Think you can’t DIY? B thinks you can

Learning to be handy can make a real difference to your pocket. With professionals costing up to £350 a day, there are certain jobs it’s definitely worth trying yourself. B’s D.I.Y tips can give you the confidence to attempt lots of little fixes. So you can save money and bask in D.I.Y glory.

B smart with your brushstokes

To avoid patchy paintwork when they’re working with a roller, the professionals apply the paint in a ‘W’ pattern, then fill in the gaps. It helps to give an even coat. Just think W for ‘wall’. Or ‘Wow, I just saved myself £200 on a decorator’.

Bonus tip: Wrap your paint roller tray in a plastic bag or bin liner before you start. Then, when you’re finished, just remove the bag and put it in the bin. Voila: no tray to clean!

Grease up your glass

Painting window frames is pretty easy, but keeping the paint off the glass can be a bit of a challenge. Instead of spending hours meticulously applying masking tape, smearing a layer of lip balm around the edge of the glass does the same job in half the time. Then, when the paint’s dry, just wipe down the windows with a clean cloth.

The matter of splatter

If you’re painting cornices (or anything else you might have to reach up to get at), inevitable blobs or splatter can leave your head looking like a Jackson Pollock painting. Not anymore. Take the plastic lid from a takeaway carton and cut a slit in it just big enough to fit your brush through. Hey presto, you’ve just created an instant, free, splatter-guard.

Bonus tip: If you do get some paint on your face or head, whatever you do, don’t reach for the turpentine. First, wash your face with soap and warm water, then apply a harmless cooking oil (vegetable or olive oil are good) with a soft cloth or towel. Rinse and repeat if necessary.

Stubborn screws

Let’s say you need to replace a toilet-paper holder or mirror that’s screwed to the wall. Trouble is, the screw-head is so worn that your screwdriver can’t get the grip it needs to turn it. Before you succumb to the urge to rip the thing off the wall, try placing an elastic band (a thick-ish one) over the screw-head. This should give your screwdriver the purchase it needs to budge the screw.

“Add a lick of paint if necessary, and nobody will ever know”

The secret sponge

Perhaps you poorly-aimed the remote control. Or maybe a vicious door-handle dented the wall. It’s not important. What matters is there’s a cheap, easy way to fill small-ish holes in plasterboard. For gaps up to a few centimetres across, take an ordinary bathroom sponge and cut it to roughly the size of the hole (you want a fairly snug fit). Then you just press the sponge in until it’s as flush with the wall as possible, and smooth the whole area over with ready-mixed filler and a putty knife. Add a lick of paint if necessary and nobody will ever know.

Bonus tip: If you don’t have a putty knife, you can use an old bank card to smooth the filler over. Just make sure it’s definitely an old one!

Easy peasy pipe un-freezy

Emergency call-outs for plumbing are often the priciest, and – in winter anyway – frozen pipes are a common reason for a hefty bill. But they’re also fixable with DIY, if you just know where to start. First, work back from the tap that’s not flowing to find likely ‘freeze spots’ in the pipework. Check unheated basements, crawl spaces or where pipes run outside.

When you find the frozen section, there are a few ways to attempt the thaw. If you can reach a power source (and no water has leaked into the area) you can gently apply heat using a hair dryer. If there is water around, or you can’t access electricity, one or two hot water bottles around the pipe will have the same effect. Just keep the tap open (ideally with a friend on ‘tap watch’ so you know when the water’s flowing again). Provided all the pipes and joints are intact, your water should be running in no time.

So, there you have it. You might not be ready to build a shed or tile a bathroom, but - with a little confidence and a few handy hints – you can try some simple D.I.Y jobs without the frustration or the tradesman’s fee.