DIYHow hard can it be? We’ve all thought that when faced with what looks like a straightforward DIY task.

The problems arise when people get carried away and think they can do something they’ve never done before just by watching a video on YouTube! We only learn through experience, so certain laborious but relatively unskilled tasks are perfect for DIYers to get their teeth into, but attempting to tackle some of the more challenging jobs can result in bigger bills in the long run.

Here are ten of the most common jobs and some advice on when to call in the professionals.

  1. Painting and decorating

Costs depend on the age of the building. Victorian and Edwardian properties will need a lot more prep than a post-80s property. A decorator will set you back around £180 a day and the average Victorian three-bed house could take two decorators two weeks to complete, especially if the old timber windows need a lot of work.

People often think it is easy to paint and don’t realise how hard it is to find a good painter and decorator. At least 75% of the job is preparation. A good decorator will spend a lot of time sanding and filing, and that will show in the quality of the finish and the longevity.

If you want a decent finish, and unless you’re a very confident and skilled DIYer leave to the professionals.

  1. Hanging a door

A good carpenter will charge around £220 a day and should be able to hang at least four doors in a typical eight-hour day. That should equate to around £60 for each door, but it really depends on the type of door and property.

Hanging a door requires the latch and hinges to be cut precisely into the door and frame. You could cause a fair amount of damage if you don’t know what you’re doing. The door might not fit the opening exactly, in which case you will need to plane the edges. People who are gifted at DIY could do a good job of it.

Fine for an expert DIYer.

  1. Fitting a light

Make sure the existing electrical installation is up to date and includes modern “trip” type switches. There are only two wires so it shouldn’t be too difficult, but if the property has old wiring, I would advise you to steer clear. If you are hanging a pendent light, it is important that there is a good fixing to attach it to. Concrete ceilings are easier as you can drill into them, but if you have timber ceilings you will need to find the joist and that can be quite tricky. You also have to watch out for any wires that are fixed to the joist or conduit if it’s a concrete ceiling.

Some light fixtures are easier than others and can be installed yourself. If you’re attaching a pendent light to a plaster ceiling with timber joists, it’s best to leave to a professional.

  1. Fit plug socket

An NICEIC registered electrician will set you back £270 a day. Fitting a light is one thing, but even we have to get a professional electrician to install a new plug socket as the installation needs to be certificated.

Leave to a professional.

  1. Changing a radiator

A plumber will charge around £300 per day. If travel is involved, they will probably charge you half a day to replace a radiator. Changing a radiator can be quite straightforward if it’s the same size as the one you’re replacing. You just need to understand how to re-pressurise the heating system. If you do mess up, the worst that can happen is you get a small leak or the system won’t start up because it’s not repressurised.

Easy job for a DIYer

  1. Stripping wall paper

A good building labourer would cost you around £120 per day. Don’t ask a skilled trade to do it because they will charge you a lot more; just bring them in for the repairs and redecorations.

Most people should be able to strip wall paper. Even if we were to do it, there would still be some damage to the walls. If it is an old property, expect a fair amount of repair work afterwards, which you will need a plasterer for. Be aware, stripping wall paper is a laborious task especially if there are numerous layers. With one job we did, it took four of our guys three weeks to get it off. We’re always relieved when someone else does it for us. Lining paper on ceilings can be a nightmare and is a lot harder to get off when working on a surface that’s above your head. The likelihood is that bits of plaster will come off with it. You also have to be careful when using a steamer or water when working around electrical sockets and wiring.

Worth doing yourself if you want to save money, but no mean feat. You will need skilled trades for the repair job.

  1. Removing aertex

Again, removing aertex is a horrible job to do. With older buildings, 30 years or older, don’t touch it until you’ve had it tested for asbestos.

It’s slow and messy, but if you’re up to it, fine to do yourself. If asbestos is discovered, leave it to a professional.

  1. Replacing sash window cords

A carpenter will charge around £225 a day. If they are replacing a broken cord and the other sash cords are looking frayed, it may be worth replacing them all at the same time as they will probably charge half a day for the call out.

Sash windows are not easy things to deal with at the best of times. You have to remove the beading to release the sliding casement window and then release the opening in the frame to access the weights. A novice DIYer can easily end up damaging it. You then need to make sure the casement window is balanced with the weights. The weights must also be hung with the same length of cord on both sides, otherwise it may pull to one side and the window won’t open and close properly. If the windows haven’t been properly maintained it can lead to significant and very costly repairs.

You need to be very confident at DIY to attempt this. Best left to a professional.

  1. Removing walls

I would always recommend asking a structural engineer or building surveyor to take a look unless it is a basic hollow stud wall. A structural engineer will charge around £200 for a basic assessment. If it is a stud wall, by all means wield the sledgehammer and have a go. Remember to take account of any wiring or pipework within the wall and get it isolated before commencing any works.

Get a professional in unless it’s a basic stud wall.

  1. Removing old tiles

Make sure you are wearing appropriate clothing, gloves and eye protection. You don’t want any skin to be exposed, some tiles can shatter like glass so be wary. It is also likely to cause significant damage to the wall. If it’s plasterboard, we will always rip it out and replace it with tilebacker or water resistant plasterboard, or replaster if it’s a solid wall. A skilled plasterer will charge around £250 to £300 per day.

Best left to a professional. You will need a plasterer and a dry liner if the plasterboard needs replacing.

Cost to hire a professional


Harrington GreyBy Duncan Macleod, Director at design and build company Harrington Grey.
Harrington Grey is a leading home refurbishment and remodeling company with a combined experience of over sixty years. It offers fixed price contracts and guaranteed timeframes to homeowners and landlords within London and the south east. Harrington Grey prides itself on bringing professionalism and reliability to the home refurbishment industry, with every project signed off by an independent RICS surveyor.

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