DIY is no longer a business of the pros




More knowledgeable than ever, do-it-yourselfers today know how to assemble a partition, repair an electrical circuit or their boiler ... They are ready to do anything to save money. But how far will they go?

"For the past three or four years, customers have often told us that they will take care of the finishes, the paint or the parquet floors, the cost of the real estate purchase having exploded, there is not much budget left for the works ...", explains Rafael de Matos at the head of the renovation company Proj & Aménagements, located in the Paris region. 81% of the French do their own renovation work for economic reasons. "Torn between the desire to improve their homes and their increasingly tight budget, individuals have embarked on DIY forced and forced," says Rémy Dassant, advisor to the National Union of DIY manufacturers.

Result, in ten years, they have become almost incollables on the house. Insulation, heating, plumbing ... not a domain escapes their quest for information. Specialty books are selling like hotcakes and DIY classes are becoming increasingly popular.

The fear of being scammed serves as a trigger

Scalded by a first construction site that went wrong, Elise, owner of a small Parisian apartment, decided that it would not be taken over. She enrolled in several DIY courses "to be able to fend for itself in case of problems and feel less stupid in the face of craftsmen". She remembers: "My job lasted six months when I was told it would not take more than five weeks, six months, just to break a partition and change the kitchen! was not part of my vocabulary, I was a real blue, credulous and passive in front of the pros. " A bad experience or the fear of getting scammed often serves as a trigger for taking classes.

"More generally, our trainees want to know more about how their habitat works, as if they were leaning over the engine of their car for the first time, they want to know BABA in order to be able to to solve urgent problems themselves ", remarks Marie Davideau, creator of the Lilibricole DIY course. For two years, she has seen no less than 10,000 trainees in Paris and Lyon. "Maroufler", "dégang les angles" ... Women, young couples and handymen on Sunday acquire the vocabulary and the technical bases. In 2010, the do-it-yourself sector grew by 5.4% (wall, floor and tile flooring tops sales) and in September 2011, a third of the French had bought tools during the previous twelve months.

Workshops to test saber saw and impact wrench

To attract these new customers, DIY brands have come out the big game. Dedramatize the experience and encourage purchase: these are the new slogans. Fact sheets, leaflets, demonstration podiums, everything is good to democratize an activity formerly reserved for the pros "I see, I understand, I take", asserts Guy Colleau, general manager of Castorama. 67% of those surveyed say they do not tinker more often because of a feeling of incompetence and a fear of misbehavior, and 87% favor counseling. As a result, help and counseling services are growing. Leroy Merlin has set up courses run by professionals (from 5 euros) and this year, for the first time, "The Handyman's Workshop", a free itinerant event to test a hundred tools: saber saw, impact wrench, concrete crusher and even telescopic sander. "Our customers are looking for simple and powerful tools but want to learn how to use them properly.

During the workshops, everyone can test the tools by being guided by an advisor, ask questions and interact with other users ", explains Alexis Motte, product manager at Leroy Merlin, Castorama, for its part, releases thematic kits with booklet and DVD to learn how to lay tiles or to make a terrace, and has installed in its new store in Villabé (Essonne) stands "Let you go" on which everyone can try trowel or brush.

Major retailers also rely heavily on the Web. No more in a "corporate" spirit, praising the merits of the company, but in new interactive versions, with search engine and video advice "step by step" (also downloadable on YouTube). "Even if the client does not want to carry out his project on his own, he wants to feel armed and confident, tinkering can be anxiety-provoking, so we look for a maximum of information before starting: before coming to the store, 60% of customers visit our site to decide on their purchase.The Web has completely transformed the customer relationship ", explains Florence Chaffiotte, at Lapeyre.

Clip-on tile and cordless tools at the top of sales

In parallel, manufacturers have also questioned their products and their marketing approach to attract this new audience. "The brands of coatings, adhesives or tools are not very well known, they can not capitalize on their name or hope for spontaneous recognition.To attract the attention of neophytes, they must demonstrate pedagogy and design new products that are easier to use ", explains Christelle Fabre, Toupret group's marketing manager, plaster specialist.

Because DIYers love everything that can save them time and make work less stressful: 73% of French people want practical solutions and an offer immediately available. "Shopping lists" ready to use (as on the Toupret website), interactive color charts (as on the Dulux Valentine website) ... and smart products, such as clip-on tiles, "express drying" coatings, interlocking partitions or wireless tools.

From chore to pleasure party

Muddlers, curious and more and more experienced, DIYers feel their wings grow. And if, initially, they learn the joys of DIY without much conviction, they get caught up in the game and the satisfaction of "do it yourself" wins. "They realize that it is more accessible than that does not seem and that the "chore" can become a leisure, "says Marie Davideau. Even a field of exchange, which allows to create social and family ties. 76% of French people even think that DIY promotes dialogue within the couple.

Forums and community sites have never been so active. "We have welcomed nearly 14,000 members since our test launch a year ago, and we are receiving more than 100,000 visitors per month," notes Dorothée Lefebvre, co-leader of, who proposes to preserve the story of his job and share his experience with other members of the network. The highlight of this site? 3D plan creation software. "This tool is very used because it allows to make counter-proposals to his architect or to concretely formulate a request to his supervisor," said Dorothée Lefebvre.

A new dialogue with artisans

More than sanding or painting, new DIYers now want to change their windows, isolate their attic or swallow their facade themselves. Warned and passionate, they restore their letters of nobility to the notion of "DIY": the pejorative character of the term disappears as amateurism leaves room for a know-how of pro. Yet, these super-DIYers know their limits and remain aware that they can not do everything. The constant evolution of techniques and norms restricts their impetus. Insurance issues too (to whom to turn if it goes wrong?).

But if they agree to seek a professional, it is no longer in any condition. To avoid being fooled or simply to try to keep costs down, they want a relationship of equals. "Our customers tell us that they work hand in hand with their craftsman and that they work out a quote together. the card: they ask what they can do themselves and leave the rest to the professional.The consumer in this case is no longer passive or dependent, "says Florence Chaffiotte. The entrepreneur Rafael de Matos says he prefers to work with clients who trust him from the start, to facilitate dialogue. In the end, this is surely what new handymen have built more solid: a serene way of communicating with the pros.

Testimonials from DIYers

"I negotiated with my craftsman" Oriane, 32, Paris
We had to renovate our new apartment. But our budget was tight, so no question of beating around the bush. We immediately announced to our craftsman that he should deal with our own achievements if he wanted the site. He played the game quite intelligently: on the quote, he checked what we could take care of ourselves and what was best to entrust to him, given our limited skills in DIY. Our craftsman took care of the technical part (especially all the plumbing and electricity). As for us, we put the vanity unit, painted the floor tiles of the bathroom instead of changing them and, on the kitchen side, made plaster and finishes. In the end, the amount of the estimate was divided by two.

"We created a club" Thomas, 36, Nancy The house we had just bought had to be completely renovated. We used pros for the shell, but we decided to do the rest ourselves. In the village, solidarity was organized: our neighbors came to help us spontaneously. At the end of the project, links were established. The atmosphere was good, and the DIY needs of many ... so we created a club. Since then, we meet informally for a few hours on Saturdays to help each other. Build a partition in a team, it's still easier. And also more friendly!

To know.

Five products for super-DIYers
1. "Magic'Liss", smoothing coating that applies to the roller and avoids sanding as much as possible. Toupret.
2. Clip-on slabs to create a terrace in a few clicks (more glue or joints). Blooma for Castorama.
3. Nomadic partition composed of a plastic structure and interlocking tiles, which are assembled without work. Serastone.
4. "GripActiv" paint: no more underlay! V33.
5. Cordless 14.4V impact drill, with fast charging lithium battery: light, compact and convenient. Black & Decker.

Do you know the Raval-Kit? Façade cleaning products have risen dramatically since the beginning of the year (+ 30%). A company therefore offers individuals specialized coaching in the field: professional advice, rental and installation of scaffolding and delivery of necessary equipment. Everything is planned so that the experience goes well.