Sorry, Laurence, but the nation has passed its drills to the pros. Do It Yourself has become Get A Man In

The Easter holiday traditionally opens the home-improvement season, but a new survey shows fewer of us are willing, let alone able, to do the work ourselves. Stephen Kahn reports
Click to follow
The Independent Online

Paint guns and Polyfilla lie untouched under kitchen sinks. Unwanted coverings hang from the walls of spare bedrooms. Books on how to convert the loft weigh down coffee tables that are in need of a French polish.

Paint guns and Polyfilla lie untouched under kitchen sinks. Unwanted coverings hang from the walls of spare bedrooms. Books on how to convert the loft weigh down coffee tables that are in need of a French polish.

Across the country, the great British DIY adventure has been left half-finished. A much-heralded boom in home improvement that apparently had the nation's men rediscovering their hammers and chisels is over. Official.

A new survey shows that, after years of tinkering with tiling and pottering around the garden shed, a staggering 93 per cent of British men are giving way to the inevitable this year, admitting failure and calling in the experts. And more than two-thirds of those who have hung up their tools admit it is simply because they are not up to scratch.

It seems that what women knew all along is actually true: men are useless when it comes to painting and decorating. And having botched more than a few jobs, they are now turning to professionals to spruce up shabby homes, according to research carried out by the financial brokers Hfs Group.

The Easter weekend traditionally raises the curtain on DIY season, but this year most families have opted to abandon the home in favour of a long weekend break. Just three years ago, three out of every five people carried out home improvement work over the Easter holiday. This year just one in five plan to do so. A separate survey shows that nine out of every 10 men will attempt no DIY whatsoever.

While they are away soaking up the first rays of Mediterranean sunshine, an army of highly trained designers, builders and electricians is preparing to pick up the slack. Television series such as Changing Rooms may have convinced millions that they could do the job themselves, but it seems the confidence boost was short-lived. Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, the inspiration behind Changing Rooms, once said: "Be careful not to lose heart half-way through decorating. Always wait until the scheme's finished before you know whether it works."

Yet many of his followers have indeed lost heart. One such DIY turncoat, Paul Thomas, was this week clambering across the Scottish Highlands rather than giving his baby's bedroom a lick of paint. "At one point I might have done this myself, but the cleaner's brother knew some people in Poland who were up for coming over and doing the job," said Mr Thomas. "They charged £60 a day and the end result looks brilliant. My efforts pale in comparison."

There are now hungry teams of decorators across Europe who have tools and will travel. They are desperate to do the work at knock-down prices.

The news that DIY jobs are being discarded will come as no shock to the big home improvement megastores, however. B&Q recently reported a downturn in sales, while other chains are cutting prices early in the season. That trend has largely been blamed on bad weather and seasonal slumps, but the Easter break does not look like providing the fillip it once did.

Far from hailing the end of the country's new-found fascination for all things design-led, experts say that the latest research simply backs up their growing suspicion that it is moving into a new phase. DIY is dead, comes the cry; long live DFY - Done For You.

Design duo Colin McAllister and Justin Ryanof Five'sHow Not to Decorateconfirm they too are witnessing a decline in the number of people doing it for themselves.

"For a while everyone wanted to have a go. That period seems to have passed now," Ryan said yesterday. "But the fascination with design and home improvement is growing faster than ever. It is just that DIY takes a lot of time and can go spectacularly wrong if you do not know what you are doing. For many people DFY, rather than DIY, is the way forward."

A DIY job done badly, warned Ryan, "can devalue property". "More and more people want to spend time with their loved ones, taking long weekend breaks, rather than labouring back home. So if you can get in a man who can, then why not?"

It is a view echoed by Lynne Kennedy, design consultant and editor of Uptown interiors magazine. She is seeing circulation increase despite a growing realisation that DIY is not so easy. "Television programmes can make a job look easy, but it takes two days to produce something that looks great on screen in half an hour."

One group of professionals who will breathe a collective sigh of relief are accident and emergency medics. DIY had been blamed for a 25 per cent increase in casualty patients. An average of 70 enthusiasts are killed each year and more than 250,000 are injured, with Easter being the busiest weekend of the year for DIY accidents. Until now.

Some, however, have no choice but to go it alone

John Hagger, 30, and Debbie Melrose, 26, bought a roller, some paint, wallpaper and paste, and were planning to finish decorating their bedroom.

"If we had the money we would get someone else to do it all," admitted Debbie.

"It's probably going to take all weekend, though," said Mr Hagger. "There are always disasters."

Adam Nash, a 33-year-old civil servant, is hoping to finish the decking in his garden, which he started last year.

"When I'm off work for a couple of days I'll do some DIY - there's no excuse this weekend. But I'll always get someone in for the bigger jobs. You need to get someone with the skills to do it. I'm not adventurous. I know my limits. I only do the things I know I can do."

Warehouse manager Ed Sutton, 37, plans to do nothing more strenuous than put up shelves.

"The last set of shelves, how long did they take?" he asked his partner, Lynsey Hand. "Four months," she replied.

"I start projects and don't always finish them," said Mr Sutton. "We both work long hours so we're wasted by the time we get home. At the weekend, we'd rather go out."

Tom Nicholls and his wife, Victoria, both 25, bought a picket fence for their front garden.

"I'm beginning to regret it," said Mr Nicholls, a gunsmith. They bought their house two years ago and have carried out all the jobs themselves. He hoped the fence wouldn't be a step too far. "We've got to knock a wall down, cut the privet hedge back, then put that fence up. It's going to be a two-day job."

Michelle Wright and her two-year-old son, Jack, bought lights and curtain poles for her grandmother's new house.

But they won't be doing any DIY this weekend. Instead, they'll be leaving it to Mrs Wright's husband. "He'll do all of it," she said. "He's clued up so he knows what he's doing. Jack will be there, but he'll just be making a mess."

Steve Bloomfield

Comments