The DIY principle in home improvement: Background, motivation and benefits

Andrea Ďurianová, Peter Daniel

SUMMARY

“Do-it-yourself” (“DIY”) has become a global phenomenon reflecting consumers’ strong interest in producing the most diverse objects for themselves. The reasons behind the popularity of DIY projects include easy access to information on the Internet and a broad retail offering in the hobby sector.  Despite the massive ongoing growth of this phenomenon among consumers, it has so far received only minimal attention in academic circles.

The present paper describes the findings of survey-based research into individuals’ engagement in DIY home improvement projects. The “DIY home improvement” questionnaire constituted an empirical part of a doctoral thesis on “The DIY principle in the contemporary residential interior” undertaken by the authors at the Faculty of Architecture and Design of the Slovak University of Technology.

The present paper explains the basic factors that motivate and inspire so called do-it-yourselfers (or DIYers), how DIY functions as a process and reflects on how participants evaluate their own DIY projects. The research population was the so called do-it-yourselfers who had already carried out a DIY home improvement project that was extensive in scale according to their own subjective assessment. Such a project would typically be building a house or remodelling a house or apartment. Home construction or remodelling to match current standards is a complex task involving a wide range of activities requiring a mixture of skills at various levels. Hence, there are various processes where so called do-it-yourselfers often have to communicate and cooperate with specialists, craftworkers and firms. Even so, a relatively high percentage of the DIYers believe that they can complete tasks better, or with a greater care, than a professional.

Respondents reported they had a highly specified idea for the outcome of their project before starting implementation, which was often documented in a design drafted by an architect or in their own hand. Based on their own assessment, the respondents appeared to be relatively experienced and skilled craftworkers who perform many craft-like activities on their own—starting from design, through project managing, construction, interior design and furnishing, up to changing the original features of objects or interior, and the production of furniture and furnishings from raw materials. In the respondents’ view, the advantages of DIY greatly outweights disadvantages and they also expressed high satisfaction with their own work.

A significant finding of the survey relates to the respondents’ evaluation of their motivation and benefits. Besides saving money, they often speak about values associated with subjective experience such as self-improvement or “self-expression”. The vast majority of respondents described their motivation to start DIY using terms such as “because I enjoy it” and the most frequently mentioned benefit of a DIY project was “good feelings/taking pleasure in craftwork”. So called do-it-yourselfers also appreciated having “a home as they imagined it”. This indicates that home improvements and the craft work involved can be a means through which individuals express their own ideas or develop and apply their own creative manual skills.

One of the long-discussed topics in the field of design is the end-users’ participation in the design process. In our view, there are substantial benefits from DIY production such as a strong relationship between an individual and the resulting object. The establishment of a high-quality relationship and a better understanding of “how things work” amongst consumers can affect the life cycle of objects and individuals’ overall consumption patterns. These appear to be problematic in the contemporary material culture and a contributing factor to the global ecological crisis.

Keywords: design, DIY, home improvement, motivation, benefits, craftwork, self-expression, self-realisation