How to save money with DIY

DIY tips to save money around the house

How to save money with DIY

Homeownership amongst 25 to 34-year-olds has collapsed.

The buy-to-let boom and symbiotic soaring house prices have forced most of the age group out of the market. Homeownership across England amongst 25 to 34-year-olds has almost halved since 1991[]. Down from 65% to 35%. In the 16-24 bracket’s homeownership is down fivefold, from 46% in 1991 to 9% today. Millennial fruggles, walking about like they rent the place.

Fruggles call the letting agent and fight to get issues fixed. The days of make-do-and-mend are long gone.

Fruggle wealth is being eroded by staying in rental property. When Fruggles do escape the rental system of control, they enter another: Tradespeople.

The trouble with Tradespeople

Fruggles struggle with letting agents and landlords. It can take forever to get simple issues fixed. I’ve been there.

The bad news is nothing changes when you leave. It can get worse. At least you had a single point of contact with a letting agent. Nothing to pay, apart from your rent.

When you own your own place, you need to fix anything that goes wrong with it yourself. And pay the privilege. For most, you have to find a local tradesperson and risk paying over the odds.

The majority of tradespeople are difficult to work with:

This is a horrible generalisation I know. Not all tradespeople are awful - if you find a good one - keep them sweet!

The majority of small jobs tradespeople do, you can do yourself with a little practice. Like fixing simple leaks, hanging doors, painting and decorating and replacing lights.

Learn basic DIY

Drills, borrow don't buy?
Drills, borrow don't buy?

The Money Mage household was an old student digs. It meant the place was cheap to buy, but not nice to live in. Over the years we’ve lived here, we’ve gutted it and renovated every room.

Some jobs we have left to professionals. Either due to capability, time, or the scale of the job. Bathrooms and Kitchen we left to the pros. Some jobs must meet Building Regulations and need certifying. Consult or use a professional. Anything structural is a huge no.

We’ve saved £10,000 - £15,000 by doing most of the renovation ourselves. Let alone the value added to the property.

This was only possible by learning some jobs on the go. I am resourceful, but would not classify myself as skilled in any of these areas.

Safety First

When doing DIY, safety needs to come first.

Locate cabling beforehand. Invest in a cable locator. Never work without knowing what is behind the wall.

Never take risks with electrics. 240V electricity can and does kill. More on electrical safety

Power tools can cause serious injury. Ensure you are using safety goggles and safety gloves. Read the safety instructions of the tool you are using. Be aware of the power cables at all times, and use an RCD circuit for extra safety.

Manual tools can cause serious injury. Ensure you are using safety goggles and safety gloves. Read how to use the tool before use.

Working at height is dangerous. Ensure you are not standing on the top rungs of ladders or leaning over when at height. More on working at height

Planning Second

Not to put you off, but when you are doing DIY, you must plan before you start::

Think before taking on more than you are capable of.

Where to learn DIY

There are lots of videos online for simple DIY tasks. Here’s the one I used recently for a plumbing job: How to fit a compression joint. You will need to search, but there is free information out there.

Often DIY retailers provide help - here is an article on B&Q about pipes and fittings.

There’s also the good old hardback Collins Complete DIY manual*

Joinery

Anyone can do basic joinery. From hanging shelves, pictures and mirrors, to hanging new doors. Even laying laminate and building decking in the garden.

Tools to consider:

Start with the basics of hanging - pictures, mirrors. Get used to finding studs in the walls with a studfinder for hanging heavier items. Learn how to hang a level picture with a spirit level.

Money Mage has been able to replace all doors in the house with new fire doors. Including routing in grooves for intumescent strips. A single door cost £200 to supply and fit from a professional joiner. There are 15 doors in the house. £3,000 to have a professional Joiner do it. Or less than 1/3 of that price if you DIY!

Plumbing

Anyone can do basic plumbing. From fixing leaky connections under the sink to replacing broken toilet flush valves.

Flush valves are the biggest con. They fail often as they are cheap plastic mechanisms. Plumbers charge an absolute fortune to replace. You can buy the same unit and slot it in the existing mechanism. A two minute job. Even if you have to get the cistern off and refit the whole mechanism and seals, you can do it yourself.

Tools to consider:

Before touching plumbing jobs make sure you know how to disable your water supplies - at the mains. It may seem simple to isolate the nearest valve, but if something goes wrong you need the supply off at the mains.

Money Mage has replaced a broken plastic ¾” Y splitter feeding the dishwasher and washing machine. A professional fitted the Y splitter. It failed and flooded the kitchen floor. It was straightforward to replace. A new metal dual ¾” valve, some new copper pipe, compression joints, olives and PTFE tape on all joints to be extra sure.

Electrics

Electrics is the most tricky to DIY. Not only is it deadly, but it’s also often covered by Building Regulations and needs certifying. Consult a professional if you are at all concerned.

Before you touch any electrics, you need to isolate the supply. Figure out how to turn off your electrics at your fuse board (consumer unit). Check to see if you have any other circuits on other fuse boards. Learn how to trip individual circuits and the master switch. Get a voltage meter, and learn how to tell if a circuit is live.

Start with basics like replacing a single-way light switch. Or replacing a single-way light fitting. You don’t need to re-run any cabling - reuse what’s there.

Given the risks, Money Mage only touches simple electric jobs. I get in professional electricians for larger jobs.

Never take risks with electrics. 240V electricity can and does kill. More on electrical safety

Painting & Decorating

Decorating is the easiest to DIY. Money Mage has never used a professional decorator. Sorry!

Tools to consider:

Painting walls and ceiling the same colour takes an afternoon. New water-based acrylic glosses are much easier than solvent paints. You don’t have to worry about brush cleaning. Painting has become simple.

With some basic joinery skills, decorating tasks like fitting coving is straightforward. Mix some coving adhesive, make your mitred cuts, and fit with panel pins until dry.

Learn how to ‘cut in’ with a decent sized brush.

Money Mage decorated every room in the house, saving thousands.

AV, Telephony and Networking

AV, Telephony and Networking come with less risk than electrics. Placing many WiFi access points makes the difference between an unhappy and happy family! Running Cat6 to a home office lets you take video calls without issue. Knowing how to reset your router can help save hours on the phone to call centres.

Tools to consider:

Money Mage is fortunate and works in Software/IT and is familiar with networking. The whole house is cabled. I’ve built a mini ‘comms room’ under the stairs, keeping all networking out of sight. WiFi Access Points are installed in the ceiling at the top of stairs, and one downstairs in the living room. No visible cables!

Tiling, Flooring & Carpeting

Tiling, laying a floor, and carpet fitting is something Money Mage is not capable of. The level of finish achieved is below-par, so the professionals are brought in. Everything ends up wonky!

Tiling and laying laminate are DIYable jobs, so don’t let my lack of capability put you off!

Saved thousands with DIY

Money Mage has completed a renovation of the Hallway. This was the last space from the previous owner, so it felt great to finish - inside anyway!

It was a big job, started in January 2019 and finished in August 2019. With some big breaks between due to work. It’s why Money Mage has been a little quiet. There are two landings and three stairways. 11 doors in total. A bannister with a total of 100 spindles. It’s the kind of sized job you question whether you should get professionals in.

But we did it. All in all, DIY has saved about £3,000 - £5,000.

Bannisters

Knackered Bannisters Before & After
Knackered Bannisters Before & After

The house used to be student digs. Beforehand a family with two young boys. The bannister was knackered. Broken spindles, names carved into the woodwork, and parts that were completely broken.

We debated replacing vs refurbishing. Replacing would have cost thousands - it’s a three-storey house.

There are 100 spindles. After much sanding, woodfilling, undercoating, and glossing, a crusty old bannister is now like new.

Saving: £2,000+

Decorating

Decorating In Progress
Decorating In Progress

All walls were sugar soaped, cleaned, filled, sanded, and two coats emulsion applied. There was over 50m2 of wall, with some bits only reachable on a very high ladder.

20m of coving installed on the middle landing.

Saving: £1,500+

Light Fitting

Temporary 10m high floor
Temporary 10m high floor

The hallway has a triple-height ceiling going from the ground floor all the way to the roof. It’s an amazing space but wasn’t used. We bought a new 3.5m light fitting to hang in the stairwell. Fitting at height is not easy. Two electricians skirted the job and wouldn’t even quote.

A temporary floor made from joists provided access over the 10m high stairwell. Reinforcing the joists in the loft with a cross beam added extra strength for the light fitting. The old light fitting was removed and relocated to above the stairwell. An extra WiFi access point now fills the hole left by the old light fitting.

Remember to get electrical work certified afterwards!

Saving: £500+

Networking

The hallway is our Point of Entry for our internet connectivity. The router used to sit on a windowsill on the landing, and it was unsightly.

Network cable and coaxial was run under the floor to move the router under the stairs.

With the flooring raised there was an opportunity to Cat6 more of the house. Cabling was run to most rooms, with all cables terminated in a patch panel in a 3U rack under the stairs.

Saving: £300+

Total Savings

Work Saving
Replacement banisters £2,000
Decorating 3 storey hallway, 50m^2 £1,500
Fitting of 3.5m light fixture, 10m up £500
Network cabling and comms area £300
Total £4,300


DIY money-saving tips

DIY can save thousands when compared to hiring tradespeople. But are there ways you can save even more?

Borrow Tools

When it comes to DIY, you are only as good as your tools. It’s easy to spend a fortune on tools.

Borrow them. Beg if you have to. Know a friend with a very tall ladder? A power mitre saw? Borrowing will save you hundreds of pounds.

Watch the Professionals

The money mage house has about 14 doors. We paid a professional joiner to fit one. I watched him do it, and fitted the rest myself.

Replace bulbs & Insulate

This is a direct saving. Replace inefficient bulbs with LED bulbs. Get on it now if you have many GU10 downlights. These can be 50W per bulb, compared to 1-2W per LED

Draft excluders around windows, and loft insulation is a sure win over a couple of years. Both easy to DIY.

Get multiple quotes

When you do have to use professional tradespeople - and you will - get three quotes. This is especially important if you are doing a large job. We had to replace the boiler when we first bought the house, there were three quotes: £1,900, £3,400 and £5,500. If we hadn’t have gotten the three quotes, we’d be £3,600 lighter.

Upcycle

When it comes to furniture, upcycle. You can find amazing quality old furniture for next to nothing. Sanding, a lick of paint, some new handles and it’s good as new.

Save even more with upcycling

Upcycling can be a huge saving. When we bought the house a load of 1980s solid pine furniture was left as part of the sale. A desk, wardrobe, two chests of drawers, sideboard, and a bedside table.

It’s the kind of furniture you wouldn’t be seen dead with. But it was solid & well made.

It was worth keeping. It’s easy to sand, repair, and paint like new.

Upscaled Pine 2+4 Drawers
Upscaled Pine 2+4 Drawers

Think before you spend a fortune on new flatpack chipboard furniture. Check if there is a local supplier of good quality, solid, second hand furniture. It’s often well under half the price of new and just needs some love.

Time is Money

I know you are all thinking “time is money”. Professionals shouldn’t be doing the jobs of other professionals.

Rather than DIY in spare time, I could use my labour-power to earn more money and then pay a professional. You are right.

This argument misses a couple of important points:

DIY is a major money saver for Money Mage. What is your next DIY or upcycle project? Get started, you’ll be a Money Mage and Mortgage Free in no time. Be sure to Subscribe.

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Sources and Attribution

  • Drills (c) Mark Hunter, CC-BY
  • Knackered Bannisters Before & After (c) Money Mage, All Rights Reserved
  • Decorating In Progress (c) Money Mage, All Rights Reserved
  • Temporary 10m high floor (c) Money Mage, All Rights Reserved
  • Upscaled Pine 2+4 Drawers (c) Money Mage, All Rights Reserved