DIY is like anything else: the more you practice, the better you’ll be. Being able to do basic jobs yourself isn’t just a satisfying way to spend some free time – it’s also an important life skill that can save you money. Outsourcing jobs that you can do yourself can be a big drain on your finances – and if you give it a chance, you might discover that you enjoy DIY, and find it a relaxing and rewarding new hobby.
While it’s not advisable as a DIY novice to start out by renovating an entire kitchen, there are plenty of jobs that everyone can do when armed with the right information. From grooming your own pet, to fixing your own bike, through to carrying out odd jobs around your home, here are 8 basic (but very valuable!) DIY skills that you can start learning today.
1. Odd jobs
We all have to do odd jobs from time to time, whether it’s putting up shelves, curtain poles and blinds, hanging paintings, or assembling flat-pack furniture. What all these jobs have in common is the fact that they usually require a drill – and it’s this fact that sometimes puts people off. Power drills can seem intimidating, but they’re easy enough for beginners to use – just make sure you familiarise yourself with the correct technique. To see how it’s done and get tips from an expert, have a watch of this YouTube video.
One of the best ways to learn how to do odd jobs around the house is to watch videos online. There are DIY tutorial videos showing you how to do anything and everything on YouTube – from hanging a picture to top tips on assembling furniture without any hassle. Alternatively, B&Q has lots of videos and step-by-step guides on their website. You might also want to pop into your local B&Q store and speak to an advisor (stores remain open during lockdown). Or, if you want to speak to someone about an odd job but don’t want to physically visit a store, you can call the central customer service line on 03330 143354.
While you can do some odd jobs without a drill, and just use a hammer and nail, if you need to do any serious odd jobs, we’d recommend investing in a power drill and taking the time to get to grips with it. Once you’re confident using a power drill, a whole world of DIY will open up to you. You might find that you want to tackle more challenging tasks, like installing new kitchen units – or you might find that it inspires you to get into carpentry. Even if you only use your new skills for small jobs, you’ll save a decent amount of money, as calling out handymen can cost a small fortune. To find out which tools are essential gear for people just starting out at DIY, have a watch of the video below.
When it comes to deciding where to buy your tools, B&Q and Amazon have a wide selection of good quality tools at varying prices. If you’d prefer to have a proper look at a tool or get some advice before you buy, then it’s advisable to head over to your local B&Q store.
2. Sewing and mending
There was a time when, if people had a hole in their sock, or a rip in their shirt, they would reach for the sewing basket and mend it themselves. But in the era of fast fashion and cheap clothing, this skill has sadly fallen by the wayside somewhat. Mastering some basic sewing skills is a great way not only to save yourself money, but to ensure your wardrobe is more sustainable too – and many mending skills are simple to get the hang of and don’t require a sewing machine.
As long as you have a basic sewing kit with a needle and some thread, you’ll be able to replace buttons, hem trousers, and patch up rips and tears in material. If you enjoy reading, you might want to pick up a copy of First Time Sewing: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide, which is considered the sewing Bible.
There are also plenty of free online sewing courses you can do – have a look at this selection of the best free courses and classes on Sewing.com. Alternatively, head over to YouTube and watch some of the many tutorial videos there. The Made to Sew channel is one of the most popular, and has tutorials on everything from how to hem a jumper to how to tie off threads.
If you discover that you enjoy the sewing process, you might want to consider purchasing a sewing machine. You can buy these on Amazon or, if you like hunting for a bargain, eBay has a good selection too. Sewing machines allow you to quickly make things like curtains, blinds, throws and cushions, and is a great way to save money as well as express your creativity. To find out more about how you can learn to sew and mend your clothes, have a watch of the video below.
If sewing isn’t your thing, then you could consider learning how to knit. Not only is knitting therapeutic and great for keeping your hands busy – but eventually, you could be knitting winter warmers for your wardrobe, and to give as gifts to friends and family.
3. Car maintenance
If you’ve ever owned a car, you’ll know exactly how expensive they can be to repair. While bigger repairs should be done by a professional mechanic, smaller tasks can be done yourself. Staying on top of your vehicle’s maintenance is a smart way to save cash, as many professional repairs are a result of people putting off simple fixes, which ultimately make their car unsafe, or more expensive to drive. So what are the most important DIY skills every car owner should know?
Learning how to change your oil and filter is a good place to start. Generally speaking, a car’s oil should be changed every 5,000 miles, and there’s no reason why you can’t do this yourself, as long as you have some basic equipment like oil, an oil filter and a jack. These can be purchased online, but you might prefer to head to your local auto shop – for example, Halfords – where you can speak to an advisor and get some recommendations. You might also want to have a read of Popular Mechanic’s guide to changing your oil and oil filter to learn about the process in more detail, or watch a tutorial video on YouTube.
As we head into winter, it’s important to be able to carry out general tyre checks and maintenance – like making sure your tyres are inflated to the correct pressures, and that your tyre tread has a depth of at least 1.6mm. To find out how to check your tyre pressures, have a watch of this YouTube video here – or to check your tyre tread depth using a 20 pence piece, watch this one here. It’s also helpful to know how to change your own tyre as you never know when you might get caught out – and the best way to learn how to do this is to watch tutorial videos and then have a go yourself.
It’s also worth making sure that you know how to top up your screen wash – especially as the weather conditions worsen. Here’s another handy video that will show you how.
To learn more about car maintenance in general, you may want to pick up a copy of the best-selling car repair guide, Auto Repair for Dummies, which can teach you everything from how to check your breaks, repair leaks, change your coolant and keep your vehicle running in top shape. Alternatively, you can enroll in an online course. There aren’t many free online courses, but Udemy’s Car Maintenance Anyone Can Do is reasonably priced, and its three hours of video instruction show you how to check all fluids and maintain proper levels, change the engine spark plugs, change and fix a flat tyre, maintain your battery, and much more.
4. Bike repair
If you have a bike and enjoy cycling, chances are you’ll have to deal with some issues at some point, whether it’s getting a flat tyre, or your gears slipping. There’s no reason why these problems should stop you riding your bike and enjoying all the benefits of cycling – and learning to maintain and repair your bike doesn’t just save you money, it can also get you out of potentially sticky situations.
Bikes are generally pretty simple machines, and many bike problems are easily solved. The key, like most things, is to tackle one task at a time and keep practising. You’ll need a few basic tools to get started: a multitool, like this one from Park Tool or this one from Crankbrothers, is always a good idea. These tools are easy enough to carry around when you’re out cycling, in case you need a repair, and are good enough to be used for home maintenance too. If you’re keen to get into bike DIY, you should think about purchasing a proper bike repair kit, like this one.
So what are some of the basic bike DIY jobs you could start off with? Your bike’s chain is important to take care of because you can’t ride your bike without it – so practice cleaning and lubing your chain, and ensuring your bike is clean; you can find out how to properly wash your bike by watching this YouTube video.
Pumping up tyres is another biggie. For this you’ll need either a portable pump or a floor pump – and if you want to learn the correct tyre pumping technique, have a watch of this video here. Or, if you want to see how to give your bike a full service, have a watch of this tutorial video on YouTube.
Alternatively, head over to BikeRide.com to check out their comprehensive guides to all things bike related. There are videos on removing rust from your bike, replacing handlebar grips, checking for chain wear and tear, replacing brake cables, and replacing wheel rims. To find out what you need to know before getting stuck into bike DIY, have a watch of the video below.
5. Basic plumbing
Most of us will have to deal with plumbing issues at some point in our lives. Clogged drains, leaking taps, faulty washing machines and toilets that don’t stop flushing are all common plumbing problems, and luckily, they’re not that difficult to fix. Once you’ve learnt some simple techniques for fixing these issues, you’ll probably be able to handle any basic plumbing job – and certainly won’t need to spend hundreds calling out an emergency plumber.
If you enjoy learning from books, there are some good DIY plumbing books out there. You might want to consider buying Master Basic Plumbing And Central Heating or Plumbing For Dummies, or the Collins Complete Plumbing and Central Heating. These books are packed with info on simple jobs, like maintaining boilers and radiators and identifying faults and maintenance, and more complex jobs too, like installing a shower or dealing with emergency repairs.
If you like visual learning, head over to YouTube, where once again there are hundreds of free tutorial videos showing you how to solve plumbing issues. You can find out how to fix common leaks, get to grips with the plumbing underneath your kitchen sink, and even learn how to avoid common plumbing mistakes.
Alternatively, head over to the DIY Doctor website to find a whole host of free videos on plumbing. From installing washing machines to fitting sinks and repairing leaks, there are so many helpful videos to watch. If you want to get a quick overview on how basic plumbing works, have a watch of the video below. You might also find it helpful to discuss tips and tricks with other DIY-ers over on the Rest Less community forum.
6. Growing your own vegetables
During lockdown, many of us decided to spend time in the kitchen baking or cooking. While mastering these skills can save you money, perhaps the most valuable DIY food-related skill is growing your own veg. Growing your own vegetables, herbs or fruit can save you lots of money, but it’s also much better for our planet too – no more plastic packaging, no more buying food that was grown thousands of miles away. If these aren’t good enough reasons to start thinking about growing your own veg, gardening is also a good form of exercise – and being outside is a great way to get some fresh air and boost your mood.
Gardening isn’t complicated, but there is a fair amount to learn if you want to ensure you get plenty of fruit for your labours (pun intended). You’ll need to develop a practical plan and figure out the size and shape of your vegetables patches. You’ll need to learn how to plant in raised beds, round out the soil, and know how to time your plots in terms of seasons. Luckily, you can learn all this from books – check out Amazon’s best-selling books on growing your own produce. Or, if you prefer, you can learn from videos: have a watch of B&Q’s guide on growing your own veg (you can buy everything you need at your local B&Q store too), or check out this video that shows new vegetable gardeners what to focus on first.
If you don’t have a garden, you can still grow your own produce – because even the smallest spaces can be used to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs. Whether you have a balcony or just a window sill, head over to Vertical Veg, a site that shows people how to grow their own produce in containers. From tomatoes to raspberries, some of the tastiest produce can thrive in containers on a window ledge. If you like learning from books, you may want to buy Grow All You Can Eat in 3 Square Feet, a guide to growing fruit and veg in a small space. You’ll learn everything from how to sow seeds, access soil and choose the right plants for different spaces. If you’re looking for somewhere to buy seeds, then check out Seed Pantry’s website – they sell seed kits, as well as individual packets of bulbs and seeds.
Whether you have a garden or not, you might also want to think about applying for an allotment. Not only does this give you much more space to really get stuck into growing your own, it’s also a great way to help the environment and meet new people in your area. Plus, preparing and then maintaining your allotment is a fun way to keep active. Have a read of our article about allotments to find out more. To see just how simple growing your own veg can be, have a watch of the video below. You might also want to head over to the gardening section of our community forum to swap tips and advice with other veggie growers.
7. Pet grooming
If you’re lucky enough to have an animal companion, you’ll probably already know that our four-legged friends can be surprisingly expensive to look after. Dogs in particular can require a lot of upkeep, especially certain breeds with long hair, or breeds that shed a lot. If you spend money taking your dog or cat to the groomer, why not consider doing it yourself? Not only will you be saving the pennies, but you’ll also be bonding with your pet – and considering many dogs and cats find going to the groomer stressful, you’ll also be doing them a favour.
Grooming your pet doesn’t cost much at all. The main expense is buying some clippers, as these need to be designed especially for animals – clippers designed for human hair aren’t powerful enough to cut animal hair, and run the risk of cutting your pet’s skin. Amazon sells a good range of pet clippers; the Wahl clipper is considered to be one of the best, and you can watch their grooming tutorial video here. To find out more about dog grooming, check out the DIY Dog Grooming website, which has information on everything from clipping your dog’s nails, trimming their hair and brushing their teeth.
If your dog needs a fancier cut, or you just prefer learning from a book, you might want to buy a copy of DIY Dog Grooming, which teaches you everything you need to know in order to bathe and trim your dog, and is packed full of advice on how to take the best care of your dog. If you like watching videos, have a watch of this free in-depth grooming tutorial video by AnimalWised.
If you have a cat, you might want to check out the Cat Grooming School channel on YouTube, which has a large selection of videos, or watch the video on cat grooming basics below.
8. Learn how to cut your own hair at home
It isn’t just your furry friends who can benefit from some DIY grooming – us humans can too. During lockdown, with hairdressers and beauty salons shutting their doors, many of us have been forced to try our hand at cutting our own hair – or having a go at other beauty treatments. We even wrote a guide to cutting your own hair at home! And even when we can pay a professional for these treatments again, many of us might prefer to continue pursuing DIY hair cuts or beard trims. Taking time to treat ourselves to a bit of TLC is a great way to relax and be kind to ourselves – something we all might be in need of right now.
The great news about DIY grooming is that YouTube is absolutely jam-packed with videos on beauty tutorials. Whether you’re male or female, whether you’re interested in learning more about cutting your hair, applying makeup, doing DIY manicures or pedicures, or trimming your own beard, there’s a YouTube channel out there for you.
There are so many DIY grooming hacks you can easily do at home. Have a read of this Guardian article to get inspired – from making your own indulgent face packs to learning to get to grips with self tan and mastering the perfect beard, you don’t have to be a professional to make yourself look good at home.
In the same way that building something from scratch can be satisfying and rewarding, there’s something very fulfilling about doing DIY yourself. DIY isn’t only a way to save money, it’s also a great way to live more sustainably and cut down on waste – and the act of DIY, whether it’s sewing a hole, mending your bike chain, or grooming your cat, can be surprisingly meditative…and the proud feeling you get afterwards is just an added bonus.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve never done any DIY before – all you need to succeed is the right knowledge and some patience. You might not get it right on your first go, but that’s all part of the DIY journey… And who knows, discovering a new hobby can be an unexpected but welcome side-effect.