Younger people lack DIY skills of their elders – but they're top at digital DIY

Fixing internet cables and programming a smart TV might make you more handy than wielding a drill

Man plumbing repairs to sink
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Can't wallpaper a wall for your life, but always the person your parents call on when they can't work their TV? You might be part of a generation of 'digital DIYers' whose skills are becoming more and more important.

Research on behalf of property maintenance specialists Aspect found that while traditional DIY skills are still highly valued, digital DIY skills are catching up in terms of usefulness.

The change comes as more young adults are renting rather than owning their homes – meaning that they can't practise more traditional DIY skills like putting up a shelf.

Programming a TV or fixing modems, on the other hand, are skills we could all do with, and they're increasingly being perceived as more useful.

Aspect found that the majority of people agree that certain digital skills are as useful as traditional DIY talents.

Of the top ten DIY skills perceived as most useful, three were digital DIY skills: fixing a modem, operating a smart TV and finding bargains online.

Top of the list for usefulness were:

  • Assembling flat-pack furniture (87 per cent)
  • Fixing a leak (85 per cent)
  • Putting up a shelf (84 per cent)
  • Hanging blinds (83 per cent)
  • Changing locks (82 per cent)
  • Fixing a faulty modem/router (81 per cent)
  • Installing a washing machine (81 per cent)
  • Programming/operating a smart TV (80 per cent)
  • Hanging wallpaper (79 per cent)
  • Finding deals online (79 per cent) 

It's the older generations that are most impressed by digital DIY skills, with over-55s giving them the highest rating for usefulness and impressiveness – on average, a score of 74 per cent.

Other top scorers for usefulness include domestic IT skills like syncing phone contacts and backing up data to the cloud, as well as digitally editing photographs and building basic websites.

Nick Bizley, director of operations at Aspect, said: 'These findings show that although people still really value traditional DIY talents, the concept of "handiness" is evolving to include skills that didn’t even exist ten years ago.

'For example, changing a lightbulb was something most people could do quite easily, but the advent of the ‘smart home’ has introduced new complexities to what used to be a simple task.

'Handiness is in the eye of the beholder and it’s unfair to criticise people for lacking traditional DIY abilities because the chances are, they’ve got equally useful and impressive skills that are set to become more necessary as homes evolve. 

'Young people have been getting flack for not being as handy as their parents, but when you consider the proportion of 18-34 year olds in rented homes compared to their parents’ generations, and that renters are often prohibited from doing their own maintenance due to their tenancy agreements, it’s no surprise they’re typically less experienced with traditional DIY skills. 

'But young people are the ones most of us turn to when the Internet goes down or when we need help setting up the latest smart device. 

'Everyone is handy with something and the study shows that we’re learning to value new expressions of handiness more and more.'

So don't worry next time you can't figure out how to operate that power tool – at least you can fix your internet connection, eh?

See the full study here.

Want to brush up on your DIY skills? Read our guide to the 25 DIY fixes everyone should know.

Ellen Finch
Former deputy editor

Formerly deputy editor of Real Homes magazine, Ellen has been lucky enough to spend most of her working life speaking to real people and writing about real homes, from extended Victorian terraces to modest apartments. She's recently bought her own home and has a special interest in sustainable living and clever storage.