/ Home & Energy

Have you had a DIY dream turn to disaster?

New figures show that rescuing DIY disasters costs UK home owners an extra £42m a year. So what drives us to DIY over getting a professional in?

I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit of a fan of the odd DIY programmes. I used to love watching Changing Rooms while dreaming of having my own home where I could finally experiment with feature walls, have a go laying the odd bit of flooring, or even test out my upcycling skills.

But it would seem I’m not quite as handy as I’d like to think. I quickly found out that my painting skills are less than desirable. So with varying levels of paint thickness and interesting stripe patterns, my only option was to make an emergency call to a professional to patch it up.

Some of my friends are absolute DIY pros and put my handiwork to shame. But it would seem that I’m not the only one who has ended up spending out for repairs.

Fixing the fails

On average UK home owners spend an additional £42 million a year rescuing a DIY project gone wrong.

Our biggest blunders include terrible paint jobs (that would be me then) and self-installed kitchens and bathrooms, according to research by the Federation of Master Builders.

Around one in three DIY attempts end up calling in a tradesperson to finish the job. With projects costing an average of £871 more than if a professional had carried out the work in the first place.

So what drives us to DIY?

Well it would appear that 55% of us turn to DIY over hiring a professional due to cost. But with 27% giving up on the project, which drags on for an average of 19 months, is it really worth it?

Cost is certainly a main driver for my DIY work, but I’m also keen on developing these skills too as someone who grew up around the trades. I may be fighting a losing battle, but my general rule of thumb is practice makes perfect. And at least I have a bit of fun along the way.

So have you had any DIY disasters? It may be that you’re pretty handy in this field, so what was your main driver for carrying out DIY?


£42M? Less than £2 a household. Are you sure about that? If true someone must have a lot of time on their hands to produce such statistics.


WHAT an utterly fatuous and pointless Thread.
With people being:
# cheated out of their life savings,
# sold shoddy goods,
# refused compliance with guarantees
# killed by hypothermia ‘coz they can’t afford to keep themselves warm
# NHS nearing meltdown
# dodgy dealing by V W

Which? starts this Thread encouraging US to criticize ourselves?
We’ll probably next be told that:
”It’s only a bit of light hearted Community Fun.”
I say,
You can have your fun in your own time, get on with the job you’re paid to do.


It does seem strange to me that we, and possibly Which?, have problems believing the innumeracy of surveyed populations.

Yet this article, and the one on prosecco, seem quite happy to regurgitate “findings” without critically analysing the validity of what is being given the benefit of the Which? reputation.

As I have pointed out previously that the ALLTrials campaign [ which WHich? has chosen not to support] manifestly proves that companies drop unfavourable survey results and just report the ones they like. And it would appear that this approach to is OK with Which?

In the case of Alltrials the lying companies are pharma companies so it is health critical to the population and profit critical to the pharma. So yes you can see Which? would not wish to be involved in running a Conversation on that sort of stuff!

Surveys are not news reporting unless they are critically examined and held up for scrutiny. So is what the FMB saying true?

Their publicity release claims £42m spent are *Based on 14.3 million UK homeowners (English Housing Survey 2012-13, Department for Communities and Local Government) . However in the main document 104 pages I see nothing at all. Can Which? check with the FMB where this figure of £42m derives from and where did the other figures come from. I think FMB actually have done their own survey and the only figure derived from the Govt research is the number of homes of 14.3m.

SO essentially an uncheckable piece of media pap?


Do the stats matter? Not a lot. We all know that many DIY jobs go wrong and have to be put right by a tradesman or tradeswoman. What the FMB didn’t tell us is the number of jobs done by “professionals” that go wrong and have to be rectified at further expense or become the subject of a legal dispute.

I have always enjoyed doing some DIY jobs myself and have become fairly competent. I no longer do electrical work for which, by law, a “competent person” must be used, or plumbing or extensive plastering, but I like doing repairs and refurbishing houses we have bought. Living in a new house for the last three years means I have not done so much lately apart from putting up fittings in bathrooms and hanging pictures and I have been missing it. I particularly enjoy painting and wallpapering and am looking forward to starting a programme in the house in about two years’ time.

When I was a teenager in the 1960’s there were monthly magazines like “Do It Yourself” and “Practical Householder” that were very popular with home-owners. They introduced them to new materials and showed people how to do the jobs that most people wanted to do in their houses, even quite complex jobs. There was also a TV programme presented by a cheerful chappy by the name of Barry Bucknell who each week did a big project and a few other small jobs demonstrating the techniques required – but very much on the “Here’s one I did earlier . . . ” principle. The programmes were black & white 405-line transmissions so a bit grainy and lacking in detail; no video recorders then, and no internet, so you had to send off for the free leaflets that were also in black & white and a bit grainy! Barry performed these tasks wearing a tie and a smart-casual sweater and rarely seemed to get a paint splash or a glue stain on him, let alone a speck of sawdust. No trade names could be shown on television in those days so everything was described using its generic term which made the script rather laboured, so there were lots of references to plastic laminate instead of Formica and epoxy resin glue instead of Evo-Stik. His favourite material was hardboard which caught on in a big way and led to millions of houses having their banisters enclosed behind hardboard sheeting [which has at least preserved them for later generations to enjoy revealing] and panelled doors covered up on both sides with hardboard – the locks having been removed and replaced with ball catches and plastic pull handles; the hardboard made the doors so heavy they usually pulled the top hinge away from the door frame and the bottom of the door scraped the floor. The final series of these programmes, before people got fed up with mock DIY, saw the BBC take a large house in West London and use it as the set for the projects. Numerous “improvements” were made, not all as successfully as appeared on TV. They allowed the public to visit this house and I went with a friend after school one day. Perhaps because of the constant wear and tear of the public the house had taken a bit of a battering but most things in the house had something seriously wrong with them – sloping or collapsing shelves, wonky tables, drawers that didn’t run, and lopsided doors. We had expected to see things in the bright modern colours then becoming available and mentioned in the programmes but most things were painted in photographic grey and other monochromes that would not upset the TV camera lenses and low-fidelity receivers of the time.

Apologies for that digression aimed at the older reader; it’ll make no sense at all to any one born after the Coronation.


The thing about home diy is that you can save a lot of labour cost – when you can do the job properly. Most people can tackle these jobs successfully if they read the right books, look online, find someone to show them. It might not work well first, or second time – we can’t all become competent overnight. But unless you try you will never learn. Give it a go, and it not only saves a lot of money, can be more convenient, but is also very satisfying.

Do not be put off by this Convo!


I do a lot of stuff. Not always successfully but

re-designing a house interior
planning kitchens and bathrooms , designing a 40 sq metre extension, contracting the supplies, getting the planning permission.
labouring on site
tile laying by the 10’s of square metres

built a 21 sq metre garden room from a kit
50ft of steps built single-handed
minor plumbing, drain clearance
my painting is not great – yet
I do shelves , build flat-pack units,
garden design, cut-down trees …..

With the right tools, knowledge and research, and some intelligence most things are possible. That applies to men and women. Knowing what is beyond you in time and skill is key.

I have been fortunate to have had the time to indulge in these pursuits.


My early power tool kit consisted of a Black and Decker drill, circular saw and sanding attachments and a home made small bench saw. With a selection of hand tools I made a fairly large fitted kitchen, three fitted bedrooms, kitchen table, bookcases – and other stuff for the house. Primarily because we could not afford to buy ready made, but equally I found it thoroughly enjoyable, learned a lot, got just what I wanted, and it has stayed with me to this day. I still enjoy furniture making.

Much information came from the big loose-leaf Readers Digest DiY manual – full of useful and relevant instruction.

For similar reasons I plumbed the house, installed central heating with a solid fuel boiler, wired throughout, installed two bathrooms and decorated.

After too many years wear and tear had taken its toll and I did not relish a total redecoration or refitting the two bathrooms, so left it to professionals. I did learn where I could have done better if I had tackled it again! For example, using lining paper when walls needed painting after having the original wallpaper stripped; apparently it stops the old paste bleeding through and damaging the finish. (unless that is an old wive’s tale – see separate convo).