I’d decided it was time. I was ready to take things to the next level. I’d been reassured that it would be fine. It might be a little uncomfortable at first, but actually I might enjoy it after a while. I was ready to take on my first DIY project.

At 23 and still living with my parents, the opportunities for solo DIY projects has been limited. Coupled with my clumsiness (to put it mildly), this was a risky business altogether. But I wanted to do something of my own. I’d decided to redecorate my room, and knew that when it was finished I’d have the satisfaction of knowing I’d done it all myself.


Yes, I did knock over a ladder and scuff a wall that I had just painted. I also tried using sunglasses to protect my eyes from dust when rubbing down excess Polyfilla, and yes I backed into another wall I had just painted and ended up with a white bum. However, I’d done it myself. I’d taken down shelves, filled in holes, used tools and battled a cream carpet and red paint (a lethal combo).

It’s fair to say that throughout this voyage into the unknown I have learnt a few ways to make the task easier, so I wanted to share them with you, in the hope that it may guide other DIY virgins.

1. Tape is my new BFF

Masking tape is amazing. Provided you don’t leave it on more than 24 hours, it doesn’t leave sticky marks, and protects even the messiest painter. I used it on various surfaces – the only issue was the heat. Decorating in the hottest week of the year is not advised, as the tape lost its tack and I ended up with sad looking strips of tape hanging from the coving when I’d left the paint to dry.

I also used it along the edge of the carpet when painting the skirting board. I’d been advised to use paper, but I found it very awkward and discovered that putting tape along the inside of the carpet one section at a time was much more effective for me. True it uses a lot of tape, but it’s cheaper than replacing the carpet.

2. Newspaper can stop roller disasters

I’d chosen to have a feature wall, which meant that as I used a paint roller closer to the corners of the room, the roller lurked dangerously close to skimming the cream wall. To avoid awkward splodges, I found taping a sheet of newspaper down the inside corner protected the already painted wall and gave a clean finish.

Bold colours- proceed with caution.
Bold colours- proceed with caution.

3. IPA solvent – where have you been hiding?

I don’t know if I’m just late to the party or not, but man that stuff is good. I used it to clean rogue paint splats from my window, greasy marks that had been left on my wardrobe, blu tac marks etc. Obviously I checked the bottle for which surfaces were IPA friendly so I didn’t cause any damage, but it fixed a whole manner of sins on my part. Definitely worth having around.

4. Paint finishes

I know this might sound simple but it’s important to be clear on which finish you want before you buy your paint. I decided I didn’t want a glossy finish, so chose matt, only to find matt isn’t as forgiving as silk when it comes to hiding greasy marks and I had to go back.

It’s an easy mistake to make (at least that’s what I tell myself).

5. Cling film

I’ve learnt during my DIY adventure that cling film can be used on brushes and rollers to stop them drying out. However, I made the rookie error of not securing the cling film around the handle, which meant air still got to the paint and dried out the brush. Make sure the cling film clings or, like me, you’ll be a fool with limp cling film and a stiff brush.


6. Polyfilla power

I’ll admit, I was dubious about whether I could handle Polyfilla, but I’m here to tell you that if I can do it, so can you. It’s a job I’d never been trusted with before when really, it’s just squirting goop into a hole or crack (no innuendo intended).

My top tips:

  • Make sure you scrape off the excess carefully, you’ll only have to sand it down afterwards
  • If you’re filling a hole (from rawplugs etc) squirt it in squarely
  • Make sure you buy one with a nozzle if you need to fill in holes, otherwise it gets very messy and you’ll waste loads.

7. Reward yourself

It felt like such a long process, especially having never done anything like it before, I wasn’t sure how long it would take. So it was important for me to appreciate each step as I completed it. Taking time to admire my own work and enjoy a sense of achievement made it feel less of a slog and a more fulfilling process. So remember, even if all you’ve done all day is sand a skirting board, that’s still one step closer to your end goal.

As it goes, it wasn’t too disastrous and I feel far more confident to try other DIY projects in the future.

Have you got any tips for DIY virgins?

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