/ 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).

I’m keen at DIY, but since I’m allergic to dust I don’t tackle major projects. If something develops a fault I will have a go at fixing it. Electronic and electrical goods have become much more difficult to repair, and so have cars, but there is still a lot that can be achieved. I worked out how to fix things for myself but there are plenty of videos available online these days.

My next job is to replace the rechargeable batteries in a 2001 Braun electric shaver because they barely last a week. I have two of the same model of shaver and replaced the batteries in the other one a year or two ago, and I know it’s a fiddly job. I have a modern one but it’s very disappointing compared with the old ones.

The last DIY job was to resolder a connection on the shed alarm. Then I need to check the motor brushes and drive belt in my 1982 washing machine so that it does not let me down without warning. I might have a go at replacing the battery in my watch since the second hand is moving in 2 second steps to alert me the need for action. There’s always something to be fixed, and it’s more interesting than watching TV. 🙂

My DIY skills are very much on a par with Herod’s childminding capabilities. I have an impressive number of tools, including something called an ‘angle grinder’ (although how one grinds angles I have no idea, but it was useful for a few shelf supports), a ‘router’, which I used to render a perfectly cut and hitherto beautiful piece of timber into something that resembled a plank used by Blackbeard in a matter of seconds, a ‘Jig Saw’, which is utterly useless at making Jigsaws (I have tried), a chainsaw – now that’s a fun device 🙂 , a power saw (less fun, far noisier, but it does have a laser on board!) – and an assortment of spannery things, innumerable screwdrivers (why can’t they make all screws with the same head????) and several magnificent (and still pristine) box sets of things called ‘bits’, which seem to be for drills, but the name of which I’ve appropriated for most of my tools. I even have tools for my tools, with some very odd-looking things that seem to be for fitting ‘bits’ into drill-things.

Despite the equivalent (over the years) of enough money to buy a small third world country being invested in tools, the hammer remains the most useful, with – I swear – other things rapidly acquiring lives of their own as they spy me approaching. Every power tool has a lead which conspires to wrap itself around itself and other things with more dexterity than a set of Borromean rings and equally as implausible, drill bits delight in mocking my inability to drill a hole exactly where I want it, saws seize every opportunity to wander from the carefully drawn pencil line I’ve painstakingly measured out (power saws do that so much faster…) while despite taking what I think is every precaution, hidden electrical pipes sneak furtively into places where they shouldn’t be, empty pipes fill with water and perfectly unassuming water pipes contrive to connect themselves to gas outlets, so when I buy a handy ‘self-tapping’ washing machine connector nothing but a stream of highly combustible propane emits when it’s turned on which, given the other topic on warranties, might possibly void the Electrolux’s guarantee.

Finally, even when taking every imaginable precaution to trace a lead pipe, ensuring I could locate both ends and that neither was connected, the amount of water that gushed out all over me as I tried to cut this useless and ‘empty’ piece of pipe down to take it to the scrap yard because of something called a ”T” piece was enough to convince me that in DIY the first letter stands for “Demolish”.

It’s not often LOL means what it says. An excellent self-deprecating post. May I suggest that you don’t give up trying – except perhaps with the chainsaw.

LOL !!! That gave me a good laugh to start off a Monday morning Ian !!!

Our tool cupboard is probably very similar to yours, tools for every occasion mostly bought to do a job properly that only work if in the hands of an expert with the odd one probably on sale that might come in handy sometime. Don’t think we have had quite as many disasters though !!!

Ian says:
My DIY skills are very much on a par with Herod’s childminding capabilities.
+ 1
I ROFL-ed until I could no longer ROFL – and then lay in a heap, just L-ing.

Whatever your DIY capabilities are, I should think that your writing abilities should see you recompensed enough financially to never have to DIY again – unless it’s for source material for your latest ‘Column’.


Haha, thank you Ian, you had me laughing there too. This is certainly worthy of being the featured comment in this Conversation, and on the homepage too!

Great idea.
This will now be put to a VOTE by members of this Community, won’t it?
It will be a clear and visible commitment of this part of Which? to a Democratic Community.
AND a bit of FUN !

I therefore :
1.0….. Wish to know how often these nominations are called for
2.0….. Ask where the present occupiers of these prestigious ‘awards’ may be viewed.
3.0….. Propose that the contribution
”My DIY skills are very much on a par with Herod’s childminding capabilities. …
… was enough to convince me that in DIY the first letter stands for “Demolish”.”
be on the ballot paper.
4.0….. Look for a Seconder for my Proposals
5.0….. Expect that others may wish to nominate other contributions, tho’ they may be in another category, i.e. other than ‘humour / insight”.

We published this comment by Ian as a new conversation as it was such a fun read. You can join the new conversation here: https://conversation.which.co.uk/home-energy/diy-home-improvement-disasters-ian-comment/

Great fun Ian . Thanks for raising a smile.

My first “major” (well it was to me at the time) DIY job was changing a leaking radiator.

After being ripped off for a new immersion heater that we didn’t need I decided to tackle the job myself.

A trip to the local plumbers who were slightly amused but extremely helpful, even lending me a tool and explaining how much PTFE tape to use etc, I managed to drain the system, reposition the brackets and get it all working again without any disasters all the while ignoring my then partner’s 2 cents worth to get a plumber in .

That was a proud moment in DIY.

And now, Alpha, I expect you have the confidence that you can tackle other jobs like this. DiY is about trying. It is always a relief after plumbing when you find no water dripping from the joints!

You don’t know what you are capable of until you try.

Some people call someone in to do every little job. We see if it is something we can do first – a lot cheaper and a lot more satisfying.

And I should have said a trip to the local plumbers merchants.

Plumbing is a very useful skill to learn because it is easy to save a fortune with DIY. I inherited a complicated heating and hot water system with two boilers. The water in the tank would not stay hot because the water was circulating by gravity when the system was off.

I did some modifications involving eliminating one boiler adding three motorised valves and some new-fangled controls with LCD displays (well they were at the time). Amazingly, nothing leaked and it has worked faultlessly for about 30 years and all the plumbing I had done before was to fit a garden tap.

More recently I have changed the ball-valve in the cold tank a couple of times (probably because of hard water) and replaced the flushing mechanism in a toilet cistern. The parts were amazingly cheap.

As well as Barry Bucknell, Reg Prescott had a series of helpful programmes for the diy enthusiast. One example: youtube.com/watch?v=lo7l1QAe_es

The hours of pleasure I’ve had stripping off Barry’s hardboard boxing-ins, and filling all those nail and tack holes in lovely pine doors, re-opening stairways, etc
Not the mention those Artex-ed ceilings and walls.

I could change the title of this topic from diy to professional disasters
My whole place is DIY, Everything. A lot of it looks like a dogs breakfast because its temporary as half the place is a work in progress but I have no failures, leaks or shocks in 20 years or more and I note regular that so called professionals are all to ready to complain about appearance as a certainty of the job being sub standard and/or dangerous when in fact it is often the contrary.
I feel many like to make us believe that plumbing and electrics are in some way complicated which they are not.
Long before electric valves etc were available most things were possible and near all the components are still available
I have seen a place wired to 17th edition with no thought to the ability of the power source. In several cases i have seen the same problem.
Fit a consumer unit with all the usual MCBs etc and all connected to a 2 or 3kw inverter supply. The MCBs will never trip in any circumstance because they are all too big and too slow to trip. There is not enough power available. Safety to the equipment does not matter. Just continue blondly down the same route and it was right ever other time.
When I change them out to proper rated ones for the job in hand I got told that that what I done is not correct.
I argue the toss because I know.
My daughter bought a house this year and it had had a new kitchen and bathroom fitted.
Of course the house inspection of a 1960s house does not involve trying everything and the outcome is that the kitchen taps are those fiddly hose high pressure types as are the wash basin ones
The shower hose was too short by far.
All this in a gravity fed house
The shower stopped working at every opportunity, air-locking requiring a little help from a wet vacuum near every day. And she’s 12 mile from me!!
Her father in laws plumber stated it will need a booster pump. “It’ll never work with gravity, I’m tellin you”
A shower pump supply and fit will be £500 supply and fit.
I mentioned the lack of a check valve on the hot at the kitchen sink and that it would need a swing type valve as the system is not correct. He said he could only fit a normal spring type valve as that was regulation. Rubbish I said, there’s barely pressure to flow water let alone a spring. He retorted he didnt care, he would only work to the regs ????????????? According to what had seen and with the knowledge of his skills I doubt his judgement.
Seeing as no one was offering to pay for these costly solutions I decided to have a go at my daughters request.
Whilst there on my own the neighbour who I had met previous spoke to me over the back fence. What’re you at today.
I told him what I thought was the problems and that the plumber had said it needed a pump.
I got a surprise.
The neighbour then told me he was surprised to see “that plumber” back again as that was the guy who done the kitchen and bathroom and he had not a good reputation in the area.
I learned the plumber had fitted the parts supplied to him and had also fitted a new vented cylinder because it had burst or started to leak during the renovation. Strange??
The cylinder is in a cupboard downstairs. The hot pipe comes out the top as usual and does a few wiggles and makes it way back up into the roof space.
Once in the roofspace it continues on up to make the vent. The 22mm takes off from the riser in the direction of the bathroom but in that lay the problem.
The 22m hot feed continued to rise before turning vertical downward.
The neighbour told me the plumbing had worked all the time he knew the houses at least up until this renovation.
I cut the 22mm hot pipe as it rose from the tank to the vent in two places. I raised the hot tank end of bath hot feed and reconnected the lot
I noted a very up and down piece of hep below the bath so removed it and replaced with a piece of copper sloping up toward the taps.
I had to got to town at that point to get two brass 3/4 back nuts as the nuts on the taps were plastic and split.
I used proper 3/4 copper tap fittings not those very restricted flexibles that were there.
I then fitted a brass swing type check horizontally to the hot feed to the kitchen mixer and the flow via the tiny pipes was such that the swing type valve barely flows. What would a spring type have done with this I know not.
I turned everything back on and without any priming or sucking with a wet vacuum water appeared everywhere and apart from occasional small bursts of gas the system now works it seems.
The next thing to do is to replace the high pressure kitchen and wash basin taps with proper ones which are still available.
I will now get the son in law in action and raise the header tank up at least a further 4′. I’ve been in and looked in the neighbor’s roof space and it seems they were raised originally as this is a row of former council cottages.
I have already been told by some that the plumber is not at fault because he only fitted what he was presented with which I dont agree with.
My old long gone mate would have told the owners to take these high pressure parts back and get suitable otherwise your system wont work.
I have already told the story of a neighbour who had an electric shower with neither and earth nor RCD and fitted by a local electrician.
I have seen many things that are not as they should be and not just in renovations but in new installations also.
Everything is not as it should be.
Yes there are good tradesmen, There will always be good tradesmen but there are many poor to bad around also.
The above mentioned plumber can only be deemed as dire to the extent he was willing to take payment to sort out problems caused only by himself.
According to what abilities one has is a lot to do with whether one should attempt diy or not.
Your partner will soon let you know if your successful or not and thats a fair indication of your abilities.
Do not attempt anything that you know nothing about. Electrical and plumbing can both be dangerous if not treated as should be.
If it were not for diy we would be broke as I inherited a run down old farm yard that need the price of several little houses spending on it. A real b*****s of a place with not one service in place. Not so much as a 240v lightbulb in sight.

+ 1
So, so TRUE.
And yet another advantage of DIY is that one knows where everything runs into, is, and comes out.
I had some new double glazed window frames put in about two weeks ago.
”Job done” said the tradesman, offering me the bill.
‘Nope’ said I – hands in pockets.
”Why?” was the puzzled retort.
”Frosted glass?”
”As you ordered.”
”With the frosting on the outside?”
”Why not?”
”No pane reversal. No cash dispersal.”
”Oh !”

Hi Josef, Your turning into a poet good man
I followed supposed professionals and not a chance of knowing where anything went. Not even a scribble on anything. Follow your nose as one would say.
I worked with loads of dc circuits and it seems perfectly acceptable for them to use pos to be brown and neg to be blue. Not a bit of red or black tape in sight. High voltage, low voltage, ac dc all the same to them it seems
Then bundle the whole lot into the same controller/enclosure and into the same trunking along with you guessed it brown and blue ac wires. I nightmare that is.
When checked they say “its okay we done the 17th edition” you did did you, well so did I and this is all wrong
Keep it going Jo

A BIG smile from me
And an even

A Great new posting from Which? about Solid fuel burning stores.
I’ve tried to post info – but the site has not responded in a positive way.
A NEW Thread, or an update to the existing one?