Mum who ‘couldn’t use a drill’ a year ago saves £17k by doing up her home herself

A MUM who ‘couldn’t use a drill’ saved over £17,000 in labour costs after teaching herself how to use power tools.

Stay-at-home mum Shauna O’Connor, 29, from Killorglin, Ireland, first developed an interest in DIY in November of 2020 whilst on maternity leave.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Shauna had spent most of the year in her four-bedroom detached home and needed a creative outlet to pass the time.

Just before lockdown, a tiler had been installing a backsplash in Shauna’s kitchen but as the country shut down, the job was left unfinished.

With no tiling experience, Shauna decided to finish the job herself and instantly fell in love with DIY.

She explained: “There was a lot of work that needed doing around the house and I desperately needed a creative outlet to pass the time. I started off with simple jobs like replacing the front door seal and that gave me the confidence to keep going.

“Around that time, we had a tiler start work on our kitchen backsplash, but the country suddenly went into lockdown and we were left with an unfinished mess in the kitchen.

“I joked with my husband that I was going to finish the job myself. Weeks of lockdown went by with no end in sight, so I kept my word and decided to tile the backsplash myself without any previous experience in tiling.

“One project led to another, and I fell in love with the process of learning to DIY and the sense of empowerment that came with it.

“Before teaching myself DIY, I would ask my husband to hang a picture frame for me and maybe wait a few days or weeks until he found the time to do it.

"It never even occurred to me that I could teach myself to use a power tool and get the job done there and then myself.”

Since then, Shauna has taken on a series of larger projects including completely transforming her living room for just £430 (€500).

Shauna spent her budget on MDF, timber, and screws and used these to custom make a desk with cabinets and overhead shelving, which now sits in the alcove next to the fireplace, along with a bay window bench seat.

Shauna also used MDF on the walls to create a board and batten effect and on the chimney breast where she created shiplap style panelling using tongue and groove boards.

With the leftover boards, Shauna created a new tabletop for her pre-existing coffee table.

By creating new furniture, Shauna saved herself hundreds of pounds and simply had to purchase primer and paint for £173 (€200) and wood stain and varnish for £26 (€30) to complete the look.

In the laundry room, Shauna made a cost-free wall-mounted drying rack using parts of an old wooden baby gate.

Shauna’s front door and porch also underwent an incredible cost-effective transformation using stencils for £26 (€30), door paint for £22 (€25) and primer, paint, and sealer for £43 (€50).

Shauna’s key to keeping costs down is to teach yourself new skills. Labour is one of the largest costs in any renovation – a role Shauna has learnt to tackle herself.

Had Shauna hired a labourer, she was anecdotally told this could have cost her up to £17,273 (€20,000).

Shauna also bases upcoming projects around what materials she already has to cut down unnecessary purchases.

The mum has since started up a TikTok account where she shares her DIY transformations, and has been overwhelmed by the response.

“I jokingly made a TikTok showing my first attempts at learning to DIY,” she explained.

“I showed my failures as much as my successes. I was blown away by the attention the video got.

“It got millions of views and thousands of supportive comments, but what really resonated with me was the many messages I got from women thanking me for showing the behind-the-scenes reality of learning to DIY rather than just showing the ‘Insta perfect’ result.

“Before its transformation, I avoided the living room daily. It was neither comfortable nor functional for our family.

“I wanted to create a space that served each family member well which in turn would make the room a truly communal area that we could often find ourselves enjoying together.

“I started off by deciding what we needed in the space to make it functional. My son needed a desk, my daughter longed for a stage which became the bench seat, and my husband needed an armchair for reading and a bookshelf.

“I turned to Pinterest for inspiration on paint colours and panelling options to make it all look beautiful. It was the first time I had taken on anything of this scale and built big pieces from scratch. I learned a lot on this project.

“I’m proud that I made every piece of the desk myself including the desktop.

“Framing the bay window for the built-in stage and bookshelf was extremely challenging for me because the bay window is angled and I struggle with lines and angles, but I really wanted to maximise the potential in this space.

“It took an entire day just to figure out the internal framing. Once I finally had all the battens for the frame in place, I moved on the installing the backing and floor of the bookshelf, then the face frame and then the MDF bench top when on.

“The laundry room used to be a disaster zone. It served no purpose other than being a dumping ground for mountains of laundry that I could never manage to conquer.

“I sketched a plan and decided to build some storage and a bench around the heating system.

“I installed IKEA cabinets with a pull-out function where the washer and dryer used to be. These cabinets now serve as laundry baskets – a total game changer when it comes to creating a laundry system that truly serves you.

“I made a wall mounted clothes dryer which I love. It has been used every single day since it was installed.

“The most expensive part of any project or renovation is labour so DIYing it is already a huge money saver.

“Sometimes it’s worthwhile to consider what materials you have to hand and base the plan for your project around that instead of shopping for brand new materials each time.

“Never underestimate the power of paint. Be playful with paint and you’re already halfway towards transforming your space.

“Also, seek out second hand or thrifted furniture. These items usually just need some TLC in order to look brand new so it’s a budget friendly way of reinventing your space.

“Stencilling is another fantastic way to revamp your space. I have stencilled my son’s bedroom wall giving it a wallpaper effect and I’ve stencilled my front porch giving it the appearance of tiles. It’s the perfect budget friendly beginner DIY project.

“I’ve been told anecdotally that my own labour I have put into my home could have cost up to twenty-thousand Euros (seventeen-thousand pounds).”

Currently, Shauna is competing in series two of The Big DIY Challenge to compete for a £8,636 (€10,000) grand prize which is currently airing on RTÉ One Television in Ireland. The final of the series is due to air on June 10, 2021.

Next, Shauna hopes to transform her outdoor patio area into a place she can socialise and relax with family and friends – including building a BBQ kitchen, fire pit, and dining area.

Indoors, she’s looking to tackle the spare room, transforming this into a guest bedroom / office.

“The message I want to convey to women is that you are capable. If you have an interest in DIY pick a tool and get stuck in,” Shauna said.

“Do not fear making mistakes, it is part of the process. The sense of achievement and empowerment that awaits you is the most incredible feeling.

“I am always happy to chat with anyone and answer questions on my social media so we can learn together. The female DIY community on social media is incredibly supportive.”

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