Five steps to avoiding DIY disasters

Published by Nathalie Bonney on 11 July 2011.
Last updated on 11 July 2011


British people love a spot of DIY, but sometimes our reluctance to call in the professionals causes more harm than good.

The average home DIY disaster costs £145 for a tradesperson to rectify, according to So what can you undertake yourself to improve your home, and which jobs are you better off leaving to the experts? Follow our definitive guide to fixing up your home.

Refurb instead of rip out

If you have some time, small jobs like changing door handles and repainting units and walls can update the look of your home for a fraction of the cost of redecorating the whole thing.

Order plain white tiles, which are much cheaper than patterned ones, then decorate them with tile paint or transfers. And buy basic white matt paint, then mix in testers to brighten up a wall, instead of buying coloured paint. For shelves and wooden storage, buy untreated wood that you can treat yourself.

Cheaper tools

Check to see if there are any tools or equipment in your area that you can bag for free. Alternatively, websites such as and eBay have DIY and home and garden sections.

Website sells power tools and DIY bits and pieces at reduced prices for tradespeople, but consumers can buy from the site too.

Don't neglect basic maintenance

Almost a third of us are neglecting home maintenance to save money, according to While changing the cushion covers can wait, delaying important repairs, for example fixing a leaking roof, could cost you more as a result of further damage if the problem isn't sorted out straight away. 

Time to call in the professionals

Although some cosmetic jobs are suitable for the adept DIY-er, other tasks such as electrical problems should always be carried out by a professional.

But even when we do employ tradespeople to do the work for us, things can still go badly wrong; government figures show that over a million homeowners have to spend money fixing work carried out by people without the correct qualifications or training each year, so it's important to find someone reliable.

Websites such as will help you find trusted tradespeople in your area. And you can compare quotes at

Check their credentials

If you need any gas, electric or plumbing fittings, look for tradespeople with the appropriate accreditation. For instance, electricians should be Part P-registered (which means they are certified to carry out work) with one of the following organisations:

  • NAPIT (National Association of Professional Inspectors and Testers);
  • NICEIC (National Inspection Council for Electrical Installation Contracting);
  • BRE - an independent testing and training organisation;
  • BSI (British Standards Institute);
  • ECA (Electrical Contractors' Association);
  • Corgi - the tradespeople registrar scheme.

For plumbers and gas fitters, only ever use a Gas Safe-registered engineer to install appliances.

Counting the cost of DIY disasters

• When adding extra sockets, it's all too easy to use the wrong cables with the wrong current. This could cause a fire risk as the cables will melt before they fuse. Replacing sockets would cost around £60.
• Installing light fittings without earthing them first will give you an electric shock. It would cost around £200-£300 for a qualified electrician to replace metal fittings with plastic ones.
• If you damage a water pipe when replacing skirting boards or wall panels, it could cost an extra £100 for a plumber to replace pipe sections.

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