On the radio the other day, the presenters were lamenting the lack of basic DIY skills amongst young men in the UK.
Apparently, the Scout Association is equally worried because it’s to introduce a new DIY badge where Scouts will have to show they can wire a mains plug as well as other basic tasks.
It’s a topic we’ve covered before but what I found fascinating was the list of ‘typical DIY jobs’ the presenters put to a couple of TV makeover show experts.
For example, they were asked if putting up a shelf, hanging a picture, fitting a mains plug etc were considered basic.
Unsurprisingly, the answer was yes.
However, when they asked if mending a dripping tap or washer was considered an easy DIY task, the answer was, to the say the least, cautious.
The experts admitted that it was very easy for an in-experienced DIY’er to get into real trouble over just changing a tap washer. Not least because to do the job properly involves switching off the mains water supply. In itself a task, particularly where the stop valve is stiff to operate. There then followed a tale of homeowners who’d flooded their homes, unsure what to do until a professional plumber arrived.
Should homeowners own basic tools like screwdrivers, saws and pliers was another topic, with reminisces of Dad’s garage or tool shed which always had something mechanical on the mend in a vice.
Personally, I think it’s a combination of factors contributing to todays ‘lack of DIY skills’. For instance, we’ve become a nation of throw-away rather than mend and make-do. The result is that many of us have not the slightest clue what moving parts lurk beneath a plastic snap-fit cover (which can be a challenge in themselves to remove).
Next, it’s the fact that many manufacturers don’t want you poking around the innards of many appliances. Hence moulded mains plugs etc in the first place. We’re almost scared to ‘break the seal’ for fear of incurring the wrath of broken warranties.
And lifestyle must take it’s share of the blame too. We’re all so seemingly busy these days who has time to attend to such DIY in the first place?
I’ll give most things a go, it may take me a day where it would take a professional a hour but it’s true, you do get a caveman like sense of achievement when the tasks done and it’s nice to know you saved yourself a considerable sum in the process.
Many online spares shops are taking advantage of our need to economise and offer a dazzling array of spare parts for common household electrical goods. I’ve successfully mended a broken oven element, dishwasher handle and a heated towel rail element with only a few basic tools (and the right bits).
Take your time, take a deep breath but don’t get in over your head. There’s no shame in not attempting something if it really isn’t your cup of tea. There are plenty of stories of tradesmen going out to hapless homeowners who’ve come unstuck halfway through a project – most notably where fitting new kitchens and bathrooms is concerned. In such cases, it would have been cheaper to engage a professional fitting company in the first place.
And as far as safety goes – see our earlier story on Gas Safe Register and the dangers of doing it yourself or employing a non-registered gas fitter – literally to life and limb.
This article first appeared in our weekly homeowner newsletter dated 21st June 2011. Click here to read the full home improvement quotes newsletter.
photo credit: paul downey