Totally Cringeworthy DIY Home Improvement Fails
Blinded by the mental image of their dream home, many homeowners don’t realize they may be embarking on a nightmare when they begin a renovation. The spell often breaks when they find themselves surrounded by dust or realize they won’t be able to turn on the stove or use their own bathroom for weeks. Everyone wants to improve their home. From following along on an HGTV program to watching YouTube tutorials, many are trying to make changes all on their own. What’s the worst thing that could happen? We’ll, glad you asked. What are you going to do when you find yourself standing knee deep in a pile of torn up jip rock? What are you going to do when you realize you have sheet rock dust in your hair? How are you going to deal with that knot of exposed electrical wires that were hidden stealthfully behind the drywall? Is that black mold on the wall over there in the corner? Yikes! Have you entered the twilight zone? There are many weird and scary things that can happen during any DIY project. Even when you hire a contractor like TQ Construction you can still find strange things in a renovation project. Here are some renovation nightmares that have happened to others.
A man from Burnaby had an unfortunate encounter with a cabinet manufacturer from hell. During the course of his kitchen rehab, the company sent him the wrong size cabinets not once, but twice. They also took the wrong measurements and ended up installing a sink the size of Central Park. As the company worked to correct the mistakes, the rehab was delayed and the man had no choice but to cook his meals in a turkey roaster and wash his dishes in the bathtub. The Moral of the Story: Do your homework regarding reviews and referrals before you hire a company to do a job. A good reputation goes a long way and can save you time, money and aggravation in the long run.
If you have exposed beams, pipes, and bricks that are more common and you look up at these in your bathroom, it may appear as if the plumbing has fallen out of the ceiling. The cause: A previous owner wanted a secondary bathroom upstairs and didn’t care how he got it. As a direct result, water pipes, discharge pipes, and other miscellaneous things were all protruding from the ceiling in the living room. Perhaps they should be painted and used as a conversation piece. Ceiling art?
While enduring a kitchen renovation, the homeowner tells her contractor she can’t find her cat in the house. “She’s probably hiding somewhere,” she says as she prepares to leave to go to work. The contractor describes the time he was tiling up a bathroom and heard mewing coming from the wall. He says the contractors on that job had sealed the drywall, tiled and grouted before they realized the cat had sneaked in. The cat had been stuck inside the wall for at least two days, he says. Meanwhile, the homeowner continues her desperate search. Their cat had found a cozy dark spot to hide between the floorboards in the kitchen and the basement ceiling. Luckily, she was found before the contractor finished installing the floorboards. The lesson: Get the pets out of the house when remodeling, so they don’t get dusty or tiled over.
Accelerating Plans While Expecting
Honey, I’m pregnant. Let’s renovate! So begins a homeowner’s nightmare. The wife and her husband demolish their master bathroom when she is one-month pregnant. They figure the remodeling job will be done in three months. For the next eight months, the wife has to conquer two flights of stairs to get to the only other functional bathroom in the house. Her master bedroom is on the lower level of what used to be a church. “Picture a very pregnant woman going up those spiral stairs to use the restroom in the middle of the night for eight months” she says. A week before her scheduled cesarean section, reality sinks in. “I realized that not only was the project not going to be finished by the time I left to the hospital, but there were a lot of the elements of the plumbing that weren’t done properly,” Rushing says. “That day I thought I was going to go into labor.”
“I needed to replace a light switch in the kitchen in my apartment. When I removed the old switch I failed to notice that it was a combination outlet and switch which had four wires instead of the two I was used to. I didn’t make note of where the wires were connected. I made several attempts to connect the new switch but each time I threw the switch the light did not go on. I decided to see if at least the outlet worked so I plugged the toaster into it. When I pushed down the toaster levers, to my surprise, the light went on. I tried to convince my wife that we just needed to make toast when we needed the light on but she didn’t buy it.”
The Sump Pump
In another case, an owner inadvertently connected the plumbing from a new bathroom to the home’s sump pump discharge in the basement. Uh-oh. The sump pump, designed to expel excess rain water, was now connected directly to a toilet in an upstairs room. Flush! For as long as it could before getting clogged, it pumped raw sewage into the yard, creating a stinky and unhealthy mess.
A False Sense of Confidence
Canadians are constantly bombarded by messages from big box retailers, cable TV shows and YouTube videos telling us, in effect, “Get off your butt, you can do it yourself. It’s not that hard. Just follow the directions.” Inevitably, in some cases the directions turn out to be not that simple and the job itself is beyond the training or capabilities of an ordinary homeowner. Nobody advertises that cold reality. So how many DIY projects turn out to be disappointments? You can find videos and TV shows online that illustrate the perils, but now a new study of 2,000 homeowners who said they’d had problems with their DIY efforts provides some hard numbers. It also offers insights about what types of fix-ups are most popular and which ones are most likely to fail or produce poor results.
Nearly two-thirds of participants in the survey said they had regrets about at least one of their projects. In a third of the cases, the job they did was botched badly enough that they had to call in a professional to redo their own work. Sponsored by ImproveNet, an online referral network for renovators, the survey found that installing floor tiles ranks among the most popular DIY projects — 20 percent of the respondents said they had done it — but it was the No. 1 “most regretted” project. Painting interior walls was by far the most common type of DIY (40 percent of owners had tried) but it ranked No. 10 out of the 32 most regretted. Adding trees or shrubs to yards was by far the least regretted/most popular project, tried by one-fifth of the respondents and ranked next to last on the regrets scale.
One of every 12 consumers (8 percent) said they actually “caused damage to my home” as the result of their work. One in 16 (6 percent) revealed that they suffered some type of bodily injury in the process. More than half (55 percent) reported that things took longer than anticipated to complete, and 50 percent found it “physically harder” than they thought it would be. Seventeen percent said they spent more money than expected. When DIY projects cost more than owners anticipated, the average overrun pushed the final expense to nearly double their original estimate. The study categorized the types of projects most likely to defy DIYers’ expectations — sort of a “special caution needed” list. Here are the projects most likely to:
- Get you injured: Installing a fireplace or windows or repairing a foundation.
- Cause damage to the house: Replacing a ceiling, installing a roof or repairing a foundation.
- Exceed your technical expertise, thereby increasing the odds that things could go badly: Installing anything electrical, installing a backsplash or building furniture.
The message here isn’t that you should avoid DIY. Rather you should take a sober look in advance at how your own technical and physical skills match up with what you have in mind. When the match doesn’t look all that favorable, call in a pro. Not everyone is born with the magic touch for remodeling. This, of course, is why a whole range of specialists exist: architects, designers, contractors, the guy who makes the cabinets and the guy who installs them (nope, his name isn’t Dad). As with most industries, though, some skilled professionals are less skilled than others. Take any one of the masterminds behind the following home improvement snafus, which range from head-scratching and unsightly to downright dangerous.
Avoid renovation nightmares. If you notice any of the above scenarios in any phase of your renovation, call in the professionals. It’s okay to call for help, in fact, it’s the right thing to do. It just may save you a lot of headache, hassle, time, and money if you call in the professionals to do it right this time. Professionals will take the time to double check that there aren’t any pets hiding in the drywall, that the suspended ceiling isn’t going to collapse on the electrician or anyone else, and that everything else is taken care of properly. You’ll save a lot of time and money when you hire the professionals to do the job for you.