Don’t Do It Yourself: Brits warned about dangerous DIY home improvements during lockdown

  • Over half of Brits (52%) are more likely* to carry out home improvements during this period of social distancing, despite not having the experience or confidence
  • Unsafe gas DIY has resulted in emergency engineer call outs during the social distancing period
  • YouTube and online tutorials are revealed as key sources of guidance for inexperienced and apprehensive home renovators
  • Gas Safe Register is urging DIYers to make sure planned bank holiday DIY doesn’t include dangerous gas jobs

With the bank holiday imminent, new data released today reveals that over half of the nation is turning to DIY and home improvements during the current lockdown to keep busy, even though many admit to lacking both confidence and the necessary experience when it comes to carrying out home improvement jobs.

The survey of over 2,000 British householders for the Gas Safe Register, highlights that almost one in five (15%) of those embarking on renovations plan to DIY on jobs that could have a gas safety impact, despite the implications. Over a third (35%) of UK adults wouldn’t consider hiring a tradesperson in the current climate and only two fifths (40%) would seek the help of a registered gas engineer even if faced with major warning signs of a gas-related emergency.

Work involving gas appliances is generally complex and should be left until it can be safely and legally done by a Gas Safe registered engineer. DIY gas work can be dangerous, potentially even fatal, and can lead to gas leaks, fires, explosions, or exposure to carbon monoxide.

Of those planning to install a gas boiler, more than one in five (21%) admit to not considering themselves experienced or confident in tackling the job. Likewise, more than a third (34%) of those intending to fit a new gas oven say they are unfamiliar or lacking in knowledge of the task.

Gas Safe Register’s research also shows a significant proportion of would-be DIYers are turning to YouTube and Google searches as their first port of call for guidance when attempting some of the more hazardous tasks, rather than seeking the help of qualified experts. These tasks include fitting a gas cooktop (75%), installing a gas fireplace (67%), fitting or fixing a gas oven (64%), and installing a gas boiler (61%).

Bob Kerr, Gas Services Director for the Gas Safe Register, says:

As we continue to spend more time at home, it’s the perfect opportunity to tackle some of those little jobs you may have been putting off. However, these new figures show a worrying number of people planning to take on gas work that could result in potentially deadly incidents. When it comes to some of the more complex DIY jobs – such as fitting, fixing or moving gas cookers, hobs, boilers or fires – it is vital to go to trade experts who have the right skills to carry out the work safely.
Gas Safe Register is reminding the public that if you do find yourself in a gas emergency, it’s vital you seek the help of a registered expert. Gas engineers are listed as key workers and as such, are still conducting home visits, with the necessary precautions in place, during this period of social distancing and staying at home.”

While DIY-ing directly with gas appliances is the most obvious way to cause a gas emergency, there are other projects that can indirectly put you at risk. For example, building a conservatory or extension on a site that blocks or covers your flue is a common issue. If your flue becomes blocked, these gases will leak back into your home, leaving you at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Of those planning to work on building an extension to their property, more than a third (35%) would not consider themselves experienced, while just under a third (29%) would not consider themselves confident in tackling this task.

And it is not just appliance-based jobs Brits are looking up on YouTube, a staggering two-thirds (67%) of those planning to begin (or continue) work on an extension said they would use a video-based tutorial for guidance.

Tommy Robertson, a Gas Safe registered engineer from Surrey, says:

“We know people are going to be doing DIY during lockdown. Since social distancing was enforced, I’ve already been out to visit a number people that have found themselves in a gas emergency from ‘simple’ jobs, like putting up shelving. All it takes is drilling a hole in the wrong place to end up in dangerous territory. If you’re in doubt, don’t do it. It’s important now that we stay home and stay safe – and don’t DIY with gas.”

Bob Kerr concludes:

“If you spot the signs of a gas emergency, whether that’s noticing the warning signs of a faulty gas appliance or experiencing symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning, please seek the help of a registered gas engineer. It’s always better to be gas safe than sorry.”

How to be better gas safe than sorry with bank holiday DIY

To help those unsure on the do’s and don’ts of DIY during lockdown, Gas Safe Register has released some top tips so you can craft with caution and stay gas safe.

  1. Don’t try to fit, fix or move gas appliances such as a boiler, oven or cooker yourself – it’s best to use a Gas Safe registered engineer who has the right skills. Visit the our home improvements page for more information.
  2.  Before carrying out any drilling, hammering or putting screws into a wall or floor check what’s behind it with a pipe, cable and stud detector. You do not want to be accidentally causing punctures in a pipe leading to a potential gas leak.
  3. Never block or cover air vents and flues. If your flue becomes blocked, these gases will leak back into your home, leaving you exposed to carbon monoxide.
  4.  Know the six main symptoms of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning – headaches, nausea, dizziness, breathlessness, collapse and loss of consciousness. And the signs of an unsafe gas appliance include a lazy yellow flame, black marks or stains, increased condensation and an intermittent pilot light.
  5. If you suspect unsafe gas – as a result of a DIY mishap or for any other reason – it’s vital to get expert help despite lockdown. Contact the National Gas Emergency Helpline on 0800 111 999 (or 0800 002 001 if you’re in Northern Ireland). Visit our gas emergencies page for more details.

*Completely agree and somewhat agree.

Research carried out by Censuswide on behalf of the Gas Safe Register in April 2020.