Portrait of Tammy Strobel

My good friend was describing how her husband had fixed their leaking air-conditioning unit the other day.

“The water was so dirty!” she exclaimed. “And he still went ahead and tried to fix it himself!”

Now, how many of us would roll up our sleeves and get out the toolbox when the pipe springs a leak? I don’t know about you, but I’d very likely reach for my phone and Google “aircon repairman” instead because I’m too lazy to do it myself, and besides, I would rather pay a professional to do the job rather than risk it with my lack of expertise.

I know there are others who share my sentiment because there is a distinct lack of DIY culture among Singaporeans, according to analysts, and it’s a big part of the reason Home-Fix DIY stores are shutting down islandwide.

I’m sad to see the chain go, to be honest. In spite of the fact that I’ll never make it as a handyman, I’ve always liked wandering around the aisles browsing the things on offer – cordless drills, electric saws, spray paint canisters – and imagining how they would improve my house (not to mention how cool I would look wielding them). Despite their varied nature, they all did the same thing: they held the promise of a better home and life.

Yet, these stores are almost always empty, a testament to the lack of DIY enthusiasm among Singaporeans. Most of us are busy with work and other commitments, and when we need a project done quickly, we simply pick from a wide array of well-reviewed, available-within24-hours service providers.

Does this signify the death of the local DIY scene, though? Perhaps not. From what I’ve seen, Singaporeans are not completely averse to doing small projects on their own, where the job is simple enough. But it’s perhaps not enough to sustain larger chains like Home Fix DIY, which are geared to a niche market of home improvement enthusiasts. For these smaller, more general DIY projects, there’s always the convenience of heartland homeware stores that sell bric-a-brac, such as wall putty and assorted screws – and it seems like those aren’t going to go out of business anytime soon. The DIY culture here may not be thriving, but it’s definitely not dead.