, using about 45 litres of paint in total (mostly on the walls). If it didn’t move, it got painted! My wife only escaped by not sunbathing.

Would you like to come over to mine if you are looking for more to paint? 😉

I think I have had enough of that now, thanks. I need to start restoring a 1950s car that I’ve been meaning to do for years.

Which model of car are you planning to restore, Paul? Well done with your efforts with the paint.

Rather late reply here, I am afraid, but it is a 1951 Alvis TA21 DHC with an aluminium body by Tickford. My only worry here is whether, by the time I have finished it, I will still be able to buy the petrol to run it. I cannot countenance fitting it with an electric motor!

Hi Paul – I expect that there will be exemptions that allow petrol to be used in vintage cars and coal for heritage railways. I hope you are not going to want too many more lockdowns to have time to finish the restoration.

There are those who think old cars that pollute more should be scrapped and traded in for a modern less polluting car. I hope you take no notice of that Paul. Good luck with the restoration.

Just as I hope we don’t stifle the steam railway operation (or other coal fires vintage engines) by listening to environmental extremists.

I have wondered whether all private airplanes, helicopters, boats (or even cars) used for pleasure should be “grounded” because they use fossil fuels (and even electricity) unnecessarily and create pollution. Fortunately no one has raised that.

There has to be some fun in life.

Considering we moved to a house that needs a lot done to it we have done woefully little. We have painted the bathroom, put up a couple of shelves and painted a few bits of furniture. Although I did manage to do some plumbing to get water to the dishwasher which I am very proud of!

I am hoping when school starts next week we will get more done!

I completely replumbed my whole house when I moved in 30-odd years ago and then weighed in all the old lead pipes which I stripped out, and I also put in a new water supply which meant I had to dig down a staggering seven and a half feet as my home is on a platform five foot above the road. And I do my own basic maintenance on my roof and chimney stack, I’m well into extreme diy! And now I’m going to start installing central heating, the old fashioned way, without any fancy high tech stuff, none of that so-called “smart” stuff for me thanks.

I’ve done a few small projects, including the unplanned replacement of a toilet cistern, after the original ceramic one cracked and failed, leaking water all over the floor.

I was able to click and collect a cheap but adequate replacement from Screwfix and then spent the rest of the day fitting it. That required a little bit of plumbing. Luckily I had a useful stash of leftover bits from earlier jobs, so I did not need to buy any other items.

The same happened to mine too, I got up one morning and found the floor all p#ss#d wet through. Now I need another bog too as it’s an old 70’s twyfords and it’s got too many cracks in it. There is some places online who still have lots of old new unsold bogs but they’re pricey, as old rare stuff usually is, and I’ll have to send them a small sample of the old turquoise plastic so they can match the colour as it doesn’t show proper on a photo.

My main project has been gardening, which has produced a lot of green waste that would be difficult to compost. My neighbours have been away for six months, so I have had the use of an extra bin, but have taken four loads of green waste to the tip.

I had planned to have all my windows replaced after Easter but was not keen to have anyone in the house, so I have repainted the downstairs windows and delayed their replacement until next spring.

I repaired and rebuilt a 20 year old summerhouse that some friends were replacing. Digging out and putting in a base, replacing some rotten flooring and loglap cladding, erecting (done in a short day with help from sons), felting the roof then repainting and it’s looking like new.

Much time has also been spent growing plants and filling the garden with them. But I can never get my garden looking anything like those on Gardeners’ World, however much work I put in. Does anyone have the secret of achieving those wonderful displays?

Vast quantities of fertiliser seem to be the secret, according to my wife.

Today I took the air out of a radiator and in so doing emptied the boiler of water and pressure. Luckily I knew where the filling taps were located and how to turn them on with the tool provided. Two have to be opened, but only one lets the water in. It has been a useful lesson and one I’m thankful that I learned before it was too late.
Earlier, last autumn, I bought some outdoor timber and fabricated a fence which is still standing on the posts used for the last one I made some years ago. This year it has been tidying and sorting and packing boxes to prepare for the builders, so DIY has not featured highly on the list.

Rescued a summer house from local club, it was going to the tip. Have put on galvenised tin roof to save having to always refelt it, why doesn’t everyone do this?

Steve says:
7 September 2020

My wife has wanted me to turn an old brick built garden outbuilding into something other than a dumping ground for my tools, building materials etc. I finally relented during lockdown and after a number of weeks work changing windows and doors, insulating inner walls, raising roof timbers, rewiring, installing mains water, drainage, underfloor heating and decoration we now how a lovely spare guest room with en-suite shower and toilet. Now where to store all those tools, screws etc?

I have done some painting jobs I have been putting off inside and outside. Other that, I am more DDIY i.e. don’t do it yourself. The allotment and garden look fantastic though!

Has anyone else noticed how paint stripping solvent has been absolutely ruined? I’ve taken on stripping the lovely edwardian antique pine woodwork in my attic stairwell, including all the handrails and spindles and posts etc. around the top as well as the stairs and the panelling at the side and I now have to use a military surplus gas mask because of the dreadful fumes from the solvent which now burns your eyes and with that mask on I can’t wear my glasses which causes even more difficulty. I never had any problem like this with the old dichloromethane solvent which was banned in the eu some years ago but which was far better stuff which I used extensively elsewhere in my home way back years ago. You can’t always use a heat gun because of delicate stuff like wall paper, and some plastic fittings which can be masked with aluminium tape. Although there is still at least one stripping product available which is dcm based but it also contains phenol which makes it too dangerous to use at home and it’s really intended for use in car workshops where it’s normally used with expensive ppe. And even when you can use a heat gun you still need to use stripping solvent to finish off and clear the remaining residues left by the heat gun, after waiting for the wood to cool down of course and unplugging the heat gun so it doesn’t ignite the solvent fumes which are volatile.

The dichloromethane-based paint strippers were very effective but I’m surprised that they were not banned years ago, at least for indoor use. As you say, the newer alternatives are highly flammable, unlike dichloromethane.

Paint strippers based on sodium hydroxide are safe if you protect your skin. The disadvantage is that these can stain or damage the wood.