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Do-it-yourself: the joy of craftsmanship
A survey carried out by the Ofri portal for craftsmen in 2018 (see below for details) showed that around 70 percent of all Swiss people perform certain DIY tasks themselves. The most frequently mentioned reason is not an intention to save money, but the fun of the manual work.
Of course, “manual work” is a very broad description. Replacing a light bulb is much easier than decalcifying a boiler, for example. We tell you what you can do yourself – and what you can do better with tips or even help.
1. Tearing out the old kitchen
The more you’re looking forward to the new kitchen, the more you’ll enjoy tearing out the old one. Before the professional installs the new units, you can easily save a few hundred francs. All you need is a powerful electric sledgehammer. This will even allow you to remove old tiles from the walls – or from the shower and bathroom. But be careful near water pipes or power cables. A cable detector is very helpful here. The high-quality models detect not only electricity, but also metal. This is useful because water pipes are usually made of metal.
2. Painting walls or kitchen cabinets
This is a classic task, but two points are often underestimated: the preparatory work and the material. Professionals allow a good part of their working time for masking work. That makes it more economical to take care of it all yourself. You need little or no previous knowledge for preparations such as masking, sanding or dismantling cabinet handles. Then you’re ready to start painting.
Tip: let a professional advise you on the choice of colors and take the time to apply a test coat to a small area. This is particularly important when using glaze, as you can easily tell if a professional wasn’t called in. Of course, many colors can also be sprayed – but painting usually gives a more attractive finish. If your cabinet fronts are made of synthetic resin or wood, you can remove the handles and then sand them down and paint them.
In principle, you should always paint from top to bottom. And do the painting before laying the new floor so that you can save yourself the trouble of covering the floor.
3. Laying the floor
This is another classic job where relatively little can go wrong – provided the house has right angles. Otherwise the calculations can be very tricky. The easiest way is to buy linoleum or vinyl that can be clicked into place. Tip: a jigsaw is very useful for shortening the flooring to the right length. Many DIY stores lend them out so you don’t have to buy new tools for your project.
If you already have a tiled floor, you can easily lay new tiles on top of the old floor. Under the floor, however, you will definitely need a vapor barrier to protect the floor from moisture, as well as impact sound insulation – unless this is already in place. Both are also available as a combined package. To leave a bit of play for the tiles, make sure you leave 5 millimeters free at the edge (by working with distance blocks). This also makes it easier to attach a plinth.
Tip: whether you’re using click flooring or tiles, you shouldn’t lay a new floor covering on carpet, because it is too unstable. The click connections could bend or tiles could sag as a result.
4. Paneling: converting your own attic
Converting an attic is a feasible project, but one that is already a bit more complicated. There must be at least two people involved. The preliminary work for insulation purposes (vapor barrier) should be carried out by a professional because mistakes here can lead to a leaking roof – this can cause serious water damage, which can result in expensive repairs.
After the insulation comes the covering – wooden paneling. You can do this yourself – but you need good tools: an electric tacker and a compressor to supply the tacker with compressed air, a jigsaw, a crosscut saw and a spirit level are highly recommended. You can rent most tools from a hardware store. Some sort of platform is also advisable because a ladder is awkward and potentially dangerous in the long run.
Tip: use a spirit level to make sure that the grid, i.e. the frame on which the panels are nailed, is hanging straight. If you make a mistake at this stage, it is difficult to put it right. You can at least partially convert your attic yourself with patience and some experience in woodworking.
5. Putting up your own shelves
You can easily make your own storage furniture – if you are not very confident about the idea, start by putting up a shelf in the storage room, where your initial project will stay out of sight. Even smaller open shelves such as a shoe rack for the basement can be built without much effort.
For shelving it is best to use wood that has already been cut to size – so make a plan indicating the quantity and size of the wooden slats required before you begin. Larger building markets (e.g. Coop) offer a wood cutting service. You should buy uncoated wood if you are planning to paint the furniture in your chosen color.
Preferably not DIY: calling in a professional
If you are not a specialist, there are some tasks you shouldn’t attempt yourself. Below is a list of work that requires at least some assistance from a professional:
- If you want to break through interior walls, you should first ask a structural engineer for advice. The same applies to exterior walls.
- Caution is also advisable for sanitary work: a tiny leak can cause damage for years before it is noticed.
- Work on the roof that goes beyond replacing broken tiles is a job for a professional.
- You should only touch electrical installations if you are familiar with this type of work and above all, have professional tools.
Advice and assistance: where to get help with DIY
If you need advice, there are many options, from a simple YouTube video to a professional course lasting several days. They’re all educational.
1. Help from YouTube
Don’t underestimate it: YouTube is a great free source of information when it comes to getting advice and practical guidance. It’s worth watching several videos on the same topic to get an overview. This will enable you to recognize when steps are useless or incorrect because all other videos will present a different and hopefully identical version.
Tip: be sure to also look for videos from Germany and the US, as these two countries have a greater tendency towards do-it-yourself projects than Switzerland. And also simply more do-it-yourselfers.
2. Migros Club School
How to connect lamps correctly, clean a blocked siphon, drill into brick walls: you can learn how to do all this on a one-day course at the Migros Club School. The course takes place in various Swiss cities and costs between 180 and 240 francs depending on the size of the group.
3. Courses in hardware stores
Many larger DIY stores regularly offer do-it-yourself courses on various topics.
The teamwork between Berner Gebäudeversicherung BGV and the Swiss Homeowners’ Association HEV is called hausinfo.ch. There are various guides containing a lot of useful tips on working on and in the house.
If in doubt, call in a craftsman
Internet portals like Houzy bring craftsmen and clients together: you enter an inquiry and receive several independent offers for anything you don’t want to tackle yourself. With a little luck you could also find a retired professional on the Rent a Renter portal who will help out for a relatively low sum – then you can work together rather than attempting the task on your own.