As East Anglians express a love for home improvements, here are 20 DIY dos and don’ts

Norfolk people are among the best at DIY and Thorns in Norwich is a popular place to buy everything you need for that do-it-yourself project. Sales assistant Glen Gates with some of the popular buys.
 Picture: Simon Finlay Norfolk people are among the best at DIY and Thorns in Norwich is a popular place to buy everything you need for that do-it-yourself project. Sales assistant Glen Gates with some of the popular buys. Picture: Simon Finlay

Thursday, March 6, 2014
2:19 PM

Are you daunted by DIY or heroic when it comes to home improvements? A new survey claims that DIY enthusiasts in East Anglia have upped their game and are now among the best in the country.

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The 10 DIY jobs you shouldn’t attempt (unless you are a genius):

1. Gas appliances. Any appliance that runs on gas needs to be fixed or installed by professionals – unless you are one, back away from the boiler.

2. Electrical work. If you’re confident, you might be able to do small jobs such as putting up new lights. Larger jobs need to be tackled by professionals.

3. Taking down walls. Using a sledgehammer is fun. Smashing down a load-bearing wall by mistake isn’t.

4. Adding a single layer of decking can be easy. Adding a two-storey platform incorrectly can lead to collapses and injury if you’re not an expert.

5. Plumbing. Leave the big projects to the professionals – mistakes can lead to damaged pipes or waterlogged walls.

6. Roofing. It’s a long way to fall.

7. Felling trees. If they’re taller than you, think twice.

8. Removing large amounts of lead paint. Unless you want your children to glow in the dark.

9. Pave the driveway. Icing a cake and makingit entirely smooth is really hard, isn’t it? Now imagine a cake as big as your driveway.

10. Adding Artex or stone cladding. For no other reason than that they’re both really horrible.

In Norfolk, we love DIY so much that we’ve got our own word for it: tricolate.

We don’t spruce up the shed, we tricolate it suffin masterous (hat tip to the Friends of Norfolk Dialect) – and according to a new survey, we really do tricolate in style: East Anglians have emerged from a nationwide poll as some of the most proficient home improvers in the UK.

It’s a vast improvement on the figures from 11 years ago which saw East Anglian DIY enthusiasts receive a shattering blow to their egos with the news that they were amongst the least clued-up home improvers in the country.

In 2003, one in ten of those surveyed said they couldn’t change a plug without seeking some help, half weren’t brave enough to tackle assembling flat-pack furniture and just under half said they couldn’t put up shelves or hang wallpaper.

Top 10 most popular bank holiday DIY jobs:

1. Redecorating rooms

2. Making minor repairs, such as covering paint chips

3. Repairing fences or gates

4. Re-carpeting rooms

5. Freshening up the front door

6. Installing a new bathroom

7. Laying decking or a patio in the garden

8. Installing a new kitchen

9. Insulating the loft

10. Installing new windows or insulating walls

My view on this is as follows: I can change a plug, I can assemble flat-pack furniture, hang shelves and hang wallpaper – I just don’t want to.

Do it Yourself projects give you the opportunity to put your individual stamp on your home, save some money, increase the value of your property and emerge from the dust and debris feeling as if you’ve conquered Everest or walked on the moon.

They also give you the opportunity to not only destroy parts of your house, but also key parts of your body.

Additionally, the money you save is almost always nowhere near as much as you’d hoped it would be and the project will take twice as long as you expected – I’m currently considering hiring the equipment to sand floorboards in a Victorian house, even though the last time I was involved in a similar project I remember swearing I would never put myself through it again. Time makes idiots of us all.

Before you’ve even started a DIY project, you will have made several trips to a soulless warehouse in order to pick up supplies. Half of these supplies will be incorrect but you will have thrown away the receipts and be unable to exchange them.

Your tools will be incorrect. You will forget to wear old clothes and will ruin your best pair of jeans. There will be paint in your hair for weeks.

Regardless of these incontrovertible facts, as bank holiday season looms in the not-too-distant future, a staggering 52 per cent of house proud Britons plan to keep themselves busy making home improvements such as redecorating rooms, laying new carpets, making minor repairs, laying decking in gardens and even tackling larger jobs such as installing new bathrooms or kitchens.

At Thorns – the antithesis of a soulless DIY warehouse – on Exchange Street in Norwich, DIY enthusiasts from a huge radius converge to peruse the thousands of home improvement delights that are stocked in eight departments. From the humble tap washer to sophisticated power tools, kitchen utensils through to garden furniture, Thorns is an emporium of everything.

A unique, independent and family-run store, Thorns has been trading in Norwich since 1835 after being established by a London merchant, Robert Elliot Thorns.

His sons chose to become missionaries in Africa so Robert was joined by Charles Fisher’Ishbill and Thomas Paston Senior in the business and Thorns remains in the Paston family – Thomas Paston Junior was joined by son-in-law Peter Motts in 1973, by Peter’s daughter Miriam in 1995 and by his second daughter, Emily, in 2011.

“We take pride in our reputation for being Norwich’s leading independent DIY store and providing our customers with a personal and friendly service,” said Emily. “Over the past couple of years, we’ve definitely noticed an increase in people wanting to ‘have a go’ at DIY. Programmes on TV definitely help to inspire people and this has helped to create a make-do and mend culture.

“People like doing DIY because it’s a challenge and for the sense of achievement you feel when you’ve done something yourself. As people’s purse-strings tighten, people are tending to do DIY to bring costs down: things like decorating, with the right knowledge and preparation, can save you hundreds of pounds.”

Emily added that staff at the store were often impressed by customers’ projects and loved to see examples of DIY work that came to be with a little help from Thorns.

“Being close to the Broads, we get a lot of people coming in for bits to maintain their boats and we also see art students and artists on a regular basis – one guy was making a sculpture out of nuts and bolts,” she said.

“Another popular purchase is split washers to make chainmail. We even had a guy come in once to buy bits to make a Dalek!”

The most common DIY jobs being carried out by customers include plumbing, bleeding radiators, decorating, dying clothes, changing light bulbs, putting up shelves and hanging pictures, although staff have also noticed an increase in people ‘upcycling’ and restoring furniture.

Staff are also on hand for those who have done it themselves and wished they hadn’t.

“We get people asking for advice all the time and nine times out of ten we always have something we can help with. We have customers coming in asking for help on jobs that have gone wrong – one gentleman came in and had been using furniture polish for his flooring instead of floor polish,” she said.

Emily added that the personal service and friendly guidance on offer at Thorns was what kept customers coming back for more along with the maze of departments and floors filled with items that many people had despaired of ever being able to source.

“People love the fact they can still come into our shop and buy single quantities for screws and nuts and bolts,” she said.

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