They may not have made it to any finals, but two self-proclaimed “chancers” drove off into the sunset with the top prize for hammering a bit of fun into DIY and home improvement.
You see, during the long lockdown months, Waterford’s version of Bill & Ted, Eoin Phelan and Michael McKinley, have been plotting their very own “excellent adventure”.
So, they decided to convert an old camper van for the purpose of some summertime roaming — once travel restrictions ease, of course.
They were the stealth stars of episode two of RTÉ’S Big DIY Challenge tonight when host PJ Gallagher went full throttle on his own voyage, on the highways and byways on his quest for Ireland’s Best DIY-er, visiting a mix of novices and experienced handymen and women alike.
“They’re straight out of Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” said PJ, referencing the 1989 cult classic movie, as he encountered the Waterford best friends.
“They have a van and have a plan — sort of.”
But the pair were even more laid-back than he could possibly have imagined. “We said we’d chance our arm and apply to this [The Big DIY Challenge].
"We said we’d have to buy the van, then — after telling you we had it,” they admitted.
They did eventually nab a €700 bargain and spent the 10 days of the challenge turning it into what will be their home on wheels for seven months.
Their first move was to drill holes in the roof of the 20-year-old VW van for proper ventilation and create window frames.
“We don’t really know what we’re doing,” they chorused.
Thankfully, that didn’t put the brakes on their enthusiasm. They sanded the exterior and prepped the bodywork for a new lick of paint, added framework for their bed and a kitchen, and finally, decorated the ceiling with old vinyl records.
They looked astonished at what they achieved. “Before this, we never did anything, we never did a flat-pack even,” they say.
Judge Jennifer Byrne, a lecturer in construction at Technological University, Dublin, praised their sustainable approach on a budget, adding: “And the vinyls on the ceiling are awesome.”
The duo’s own verdict?
“If the two of us can do it, anyone can do it. We haven’t a notion; we’re just chancers.”
This week’s journey started in Kerry, where Killorglin woman Shauna O’Connor went from being a DIY beginner to transforming her living room.
The mother-of-three earned the judges’ praise and it was she and plumber Stephen Hynes in Finglas, Dublin — who created an upcycled barbecue unit from an old beer keg — who went through to the final on Thursday night’s show.
Shauna undertook a full living room makeover with panache, complete with panelling on all the walls, built-in desks, cabinets and shelving.
She created a desk for her son, and a built-in bookshelf/stage beneath the bay window for her daughter.
“There will be a lot of surprised people if it goes well, I’ll be surprised,” she said.
Jennifer was impressed with the “personal growth, graft” and “amazing” transformation.
Finglas plumber Steven Hynes created an outdoor barbecue unit from old scaffolding planks and a beer keg. “I am absolutely infatuated with upcycling, if it’s something that hasn’t rotted away and can be reused and regenerated I am all over it,” he said.
Pallets formed the roof and structure and an old freezer box was another reclaimed element of the build, as was reclaimed wire mesh. “It goes to prove that someone’s trash can be someone else’s treasure,” said PJ.
Judge Jimmy Jimmy Englezos, Ronseal, praised the “innovation, attention to detail and absolutely top-class finish”: “Stephen has taken upcycling to another level, has thought outside the box at every opportunity and his final project looks amazing.”
Meanwhile, bus driver Suzanne Armstrong in County Meath put order on the chaos in her utility room, while trying to keep her children at bay with chocolate spread sandwiches.
Doug Murray in Donaghmore, Wexford, completed a colourful fire pit and seating area for the family to enjoy the sunshine, complete with a “live” television screen — a frame showing off the incredible view.
Others to feature were Jon Wood in Roosky, Co Roscommon, and his bathroom renovation, Sarah Kennedy in Waterford, with her upcycled cabinet, Áine Hopkins in Castlebar, Co Mayo, who refurbished an old leather armchair with a bespoke patchwork design for her husband Tommy.
They hid this chair in the sitting room for two years
“I got a present of this chair and a mate some years ago and they hid them on me in the sitting room for two years. It was covered in material in the sitting room,” said Tommy.
“How big is the sitting room?” asked an astonished PJ.
“They were hidden, covered in material!” said Tommy.
Jennifer O’Connor in Arvagh, Co Cavan, showed off her upcycled craft cabin, while Fiona Trahe in Lissane, Co Clare, converted her hot press into a home office.
- ‘The Big DIY Challenge’ is on Thursdays at 8.30pm on RTÉ One. Viewers can select their favourite project online which will win the ‘Viewers’ Choice Award’; see www.rte.ie/lifestyle