UK obsession with DIY is not dead

Despite the recent announcement by Kingfisher, Europe’s largest home improvement company, that it was closing 60 of 360 stores throughout the UK and Ireland (the firm owns B&Q) Britons have not fallen out of love with DIY.

The fact that the DIY giant has seen trading figures fall in recent years has prompted some analysts to speculate that Brits’ love affair with DIY was coming to an end as they increasingly opt for the do-it-for-me (DFM) model.

Neil Saunders, the managing director of Conlumino, a retail research agency and consulting firm, said Kingfisher faces a “structural” challenge because the consumer interest in DIY is “waning”.

“Consumers look unfavourably on DIY, either because they lack the skills to undertake various tasks or they simply lack the inclination to get involved,” he said.

Recent research revealed that almost half of Britons reported injuring themselves while doing DIY projects and more than a third would pay for a professional rather than doing a project themselves.

A survey by revealed fewer one in 10 Britons aged 18 to 25 years old can change a plug or rewire a plug without help.

It also revealed only one in 20 thought they could unblock a sink and just over one in 10 thought they could use a power drill.

However, Kingfisher chief executive, Ian Cheshire, insisted that the British love affair with DIY is not over and said that the DIY spend has been suppressed because many-be first and second time buyers have not been able to acquire property due in party to high house prices.

He commented: “The idea that there is something structural going on, I wouldn’t buy into it.”

Cheshire added that he felt that any uptick in the residential property market would flow through to the DIY sector slowly.

“The first people to benefit are home builders, the second people are the trade and then we’re third in the queue and it’s probably six months away. We’re not seeing that housing market yet but it does feel like that’s where it’s going to go.”

Will Davies, founder of, described the changing DIY trend as more a sign of an “evolution”, not “devolution”.

While there are some projects homeowners should think about leaving to the professionals, such as anything involving gas, which can produce carbon monoxide poisoning, fires or leaks, there are others he believes that people should be able to do by themselves.

He said, “One is decorating; although you should unscrew light switch covers and electrical sockets for a neater finish, use a paint roller with an extended handle for ceilings and a small one for behind radiators.

“Another is bleeding radiators. Buy a radiator key, turn off the heating, then open each radiator valve. Once the water finishes seeping out, you’re done.

“Putting up shelving also should be a simple DIY project. Shop for the correct size and strength of timber and brackets. Then use a spirit level to make sure the shelves are straight and level and use rawl plugs to make sure the screws stay in.

“If you have wall cracks, simply apply wet filler and wait until it dries completely. Then sandpaper the area and paint it.

“Sealing window draughts is another simple DIY project. Fill old sashes or loose-fitting windows with self-adhesive foam weather strips. Use the smallest ones so it looks tidy.”

However, Davies insisted that that there are several DIY projects really should be left to the professionals. This includes electrical work. Fire and electrical shock are potential hazards if this work is not done correctly.

He added, “Roofing is another project that really isn’t DIY. Contact a professional who has proper scaffolding, understands building regulations and eco-practices for tiles, bitumen and membranes.

“When water pipes freeze, they must be replaced by a professional plumber who knows how to cut, bridge and weld pipes, if necessary.

“It would seem that unblocking drains would be a DIY project. It is a relatively easy project, provided you use the correct strength, diameter and length of brush. However, most homeowners improvise with small items that end up getting stuck and making the problem worse.”