Tue 27 May 2014

Skill up to save money on your renovation

Before you embark on a modernisation or restoration project, it’s worth asking whether your DIY skills are up to date. If you don’t know one end of spanner from the other, and just assembling an Ikea bookshelf makes you break into a cold sweat, you need to put a hold on that wrecking ball rental and study the basics.

Once upon a time, we’d have picked up these essential homemaking and maintenance skills while watching a parent whiz up a pair of curtains on the sewing machine, rehang a door or change a washer. Ask around today and you’ll find that people who can comfortably put up a shelf are the exception, not the rule.

Luckily, you don’t have to learn by costly trial-and-error mistakes. In the age of YouTube, you’re just a few clicks away from finding out how to knock up flouncy window blinds, splatter-paint your bedroom or construct wardrobe shelves.

Or, if you want a more hands-on approach, take a short course. The Goodlife Centre in Waterloo offers a range of fast-paced interactive courses, with a maximum of ten students in each class, including DIY in a Day (one day, £165), Basic Drill Skills (two-and-a-half hours, £60) and Curtain Making (one day, £95).

B&Q runs a selection of You Can Do It workshops, with such inspirational names as Unleash the tools and Unleash the plumber, in selected stores (prices vary, courses must be booked in advance - 0845 600 5428). If you can’t make it to one of these, or have a specific job in mind, check out their YouTube channel.

For properties that require more specialist knowledge, like period or listed buildings, help is at hand. The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) offers training for owners of pre-1919 properties, including The Old House Eco Course (£80, or £100 with a signed book).

The event provides practical advice on how to 
make your historic house energy efficient and low 
carbon, without adversely affecting the character of the building.

SPAB also offers a Technical Advice Line (020 7456 0916 - Monday-Friday, 9:30am-12:30pm), addressing anxious queries like “How do I know if this crack in my wall is serious?”

If you’ve purchased a listed building or a home in a conservation area, make sure you know the planning implications. A good starting point is the English Heritage website, which has a dedicated section: ‘Owning an Older Home’.

Many people incorrectly assume that listing applies only to the exterior and they have free rein inside. In fact, any interior changes require Listed Building Consent, so it’s worth talking to your local planning authority before you begin. Beware: carrying out unauthorised works is a criminal offence, and planning authorities can insist the work is reversed - a costly and avoidable mistake.

So, if you’re looking to save money by carrying out a project yourself, you can easily find the knowledge and skills you need to make it a success. You don’t need to be a DIY disaster.


Relative links

Check out the full feature on page 26 of MoveTo London