Property: Paying for a life of grime

There are dangerous people out there - DIY enthusiasts trying to boost the value of their homes.

Show some people a hammer and they will be nailing shelves to the wall before you can draw breath. No one can accuse the British of a lack of enthusiasm when it comes to DIY home repairs, but they may be a little wanting on the quality front if the evidence of a television programme broadcast by ITV last week is anything to go by.

Collapsing walls, sloping shelves and years of little progress dogged the worst of the "Do it Yourselfers" who amazingly still managed to show real pride in their work despite its dubious execution. All this is fine, of course, if the DIYers stay put, but rather more worrying if they decide to sell and a buyer isn't in on the secret.

David McKenna, who runs a building company in Bromley, Kent, has become suspicious of the number of jobs carried out by what he is told are cowboy builders who have done a bunk. "One look at the dodgy tools lying around and it's a reasonable guess that it was, in fact, the owner who messed up the job. Doors are always being hung upside down, and I've seen new openings for windows propped up with bits of wood because nobody thought to put in lintels."

But at least he is called in to put things right. The buyers of a huge, newly converted Victorian house in south-east London will not be so lucky. "The owner works in the theatre but has done all the work himself. It is horrendous. Nothing has been done properly, but the worst of it is that, when the painting is done and the floors sanded, it will fool anyone who doesn't get beneath the surface."

Some of the construction work McKenna sees beggars belief. "At the moment I am spending every day looking at an appalling extension built by the owner. Someone must have told him he needed air bricks for a flat roof, but instead of using a couple each side he has used them all the way round. I counted 30 on one wall. People will spend a fortune on materials and then build a wall that looks like the leaning tower of Pisa."

Jokes about DIY enthusiasts have worn a bit thin for Jane Grant. She has become familiar with pretty well every builder's merchant in the Derby area over the past two years as well as the sight of her husband Rod on his hands and knees cursing at some pipe or wire. They took on the challenge of converting vast old offices into a family home and between them have tackled every job, apart from the damp-proofing. "We must be bonkers. It has taken over our lives because every moment we are not at our jobs we are working on the house. At the beginning the prospect of turning somewhere with loads of space into something special was very exciting, but since then we have had sleepless nights. We've been tired, fed up and ended up arguing. Our three children are used to coming home from school to chaos and we haven't had a holiday for four years."

She lives not a million miles from some of the DIYers featured in the ITV programme but is confident that her husband's workmanship is in a higher league. "Even so, he is self-taught, so he tends to come back from the pub with instructions from an electrician drawn on the back of a cigarette packet. It can take a whole day to get one light to work. I do the rushing around and spend hours in plumber's merchants trying to describe what sort of pipe we need. The hardest lessons are that everything costs far more than you imagine, and you have to finish one job before starting on the next, however tempting it is to start on the fun things. But there have been wonderful moments, such as discovering a lovely marble fireplace under layers of paint."

The area just north of Derby is particularly popular with DIYers, with a terrific demand for unmodernised houses, according to Chris Brown of Boxall Brown & Jones. But he warns buyers that the Grants' experience is all too common. "It is hard to price a job if you are not sure what is involved and so you have to be prepared to spend up to 50 per cent more than you had anticipated," he says.

Fear of injury or worse deters most people from tackling plumbing and electrical jobs, but cosmetic work can be done better than by some in the trade. Many of the time-consuming and costly restoration jobs can be done gradually and to enormous effect - handiwork that genuinely impresses. But this purposeful approach is rather different from the equivalent in the home of the man who is always tinkering with his car. Henry Woods, of the London estate agents Douglas & Gordon, says that, although some owners never stop "improving" their property, after 20 years they haven't managed to change the lead pipes.

In residential areas where property values have risen quickly in a short time, there is a temptation for people to become investor/builders overnight. The advice from agents is that thorough checks should be made on such places before buying. They may appear perfect, with paint sparkling, but that's of little comfort if you get an electric shock every time that you take a shower. South of the river is particularly ripe territory for London's DIY entrepreneurs, says Mr Woods. "I walked into one flat to find a man holding an enormous saw designed for cutting logs. He was trying to cut a thin ply-and-Formica top with it. The whole kitchen was terrible, a complete disaster and held together roughly with nails. The couple were doing it up to sell. Needless to say it didn't."

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

    Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

    Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

    Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

    Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

    £65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

    Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick