Explaination of Terms

What do all the things in the tables mean?

Skill level

Each activity is awarded a ‘skill factor' grade ranging from 1 to 10 indicating the skill level needed to carry out the work. For example, scraping off wallpaper is level 1 - the simplest (and probably the most boring!) of tasks - but plastering is rated at 8.

Generally speaking, tasks that are rated 8, 9 or 10 should only be attempted by experienced DIYers. Breaking out openings in load-bearing walls should always be carried out by professionals and the same rule applies to anything but the most simple electrical work.




The items measured are described by volume, area, length or enumerated and the following abbreviations are used:



How long? hrs:mins

This is one of the key features of the tables and represents the time necessary to carry out each operation expressed in hours and minutes. Four hours twenty minutes, therefore, appears as 4:20.

These figures reflect the likely time necessary for an average DIY enthusiast to do the work. The word average is important in this context and should be taken as someone who has a basic knowledge of the use of tools coupled with an interest and enthusiasm for DIY work.

The word average should also be applied to the standard of finish achieved. A DIYer who is a perfectionist and looks for a mirror finish on paintwork will obviously take longer to carry out a task than someone who just wants the job completed to a reasonable standard of finish.

To summarise, the times represent the average time it should take the average person working in average conditions working to an average finish. If two people are involved, the times can be halved.

Time spent preparing the work, lifting carpets, moving furniture and clearing up at the end of each work session are not included. The times stated assume that the place of work can be reached easily and an extra 20% to 30% should be added if it is necessary to work off ladders.



Materials costs

The costs are based on the average prices of small quantities of materials available at local DIY supermarkets that are part of a national chain. Sales, end-of-season promotions and other factors can affect these figures but the regional differences in material costs are not as pronounced as they used to be.


If buying materials from smaller outlets, however, the costs may be significantly higher. Based on an average material cost index of 100, the following adjustments should be made:

Readers in East Anglia, therefore, should reduce the material costs by 7% but for most purposes, the costs included should suffice.


Builder's charges

Construction costs are the result of adding together the total cost of labour, materials, plant, tools and overheads. This figure, plus profit, is what a contractor should be charging for his services and that is the figure that appears under this heading.

But this figure can be influenced by other factors such as the builder's workload. If he is busy, he will quote you above the going rate, if he is quiet, he may come under it.
The size of the job can also influence the quotation. For example, it may only take a plumber a matter of minutes to replace a washer, and should charge, say £5. But if he has travelled an hour each way to do the work, you can expect a much higher bill than that!

Most builders look at the time it would take to do small jobs in terms of half-day units and will charge accordingly. The benefit of competitive rates will only appear when a few days' work is involved.

There are three main groups that carry out home improvement work:

a) small firms having a manned office and registered for VAT
b) a one-man firm working from home
c) a tradesman who works in the evenings and weekends outside his full-time job.

It is assumed that the firm in a) above will carry out the work but VAT has not been included in the costs unless stated.

The assessments of labour hours and material costs are based upon the author's knowledge and experience and it is unlikely that all of the figures quoted in this book will apply in every situation.

The information should be accurate enough, however, to provide a valuable source of information to help home-owners in the upkeep and improvement of their properties.