8 min read

Home DIY: The do's and don’ts to help you save

Andre Spiteri
1 March 2018

5 top tips to help you find the best deals, avoid any expensive mistakes and ultimately keep those DIY costs down

In Britain, we’re keen on DIY. So keen, that we spend billions on it each year. And with the Easter weekend on the horizon you might be planning a project of your own.

DIY can be a great way to give your home some tlc and even increase its value on the cheap, so it's no surprise so many of us give it a go. But while going down the DIY route can save you money, the costs can quickly spiral and it's surprisingly easy to go over-budget.

On top of this, with any DIY project you run the risk of getting hit by unexpected costs. In particular, those caused by fixing any DIY blunders. In fact, 77% of people commit DIY mistakes that can end up driving costs over and above what it would have cost to go pro from the off.

So to help your project stay on budget, we've rounded up some top tips to help you find the best deals on tools and materials, avoid any expensive mistakes and ensure your DIY project actually saves you money.

Map out the job before you start

The most costly DIY mistakes often boil down to poor preparation and can cause you to easily go over your budget. If you're going down the DIY route, it's important to do your research before diving in. This'll help make sure you don't have to shell out for a professional to finish (or re-do) the job.

Once you have a feel for the job, list down what you'll need, making sure you measure accurately so you don’t waste money on excess materials or run out mid-job. Don’t forget to budget for less obvious costs such as a stepladder or plastic coverings for the floor and other furnishings (although you could DIY your DIY and use old bed sheets, newspapers and magazines instead). You can then work out a rough estimate of how much it's going to cost you.

For bigger jobs, it may be worth getting expert advice at least initially. A construction professional or an experienced friend can help you plan and oversee the project. This will make you less likely to run into expensive surprises midway through.

In some cases, you may have to apply for planning permission or building regulations approval. You risk getting fined for not doing this. Your local authority could also force you to put everything back as it was before you started at your own expense. This is one step not to skip if you want to avoid unnecessary costs.

Find loan and credit card deals in your ClearScore to help spread the cost of home improvements

Don’t forget to check your home insurance Ts and Cs

As a rule, simple projects such as repainting the living room or replacing a kitchen won’t affect your insurance. But be careful to watch your step, as your policy may exclude any damage caused while working. For example, you may not be covered if you accidentally hit a water pipe. This means it’s usually a good idea to check your policy carefully before you fire up the power drill.

If your project is extensive, for example because you’re planning to redo the main bathroom, it may be worth adding accidental damage cover to your policy. This will increase your annual premium. But with the average DIY-related damage costing £2,271 or more to fix, the extra expense could be well worth it.

You’ll usually have to get the ok from your insurer if your project involves rewiring the electricals, knocking down walls, building an extension or other structural alterations. Failure to do this could invalidate your policy so always double check.

Shop smart and compare prices

DIY can often seem like the cheaper option until you start adding up all the bits and pieces you need to buy first. If you don't already have the tools and materials to hand, you can save money on them in several ways:

  • Look out for Easter sales

    Easter is a popular time for home improvements. So DIY chains such as B&Q and Homebase usually hold sales in the run up to the holiday weekend. Many of these stores offer price-match guarantees, so it’s worth shopping around before you buy.

  • Go online

    If you tend to impulse buy or don’t want to brave the crowds, buying online may be a better option. The large DIY chains all have online stores. It’s also worth checking eBay and Amazon on the off-chance there’s a cheaper deal. However, do keep in mind that you may have to pay delivery charges.

  • Borrow from family and friends

    This is especially worthwhile if you need an expensive power tool or other equipment which you’re unlikely to use again. Don't shell out where you could save.

Pro tip: Check if you’re eligible for a grant
Depending on the job and your personal circumstances, you may qualify for help with your home improvement costs.

For example, you may be able to get free or subsidised insulation through the government’s Energy Company Obligation scheme.

You may also be able to get help with costs if you’re disabled, on a low income or need to make urgent repairs. You can find out more on the Citizens’ Advice website.

Understand where it makes sense to save… but don’t skimp on quality

You don’t always have to pay a premium to get high-end results from your home improvements. Wood veneers and other synthetic materials often cost less, need less maintenance and can look just as good as the real thing.

To cut costs further you could also consider whether you need to go high-end on every detail. For example, you typically only see the inside of your kitchen cupboards when you open them. This means you could buy cupboards from a warehouse store, jazz them up with more expensive doors and handles and, chances are, no-one would be able to tell the difference.

Don’t attempt jobs you’re not qualified to do

It sounds counter-intuitive, but sometimes hiring a professional is the best and most cost-effective way to go.

For starters, it can sometimes work out cheaper than doing the job yourself, especially if you’re not confident in your skills. According to research from Aviva, Brits pay professionals £1,319 on average to fix botched DIY jobs. That’s money you’ll have to pay on top of what you’ve already spent.

In particular, never attempt any electrical work or gas plumbing work unless you’re properly qualified. You should also get expert advice before attempting any construction.

_Successful DIY takes research, careful planning and old-fashioned hard work. But the savings (and the bragging rights) can be well worth it. Just make sure you're following our top tips to help you stick to your budget and get good value for your money. That way your decision to be thrifty by going DIY will actually save you some money.

So now that you know what to do and what to avoid, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and pick up your tools. You may even have some time left over to enjoy a cuppa… and an Easter chocolate or two._

by Andre Spiteri

Andre is a former lawyer turned financial writer. Andre has written this article especially for ClearScore.

ClearScore exists to make your finances simple.
We offer a free service where you can handle everything to do with credit in one place. In your ClearScore account, you can see your credit score and the full details of your credit report. Your credit cards, mortgages, mobile phone contracts, loans, overdrafts and utilities all on the record. Our goal is to make ClearScore as simple, calm and straightforward as possible. Money is stressful enough.