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Dodge the 7 Most Common DIY Mistakes


Dorothy Martwick

Armed with a library of how-to books, you’re confident that you can tackle your home’s repairs and remodeling yourself—and pocket the money you’d have spent on professional labor. Many DIYers make critical mistakes that can decrease their homes’ salability. Avoid these seven common mistakes:

1. Overestimating your skills. Be honest about your abilities. Buyers can tell when things aren’t in the proper position, when light sockets aren’t vertical, and laminate flooring is bowed. It comes down to quality of work. If you can’t do it right, you’ll have to pay to have it fixed.

2. Underestimating the value of your time. You may, in theory, be capable of laying new bathroom tile. But between your job demands and the kids’ soccer games, can you really finish the project in a few weeks, or will it stretch over months? Your time may be worth the cost of a pro.

3. Equating dollars spent with value. Good design is critical, especially in kitchen and bath remodels. A $60K kitchen designed by a pro to mesh well with a house will bring a better return than a $60K kitchen that bungles traffic flow and clashes with the style of adjoining areas. When you’re going down to the studs, get an architect or interior designer involved.

4. Neglecting details. Don’t leave projects half done. It doesn’t just fail to add value, it actually subtracts value.

5. Overlooking permits. A qualified pro will know what is legally required.

6. Missing guarantees. Pros will back their work. That can be essential on big projects like roof repairs. When you DIY, you’re the only one accountable for missteps.

7. Thinking DIY means do it all yourself. Consider hiring professionals to back up your know-how. Tap into the free kitchen and bath design services at home-improvement stores. Many paint stores have color consultants you can use for a small fee. Or hire a plumber on an hourly basis to install new toilets and sinks after you’ve done the demo work— you’ll rest easier knowing the water will flow safely. Ultimately, the key to success with any project is asking the right questions. Your real estate agent is a great resource.