DIY on a Sunday is as much a part of the British weekend as woodland walks and pub lunches. Tradesmen, meanwhile, brace themselves for the calls for rescue on a Monday morning. A&E visits, lost work days and property damage are also part of the picture according to a new study by AXA Insurance.
DIY can be a useful money-saver in hard times, but the study suggested that most people take on these projects because they love the challenge and enjoy flexing their skills. Happily, six out of ten DIY projects are completed successfully – but almost a quarter go so badly wrong that only a tradesman can put things right.
And despite one in five householders saying they do it themselves because they fear ‘rogue traders,’ tradesmen turn out to be their best friend in a disaster. On average, tradesmen are spending 22 per cent of their time (or one full day a week) rescuing DIY jobs, and most – 65 per cent – don’t charge extra if the job takes longer due to the customer’s mistakes.
One builder’s experience was typical: “I was called out at midnight, got the job safely sorted, worked until 2am and only charged for normal nine to five hours”. Tradesmen revealed that plumbing jobs are the most expensive DIY projects to put right, followed by painting projects and botched joinery.
Hazardous jobs best left to the professionals
Sixteen per cent of UK workers have suffered a DIY failure so severe that they have had to miss work. One in twenty – equivalent to more than 3 million people – have even ended up in A&E as a consequence.
Electricians are the trade most often called out to faulty DIY jobs, which supports industry warnings that half of severe electrical shocks are caused by DIY attempts. For instance, while most people say they would install a light fitting without help, when it comes to it, almost a third find the job too dangerous to continue.
Other home improvements best left to the professionals included: plumbing in bathroom fittings (45 per cent rescue rate), laying a floor (44 per cent rescue rate) and plastering a wall (33 per cent rescue rate).
Online videos encouraging hazardous DIY projects
People under the age of 35 are more likely to take on hazardous projects they are not skilled enough to complete – and they are three times more likely to end up in A&E as a result.
Meanwhile, basic skills seem to be lacking: 28 per cent of under 35’s said they didn’t know how to rewire a plug (compared to six per cent of those over 35); 14 per cent don’t know how to bleed a radiator (compared to five per cent of older people); and one in ten don’t know how to unblock a sink.
And it seems that they are learning DIY in a different way to older generations: people under 35 are twice as likely to have learnt their skills through online videos instead of from their parents or manuals.
Darrell Sansom, Managing Director, AXA Business Insurance, comments:
“People up and down the country tell us they have a real passion for DIY. It’s something we do to relax, and it can save a bit of money too. But the research shows that taking on too much can be costly and even dangerous at times. It’s important to be realistic about your abilities and the risks involved.
“Online videos show you how to do everything from rewire a house, work on your roof and even solder heating pipes yourself! Only a qualified tradesman should ever attempt such jobs, particularly electrical jobs that often require certification from a qualified electrician.
“If people are also doing these jobs because they fear ‘cowboys’ and ‘rogue traders’, we have to challenge these stereotypes. Our studies have shown time and again that most tradespeople operate responsibly and often go above and beyond for customers. A few simple checks can ensure that the person you are calling is qualified and competent”.
AXA’s tips for finding a top tradesman
- Seek recommendations from family and friends
- Ask to see customer testimonials and examples of past work
- Check anyone working for you is registered to carry out the work you require by TrustMark, the Government licensed scheme, and/or by their professional trade body
- Check they have insurance in case things go wrong
- Ask for a written contract that sets out the scope of work, costs, payment terms and how any defects will be resolved