Many of us who have attempted home renovations will know the feeling of being quoted a huge amount for a small project.
Thomas and Kayleigh Firth, both 31, were quoted nearly £1,000 to have a professional builder install under-stair storage from their home.
Instead, the couple decided to do it themselves, building a stylish and super-useful storage area and saving over £800 in the process.
Thomas, a mechanical engineer, told money-saving community LatestDeals.co.uk: “My wife and I have always rented our properties, so we’ve not had the opportunity to do this before now.
“We bought our first home last year and we were in need of extra storage in our new home, so we thought it would be a good idea to create this under-stair storage as there was no other space in the property.
“We decided to get a quote to have the work done by someone else, but the quotes we were getting were nearly £1,000. Just after my son was born, I built a toy box for him and that went really well so I decided to have a go at this.
“Our downstairs toilet is under the stairs too, so I was unsure of what was behind the plasterboard wall, so because of this, I needed to check whether we could go ahead.
“I cut a little hole in the plasterboard and shone a torch in there and took pictures of inside and because of there only being one pipe coming from the toilet I was able to go ahead with it.
“I had to adapt the drawer sizes accordingly to ensure the pipe wasn’t jeopardised. If it couldn’t be done then I had planned to just fill the hole again.”
Once Thomas had investigated the plasterboard wall, he went ahead with building the storage cupboard.
He added: “After removing the plasterboard wall, I constructed the framework fixing it into the concrete floor and bracing it at the top to the underside of the stairs as I didn’t want the frame to move when the drawers were fully loaded and extended.
“I fixed the runners to the framework and made a base for the drawers to sit on. This also held the runners together and square.
“I made the drawer boxes with all the joints glued, screwed and with dowels for strength. These were sat on the drawer runner frames and aligned so that I could fix the doors and have them all be flush.
“The doors were made out of 12mm MDF and I cut the angles and checked them all before routing a decorative profile on the edges. These were glued and screwed from inside the drawer to prevent anything showing on the outside.”
“My wife did all the priming of the MDF and painting of the drawers and doors. We decided to add some carpet tiles in the bottom to make it easier to clean if dirty shoes were put in the drawers.
“In total, it cost us £175, including the paint and knobs we used.
“I used 12mm MDF for the doors and 18mm MDF for the drawers from a local timber yard, 2 by 1 inch timber for the frame from Wickes, brackets and screws from Screwfix and Toolstation, crystal-like knobs from Screwfix, paint from Homebase, carpet tiles from Homebase, dowel rods and wood glue.”
The project has turned out perfectly, provided a great lockdown project for the family, and best of all, saved them over £800.
Sharing his secrets, Thomas added: “My main tips for others to do the project would be to make sure the frame and runners are perfectly level and square to prevent alignment issues.
“Always pilot drill and counter sink. Use the correct screws for the MDF to prevent splitting.
“Prime the MDF, especially the cut edges with proper primer prior to painting to ensure a sufficient seal, and don’t forget to check behind the wall before knocking it out.
“This kind of project can be useful during lockdown because it could be done very easily with little need to go out.
“All of the materials could be ordered online for contactless collection (Click & Collect) so there was very minimal human contact as per government rules and guidelines.
“They could also be ordered online and delivered to your home if needed to be.
“It’s also a good project for during lockdown as it allows people to experiment and learn new skills too!”
Co-founder of LatestDeals.co.uk, Tom Church, said: “If you’re not confident in your DIY skills, it can be reassuring to leave your home renovations in the hands of an experienced builder, but you’ll certainly pay a premium for this.
“Thomas and Kayleigh have saved an absolute fortune by building this storage themselves. If you’re not sure you could attempt the task, start with smaller projects first, read and watch online tutorials, and slowly build up to a bigger challenge like this one!”