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Doing DIY right
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Doing DIY right

DIY - do you love it or loath it? Some of us relish the thought of pushing up our sleeves and tackling the job of landscaping our garden, complete with a pond, raised beds and a new patio; others consider a little painting to be about their limit. It is not necessarily down to our abilities that we attempt something ourselves or call in the experts. Some of the most enthusiastic of DIYers are notably skill-free - consider TV show titles along the lines of DIY Disasters and DIYers from Hell and you get the picture.

People are still keen to take on decorating, gardening, restoring and even building themselves, whether it is a simple case of putting on new handles on a chest of drawers or tackling an extension or serious remodelling project. Just remember that doing something yourself will enable you to make significant cost savings, but only if you get it right.

It can be extremely rewarding to look round at your sitting room, for example, and think ‘I did this and it looks great.’ Needless to say, it can be extremely demoralising to look at a wonky set of shelves and think ‘I did this and it looks dreadful.’

Before you take on a large project, it is worth taking a good and honest look at your skills, your available time and your commitment. Let’s use the example of furniture restoration. It probably looks quite easy when you see it on the TV, but it usually isn’t. If you have bought a cheap secondhand chest of drawers, it won’t matter if you go wrong; however, if you have spent several hundred pounds on something, do you really want to mess it up?

A new set of curtains in the shops may run to hundreds of pounds for a big window and it would be perfectly reasonable to think that it would be a lot cheaper to make them yourself. Take a look at how much the material will cost, adding in the extras such as lining and heading tape. It all adds up and while fabric might only be £8 a metre, you might need 10 metres of it and 10 metres of lining material. You also need quite a lot of space to lay out the material.

Firstly, remember that very specific skill sets are needed for each different job, such as creating new legs for a chair, making curtains or replastering a ceiling. If you are going to be living with your efforts, you really want to get the best finish you can. Numerous DIY projects end up unfinished, either through a lack of ability, or time, or inclination!

Secondly, if you are still determined to do it yourself, and particularly if it is a larger or costlier project, it might be worth considering doing a course. The long and varied list of courses offered around the country covers everything from bricklaying and plastering to upholstery and French polishing. If you are serious about home improvements, or crafts, or learning a whole new skill altogether, you can take your pick from amateur adult education courses and professional, accredited courses at further education colleges that provide you with a professional qualification at the end. Training websites such as Hot Courses offer advice on what to expect from courses and where to find them, from short courses to City and Guilds and apprenticeships.

Finally, know when to say ‘I think it’s time we got someone in.’ There can be so much we want to do and sometimes our enthusiasm overrides our brain. Plan carefully, perhaps taking time off work. Cost the job up. If you really don’t want to do it, there is no shame in picking up the phone and calling in a professional.

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