9 Most Costly Mistakes in DIY Home Improvement
These DIYers paid the price for their great goofs. Read on for some of the most expensive mistakes in home improvement history.
Expensive Test for Rotted Wood
A few years ago, my wife and I bought a 100-year-old house. This house needed every fix-up project you could imagine, but we thought we’d better tackle the leaky roof first. The house had one layer of shabby-looking shingles. To save time and money, we decided to skip the tear-off and just add a second layer of shingles. After carrying the first bundle up the ladder, I slammed it down onto the roof. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It broke right through the roof and fell onto the floor below. That’s how I found out that some of the wood beneath the old shingles was rotting. A whole new roof was the only project we did that year!
Losing My Grip
I called a pro for an estimate to remove a tree stump and the price came back at $225. This seemed like too much to spend when I knew I could knock it out myself in a couple of hours with an ax. After digging a trench the size of a Jacuzzi around it, I started in on the stump with my trusty ax, wood chips flying with each stroke. Everything was going fine until my ax glanced off the stump after a full swing. Then the unthinkable happened—the ax flew out of my sweaty hands and headed straight for the picture window that overlooks the backyard. The ear-shattering crash woke up my pregnant wife … I was done for the day. Before the glass repair truck arrived a couple of days later, I finished removing the stump. When the new glass was installed, they handed me the bill! You guessed it—$225.
One weekend last winter, I decided to spray-paint some metal trim. The problem was that the paint had been stored in the unheated garage but needed to be at room temperature to use. I thought I could speed the waiting time by putting the paint in our gas oven and just letting the pilot light warm the can. Unfortunately, I got sidetracked and started another project. By the next day, I’d completely forgotten about the paint can in the oven, until my wife preheated the oven for a chicken dinner. There was a huge KABOOM! The oven door blew open and the explosion threw almond-colored paint all over the cabinets, my wife’s shoes and the inside of the oven. We were extremely lucky to escape any injury other than to my pocketbook, which ached to the tune of about $1,200 for a new stove!
Broken Toy Box
The toys at my northern Michigan cabin were multiplying in the garage, so I decided it was time for an addition. I doubled the length of the garage, making it an end-to-end, two-car structure. To save money, I hand-framed the roof rather than use factory-built trusses. With all this extra garage space, I’d be able to buy even more toys!
After several snow and ice storms up north, I received a call from my neighbor, who asked the dreadful question, ‘Remember the garage you used to have?’ The weight of the snow had caused the roof to cave in, crushing my speedboat, trailer, snowmobiles and dirt bike inside. After careful forensic study, I figured the overloaded rafters had pushed out the walls until the roof collapsed. Probably, I hadn’t used enough crossties, leaving me with the lesson that a sturdy toy box is worth spending more for.
No Free Lunch
I decided to save the price of a plumber and replace the kitchen faucet myself. After installing a new faucet, I treated myself to lunch out with all that money I had saved. I returned two hours later to about an inch of standing water on the first floor. Apparently, I had neglected to properly tighten a compression fitting at the supply valve under the sink. After replacing the carpet and having all the wood floors sanded and refinished (ouch!), I now hire a plumber and watch him work while I eat lunch in.
We hired a contractor to lay a new ceramic floor in the basement laundry room, so I decided to temporarily remove the water heater from that room to make the job easier. I shut off the cold water supply to the water heater, drained it and then cut the pipes just above the heater. The tile guy laid the tiles and was going to return the next day to grout. The surprise came a few hours after he left when we ran the water in the upstairs bath. The cold water worked its way through the faucet into the hot water pipes and back to the open pipe above the water heater. The newly laid floor was completely flooded. I tried to mop up the water, but as I walked on the tile, the mortar oozed up between the tiles and ruined the tile job. Needless to say, the tile guy also got quite a surprise the next day! He had to completely redo the job. And not for free!
Speedy But Not Smart
A couple of years ago, I borrowed a friend’s pickup truck to save a $40 delivery charge for a pallet of sod. The nursery loaded the sod with a forklift, and I drove home congratulating myself on my money-saving brilliance. And then another great idea suddenly struck me—the easy way to unload all that heavy sod would be to back up quickly, slam on the brakes and have the pallet simply slide off the back of the truck. Pure genius!
So I sped backward and slammed on the brakes, but instead of the pallet sliding all the way off, it stopped on the tailgate, collapsing it and causing a large ‘V’ right in the middle. Two weeks and $400 of my money later, my friend had a new tailgate. I haven’t asked to borrow his truck since.
In an attempt to bring our lawn up to par with our neighbors’, I installed an underground sprinkler system. A few months went by and the results were terrific—our lawn was green and weed free. A neighbor suggested we’d get even better results if we had our lawn professionally aerated. So of course I called up a lawn service and had it done. The next morning, I peered out the window to see streams of water spurting up from random spots in the lawn. Apparently I hadn’t buried the underground tubing deep enough and the machine that aerated the lawn punctured the lines. Now I can impress my neighbors with my pipe-patching skills.
What a Turkey
I grabbed a small hammer and a screwdriver and started tapping on the ice. One, two, and on my third tap, there was a loud hissing sound. I had ruptured a refrigerant line that was just below the ice. The estimate to repair the line and replace the coolant was about the same as the price of a new freezer—$350. I bought the new freezer and put my very expensive ‘free’ turkey inside it.