Two Great British Obsessions – Tea and DIY
Who does DIY?
In a study we conducted over ten years ago with manwatcher Desmond Morris , only about 2% of men and 12% of women said that they never did any kind of DIY. Little seems to have changed. Today's first-time DIYers claim that they are no different from their friends and contemporaries. "Everybody", they said, "is a DIYer now". If anything has changed, it is probably the fact that women are now even more centrally involved in the DIY process. And not just making curtains or painting the bedroom walls. The female nestbuilder now sands floors, cuts up sheets of MDF and knows what a chuck key is for.
The average age of our sample of first-time DIYers was 28, rather older than might have been the case of the previous generation. But this is to be expected. Employment and financial considerations mean that people set up home together rather later on in life than their parents. Nearly three quarters were married or 'living together' but over 20% were setting up a 'proper' home for themselves on their own. About 3% were involved in DIY in a house shared with friends.
The large majority of informants had recently bought their own home, usually on a mortgage which many described as 'crippling' or just 'mad'. Less than 20% were decorating or repairing a rented property. This is understandable. People living in rented properties are often restricted in the amount of DIY they can do. And perhaps they have less motivation as well.
The typical property occupied by the first-time DIYer is the semi-detached house in the suburbs – such an icon of post-war Britain that it has been the subject of poetry and pretentious architectural analysis, its bay windows being compared with female breasts. For our informants, however, it is home, and therefore worthy of all the loving personalising that DIY brings to otherwise bland and commonplace environments.
Visiting the Store
The DIY store is, for the amateur, what the builder's yard is for the professional, although this distinction is being rapidly being eroded. A few of our potential informants turned out to be real builders taking advantage of the special offers and loss leaders that the stores often provide. DIYers will typically visit such stores once a month or once a week. There were, however, a few informants who seem to spend as much time in these places as they do engaged in practical work in their own homes. Five per cent, for example, said that visited the stores once a day or even more often.