Assessing a Failed DIY Project

Assessing a Failed DIY Project

Have you ever been called in to help a homeowner fix a DIY project that didn’t go according to plan? Or maybe a home’s previous owners asked their son-in-law to cover up a problem with a quick fix, but it’s become obvious to the current owners that something isn’t right. If you haven’t dealt with this before, you’ll probably have to at some point, and it’s often a pain.

Most homeowners are eager to save a buck, and if they can find a YouTube video on “how to build a deck,” they may assume it’s no problem and head to the hardware store. As you know, while some home renovation projects can be done without much experience, there are many that require the training and skill of an expert to be both long lasting and safe. Homeowners can put their homes and themselves at risk by neglecting to follow standards and codes meant for their safety.

Here are some ways to address specific problems you’ll often come across when dealing with DIY home improvement disasters.

Problem #1: Homeowners cut corners to save money.

Some homeowners will want to do a project themselves so they can use the saved money for nicer materials. Others though, just want to save as much as they can. The latter is especially true for owners of rentals or those who flip houses.

If you’re asked to help fix a project and the cheaper materials are unsafe, the homeowner has a real problem. For example, if someone constructed a 10-foot high deck on 4x4s instead of 6x6s and used an extra wood plank instead of a ledger board, make it clear that an expert needs to start over and do the entire project right.

You can’t do safety halfway. If the materials are just ugly (maybe they used an inch-thick ribbon of caulk to patch empty space when they put in a new door), you can bid a good, better, and best option to the customer for what you can fix and let them decide how much money they’re willing to invest.

Problem #2: Homeowners overlooked safety concerns.

Some homeowners may not know how to identify a load-bearing wall versus a partition wall.

Or they may try to wire their own electrical without a thorough understanding of how wiring works. If you see safety concerns that haven’t been considered, get all the details you can about how the project was done so that you understand what was overlooked before you start to fix things.

Problem #3: Homeowners worried about form over function.

A homeowner may have tiled their own shower right on top of the drywall, only to discover mold issues months or years later. If damage has been done to the existing space, there might not be much you can do other than rip it out and start over, especially if you need to address plumbing and electrical work behind the walls. And we all know the client isn’t going to be pleased to hear this.

In closing, one option, if it’s something you enjoy doing, is to offer a consultation service for certain projects you think a homeowner should be able to handle (kitchen remodel, bathroom tiling, or adding a closet to a room, for example, but not electrical or anything potentially dangerous). Charge an hourly fee to go over a project with a homeowner and walk them through everything they need to do it on their own.

There are always people who are too cheap to take you up on an offer like this, but there may be some who genuinely want to learn, and they’d prefer getting tips from an expert rather than learning from their mistakes. Maybe you’ll save yourself the headache of having to come back and fix their failed project later!

We’d love to hear from you – what’s the worst DIY disaster you’ve been called in to fix? Could you save it or did you have to start over? Let us know in the comments!