Meet the man who has helped double the value of his house in just four years – after watching YouTube DIY videos.
NHS worker Alex Dodman, 36, has built himself a dream home that includes a gym in the back garden, a family-sized cinema space, and a trendy fold-down bed for his home office.
And he's done it all by learning on the go, watching YouTube videos and reading building forums.
Alex bought the Saffron Walden home he shares with his partner and two young children in 2018 for £250,000 but has since been told his improvements have helped it soar in value to £525,000.
He first got into DIY when he bought his first home in 2014, fitting a kitchen and laying a patio.
But after purchasing his current house, his DIY instincts went into overdrive after watching a tradesman put up a stud wall – and he realised he could be doing it himself.
He said: “We had the house valued in 2020 and were told it was now worth £525,000, which I put down to the work I’ve done.
“It went from a run-down two-bed to a four-bedroom house with a nice big garden.
“I estimate I’ve saved about £75,000 in the last few years simply by not calling in tradesmen and attempting things myself.”
Rolling up your sleeves
His most recent project was turning a little-used spare bedroom into a sleek and modern office – that could still be called into bedroom service if needed.
After having a brainwave to install a space-saving folding down bed, Alex was dismayed to find a professional carpenter would charge thousands – and would mean a substantial wait.
So, he rolled up his sleeves and got to work himself. He said: “Since I’ve been working from home I’ve wanted a home office, and I was thinking about doing it for ages before I found out how much it would cost to have someone in.
“In the end, just using pine boards from B&Q, the bed itself cost me about £250 – and then another £160 on the mattress.
But his favourite build is what he calls the ‘Superbed’ – two king-sized beds connected in the master bedroom, with a huge projector screen on the wall.
Alex reckons this is perfect for family movie nights, and also when his kids – aged five and two – drop off to sleep with mum and dad, they don’t spend all night kicking each other under the sheets.
His exploits have even gained him a following on Instagram – where 122,000 people and counting can check out his home-builds in detail.
In the garden, Alex’s home gym stands at 6m by 6m, contains enough gear for a full workout and, at one point, even had its own sauna.
He said: “I’ve got rid of the sauna now and plan on building an outside one next to the swimming pool - which is my current project.
“I watched a YouTube video of a woman in Holland who built her own pool in her garden, and as soon as I’d watched that I rang up and hired a digger.
“I’d never driven a digger before, so I’d dug this massive hole and then there was no going back.
“In general, the hardest thing to learn from a DIY perspective was plumbing – that’s quite annoying. If you do it wrong, you get drips and stuff.
“But it’s not as hard as I thought it was going to be – it really is kind of like water LEGO.
“I wasn’t confident in DIY, but the best way to learn is just by giving it a go. I’ve made mistakes and stuff doesn’t always turn out how you think but giving it a go is the best way.
“I learned almost everything from YouTube, and there are a lot of builders’ forums online where you can find help on loads of projects – any problem you come across, it’s likely someone else has in the past and has written about it online.”
Susie Spence, Interiors Director at B&Q said after seeing Alex’s home transformations: “We love seeing the results of customers home improvement projects little or big and Alex’s is such a unique transformation, which is why we reached out to work with him on our Changemaker campaign.
“Making little changes to improve your living space can make a big difference and we encourage everyone to get stuck into their homes and see what they can do to make their homes and life better.”
Alex Dodman’s five top tips for DIY beginners
1 – Don’t be afraid
The first step is always the hardest, just have a go at anything which may seem intimidating – it’s almost always easier than you think.
2 – Get professionals where needed
When it comes to things like electrics or plumbing, that need signing off and certificating, you should always leave it to experts.
3 – Measure twice, cut once
I’ve learned this lesson myself a few times! The extra time spent making sure everything is measured just right will save you a lot of frustration – although I don’t always live by this myself even now.
4 – Get the right tools
A mitre saw, a decent power drill with good drill bits, and a box of various sized screws and rawlplugs will get you through most of your beginner DIY projects. I got my mitre saw from B&Q for about £60 and I use it almost every day.
5 – Don’t take on too much at once
It’s easy to get bored of a project and start something new – my advice is to take one thing at a time, and do it properly. It’s something I don’t always live by either – my swimming pool is a perfect example!