Improving your home is all well and good… But there are projects you should never attempt on your own. Here’s the number one DIY fail, plus nine others to avoid at all costs.
DIY projects are a great way to save money, improve the value of your home, and improve your quality of living, But there are some projects you should never do unless you’ve had some training in that field. It’s one thing to try out some new kitchen or family room ideas. Here are the 10 DIY fail projects that you should avoid.
Our Top 10 DIY Fails: Do Not Try These at Home
Most of the time, a DIY fail makes for a long-running inside joke or a funny story to tell your grandkids. But some projects can prove dangerous or flat out deadly. When it comes to electrical work, taking down a tree, or roofing, save it for the pros. It’s one thing to
The #1 DIY Fail: Any Electrical Work
This should only be done by a trained professional.
Rates vary, but most electricians charge somewhere around $75 per hour, plus any parts they need to buy. That’s the kind of expense many DIYers try to avoid, but in this case, it’s worth it. Wiring failures can damage appliances or set your home on fire. Worse, they can even result in the death of you and your family. No matter how much you want to save your money, the savings don’t justify the risk.
Here’s a video with some funny, scary, and downright bizarre electrical mishaps.
#2: Tree Removal
Cutting down a human-sized tree is easy to do on your own. However, trees in some parts of the country can reach dozens of feet into the air. That’s a problem if they come crashing down — and I know, because I saw it happen to my neighbor. Safely removing a tree that tall requires specialty tools and equipment. Tree workers also start from the top so they can cut away smaller pieces and lower them to the ground.
Chainsaws and axes alone won’t go well. Not unless the tree is far, far away from anything it could damage in a fall. Remember, even lumberjacks sometimes make a mistake and see a tree fall in a direction they didn’t expect.
The good news is that you may not have to pay for a tree’s removal. If it’s on public land, try talking to someone at City Hall… Or, you may need to find out which local, state, or federal agency owns the land. If the tree poses a threat due to disease, fire hazards, or because it may fall, you can just report it. In many cases, this may be all you need to do. If the owner is your neighbor, you can ask them to take care of it and offer to chip in. Otherwise, expect to pay from $200 to $1800 for tree and stump removal, depending on the size of the tree.
You can mitigate some of the cost by taking care of the trunk yourself. That, at least, is safe to do yourself. Make sure you don’t accidentally damage any pipes or wires that run through the area.
Cutting down a massive tree on your own? What could possibly go wrong? Here’s a video with four minutes and 29-seconds’ worth of one DIY fail after another.
#3: Pave a Driveway
Paving a driveway? It’s just pouring concrete, right? Well… no. Correctly paving a driveway is an intensive job. Although a team of professionals can usually get it done in a single day, some projects take longer.
This is especially true if you want to install brickwork or other decorations, not just the driveway itself. Properly laying all the bricks so they don’t shift around as they set is a time-consuming process.
Costs vary depending on the material and size, but you can expect to pay $3 to $10 per square foot for concrete, and $10 to $50 per square foot for paving stones or bricks. Here’s’ a video with a driveway fail due to lack of proper preparation. Luckily, this brave soul has shared with us so we won’t make the same mistake!
You’ve seen a bunch of guys walking around on roofs – it can’t be that dangerous, right? Well… it is. Roofers are highly-trained professionals who know how to navigate even the steepest setups safely. If you don’t have that training, you’re more likely to hurt yourself than you are to nail down a new roof, especially if you have to make frequent trips up and down a ladder.
Aside from the issue of putting the roof itself on, sections like flashing and vents need extra care and expertise. The bottom line is simple: Don’t do the roof yourself.
The cost of a new roof varies based on the size and materials needed, but most people sell roofs for about $3.50 to $5.00 per square foot. Roof sizes (not to be confused with floor plan sizes) average around 1700 square feet, so you’re looking at a low of about $6000 for an average new roof. Consider taking out a loan and paying this one off over time.
In the video below, a home inspector shows us a disastrous roofing job, aka DIY fail.
#5: Installing Siding
The sides of your house are easily one of its most important elements. Aside from providing an insulating barrier to keep things warm or cool, siding also ensures that the weather outside won’t be able to damage things. A bad installation could lead to entire sections being ripped off in the next windstorm – followed by plenty of water damage from the rain.
Much like trying to do the electrical work yourself, installing your siding isn’t worth the risk unless you know exactly what you’re doing. Most siding costs $2 to $9 per square foot, and you can expect to pay several thousand dollars for the job.
A more expensive option – synthetic stone – costs up to $25 per square foot. It still costs less than real stone – and it’s much lighter, too – but this is usually limited to accents and single sections.
The vinyl siding job below has all kinds of problems. It’s not really a DIY fail, because a contractor did the work… But for all intents and purposes, it might as well be.
#6: Removing Walls
No matter how appealing the thought of getting more space is, don’t knock down a wall without getting an engineer to check it out first. The reason for this is simple: some walls are load-bearing, and it’s not always clear at first glance which ones those are. If you knock down the wrong wall, you could end up with an upper floor (or the roof) collapsing down on you.
Most structural engineers charge $100 to $150 per-hour to figure out which walls are load-bearing. It shouldn’t take more than 2-3 hours, especially if you only have one wall you’d like to remove. Once you get the go-ahead, it’s okay to take the wall down yourself as long as you follow the correct procedure for that type of wall.
Here’s the right way to remove a (non-load bearing!) wall.
#7: Restoring Items
Most of us have at least a few old items sitting around. Whether it’s an old china cabinet or some furniture we haven’t quite gotten rid of, sprucing them up seems like a great option for a DIY project. Unfortunately, when it comes to restoration, a DIY fail is more likely.
This isn’t a big deal if the item isn’t worth much or has no sentimental value – in fact, such items can be great practice pieces. If it’s expensive or important, though, leave restoration to the professionals. They know what products to use and what mistakes to avoid.
Refinishing and restoration costs vary widely – the bigger it is, the more it will cost. Most people end up paying a few hundred dollars for pieces the size of a dresser. Chairs are much smaller than most pieces of furniture, so they usually cost $200 or less to fix up.
While we couldn’t find any funny videos with failed antique rehabs, here are some examples of the worst art restoration fails.
#8: Plumbing Pipes
Plumbing is deceptively simple at first glance – it’s just a bunch of tubes held together by connectors, right? Unfortunately, many of a home’s pipes are more complex than they look. Some things, like replacing a p-trap or even a garbage disposal are fairly simple. But when you start messing with the pipes, it’s another story.Plus, reconnecting them can be a challenge if they’re located near a bunch of other pipes. This is especially common under kitchen sinks.
Hourly rates for plumbers range from $45 to $150. Simple and straightforward jobs usually cost less than anything that requires new pipes. This is especially true if you need to go behind walls or under the floors.
Here are some of the very worst plumbing mistakes. No matter how bad your DIY fail, it likely doesn’t even come close to this.
#9: Sanding Floors
Amateur work on a wooden floor is instantly recognizable – and usually lowers the value of your house. If you’d like to smooth out your floor, skip the sander and start looking for a handyman or renovator to get it done for you. The result will be far smoother and may even increase your home’s value instead of lowering it.
Refinishing a wood floor usually costs $1.50 to $4.00 per square foot. The average room costs a few hundred dollars, but the cost is worth it if you’re trying to make a good impression on a buyer.
Here’s how one homeowner learned from a series of DIY fails and wound up with beautiful floors.
#10: Adding Windows
Last but not least: windows. Getting more natural light is a good idea, but poorly-installed windows can let water in, allow heat to escape during the winter, and fog up so you can’t even see out of them anymore.
As with the other projects on this list, the best plan is to hire a professional. Installing a new window is more expensive than replacing an existing one, but the cost should be around $1000 if the window is small and located in an accessible area. If you want a larger window – or you want it installed somewhere that’s hard to reach – expect to pay significantly more.
Installing or replacing a window can quickly devolve into a DIY fail if you’re not careful. Here’s a video on how to replace a window from This Old House.
Each of the options on this list is a potential DIY fail – and with good reason. Many of them require special tools or training, and they’re not the sort of job an amateur should attempt.
If you really want to do it yourself, take a professional class and get certified to do the work. Websites like Find Courses can help you locate a class online or in your area. Don’t just look up an online guide for any of the projects above – those guides don’t cover everything and may lead to significant property damage.
Featured image: CC 0 Public Domain via MaxPixel.