Insights 5min(s)

Revealing the nation's funniest DIY disasters

Looking for DIY ideas? Here’s how not to do it. We surveyed the nation to find the most embarrassing DIY disasters. Here, British comedian Hal Cruttenden reveals some of the funniest entries.

We’ve always been a nation of DIYers but now, more than ever, people are picking up paint brushes, knocking down walls and ripping out old furniture.

The only problem is, too often, rather than making magnificent improvements to our homes, some are guilty of bodging up very badly!

Shawbrook Bank Personal Loans has conducted research that found on average Brits have had four DIY mishaps in lockdown and nearly half had to call in the professionals after DIY projects went horribly wrong. These errors are costing a lot too, with Brits forking out an average of up to £200 to fix their big blunders.  

For Shawbrook Bank’s Comedy of (DIY) Errors campaign, I was tasked to create hilarious sketches making light of DIY mistakes. To help write these, we wanted to hear the nation’s home improvement howlers, carpentry clangers and decorating debacles, so we challenged Brits across the country to share their stories to shine a light on comical dangers of ‘doing it yourself’.

And you didn’t disappoint! Here are some of the funniest stories we found.

Coffee with a dash of paint

Shawbrook Bank’s research into DIY mistakes found that a third of Brits have bodged up a paint job in the last 18 months. It’s no surprise then that we were inundated with stories of how picking up a paint brush led to disaster.

"My mum once mixed coffee with white paint in an attempt to make brown paint for the bathroom. It worked out about as well as you'd expect!” said one respondent.

Meanwhile, another who saw himself as the next Eddie the Eagle, said: “My uncle was painting at the top of the stairs. When he stepped back to admire his handiwork, he put his foot in the paint tray and 'skied' down the stairs and into the front door!"

We also heard the tale of a cost-cutting attempt that went seriously wrong: “A friend of mine once bought some cheap paint to spruce up his outside windowsills. The only problem was, it turned out to be light reflecting road signal paint, so every time a car went by, his house lit up!”

Nailing it!

Fixing things to walls also proved to be another disaster area for many. Shawbrook Bank’s study found that almost four in ten have had a recent failure here.

One person told us the tale of how they’d spent hours trying to fix blinds to the wall without asking for help, the #1 DIY task Brits fail at according to our latest research. After finally giving up and asking for help she was told the drill was set to reverse. 

Another thought they’d done a grand job but then later realised it hadn't quite gone to plan, with one respondent telling us: “I put up a shelf in my son's bedroom, it was straight and held weight. A miracle to behold! It wasn't until we got into bed that night in the room next door when my wife asked me: “What are those four bolts doing sticking out of the wall?”

Can you measure up?

Assembling furniture also appears to be too much of a challenge for many – almost a third messed up on this during lockdown. Some more than others. One respondent told us: “I bought a flat pack wardrobe for the bedroom, which was fairly expensive. As my bedroom is small, I planned on building it in the kitchen and moving it down my hallway and into the bedroom. But as a result of my poor measuring skills, I missed by an inch and couldn’t fit it in my hallway – meaning I had to dissemble and rebuild in the bedroom. It’s safe to say it didn’t look as planned on my second attempt – the whole thing was totally uneven!”

Making do with what you have

Home improvements can be costly, Shawbrook Bank found the average Brit spent almost £2,000 on home improvements between 2020 and 2021 so it’s no wonder many want to find ways to save. That’s why many choose to give it a go themselves – 40% in the survey said they opted for DIY to save a fortune.

Creating a plan and a budget before tackling your next project can help you understand the full costs involved.

Yet a few have paid the price. We were told: “My dad is as innovative as he is a cheap skate. I asked him to repair the floor inside my shed, so unwanted rodents could no longer creep through the holes. Instead of going out to a DIY store, he decided to use the contents of the shed itself. I returned to find he had used quite an array of items, including place mats, coasters, a pool table, a piece of a work bench and bathroom tiles, conveniently sourced from a man he knows from the pub!”

Don't be afraid of heights

Over a third of Brits suffered a mishap while cleaning guttering during lockdown. One told us: "A friend was up a ladder fixing the guttering when his wife opened the upstairs window to ask how he was getting on.  Unfortunately opening the window pushed the ladder away from the building. Fortunately, although he was in mid-air for a moment the ladder did return to the building and he was uninjured.”

Helping others

While we applaud people who want to help their friends and families with DIY, it can often end in disaster. One respondent told us: “Whilst my parents were away for a few months, I thought it was the ideal opportunity to attempt to do what I felt were some much needed repairs to their house. Unfortunately, while in the loft I accidentally knocked over a hammer which went crashing through the ceiling into their bathroom, smashing through the wallpaper and destroying the cistern lid. To make things worse, the toilet set was an off peach colour and had been discontinued, as my parents had tiled around the lid and toilet I was unable to replace the entire thing and a painful two-month-long search to find a replacement ensued.”

Gardening SOS

And it’s not just home improvements that can go wrong.

Many stories sent in related to gardens too. One respondent told us that: “The shrubs along the front of our house were getting overgrown and needed a good pruning. After a couple of hours of aggressive shearing, they looked worse than ever, so I decided to pull them out and get new ones. I tied a heavy rope to the base of one of the shrubs and fastened the other end to the back of my 4×4. I slowly drove the pickup forward, then accelerated quickly, hoping to jerk the bush free. What I didn’t expect was the rubber-band effect of the nylon rope. It catapulted the bush right through the back window of my truck!”

Think a home improvement loan might be right for you?

The Comedy of (DIY) Errors campaign aimed to highlight how even the most well-intentioned home improvements and DIY efforts may not always go to plan. There’s no shame in asking for help sometimes, and in fact, doing so could help you save money in the long run.

Planning ahead can also help to keep costs under control, so for those considering borrowing money to finance home improvements, it’s essential to do plenty of research to get the best available deal.

Looking for finance to help support your next home improvement? Find out more about our personal loans.

*Consumer research survey of 2,000 UK adults, carried out by OnePoll in July 2021.