With so much time spent at home, lockdown has given many people the motivation they needed to take on home improvements themselves – with varying levels of success.
From a flatpack bed gone wrong, to an outdoor office for home working, four people discussed their lockdown DIY projects.
‘It was only when a couple tons of gravel was delivered that I started to feel slightly out of my depth’
“I was furloughed in last year’s first lockdown and decided it was time to build the patio we had always wanted,” said Chris Clark, 33, who lives in Northwich, Cheshire, and works as a copywriter. “I got a few quotes from local tradesmen but the cost was so high I decided to do it myself. It was only when a couple tons of gravel was delivered that I started to feel slightly out of my depth.”
Despite some periodic nerves, Clark said his efforts paid off – and he saved more than a thousand pounds by doing it himself.
“In two weeks I’d dug up half the garden, built some planters, laid a flat-ish base and created a building site. I only broke one tile and the biggest mistake was staining the tiles with cement,” he said.
The project was complete in around three weeks.
“I loved it,” he said. “It was a good distraction from being on furlough. We had a heatwave, so I was out every day. The first beer on the patio was extra special.”
Clark has been in the process of selling his house, and has been so inspired that he and his family have chosen to buy an older house which will enable to him to do even more DIY.
“If I hadn’t done the patio, I probably wouldn’t have had the confidence.”
‘The frame hasn’t collapsed yet, but give it time’
Not everyone has had such a successful experience. In London, Yvonne, who is in her 60s, is sleeping on an unfinished bed after a disaster with flatpack furniture.
“I spent a whole day trying to put a bed frame together. Halfway through, when it was too late, I realised I had used the wrong screws and couldn’t get them out. Had to just keep going, close to tears,” she said.
“Normally I have a great guy who can put together flatpack furniture in a couple of hours that would take me a week. I thought about calling him, but then thought, don’t I need a challenge? It was the worst idea I’ve ever had.”
Yvonne said she had resigned herself to the fact that she’s “just going to have to live with it”.
“It creaks a bit but it’s holding up so far. I’m sleeping in it until it falls apart,” she said. “The frame hasn’t collapsed yet, but give it time.”
‘There’s nothing wrong with getting someone in to do it for you’
Others have discovered the importance of doing it yourself, but with a little expert advice. Despite being an architect, 35-year-old Priscilla Fernandes described herself as “hopeless” at DIY.
“Architects are quite disconnected from the practical parts of construction,” she said. “I could design everything from the walls to the window frames, but it was my first time having a go.”
She and her partner were both forced to work from home during lockdown, and found it difficult to work in the same room because they both had to make so many calls. They decided to knock down the shed, and build a workspace outside.
The pair had moved into their home in Bromley just before lockdown, and discovered the next-door neighbour, conveniently, was a joiner.
“Graeme helped us square everything, and basically taught us how to do it,” she said. “It took about six months, every weekend, bit by bit. We didn’t expect it to take that long. We still have some bits to do.”
While Fernandes said she would certainly consider taking on other DIY projects, the experience had also taught her the value of expertise.
“Without Graeme we would have really struggled. The house needs a complete redecoration, and we can definitely do things ourselves now, but we also know how long it takes, and how involved it is. So we’ve also realised there’s nothing wrong with getting someone in to do it for you.”
‘I finally got fed up of waiting to come out of lockdown to get builders in’
Spending more time at her home in Kent made Helen, 42, notice the creaky floorboards even more than usual – especially as they were right outside her bedroom door.
“I finally got fed up of waiting to come out of lockdown to get builders in, so I took it upon myself to fix the squeaky floorboards on the landing,” she said.
“Normally we go off to school or wherever else, so there hasn’t been that immediate need,” she said. “Being at home all the time, and always hearing it, makes it more evident.”
“The initial plan was to get someone in to do the whole landing, but every time someone gets up I can hear it,” she added.
Helen isn’t new to DIY, but most of her experience was in painting walls and fencing. She said this was her biggest project yet.
“It worked well, and the family is happy,” she said. “The next project is to fix the squeaky stairs.”