With the numbers of DIY enthusiasts on the rise during the coronavirus lockdown, demand for equipment is up - but so are the prices of some common DIY items.
We've found paint on sale from online sellers at nearly three times the price it would be at high street DIY retailers, and decking oil at five times the price.
Three in 10 people are planning to do DIY over the coming weeks (according to a Which? survey of 2,003 members of the general public, 20-24 March 2020). But with the government advising us to stay at home, many of us are turning to online stores to order the materials we need.
When shopping online, you're more likely to come across items at vastly inflated prices from sellers keen to make a profit. But with the familiar retailers suffering from products out of stock, long waits to access websites, and longer-than-usual delivery times, some frustrated customers may be tempted to pay the inflated online prices.
Keep reading to see the DIY product prices to avoid and tips for buying items for home improvements online.
As part of our , we asked readers to send us examples of items they'd seen with inflated prices. Emulsion paint, fence paint, decking oil, filler, masonry paint and white spirit were among the products reported to us.
While DIY products are not essential in the same way that soap or baby formula are, it's still hugely frustrating to find you've been ripped off.
When we checked these products and similar ones on Amazon and eBay, we found prices often double or triple what you'd expect to pay at well-known DIY retailers.
As many of us consider giving our homes a fresh lick of paint, popular paints from Dulux have been on sale on Amazon marketplace for over three times their usual price.
2.5L of Dulux emulsion in colour Soft Truffle usually costs £16 in B&Q and Wickes. But we found it on sale at Amazon for £63.96. That's a price uplift of £47.96, or enough to buy nearly three more pots at the usual price.
The same paint in other colours (also 2.5L) was seen for £55.51 and £54.40 elsewhere on Amazon. These listings no longer existed, or showed lower prices, when we checked shortly before publication.
Emulsion paint from Crown Paints was also seen on sale for nearly two and a half times its usual price on Amazon. Unfortunate shoppers would have paid £39.99 for 2.5L of emulsion in Silk Magnolia, instead of the £16 it's usually sold for at Homebase.
However, this paint was out of stock at Homebase at the time.
With warmer weather on the cards, many are keen to update their garden space for summer, or make much-needed repairs after the storms earlier this year.
But we've seen examples of extortionately priced Polyfilla, wood protection cream, fence paint and decking oil.
Polyfilla was spotted by a member keen to get started on some DIY on Amazon Fresh for £87.78. At Wickes it's £3, revealing more than a 2000% mark-up.
On eBay, Roxil Wood Protection Cream was seen at £175.89, over five times dearer than the £32.99 the same product was available for on Amazon on the same day. The listing on eBay now states that the item is 'no longer available' from the seller - its unsuspecting buyer may have overpaid by £142.90.
When we checked Amazon again over a week later, the same product was available for £54.99.
Ronseal Fence Paint in Red Cedar (5L) was available for £99.99 on eBay, over 12 times the price (£8) it's usually available for at B&Q. Wickes's two-for-£10 offer means that a shopper could have bought 20 tins for the price of the product on eBay. eBay's listing stated that 765 had been sold.
Cuprinol Decking Oil was found on sale at £100 for 2.5L on eBay. B&Q sells it for £28, so you'd risk paying three and a half times the price if you don't shop around. The member reported this listing to eBay and it has since been removed.
When many DIY retailers closed their physical stores to comply with the government's coronavirus regulations, shoppers flocked online. Previously, around 12% of DIY and gardening sales were online (Global Data, March 2020) but DIY retailers have reported huge increases in online purchases.
Some customers have faced waits of more than an hour to access B&Q's website, and 30 minutes to access Wickes. Now that physical DIY stores are starting to reopen again, online wait times have improved.
Home delivery is limited to certain items at some retailers. For example:
Some products are out of stock. We checked popular paints, following consumer feedback, and found several Dulux emulsion paints out of stock at Homebase and Wickes and not available for home delivery from B&Q. Ronseal wood paint (One Coat Fence Life Matt Shed & Fence Paint) in several colours was not available for delivery from B&Q or Homebase and some colours were out of stock at Wickes and Wilko.
Homebase told us that 'overall paint demand has significantly increased, largely driven by an uptick in exterior paint sales'. With online-only sales, 'the huge demand we've seen through the website has significantly impacted how quickly we have been able to get orders to our customers' but it is 'getting orders out to customers as quickly as we can'.
Delivery times can be long. We found a few products with estimated delivery times of 30 days. Wickes' website currently states that home delivery takes 'up to two weeks'. Homebase states 'due to high demand, your order will take longer than usual for us to process and deliver'. Its website notes that it is 'behind on some [...] deliveries' and orders containing items from multiple different suppliers may arrive on different days.
Crown Paints has closed its website to new orders, and also suspended orders to DIY stores.
It explained that its website 'has seen a huge demand' so suspending new orders 'is enabling [it] to focus on fulfilling existing requests'. Following government guidelines and social distancing 'had a significant impact on [its] manufacturing and distribution operations'.
Crown is now trialling regional ordering via an 'order hub' on its website. Customers can click and collect paint or have it delivered locally.
Dulux also suspended orders on its website for a couple of weeks. It is now taking orders again - but only for 30ml paint testers. It plans to increase the number of products available 'over the coming weeks'.
It explained that 'due to changing conditions, unprecedented demand for online delivery through [its] website has caused delays to orders'.
Its website states that it is prioritising manufacturing key items, including coatings for hospital beds and food and drink cans.
If you want to buy paint or other DIY products online, check prices from several different retailers. This will give you an idea of the usual price of the item and avoid any overinflated prices.
Look at who you are buying from. Check the seller's profile for their customer ratings and reviews, their refund policy and where the seller is based (consumer protection laws vary between countries).
Check the cost of delivery or postage. An already-pricey item may set you back even more if delivery is extra. We've found a £15.99 delivery charge on 5L of Ronseal fence paint from one eBay seller.
If your DIY project isn't urgent, consider postponing it until you can get the materials at a price you're willing to pay. Crown Paints and Dulux are slowly beginning online orders again, while DIY retailers are re-opening their stores. So you may find that availability improves in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, if you see a product at a heavily inflated price on an online marketplace, you can report it. This is important so that other buyers are not ripped-off when struggling to get hold of a product.
Some DIY stores have now reopened, so, if you're in a position to do so, you can buy paint in-store, or order via click and collect. Bear in mind that re-opened stores have strict social distancing measures in place, including limiting the number of people allowed in-store at once. This means that you may have to queue.
B&Q has now reopened all of its 285 UK stores. Only products that you can shop for and take away on the day are available. Paint mixing, kitchen and bathroom design, timber and key-cutting services are not available.
Payment is by card and contactless methods only.
Click+Collect is available 'for a limited range of products'. A B&Q spokesperson said: 'Our aim is for this to be a next day service, however, at current times, this may take several days for orders to be ready, and may be temporarily unavailable at busy times'.
At re-opened stores you should use the Click+Collect desk. You can collect an order for someone else if you have the order confirmation and your own photo ID.
Homebase plans to reopen all of its stores from 2 May. This follows a trial opening of 20 stores last weekend and an additional 50 on 29 April.
Reserve & Collect is not available. Some customers waiting for a home delivery have been given the option to collect it from their local store.
Six stores reopened on 30 April: Cheltenham, Cricklewood, Hailsham, Preston, Pudsey and Sevenoaks. Paint mixing is not available and kitchen and bathroom showrooms are closed.
Click and Collect is still available from the front entrance of stores. But due to 'high demand - [its] collection times are a little longer at the moment'. Its aim is for orders to be ready for collection within eight working hours.
Wilko stores remained open throughout the lockdown.
DIY stores are considered 'essential retailers' by the government and therefore have been allowed to remain open throughout the lockdown. However many stores decided to shut while they implemented social distancing measures to protect staff and customers.