Sarah Beeny’s jargon-free DIY
TV personality ‘with the gravelly voice’ has a new book on jobs around the house
Sarah Beeny asked her Twitter followers to suggest essential DIY skills which she compiled into a list of 100 jobs. Photograph: John Carey
Sarah Beeny is the canny business woman with the gravelly-voice. An author and a TV personality she has written seven books and fronted numerous TV shows, starting with Property Ladder in 2001. Sarah Beeny’s Restoration Nightmare, Sarah Beeny’s Selling Houses, Village SOS, Britain’s Best Homes and Help! My house is Falling Down followed, as did Rise Hall, the series documenting the restoration of the grade II listed building in Yorkshire that had been her family home since 2001.
In 2005 the amateur matchmaker turned professional to launch a dating service for singles, mysinglefriend.com. Four years later she set up Tepilo, an online estate agency that is shaking up the UK market, charging a flat fee instead of the traditional UK agency commission average of two per cent plus VAT on property transactions.
“The old way of selling houses was for the agent to decide and the client to obey,” she explains. “In the UK 95 per cent of all property searches are now made online, so that’s where you need to be. I didn’t invent the internet but online the customer is king. You don’t have to do things the old way. The modern way is leaner and meaner. If you no longer deliver you will go out of business.”
Tepilo was named after a fantasy castle in a story her architect father used to tell her when she was a kid. “It has everything traditional agents offer including your own account manager. What we don’t have is high street shops and this is how we can reduce costs. We upload your home to portals such as Right Move and Zoopla, places you won’t get listed if you’re selling your home yourself.” These sites also register Irish properties.
Now she’s turning her talents to the art of DIY, a skill she learned from her father. Sarah Beeny’s 100 DIY Jobs – The Essentials Made Simple is a compendium of easy-to-follow instructions for those carrying out simple jobs around the house. The book is based on the cookbook model, on Jamie Oliver’s tomes in particular, and is designed to be “easy to understand”.
The DIY and handy man industry is mired in jargon, she says. “Walk into a DIY shop and you’ll find experts talking to you in what seems to be another language entirely.
“Half the battle is having the nerve to say ‘I really don’t understand what you’re saying’. It’s fine to say ‘I don’t know’ or ask ‘what do you mean?’ Not knowing doesn’t make you stupid. Not asking does.”
Many of us lack the skills or the confidence to do these jobs, she explains. She asked her 131,000 Twitter followers for suggestions and compiled their responses into a list of 100 essential tasks.
The mother of four is married to Irishman Graham Swift, an artist who great up in Co Tipperary. Her four children, Billy (9), Charlie (8), Rafferty (5), and Laria(4), have been shown the fix-it ropes. She’s trained them well. “They follow me with the tool box and know to switch off the electricity before doing any electrical jobs.”
Recently while she was installing a new dimmer in one of the children’s bedrooms, Charlie arrived on the scene wearing wellington boots on his arms to “protect against electric shock, in case anything goes wrong”, he explained.
Buying a house in Ireland is something that remains on Beeny’s to-do list. Her husband is “dead keen”, though for now it remains a pipe dream for the busy Beeny.
For people buying or renovating she reiterates that “there is a temptation to underestimate how long and expensive the job will be”.
While it is cheaper to live in the house while you’re doing it up, something she did in the very sizeable Rise Hall, it is very challenging, she says. “If you do decide to go down this route it is best approached when you’re young and before you have kids.
“You also need to keep a tidy site. If you’re putting your foot into a paint pot when you get out of bed you will go berserk.” Beeny suggests putting up a temporary kitchen and flooring the space with cheap lino so that you have a central space in which to cook and eat.
Buy something ugly
Rise Hall, the Grade II listed property that Beeny bought in 2001 and has been her family home for years, was the subject of another TV show. Thanks to the publicity she had no problem gathering a list of suppliers to help with the renovation.
The restoration project, now a wedding venue that you rent exclusively for the weekend, was “inspired” by a visit to Kilshane House in Co Tipperary where she “had such a good time”.
With the market the way it is how can Irish house hunters find value? “The key is to buy something ugly and reface it, both inside and out,” she explains.
“What you’re essentially doing is giving the house a facelift or at least a decent Botox job. All it has to have is good bones.”
She recommends looking beyond Dublin’s traditional areas, where prices have risen enormously in the last 18 months. “Explore the commuter belt counties, where there is still value and space to buy.”
10 DIY jobs you should know how to do ...
1 Wire a plug
2 Silicone a bathroom
3 Drill a hole
4 Hammer in a nail
5 Fix a screw into rawl plugs
6 Fill a hole
7 Sand floors or furniture
8 Tile areas
9 Bleed a radiator
10 Strip wallpaper
Sarah Beeny’s 100 DIY Jobs is published by Quadrille, €22.99