DIY by numbers

<preform>As the nation spends another bank holiday queuing in our many temples of home improvement, Arifa Akbar and Helen McCormack </b></i>consider the statistics behind a peculiarly British obsession</preform>
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The Independent Online

For the faithful, Easter is about resurrection. For Mother Nature, it heralds reproduction. But for the rest of the nation, it seems the long weekend is about that other great task of springtime renewal - DIY.

For the faithful, Easter is about resurrection. For Mother Nature, it heralds reproduction. But for the rest of the nation, it seems the long weekend is about that other great task of springtime renewal - DIY.

By the end of today, some £2.4bn of home-improvement products from laminate flooring to washable wall hangings will have been hammered, stuck and fixed to houses across the land as Britons get to grips with their backlog of 268 million do-it-yourself tasks.

Despite evidence that more home-owners prefer to merely contemplate an outstanding DIY job before employing a professional to do it for them, the British thirst for home improvement continues unabated.

The British DIY retail market, dominated by the growth of companies such as B&Q and Ikea, has expanded by 33 per cent in the past five years.

Britons now spend £12.5bn a year on the materials they need to turn their homes into tastefully decorated extensions of themselves or, all too often, paint-speckled disasters in need of the urgent attention of a tradesman.

Suppliers say the slowing housing market means that many homeowners are staying put and investing in their current properties.

Duncan Bland, the marketing director of the double glazing company Everest, said: "House price inflation appears to be slowing down and, in some cases, reversing. Given there is a lot of uncertainty concerning the housing market, many may decide to carry out improvements to their properties rather than move."

While the urge to wield a brush or hammer may be universal, the reasons for spending so much time retiling bathrooms varies by region. Some 41 per cent of people in the Midlands and a third of Londoners say their principal purpose is to add value to their homes. But some 73 per cent of Scots and 55 per cent of those in Northern England say they are more interested in improving their living environment.

While some 10 million people confirm they expect to carry out work on their home this year, evidence is emerging of a backlash against home improvement television programmes. A study for a finance company found that 93 per cent of men, many of them inspired by shows such as Changing Rooms, or egged on by their partners, will hang up their tool belts and call in experts for at least one DIY task.

An influx of cheap but high-quality labour from new EU member states such as Poland is thought to have contributed to the phenomenon.

Just three years ago, three out five people questioned for one survey said they perform some DIY over the Easter weekend. This year the figure stood at one in five.

25 per cent surge in demand for magnolia paint

Never underestimate the value of a lick of paint: pound for pound, it is thought to be the most cost-effective way of increasing the market value of your home. A fresh coat - in neutral colours - can increase its worth by up to 10 per cent. That may explain why it's not pots of Eating Room Red or Black Cherry that we head for. Magnolia is the nation's favourite paint colour, according to Wickes, which says sales of the shade are up almost 25 per cent on this time last year.

Over Easter, we are expected to buy two million litres of paint in B&Q alone - enough to fill 245 corner baths. Improvements in paint technology over the past 10 years have seen innovations such as paint that goes on pink, but dries to white, so no bits are missed when painting white over white.

33: Percentage of households which want a new bathroom

Mortgage lenders Bradford and Bingley say that a third of all households plan to refurbish their home by fitting a new bathroom. The average cost of a new bathroom is £3,000 to £4,000, and the average size of a British bathroom is about 8ft by 6ft. White and muted shades are the most popular colour schemes because they give an impression of spaciousness and cleanliness. Bidets are out, and power showers are in.

15: Percentage of women who own power tools

More and more women are demanding power tools of their own and Homebase's new range is designed for their hands.

Of 2,000 women surveyed by YouGov more than half would put up their own shelves, while more than two-thirds would assemble furniture. Fifteen per cent said they owned power tools.

A quarter of young British women so distrust their partner's skill that they have completely banned them from picking up a drill and a recent survey showed nine out of every 10 men attempt no DIY at all.

Three years ago, three out of every five people carried out home improvement work over the Easter holiday. This year, one in five planned to do so.

15: Number of series of the BBC show Changing Rooms

Changing Rooms, the series that spawned scores of imitators, ended last year after a hugely successful eight-year run. It made a star of the designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, and regularly drew 10 million viewers. The designers Linda Barker and Anna Ryder-Richardson have also become household names, presenting the spin-off show House Invaders, and in the case of Linda Barker, becoming the face of Currys and DFS.

Changing Rooms was launched on BBC2 in 1996 and the rights to the format of the show - in which neighbours do up the house next door with the help of two designers - was sold to more than 20 countries.

The popularity of DIY shows - about 35 are shown on terrestrial and satellite television in the UK each week - has helped DIY to become one of the fastest-growing retail sectors. More than 75 per cent of homeowners say they were inspired by makeover shows and nearly four out of 10 say they changed their own home as a result of DIY shows. The format of Changing Rooms has since given way to a more confrontational approach in shows such as House Doctor where the home-owners are subjected to an inspection by designers who comment on the décor.

2.5m: Number of hanging baskets B&Q expects to sell this Easter

This Easter weekend, B&Q expected to sell 2.5 million hanging baskets and 40 million plants, as householders begin sprucing up the garden after the winter. They also expected to unload 28,000 wooden benches, 13,000 garden parasols, 44,000 garden chairs, 20,000 barbecues and 8,000 trampolines. Industry experts say about £100m will be spent nationwide on plants, shrubs, trees and flowers over the Easter period. Environmentally-conscious gardeners may pay particular attention to drought-tolerant plants - the Environment Agency has warned that tropical and exotic plants may be a greener choice as the threat of a summer drought looms. The warning follows the third-driest winter in the south of England since records began in 1883. Steve Myatt, chairman of the Garden Centre Association, says his members are expecting an upsurge in demand for less thirsty plants.

The UK is estimated to have six million green-fingered citizens and of those, 3,500 private owners in England and Wales open their gardens to the public under the National Gardens Scheme. The proceeds go to nursing, medical and gardening charities: £1.8m was raised last year.

£12.5bn: Value of the home improvement market

Before the 1960s, the concept of spending your weekend trawling DIY-superstores was alien. But the boom in the following decades has made them pretty much unavoidable. The UK market is worth £12.5bn - or £26.5bn if you include the amount we pay builders for home improvement work - and was the strongest area of the retail economy in 2003, analysts say. More than 18 million people are now considered regular DIY shoppers, and this weekend, five million are expected at B&Q stores alone.

1956 The year flatpack furniture was invented

FLATPACK FURNITURE was invented in Sweden in 1956, by Gillis Lundgren, a draughtsman. He was hired by a local furniture dealer, Ingvar Kamprad, who later founded Ikea. Lundgren was trying to get a wooden table into the boot of a car, and decided to pull off the legs to make it fit.

The most popular types of self-assembly furniture are bookcases and tables. Costs are kept down by savings on the factory floor and on shipping and storage.

50: Deaths per year caused by ladders

Each year, 250,000 people are injured, and 70 people die in DIY-related accidents. Ladders are the biggest killers, accounting for 50 of those deaths. Easter is the most dangerous season, showing a sharp annual increase in the number of DIY related injuries. Last Easter, one person was injured every seven minutes, according to one survey.

Every week about 3,900 people are treated in hospital after DIY repairs go wrong. A stoic 50,000 of those injured manage to treat themselves at home, but 200,000 will turn up at A&E.

Apart from ladders, knives and scalpels top the most dangerous tools, causing 87,000 accidents. But seemingly innocuous materials also have their hidden dangers; 3,000 people have been injured in accidents involving glue, and 1,500 let wallpaper get the better of them.

Hazardous wiring costs the lives of 10 people a year, and causes 750 injuries.

2: Hours spent at the kitchen sink each day

According to the Stainless Steel Appeal , which promotes the use of the product within the home, we spend an average of two hours each day at the kitchen sink, whether we're preparing food, washing dishes, cleaning brushes, or bathing the baby.

The stainless steel sink is still the most popular choice for UK kitchens, and where work surfaces are concerned, increasing numbers of householders are opting for stainless steel - favoured by celebrity chefs such as Gordon Ramsay - or wood. The latter type is popular with first-time buyers, who normally spend between £2,000 and £5,000 on their first DIY kitchen.

But since 1 January this year, any wiring or electrical work in the home must comply with government regulations that were introduced to reduce the number of deaths and accidents caused by faulty installation.

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