Eight home DIY jobs you should never attempt

Living Well | Cathy Anderson | Posted on 25 November 2019

Don’t be a ‘Block-head’ when it comes to these eight DIY home improvement tasks.

Hands up who’s watched amateur contestants on The Block or House Rules and thought: “That looks easy enough”. You’re not alone. The proliferation of high-rating reno shows, free short courses at warehouse hardware stores, and YouTube tutorials has led to a boom in confidence for Aussies to get ‘on the tools’ says RACV’s Home Trades and Services training manager Andy Anderson.

“There has definitely been a rise in the number of people who give things a go,” he says. “They are getting their empowerment from TV shows, they are getting it from places like Bunnings that not only sell the materials they need, but run DIY courses on the weekend to do certain things around the home,” he says. “It is not always a bad thing.”

Tray and brushes for painting

Bunnings not only sells the materials, but also run DIY courses on the weekend.

The cost and sometimes unreliability of tradespeople, along with an increasing enthusiasm for eco-friendly upcycling, is also playing a role in this DIY resurgence. Andy’s job is to train tradespeople who work for RACV’s Emergency Home Assist team, which helps members in the case of a home emergency such as a burst pipe or broken window.

He says many jobs logged by the team can be easily prevented with some simple maintenance work by home owners, while other callouts are the result of poorly done DIY jobs that have been a “ticking time bomb”.

Here, he recommends home jobs that can be done yourself, those best left for a qualified tradie, and others that should never be attempted.

DIY: Easy-peasy home improvement jobs

Changing a light globe

This might sound simple, but it’s the only electrical job you can do safely (see below). Just make sure you switch off the light at the power point and that your ladder is even and stable on the ground.

Painting a room

Not much danger of anything going particularly wrong here, unless you choose to paint a wall bright purple (there’s no accounting for taste). Make sure you prime the wall first by giving it a light sand before applying a layer of undercoat. Some higher-quality paints come as a paint and primer in one, which can save time. Put down a drop sheet first, too, or you could spend more time cleaning than painting. It’s also a good idea to use bleed-proof tape along any edges you want straight, such as along skirting boards or under cornices.

Fixing a dripping tap

Turn the water off at the mains, grab your shifter and tame those pesky washers. Replace them with washers of the same size, there’s no ‘near enough is good enough’ here. If you’re not sure, remove the old one and get your hardware store to match it.

Installing a towel rail or toilet-roll holder

As long as you have some practical experience with power tools (weekend courses are great for this) you can drill holes in your walls to secure these items to the wall. But, and it’s a big but, you need to be absolutely sure there are no water pipes or electrical wires hiding in the wall where you drill. Pick up a wall detector from the hardware store to accurately detect studs, joists, metal and live wires in your drywall, brick and concrete walls.

Clearing your gutters

This DIY maintenance job is essential to avoid water seeping into the walls thanks to blocked downpipes. Ensure you have a sturdy ladder and are comfortable with heights. Maybe ask someone to ‘supervise’ just in case, and always let someone know when you’re doing any roof work so they can check in and make sure all is okay.

Repairing flyscreens

Summer is en route, and so are the flies. Old fly-screens ripped by age, kids or pets can be easily removed and replaced thanks to the simple rubber push-in seal around the door frames. Pull the screen tight when pushing it in so there are no ripples.

Unblocking a sink/toilet

Repeat after me: plungers are FUN! Put some elbow grease into it and see if you can’t shift that blockage. Of course, if that fails, call in the experts with a water-jet blaster to avoid a very, er, crappy situation.

Painting a wall
Fixing a shower head

The cost and sometimes unreliability of tradespeople is playing a role in DIY resurgence.

Tricky jobs best left to a tradie 

Replacing taps and installing showers and baths

Water is the source of life, but don’t let it become the source of aggravation as major leaks and flooded bathrooms invade your home thanks to a botched DIY job. 

Fixing heating/cooling

Ducted gas heating on the blink? Split system blowing smoke? Call the manufacturer.

Repairing broken glass

Safe to say, no one needs a bloodbath. Whether it’s a shower screen or window, glass is very dangerous and expensive. Leave these jobs to an experienced glazier.

Building a deck

Upcycling old onion boxes to hand-make garden boxes is an easy DIY project, but building a structure such as a veranda or deck really needs to be left to your chippie. The danger of doing it wrong is physical harm to yourself or family.

DIY-don’t: jobs that are off limits 

Electrical work

Working with electricity is a dangerous and potentially deadly business. As Andy says: “With plumbing work, you can see water so if it spurts out that’s the worst of it, whereas with electricity you can’t see it or smell it and if you feel it then that might be the last thing you feel.” Energy Safe Victoria even has a DIY=DIE campaign about this issue. Absolute no-nos are changing power-points, installing downlights, replacing a Smart Meter and (heaven forbid) attempting to rewire your home. 

Removing walls

So, you’ve designed a snazzy new layout for your cosy inner-city terrace to give it an open-plan living room at the rear, but there’s a pesky wall in the way. Put down the sledgehammer — the wall could be load-bearing and one fell swing could bring the house down. Literally.

Connecting house gas to the barbecue

There are now kits available for this ingenious idea to dispense with cumbersome gas bottles and hook up the barbie to your home’s gas supply, but do it wrong and your next backyard party could be seriously ‘killer’.

Connecting a gas cooktop

New oven and cooktop? A licensed plumber is required to connect them so you can be ‘cooking with gas’ safely.

Home emergencies can happen to anyone. Keep calm with RACV Emergency Home Assist