Your cousin says he can help you remodel your bathroom. He's not a plumber and has absolutely no experience doing any carpentry work. But he's cheap, so what could possibly go wrong?
A whole lot, actually - including your relationship if he messes up. Despite people's best intentions, do-it-yourself (DIY) disasters happen all the time. And not knowing what you're doing can not only be costly, but dangerous as well.
"Everyone wants to do some work themselves, and that's okay. But you really should contact a professional ahead of time to see what your options are," says Todd Sanwick, owner and president of Sanwick Remodeling Contractors in Omaha, Neb.
Before you tear down walls or purchase new tile, he emphasizes at least calling a contractor to determine your options. Doing so will give you some clue of what you will run into even if you don't hire a professional, he says.
Wondering what kinds of DIY nightmares you could run into out on the road to home improvement?
Sanwick has seen everything from damaged walls, ceilings, flooring, and furniture to pipes bursting, walls collapsing, or even people hurting themselves with power tools.
So before you take an unsupervised plunge into your next DIY project, you may want to keep in mind these five DIY disasters.
Disaster #1: Flooring Fiasco
Can you imagine your dream master shower turning into a leaking catastrophe? One couple experienced this nightmare when they decided to install one with help from a friend, who poured the mud base that lies beneath the expensive tiles.
The results? "We had to go in there and tear out everything, every single tile," says Haig Haleblian, owner of Exceed Flooring and Surfaces in Crystal Lake, Ill. "The guy didn't do the base right, and water had been leaking down to the first floor for a while."
Wonder if that friendship is still going strong...
If the couple had hired a professional to do the job originally, it would have cost $1,000 to put in a state-of-the-art, waterproof shower floor. Because of the homeowner's decision to go cheap, they are paying Haleblian thousands to fix the problem.
"First of all, when you deal with bathrooms, you are dealing with water," Haleblian says. "You should really hire someone who knows what they are doing. This is serious stuff. Educate yourself and go online. You can't cheap out on doing a bathroom floor."
But the nightmare didn't end with the shower floor. The failed DIYers had to pay the glass installer to remove all the glass around the shower. Their baseboards needed replacing because mold was growing, and the hardwood first floor needed repairing after water leakage.
Disaster #2: A Flushing Flop
Is it time for your porcelain throne to be replaced? Before you step into your favorite DIY store to pick up the latest and greatest in toilet technology, you might want to consider how you're going to install it.
Sanwick has witnessed homeowners pay thousands of dollars to repair ceilings and floors after the "new" toilet leaked through one floor to the next.
And the worst part: They could have easily avoided the leaks.
An extra $2 wax ring to seal the toilet and floor drain and they would have been fine, says Sanwick. "Water is the worst thing for a house. I've seen basement ceilings destroyed because an improperly installed toilet leaked for years."
Hiring someone for the job won't break the bank either. "To replace a toilet could cost about $135 in labor for a contractor or plumber to come in and do it the right way," he says.
Disaster #3: Kitchen Cabinet Catastrophe
You get this great idea to brighten your kitchen. So you paint those dingy, dark, outdated cabinets brilliant white. What could possibly go wrong with that project?
More than you think, not least of which is a drop in the value of your home, says Sanwick.
"Painting kitchen cabinets is a no-no. If you are painting over ash or oak, you will still have a wood grain penetrating through. It just looks wrong," Sanwick says. "Before you paint them, you have options. If you paint them and they look awful, your only choice is to rip them out and get new ones."
So what other options do you have?
You can have a professional painter do the job or have a company reface them, Sanwick advises. Cabinet refacing has become a quick, affordable, and less messy renovation process. Contractors remove and replace doors and drawers for a couple thousand dollars, depending on the size of your kitchen. New cabinets could cost upwards of $9,100, according to ConsumerReports.org.
Just be careful if you decide to reface the cabinets yourself. Sanwick has seen homeowners get the wrong doors and drawer fronts, which ends up costing them a lot of time and money going back and forth to the store.
And that's not the worst of it. "A lot of homeowners have tried to reface their cabinets themselves with peel and stick materials instead of wood veneer. They think they are upgrading," Sanwick says. "But believe it or not, prospective buyers know what they are looking for, and the number one feature is the kitchen."
Disaster #4: Wall Worries
Ahhh... that open space concept. It just makes a home feel, well - open. What could be so bad about tearing down a few walls to achieve that look? Nothing, if you do it correctly. Everything, if you don't.
One of Sanwick's clients found out the hard way. They tore down the wrong walls - the ones that actually support the house. The kitchen floor sank two inches, and it cost them $8,000 to have Sanwick re-support the house.
"People are taking down load-bearing walls that they shouldn't be taking down," he says.
A load-bearing wall is one that bears the weight and force of a structure and transfers that weight to the ground. That means everyone and everything is safe from falling through to the bottom floor. Before taking out one of these walls, you need to first put up a temporary wall. A large beam is put in, and then you can take out the temporary wall.
"If you don't do this series of events in tearing down walls, everything drops. Floors go out of whack, and you just better hope to God there isn't a bathroom on the second floor," he says. Why? Because water tends to flow downward, and that's just another disaster you don't want to deal with.
Disaster #5: Venting Violations
Older homes are just that - older. They have old pipes, old vents and... you get the picture. They need tender loving care if you plan on remodeling - and avoiding any disasters while doing so.
But Sanwick found one couple who decided to open up their older home by tearing out the drywall in the living room.
Sounds innocent enough, right? Wrong. The air vents from the furnace and air conditioner were inside that wall - two things that are a tad important in a home.
"They weren't going to have any cooling and heating upstairs if they continued what they were doing," Sanwick says. "They didn't want any walls. But the house wasn't designed to do that." And relocating the vents to a completely different wall would have cost $15,000.
Fortunately, the couple was able to salvage the near-disaster by putting the drywall back up and painting the room. Sometimes you just have to change your DIY plans and go on to your next project.