Cost of living crisis: Top tips for saving money on home improvements and DIY

Cost of living: Over the course of the pandemic demand for home improvements soared and costs have spiralled over the last two years. Young asian happy woman painting interior wall with paint roller in new house
Cost of living: Over the course of the pandemic demand for home improvements soared and costs have spiralled over the last two years. Photo: Getty

Several home improvement and renovation projects are being put on hold as squeezed UK households cut back amid the intensifying cost of living crisis.

However, for those that have essential home improvement work or simply can’t face looking at those same four walls any longer, here are some top tips from consumer body Which? that can save you thousands on renovations.

1. Consider doing some of the work yourself

If you have the skills and confidence, one way to slash costs is to do it yourself rather than paying for a decorator or trader.

However, it’s always best to hire a professional if you’re not confident — and don’t take any chances when it comes to gas or electrics.

2. Consider a lighter refurb

Instead of a major overhaul of your home, try some smaller updates and tweaks that will cost less.

For example, rather than fitting an entirely new kitchen it is worth searching builders’ merchants, local kitchen manufacturers, and specialist companies for new kitchen unit doors, worktops, and drawer fronts to refresh the look of a kitchen while paying considerably less.

3. Choose a good brand to get value for money

Which? suggests always buying from reliable, high-quality brands that have performed well in tests or been rated highly in large-scale surveys, as this can save money in the long term if the products last longer.

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Shoppers should do their research and read reviews to find reputable brands.

4. Consider buying second-hand

If planning a kitchen refurbishment, it’s possible to save money by choosing a second-hand or ex-display kitchen, and doing so could cut the final bill by more than half. Certain elements of a kitchen can cost more, such as the cabinets or worktops, depending on the materials and finish you choose.

It could be cheaper to buy some parts second-hand, but the rest new. It's also an environmentally-friendly way of shopping, potentially preventing a good kitchen from ending up in landfill.

Before buying second-hand, the consumer group suggests checking the kitchen in person before purchasing, to make sure it isn’t damaged — as private sellers aren’t obligated to draw attention to defects.

5. Plan carefully to avoid costs spiralling

Planning any renovation project in advance can save money.

For example, if installing a new kitchen, consumers can plan ahead and reduce costs by giving existing kitchen components a new lease of life — by repainting cabinets, choosing less expensive materials, negotiating a package with other units and elements, sourcing parts themselves online, shopping around for a fitter, or fitting the kitchen themselves.

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For larger projects, such as building a conservatory, extension, or loft conversion, customers should agree on a quote and timeframe with the builder in advance. It should include clearly defined conditions for what happens if the price of materials increases during the course of the project.

The consumer body recommends always getting at least three quotes to compare and requesting a total price for the job including all fittings and fixtures, rather than a rate per day. With a fixed cost for the whole project, there are less likely to be nasty surprises.

6. Practice good maintenance to delay big refurbishments

Keeping rooms and appliances well maintained can help avoid expensive repairs later down the line.

Keep kitchen sinks and taps clean to avoid limescale build-up, unclog kitchen pipes and drains and clean the grouting on your kitchen and bathroom tiles. All of these small tasks could prolong the life of your existing kitchen or bathroom and delay having to fork out for replacements or retiling.

Buying fewer new products — and therefore using up fewer resources and sending less to landfill — is also better for the environment, and some of these maintenance tasks, such as tackling signs of mould, will improve your indoor air quality, too.

7. Shop around for deals if you're not in a hurry to buy

Fitted furniture for kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms frequently goes on sale. Deals often sound too good to be missed, but there may be a better one elsewhere, so it’s always worth shopping around and comparing prices.

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Try to find out how long a deal has been available, as it may be a long-standing offer rather than a time-limited sale. Which? recommends getting quotes from a few different stores to really gauge what is a good price for what you want.

Shoppers should also double-check what is included in any deal, as retailers can run multiple promotions simultaneously, so figuring out what the cheapest option is can be confusing.

8. Buy discounted tools and DIY products, or rent them

Tools and DIY products often go on sale, both in-store and online. If the task isn’t urgent, shoppers could try waiting for a promotion on the tools needed. It’s also worth checking whether you can hire tools from local businesses.

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