Avoiding Do-It-Yourself Disasters

As we head into the 4th of July weekend, I thought I’d lighten things up a bit, so… Have you ever had a do-it-yourself disaster? I’m talking about cases where you tackled a project yourself in the name of saving money and wound up creating an even more expensive repair for yourself.

Know your limits

I’ll start by saying that I’m a fairly handy guy, and I thoroughly enjoy most do-it-yourself projects. Not only do I get the satisfaction of a job well done, but I also save a nice chunk of change as compared to paying someone else to do it. I do, however, have a pretty good sense of my limits, and I try not to tackle jobs that I’m likely to botch.

For example, while I’m happy to repair a leaky shower faucet, I tend to shy away from major car repairs. The reason for this is that I’m what you might call an “efficient” mechanic — I typically have extra parts left over when I’m finished. As such, I’m likely to end up doing more harm than good, and creating an expensive repair bill for myself.

The point here is that one of the most important do-it-yourself skills that you can develop is a healthy respect for your own limits. Yes, it’s important to have the right tools and quality materials, but… If you simply don’t have what it takes to get the job done, you might to end up with an even bigger repair bill on your hands than if you hadn’t tried in the first place.

A real-life example

Case in point… A few years back, a friend of the family moved into a new house and decided that the hardwood floors would look a bit better if they were refinished. Thinking that he’d save a good bit of money by doing it himself, he broke out the sander and got to work.

As stupid as this sounds, what he didn’t realize was that he actually had laminate flooring that was designed to look like hardwood. Not surprisingly, he ended up doing a good bit of damage to the flooring, and wound up having to pay to have the entire floor replaced.

What about you?

Do you have any examples of do-it-yourself projects where you would’ve been better off paying someone else? Please share them in the comments. If nothing else, it will give everyone a good laugh… ๐Ÿ˜‰

19 Responses to “Avoiding Do-It-Yourself Disasters”

  1. Anonymous

    I grew up in a family of ten kids and with a lack of money to fix things, a lot of “jerry-rigging” took place. I learned a lot from watching some of these jerry’s come together, but you can’t substitute knowing something was done the right way and will stay fixed for a while. It may cost a bit more sometimes to get it fixed properly but could actually save you some $$$ if fixed properly the first time.

  2. Anonymous

    I run a painting company in Mass and I see DIY go bad all the time.

    Such as painting cedar shingles without letting them dry or painting them with latex with out primer or without pressure washing them. Results a lifetime of painting every year not every 7 years and every year looking at your walls of shame that peel off without anyone touching them. Now how much will that cost you over the life of the home, even if you DIY every year it was so much cheaper to pay a painting contractor the first time.

    Prices will never be cheaper than they are this year our prices are down %60 from 2 years ago my suggestion is before you DIY find out first how much a pro charges and get 3 estimate! You have the power to get your price.

    I was in the paint store yesterday and a lady ask the store manger what product to buy to take oil paint off her hardwood floors and he said paint stripper and she said but that will take the finish of the floor and they will need to be redone and he said yes that’s correct that’s the only way. I talked to her a little more to find out she hired a painting company and they did a great job and cleaning up everything. So after watching them she thought I can easily do what they did and save money right? WRONG now I’m looking at her and she’s ready to cry and I’m not so heartless as to tell her she should have hired a pro.

    People 50% of the work I do is to fix the owners mistakes and yes that makes it much more expensive.

    When you fall of a ladder and can never walk again how much money do you think you cost yourself then?

    Contractors risk their lives everyday and they make things look easy and they make calculated risk and that is what you pay them for.

  3. Anonymous

    The only thing I would add is that you can sometimes break your limitations one little bit at a time. I grew up in a house where we ALWAYS hired someone for EVERYTHING. My pops did No hardcore work himself…but I quickly learned when I bought my house that I was going to have to learn how fix some things or I was going to be broke(er).

  4. Anonymous

    Nickel… I’m interested to know if you laughed at your buddy regarding the laminate flooring?? I know I would’ve. My boy would never live that down! ๐Ÿ™‚

    I too fancy myself a bit of a handy fellow, but I also ALWAYS weigh the opportunity cost of me doing the job vs a pro.

    Here is the calculator I run all my projects through:

    DIY Calculator: x=difficulty | y=my time | z=cost for pro to do job — If x+y>z I pay the pro | If x+y<z I do it myself.

  5. Anonymous

    Some years ago I decided to install a new dishwasher in our kitchen. My father-in-law was staying over for the weekend, which would only help.

    Disconnecting the old unit was easy, installing the new one was only a little more difficult. But the issue came when we test ran it. Water was flowing from the plumbing attachments under the sink, and not just the joints we attached, but all of the joints and seals.

    We took apart the joints, reassembled them using various methods to improve the seals, but each time the water flow increased, until it was spraying out under the sink. We worked on it for 18 hours, determined that the leaks wouldn’t get the best of us. We relented only when the kitchen floor was covered in water.

    Next day I called a plumber in. He told me we could have spent another 18 hours trying to seal the leaks and it wouldn’t have worked because the copper pipes were past their useful life. After 90 minutes and a $200 plus bill, he replaced all of the piping under the sink.

    It wasn’t that doing the job cost additional money as a result of our efforts, the piping needed to be replaced, but we spent entirely too much of our own time working on a problem that couln’t be fixed.

  6. Anonymous

    My landlord just busted a whole through my wall trying to find dead mice I’ve been complaining about.

    I mentioned, beforehand, that perhaps he should just call an exterminator but….

    So I’m laying in bed and suddenly there is dust everywhere and a hole in my wall….

    Funny post ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Nickel

    kev: While I whole-heartedly agree that we should work to reduce our limitations, I disagree with the following blanket statement:

    “Iรขโ‚ฌโ„ขve always thought that personal finance management is all about making your money work for you the best way that it can. Paying other people to do things that you are capable of doing yourself violates this basic principal.”

    Just because I can do something doesn’t necessarily mean that I should. One of the benefits of being responsible with your money is that it gives you options. There are a great many things that I’m capable of doing, but choose not to because I would prefer to use that time doing other things — writing for this site, spending time with my family, etc.

    I realize that I might be taking you a bit too literally here, but I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, so I just wanted to make that point.

  8. Anonymous

    We hardly ever hire anyone to work on the house, but we do take our car to a professional mechanic – it’s too scary when something goes wrong with the car.

    I’m pretty sure we’re saving money (we have friends we can borrow many tools from, and my partner is big on research and paying attention to detail) but it takes so long I’m not sure it’s worth it. Time is another matter. I think in a lot of cases I would rather pay someone else to do it just to not spend all our vacation time replumbing the bathroom or fixing the garage roof.

    We both were raised by dedicated DIYers and have great faith in our ability to learn to do pretty much anything – but everything takes 3x as long if you’re just in the process of learning how to do it.

  9. Anonymous

    I have the opposite experience. I would love to pay someone to do the work. The problem is contractors rarely show up to take my money. On the positive side I’ve learned to do many things myself with ocassional help from the internet.

  10. Anonymous

    I’ve been thinking about this topic a lot lately, but with kind of a different spin. I think that we should all try to decrease those “limitations” b/c they keep us in a compromised position. I’m never going to be good at everything, but some of the limits I do have don’t necessarily come from a lack of ability – they come from a lack of experience and confidence – basic ignorance can be very expensive.

    Case in point – the brake job I recently paid a ton of money for. I later found that the parts used were not what I wanted. This is the compromised position I spoke of – I took a hit financially and the job wasn’t done to my satisfaction. I have my ignorance to thank for it. I’ve never done a brake job before, thus I was a little timid to do so. This experience showed me just how much my limitations can cost – both in money and frustration. The next time I need new brakes, I will be doing it myself. Period.

    I’ve always thought that personal finance management is all about making your money work for you the best way that it can. Paying other people to do things that you are capable of doing yourself violates this basic principal. There always going to be limitations to what each of us are able or willing to do, but if you make an effort to reduce those limitations the rewards will be yours to reap.

  11. Anonymous

    KC – you reminded me of the time my husband and a friend were doing something DIY related in the friend’s attic. My husband slipped and his foot appeared through the ceiling. Cue friend’s son wailing “You broke my house!” I do any repairs in our house, and funnily enough, hubby does all the sewing repairs – I can’t sew worth a darn!

  12. Anonymous

    I once asked my husband to go into the attic and change the air filters. This is usually something I do but I get so tired of doing everything around the house. So a few minutes after he’s up there I hear this loud crash. His foot had slipped off a beam and through the ceiling below into the master bath. Fortunately we already had a guy doing some painting in the house so he fixed the ceiling for us for a few more bucks. But now I know why I do everything around the house.

  13. Anonymous

    My husband is a professional tecnician for appliances/ac/heating, etc. He averages 20-40 minutes a call . . . however, if someone has tried to do it themselves (and not succeeded) and ended up calling him, it’s a pain in the neck to put it back together right and make it work and can end up costing the customer a 2+ hour service call and that is after a Saturday of frustration for the customer. Leave the complicated repairs and painting (the walls blue) to the professionals.

  14. Anonymous

    Haha.. That’s hilarious about the floor. I know the laminate floors these days look pretty darn good, but seriously? Wow.

    I think I know my limits pretty well when it comes to DIY jobs. If the job has the potential for a bad outcome (like me being electrocuted, or damaging our house) I usually tend to farm it out. Small jobs, i’m fine with doing.

    I don’t think even I would try to sand our laminate floors though. ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Nickel

    Four Pillars: I hear you on the time savings. We’ve recently started trading a bit of money for time by paying someone to handle certain routine but time-consuming tasks.

  16. Anonymous

    That’s a hilarious about the laminate – it must have been pretty authentic looking for him to do that!

    I don’t have any disasters to speak of but there have been a few times when I wish I would have hired someone just because the time involved was so much.

Leave a Reply