Biggest Remodeling Lessons Learned by DIYers

It’s nice to know that even these seasoned home DIYers have had some coulda-woulda-shoulda moments. Here’s what they can teach us.

DIY will save you money, but sometimes the after-headaches make you question whether it was worth it.

Here are four bloggers’ who had regrets, and their advice on how to not fall into the same traps as they did.

A Dream Kitchen Gone Wrong

Kelly, the blogger who writes View Along The Way, says her kitchen is “very functional and not offensive.” Not the highest of praise. So why doesn’t she love it? She wanted a white kitchen but ended up with a cream-and-brown combo.

Lesson learned: Don’t compromise your vision and style. A kitchen designer at a retail store recommended Kelly get cream cabinets because white would appear “too stark a contrast” with Kelly’s dark wood floors. Since the designer was a supposed expert, Kelly figured this was the way to go even though she had thoroughly researched her color scheme. Results: She ended up with a lovely kitchen, but not the one she wanted.

Bonus tip: Make your color choices in the right light. Kelly recommends bringing home and viewing a cabinet sample in the room where it’ll live. She didn’t and ended up with cabinets darker than she wanted. That meant she also had to choose a countertop that wasn’t part of the original plan.

Related: 9 Trend-Defying White Kitchens

Before the kitchen renovationBefore
After the kitchen renovationAfter
Before and after the kitchen remodel. Image:

A Bathroom a Few Inches Shy of Perfect

Bathrooms are one of the most difficult rooms to remodel because you need to pack a lot utility into every inch of space, notes Pam Kueber, the blogger behind Retro Renovation.

Lesson learned: Don’t skimp on shower space if you have the flexibility to carve out a few extra inches. Kueber wishes her shower was 36 inches wide instead of 34 inches. That would give her a little more elbow room now — and later, in case she wants to add a grab bar.

Bonus tip: Grab bars aren’t just for grannies. Although Pam put in support framing that would accommodate a grab bar in the shower, she decided not to pull the trigger. Then, she hurt her back and realized a grab bar is something anyone with an injury can use.

Watch Kueber’s video to see the additional bathroom features she would ‘command z’ if she could.

Related: Great Shower Design Ideas

Sanding a Floor Not Worth the Labor

Bruno Bornsztein, Curbly’s publisher and soon-to-be book author, estimated refinishing his enclosed porch (see the work in progress below), part of his whole-house project, would take about a week. Fast forward two and a half months …

After the hardwood floor was fixedImage:

The saga began when he rented an orbital sander to refinish ancient wood floors, which, once devoid of carpeting, were covered in paint and adhesive. He sanded and sanded and sanded, burning through coarser and coarser sandpaper. In fact, he spent $200 on sandpaper, not to mention the $40-per-day sander rental, and he wasn’t getting anywhere. Turns out, the hardware store had rented him a broken sander.

Lesson learned: When you’re doing a DIY project and you encounter an obstacle, “don’t feel you have to push through with brute force,” Bornsztein says. “If something feels wrong, it probably is. That’s when to call the store or a friend, or watch a YouTube video on the topic.”

Also weigh the time and expense it will cost you to do it yourself against hiring a pro. In the end, Bornsztein spent as much if not more than if he hired a pro.

Related: What You Need to Know Before You Refinish Hardwood Floors Yourself

Bonus tip: If you find thick paint or adhesive on floorboards, a chemical stripper will likely work faster than a sander, Bornsztein says. Just make sure to wear splash goggles, gloves, and protective clothing. And keep your space ventilated.

Hardwood Floors = Heavy

Installing hardwood floors isn’t for lightweights, attests John, blogger for Our Home from Scratch.

Lesson learned: If you’re planning to lay floors, factor in the sheer heft of the hardwood. To save money, John purchased his flooring from an online distributor that required he pick up the materials. To cover 600 sq. ft., John needed 28 boxes of the 3¼-inch-wide oak flooring (below). Since each box weighed around 70 pounds, John had to haul almost a ton of flooring home. Not a job for his car or his back.

A box of new hardwood flooringImage: Our Home from Scratch

Bonus tip: Let wood flooring rest for four to five days before installing, so it can adjust to temperature and humidity. That will prevent the wood from expanding or contracting after it’s installed.

Here’s how nicely John’s floor turned out:

The finished hardwood floor after installationImage: Our Home from Scratch