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17 September 2014
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Avoid a home improvement nightmare by following our essential guide to DIY preparation. Follow our tips to ensure you achieve real improvements, while saving time and money.

Planning your decorating

Planning sounds boring but it does save time in the long run. It helps you think the job through, make all those difficult decisions about colour-scheming, and get together everything you need before you start work.


If you're going to redecorate a room, begin by deciding how far you're going to go. Will you just repaint the walls, ceiling and woodwork? Will you be papering the walls for the first time, or do you want to replace the paper you already have? And how about changing the carpet and curtains, even the upholstery and the lighting? These decisions will often depend on the size of your budget.

You can probably do a quick room repaint for £50, but add some new wallpaper and you'll at least double the spend. More extensive changes than this will definitely have you dipping deep into your savings. The choice is yours, of course, but be sure you know what you're in for before you start.

Start a file

Unless you like white rooms, you'll need paint colour charts, wallpaper and even fabric samples to help you decide which products to use. Buy a cardboard pocket file or a scrapbook from a stationer's to keep them all in.

  • Pick up free colour charts from the DIY stores
  • Ask for samples of unwrapped rolls of wallpaper and borders on display
  • For fabric samples, try the curtain shops and department stores in your local high street
  • Local markets can be an excellent source of cheap fabrics
  • Tear pages out of monthly home magazines for colour-scheme ideas
  • Many magazines have separate stockists lists at the back for all the relevant product details

Plan your time

Your time is the free ingredient of any project, but you still have to work out how much of it is needed for the job. Don't underestimate how long things can take. Just preparing a room for redecorating - clearing the furniture, taking everything off the walls, washing down surfaces, patching up any damage, covering up the carpet or stripping it and so on - could take a day at least.

Allow a whole weekend for a simple repaint, and two if you're paper-hanging, tiling or laying new flooring as well. This might sound a lot, but you'll feel much better if you set yourself a realistic timetable and are able to keep to it as you go along. Everyone hates a job that drags on and on when you thought you could be done in a day.

Get organised

Last but not least, make sure you know exactly what you're up against by reading through the appropriate DIY project in our guide.

For example, a bathroom makeover could involve replacing all the old wall tiles (or tiling over them), painting the ceiling and the woodwork and putting down some new cork tiles. You could even fix that annoying dripping tap while you're at it.

By doing this now, you'll be able to work out what order to do things in and then organise your shopping and work time accordingly. For this particular job, you should do tiling (the messiest bit) first, then painting and finally flooring. But before you can begin work, you have to estimate how much of everything you need.

From Handy Andy's Home Work by Andy Kane, published by BBC Worldwide. Copyright © Andy Kane 2000 and Photograph copyright Andy Woods and Tim Young © BBC Worldwide 2000.

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