Do-It-Yourself has never been my strong point – my limit is changing light bulbs, but even that gets difficult with hidden lighting, different fittings, lumens instead of watts, fluorescent tubes and those tricky starter devices.

During the pandemic, particularly at the beginning of lockdown, it was difficult to get a tradesman to venture out to help, and thousands of people used the opportunity to indulge in a spot of DIY. I wondered what the most googled questions for doing a job yourself were - and it seems there were hundreds of questions being asked, ranging from things as major as building a pergola in the garden or as mundane as putting up a curtain pole.

Thanks to Google and to individuals posting videos on YouTube, life became easier for those amongst us who barely knew one end of a screwdriver from another. Any problems we encounter these days can so easily be fixed by a Google search or a YouTube video - anything from bleeding a radiator to resetting a car radio. But don’t believe everything you see on the internet – it would be wise to check one or more sources to make sure.

Dripping taps

The most popular googled question was how to fix a dripping tap, and the first step is to figure out why it’s leaking. Traditionally, taps drip because an internal rubber seal, or washer, has perished and needs replacing. Or it could be there may be an issue with a water valve.

Proceed with caution – the water usually needs turning off, but it isn’t always near the drippy one, and it's likely you might need to cut off the supply to the whole house, but you don’t want to find out the hard way which one it is!

Blocked drains

Somewhere near the top of the list of googled questions is ‘how to unblock a drain’. Whether you’ve got a clogged kitchen or bathroom sink or the bath water won’t run out fast enough, unblocking a drain can be a tedious task many of us are faced with at some point. One thing to do right away before it gets blocked up in the first place is to start squirting a little bit of dish soap down the waste pipe to stop any excess grease build-up. It’ll leave your sink or bath smelling fresh too. Commercial sink and bath unblockers work well, just don’t get it on your skin, most are made with sodium hydroxide, or lye, and it will burn you.

Amongst other popular questions were how to read a smart electricity meter, how to fit laminate flooring, how to treat damp, how to make a bird-feeder, how to hang a picture frame – and yes, how to change a light bulb is up there near the top too!

Unless you know exactly what you are doing, don’t mess with your electrics, no matter how simple it appears. Electricity is certainly a major part of our way of life and something we rely on, but it is powerful and dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. Simple things like putting a knife into the toaster while it is on is a no-no, or poking a screwdriver inside a live wall socket are things we have all been tempted to do, and electricals are things an electrician knows how to fix, so don’t risk giving yourself a shock.

Another interesting fact I turned up was that thousands of people did injure themselves performing DIY tasks during lockdown, with the UK reporting more than 5,600 amateur builders attending hospital after accidents with electric hand tools. Another 2,700 people had to seek medical attention after having accidents with non-powered hand tools, such as a hammer or a saw (I personally one time had an encounter with an axe, stupidly holding the log in place with one hand while using the axe in the other), and 349 were admitted to hospital after accidents with a lawnmower.

Many people did make the most of time spent indoors with doing their own home improvements or repairs, but maybe some should really be left to the professionals!


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan