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3 Jun 2019

Which? Trusted Traders reveal the most common electrical and plumbing DIY disasters

From light fittings that cause electric shocks to kitchens destroyed by poorly installed sinks - don't let a botched DIY job ruin your home

Some of the most commonly attempted electrical and plumbing DIY jobs are the same tasks traders say they're most frequently called in to fix or finish.

We asked more than 3,800 people* about the home DIY jobs they've tackled. Our surveys have revealed tales of people risking electrocution, injuring themselves and flooding their homes after tackling these popular jobs.

If your home needs repairs, visit Which? Trusted Traders to find a reputable trader who has been through our rigorous checks.

Popular electrical and plumbing DIY jobs

Changing sockets and switches is the most popular electrical DIY job, attempted by 70% of people in our survey, while 54% had attempted to replace a light fitting.

These are also the top two areas electricians are mostly likely to be hired to rectify or finish after DIY enthusiasts have had a go, according to electricians on Which? Trusted Traders**. 85% have been called in to help with light fittings, and 84% have had to sort out sockets and switches.

  • Changing sockets & switches 70%
  • Replacing taps 53%
  • Replacing a light fitting 54%
  • Fixing blocked drains/pipes/toilet 45%
  • Plumbing in an appliance 41%
  • Fixing a leak 35%
  • Repairing or replacing wiring 27%
  • Installing an electrical appliance 26%
  • Installing electrics in a garage/shed/outbuilding 26%
  • Plumbing in a bathroom suite 25%
  • Plumbing in a kitchen sink 25%
  • Fitting new fuses / fuse boxes 24%
  • Fixing hot water supply 14%
  • Replacing electric radiators / heaters 8%
  • None of these 30%

Replacing taps was the most popular plumbing DIY job - 53% have rolled up their sleeves to tackle this task.

Dealing with blocked drains, pipes or toilets was also common, with 45% having tried it, followed by plumbing in an appliance (41%) and fixing a leak (35%).

Traders told us they're most often hired by DIYers to finish fixing leaks - 76% have had to correct this. This was followed by plumbing in appliances (65%), plumbing in bathrooms (62%) and changing taps (60%).

Read on for electricians' and plumbers' horror stories about electrical disasters, flooded homes and ruined kitchens.

Electrical shockers

Switch hanging off wall showing wires

DIY attempts result in nearly 50% of all severe electric shocks in the home, according to research by Electrical Safety First.

Electrical work may be best left to the professionals, particularly if you have limited knowledge and experience, as you could be risking serious injury or fire.

Under building regulations, some jobs also have to be signed off by local authority building control, unless you've hired a registered electrician who can sign off the work themselves.

Here are just a few of the electrical DIY disasters that electricians from Trusted Traders told us about.

“The customer had wired the yellow wire thinking that it was the earth wire (normally yellow and green) into the earth terminal of a metal chandelier-style light. When they switched it on, the whole fitting became live. Somehow they didn't get an electric shock - I did!”

“People like to replace white PVC switches with metal or chrome switches without realising they need an earth connection to them, leaving them vulnerable to an electric shock if a fault occurs.”

“A tenant upgraded a standard socket with a USB outlet. But the wires on the existing socket were neutral on the right, and in the new socket it was on the left. He replace as per the existing wiring and exposed himself to dangerous conditions due to reverse polarity.”

“A common call out is on a Sunday evening. A new light has been purchased and they've attempted to put it up only for the wrong conductors to be connected, causing either a short circuit or the rest of the lights not working.”

I spend 70% of my working time rectifying what others have done. In the worst cases I've seen there were live exposed parts which could have electrocuted children or pets.

Visit our guide to hiring an electrician to ensure you know what to look out for and find a reputable electrician near you using Which? Trusted Traders.

Painful plumbing problems

Fixing a leaking pipe

Although not usually as dangerous as electrical errors, plumbing DIY mistakes could still leave you with injuries or cause flooding and water damage in your home, as these real-life experiences from plumbers show.

“My client had attempted to change some bath taps but ended up with a deep cut to the hand, a damaged bath and being unable to remove the old taps from the bath.”

“The customer tried to connect their new washing machine but cross threaded the plastic nut so it leaked when he turned it on. We had to replace the hose and install it correctly, costing the customer more as he had to pay for a new hose.”

“Poor installation of a kitchen sink waste trap caused backing up and destroyed the kitchen.”

“The customer tried to repair a leak on a radiator valve but did not properly support the valve which caused the pipe to bend, resulting in a much bigger leak.”

“A customer putting floorboards back down screwed through a central heating pipe and tried to repair it. Water was everywhere but what hadn't struck them was to turn the water off and drain the system down first, rather than attempting to do it with the water still on.”

If you're not sure how to tackle a plumbing job and want to call in a professional, find a plumber in your area with Which? Trusted Traders.

*Survey of 3,885 Which? members in April 2019.
**Survey of 225 Which? Trusted Traders in April 2019.