Have you ever toyed with the idea of investing in a fixer-upper? Or maybe you would just like to give your home a refresh without having to shell out for labour?
Well, knowing a few DIY skills can really go a long way. But if you’ve barely even changed a lightbulb before – it can be daunting.
From knowing the right products to buy, to learning the basic skills, and knowing what you should never attempt without professional help – there’s a lot to think about when it comes to DIY.
But you shouldn’t let fear hold you back. Having confidence to get stuck in, get things wrong and try again, is half the battle. And confidence grows when you simply give things a go.
The more you do, the more you learn, and the more you’ll feel confident trying in the future.
Bonnie Harrington is a freelance copywriter who is currently on her second renovation project.
With both of her property purchases, Bonnie says she pretty much had to gut the place and start from scratch – so it was really a lot of work for someone who had little to no experience with DIY before.
Bonnie says confidence is key when it comes to doing repairs, renovations and DIY jobs at home. She has shared some of her top tips for getting stuck in and learning some of these invaluable hands-on skills that will save you a fortune in the long-term.
What you should never do yourself
Nothing will knock your confidence quicker than having a full-scale disaster or causing some serious damage while doing a DIY job.
Therefore, it’s really important to know where to draw the line and when to hire help.
‘Never try to DIY anything involving gas or electric,’ says Bonnie. ‘You need to be qualified and certified. This means moving boilers, taking out gas fires or installing a cooker is not a DIY job.
‘Getting it wrong could be deadly. Also, avoid big tasks involving electrics as a novice, it’s also incredibly dangerous. Some things are better left to professionals.’
Bonnie says you should spend some time thinking carefully about what you want in your space.
‘The joy of making something exactly as you want it to be is going to motivate you,’ she says.
‘Perhaps create a mood board or a Pinterest board for all your ideas. Browse Instagram for renovation accounts, read lifestyle mags, research interior designers’ website, watch DIY shows and connect with what makes you happy.’
Having the opportunity to put your stamp on a room is a privilege, and it should be fun, so if you love colour, Bonnie says embrace colour, because it’s your room after all.
‘Want to paint the ceiling? Go for it!’ she says. ‘If home is your calm place, then bring in warm neutrals and lots of soft furnishings.
‘Personally, I love to focus on period features and one colour palette to use in the whole house.’
Learn the basic skills
YouTube will become your best friend.
Bonnie suggests watching as many videos as you can, Googling questions, and speaking to friends or family who have done DIY before.
‘Big DIY stores have how to videos and very helpful staff you can talk too,’ she adds.
‘There are thousands of DIY blogs to help you along the way, and manufacturers instructions to follow. Really understanding every step of the job you’re planning to do is going to make you feel much more prepared and confident.
‘You’ll also see that most DIY jobs are essentially simple – like putting up shelves, for example – you just need a little knowledge and the right tools.’
Get the right kit
Speaking of tools – this is one area where you can’t really compromise. Having the right equipment will make all the difference.
‘Yes, this means a trip to some DIY stores, but you need the right tools to get the right finish,’ says Bonnie. ‘And, the right tools mean doing your DIY job safely.’
The basic tools Bonnie says you will need are a hammer, range of screw drivers, rawl plugs, a spirit level, a drill, some wallpaper scrapers and some gloves.
‘Depending on the job you’re doing, you may well need more specialist tools,’ she says. ‘On the way to pick up the keys for our first ever house, we stopped off for supplies and I bought a crow bar. Our new house had some truly disgusting panelling which I ripped off before the day was over.’
Another top tip is to hire power tools – like floor sanders, breakers, circular saws and tile cutters.
‘But, one tip I always give is have a look on Facebook Marketplace for specialist tools, you’re absolutely going to find bargains,’ she says.
‘We ripped up all the floorboards in our Edwardian home so we could insulate, replumb the radiators, move the boiler and give the electrician access to rewire. When it came time to nail the boards back down it dawned on us we would need a nail gun. These can retail at up to £400, being on a budget and only needing it for a few jobs, we bought a more basic one second-hand for £35.
‘It’s my favourite tool to use, I had the most fun shooting nails into joists. I strongly recommend ear plugs/ defenders though, it’s so loud.’
Like with any big task, breaking it down into bite-sized chunks can help.
‘For example, painting a wall is not one job. It’s 12,’ says Bonnie.
‘You have to: empty the room or move the furniture, fill holes and cracks in the wall with Polyfiller and allow to dry, sand the Polyfiller to smooth perfection, sugar soap the walls and thoroughly dust the room (dust is the enemy of paint), lay out dust sheets and apply masking tape along skirting boards, door frames, light switches, windows and sockets, slowly and carefully apply first “cutting in” coat, apply first coat of paint with a roller, allow paint to dry, apply the second coat of paint, wash your brushes and roller, and tidy up and put all your furniture back.
‘It’s a lot.
‘If you (properly) paint one room in a weekend you’re doing really well.
‘Ticking off each little milestone as you go will keep you motivated when your arms get tired and when you want to give up. So will the knowledge of how amazing your room will look when it’s finished.’
Get people to help you
Some tasks are simply two-person jobs, there’s no getting around it. Bonnie says it’s safer, easier and quicker to have a person to help you while you’re up a ladder, sawing wood, or drilling holes in walls.
‘The first time you do something can be daunting, so having a more experienced friend or family member with you to show you how to do something is a good idea,’ she says.
‘They’ll be able to teach you the ropes and give you a confidence boost that you’re getting it right.
‘Please remember that you owe this person a takeaway, some beers and your eternal gratitude. People see doing DIY in their own house as a chore, so giving up a Saturday to do DIY in someone else’s house is God-tier kindness!’
If you don’t have anyone who’s experienced to help, Bonnie says you shouldn’t be be put off.
‘You can absolutely do it on your own,’ she says. ‘Simply talking a job through with someone can be enough to make sure you’re on the right track, and don’t forget you can re-watch those “how to” videos at any time.’
Don’t be scared
What’s the worst case scenario of doing a DIY job, really? Bonnie says that as long as you remember the golden rule of never dealing with gas or electrics, the worst thing that can happen is you’re going to make a mess.
‘Messes can always be cleaned up,’ she says.
‘Make sure you’re using tools as directed, cover everything with dust sheets, measure things carefully, and nothing will go wrong.
‘Even if you’re super unlucky and something unexpected does happen, you’ll deal with it. You’ll learn. You’ll think on your feet. And, you’ll have a great story to tell.
‘At the end of your DIY day you’re going to feel super tired, super proud and you will have learned so much.’
Make it fun
‘This means, get the tunes on and get them loud (Sorry neighbours!),’ says Bonnie.
‘Open the windows, get your comfy clothes on, and get stuck in. Invite friends or family round to help if you can, and catch up on their news over a tin of paint or putting a TV bracket on the wall. Have regular breaks and celebrate what you achieve as you go.
‘Working with your hands and creating something is a joyful act, so find the fun in everything you’re making, learning and doing.
‘Celebrating your hard work with a housewarming party is fun too.’
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