From paint testers to wardrobe hacks: 12 home DIY dos and don’ts | Home improvements

Whether you are DIYing it all yourself or getting tradespeople in, there are ways to cut some of the costs associated with sprucing up your home.

1) Testers

Shop around for testers as prices vary a lot, and sometimes the manufacturers work out the cheapest place to buy from. For example, Dulux testers are £2.45 each at Homebase and B&Q, and £1.99 from Wilko’s website, but all three will charge you several pounds for home delivery. On Dulux’s website, testers are £2.38 each, and postage and packing is free if you order three or more. Wilko is your best bet price-wise if you live near enough for free click and collect, but otherwise Dulux has the best offer.

The price of paint testers varies a lot. Photograph: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Alamy

2) Wallpaper

Look out for wallpaper samples to use for upcycling – or keep an eye out for remnants or part-rolls of wallpaper on Freecycle or sites such as Etsy. Some companies have a charge for samples, while others offer a limited number for free but charge you for postage.

3) Shop around

Most wallpapers, fabrics and carpets are not exclusive to one retailer, so if you see one you like, stick the name into Google and check out different offers. Make sure you are comparing like with like – take delivery charges into account and, with curtains, check you are getting the same linings, etc. Also, if something isn’t made to measure and you might want to return it, take into account how easy that will be and how much it will cost.

Most fabrics, wallpapers and carpets are not exclusive to one retailer. Photograph: Valerii Honcharuk/Alamy

4) Paint

Consider buying lots of small tins of paint instead of one big one – unless you are really good at judging how much you will need. Even though it is more expensive upfront, it may prove cheaper in the long run if you have an unopened pot to return. It also helps you keep the paint cleaner, especially if you are decorating over several weekends – the paint can start to set on the lid and crumble off into the can when you open it.

5) Paperwork and emails

Put your receipts in a safe place. In the chaos of getting work done, it can be easy to lose things, but choose somewhere to put your paperwork, and keep your emails so you can get refunds on anything that you haven’t needed.

Check Screwfix, Toolstation or Builder Depot before you shop, as these tend to have huge selections of tools and materials at good prices, and you can check for stock online. Screwfix and Toolstation offer extra discounts on their apps or with accounts, too.

7) Accessories

Make sure you clean your brushes properly after use. Photograph: Peter Dazeley/Alamy

When buying something that needs accessories, don’t automatically buy everything from the same place. Take doors, for example – it could be cheaper to get the hinges and latches from a shop such as Screwfix rather than adding them to your order from a door company. Similarly, the place you buy your sink from may not be the cheapest supplier of the taps you want. But remember to factor in delivery costs when comparing prices.

8) Brushes

Don’t scrimp on brushes, as cheap ones frequently lose bristles that can get stuck in your paint and are a pain to remove. A good set of brushes can last a long time if cleaned properly after use. Check the paint tin before use to see appropriate washing instructions – oil-based paint will require solvents such as white spirit, methylated spirit or similar brush cleaner.

9) Sandpaper

Course sandpaper can be sanded with other sandpaper to reduce its roughness. There are six main sandpaper “grit” ratings, ranging from coarse to extra-fine. If you have medium “80 grit” sandpaper, you can quickly make it more like 100 grit or higher by simply rubbing it with another piece of sandpaper, which can be cheaper than buying a whole roll or pack if you only need a few bits.

10) Bathroom fittings

Don’t just buy the cheapest tap, trap or shower bar you can find. Buying those made by longstanding manufacturers that use or sell standard spare parts such as ceramic tap cartridges, thermostatic shower valves or other consumable bits can save you money and hassle in the long run.

Scrimping on bathroom fittings can be a mistake in the long run.
Photograph: Offscreen/Alamy

11) Ready-made options

If you are getting a carpenter to build wardrobes or fit cupboards, you can usually save money by buying some elements ready-made. Drawers, for instance, are expensive to have built but if you search for “internal drawers for wardrobes”, you will find lots of options. Before you throw out old furniture, consider if it can be repurposed or adapted. You might be able to use an old sideboard in an alcove and build shelves over it rather than having to get a cupboard built from scratch.

12) Insurance

If you are putting things in storage, the company you use will usually insist that you buy insurance. Don’t automatically buy its cover: there are standalone policies available that typically offer more protection for less money. Surewise and Store Insure, for example, include cover while you are taking your possessions to and from storage, while policies from Access and Big Yellow do not. Get a quote from your storage company and compare it with one from a third party before you buy – they can be arranged online at the last minute.


Whether you are doing it yourself or hiring tradespeople, there are ways to save money when sprucing up your home.

1) Testers

Compare prices for paint testers as they can vary significantly. Sometimes manufacturers offer the best deals. For example, Dulux testers are priced at £2.45 each at Homebase and B&Q, and £1.99 on Wilko’s website. However, all three charge extra for home delivery. On Dulux’s website, testers are £2.38 each, and you get free postage and packing if you order three or more. Wilko is the most cost-effective option if you can do free click and collect, but if not, Dulux offers the best deal.




The price of paint testers varies a lot. Photograph: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Alamy

2) Wallpaper

Look for wallpaper samples for upcycling or search for remnants or part-rolls on sites like Freecycle or Etsy. Some companies charge for samples, while others offer a limited number for free but charge for postage.

3) Shop around

Most wallpapers, fabrics, and carpets are not exclusive to one retailer. If you find something you like, compare prices from different retailers. Consider delivery charges and ensure you are comparing similar products. For curtains, check the linings and other details. Also, factor in return costs if needed.




Most fabrics, wallpapers, and carpets are not exclusive to one retailer. Photograph: Valerii Honcharuk/Alamy