DIY home repairs
- Expert tips on carrying out essential home maintenance tasks safely
- Handy checklists of the materials you'll need
- Easy ways to save you money
Top-ten DIY jobs
If you’re concerned about getting a professional in to carry out maintenance work on your home, don’t worry – doing it yourself may be easier than you think, and the money you’ll save can make it worthwhile. Here are some straight-forward DIY jobs that you can tackle around your home:
When: Minimum of every five years, but it’s best to do it every two years.
Why: It’s not essential, but will keep your house looking good.
- Many people don’t prepare before decorating, and this can cause problems; use dust sheets and make sure you have enough paint, particularly if it’s a specially mixed colour.
- Always start with the ceiling and use a minimum of two coats all over.
- If you need to cover stains, don’t just use emulsion; use a stain block or oil-based paint to cover them first.
What you'll need to paint a 4 metre x 4 metre room, including skirting and door: Paint (15l), roller tray and roller, paint brushes (set of 5), masking tape, sand paper, sand block, white spirit, two dust sheets, polyfiller, gloss paint (2.5l), palette knife
2) Bleed your radiators
When: Once a year or whenever your radiators feel hot at the bottom but cold at the top.
Why: If you don’t, your radiators won’t heat up properly and you’ll waste energy and money.
- Have some rags handy to catch the water so you don’t end up with a mess or damage the surrounding area.
- Use a bleed key (also known as a vent key) to open the valve. You’ll hear air hissing as it escapes. Keep the valve open until a little water runs out and the air has stopped completely.
- It's best to turn off your boiler before you bleed radiators. And if you have a combi boiler, you'll need to adjust the pressure after you've done the job. If you don't, the pressure will be incorrect and the boiler will run inefficiently.
What you'll need: Bleed key
3) Fit some extra security
Why: To make sure your house is secure.
- You can fit door guards and hinge bolts yourself. A hinge bolt goes on the same side of the door as the hinges so it’s protected all round. A door guard limits how far the door opens, giving you extra security.
- Make sure the door frame is well fixed and strong; this is often overlooked when fixing new locks.
What you'll need to add two hinge bolts to a door: Two hinge bolts, screws, electric drill. See our advice guide on choosing a drill for details of the different types on the market.
4) Clear blocked drains or toilets
When: Check drains once a year to see if they need clearing. Clear other drains as needed.
Why: Your property will suffer water damage if your drains overflow. Also, if you don’t deal with simple blockages immediately you may have to get a professional in, which can be pricey.
- Clear drain blockages with drain rods. Lift up your manhole cover and use the plunger rod to clear the blockage, adding rods as you need them; this will depend on how far down the pipe the blockage is.
- Make sure you go with the flow of the drain, and once the blockage is cleared use a hose to flush it through.
What you'll need to clear blocked drains: Chimney drain rods set with plunger rod, worm screw, gloves
5) Insulate your pipes or water tank
Why: Pipes that aren’t insulated can freeze and burst, causing thousands of pounds worth of damage. Insulating your hot-water tank and pipes can save £50 a year on your heating bill and means you’ll emit around 260kg less carbon dioxide.
- Buy pre-slit foam insulation, slip it around the pipe and seal the joint with gaffer tape. Be careful with hot pipes.
- You can buy purpose-made insulation jackets for your cold water tank in the roof space and to wrap around the hot-water tank.
What you'll need to insulate 10 metres of pipe and a hot-water tank: Pipe insulation (10 metres) for 19mm pipes, gaffer tape, hot-water tank jacket
6) Exclude draughts
Why: You’ll save money on energy bills.
- Clean surfaces thoroughly before you apply self-adhesive draught excluders.
- Stick the draught excluder to the edge of the open window so it’s tight against the frame when you shut it. Apply it to the door frame rather than the door itself.
What you'll need: 10 metres of self-adhesive rubber door and window seal
7) Repoint your patio
When: When the joints appear cracked and broken.
Why: Slabs can become loose. Weeds will grow rapidly through the joints.
- Rake out the old joints first. Use dry, soft sand and cement mixed to a ratio of three parts sand to one part cement and sweep it into the joints with a soft brush, forcing into joints with your hands – you must wear rubber gloves for this job.
- Rub hose or copper pipe over the new joints to give them a professional finish.
- Make sure you do this on a dry day.
What you'll need to rake out and repoint a 12 square metre patio: Cement (10kg), rubber gloves, bucket, yellow building sand, pointing tool, brush, hose
8) Give your shed some TLC
When: Paint the shed or fence with preserver every two years. Replace the shed roof felt when it starts to leak.
Why: The wood will rot otherwise.
- Before you attach new felt to a shed roof, apply a coat of wood preserver.
- Leave 15cm (6 inches) of spare felt around the roof so you don’t end up with too little; nail the felt on and then cut the excess off with a craft knife.
- You’ll need a stepladder and a friend to help you.
What you'll need to paint a 2.4 metre x 1.2 metre (8ft x 4ft) shed with wood preserver and to recover the roof: Wood preserver (5l), brushes (set of 5), white spirit, sand paper, sand block, two rolls of felt roofing 5 x 1m, stanley knife, hammer, galvanised nails
9) Fit insulation in your loft
Why: You’ll save money on energy bills.
- Rolls of blanket insulation come in various different widths to match to your loft, so start by measuring the distance between joists and buying the nearest size. Ideally it should fit neatly between the joists.
- To calculate the right amount, measure the length of the floor space to be covered.
- Don't stretch or tear blanket insulation – use scissors if it needs to be cut.
What you'll need: this will depend on your roof type and what insulation you already have installed. For more advice read our guide to insulating your loft.
10) Fit your own wooden flooring
Why: It’s not essential, but looks good.
- Work from the furthest corner towards the door.
- Create an even surface using leveller boards or screed if there are significant changes in the level of the floor. Height variations should not exceed 2-3 mm per metre.
- Read our full guide to fitting your own DIY wooden flooring.
What you'll need: A tape measure, carpenter’s square and pencil for measuring and marking boards; laminate fitting tools including a pull bar, wedges and a tapping block; and a decent handsaw for trimming lengths.