DIY Part 3 – DIY Disasters – When Doing It Yourself Goes Wrong

When taking on DIY projects, one can’t understate the need to know your goals, quality level need to achieve,and to know your limitations.

A do-it-yourself project, when executed well, can save you money and give you tremendous satisfaction of a job well done. You did it! And it looks great …

But when a DIY project goes wrong, there can be any number of negative consequences, from minor inconveniences (no power? shower in the back yard anyone?) to being forced to move out while professionals repair the damage. Not to mention a negative affect on the value of your home.

By the same token, if you inherit a home that had extensive DIY work done, it may be wise to get it checked out by a professional. This news report describes how homeowners assumed their unfinished basement was good to go because it had electricity. Turns out the electrical work didn’t meet code, and their home could have burned down. Ouch.

Blame it on HGTV, where fabulous renovations seem to be conceived, completed, cleaned up and enjoyed in the space of half an hour. So seductive. If only it were so easy. It’s only after people get into it that they realize they’re in over their heads and need help.

So who would they call? Usually, a handier friend or neighbor. In the past, professionals often wouldn’t get involved due to warranty and liability issues. In addition,

During the recent housing and renovation boom, many contractors shied away from such jobs, too, because they were too small and could involve challenging clients. “If you come into a botched kitchen, you are already dealing with an aggrieved homeowner, and you are going to have to tell them that it is going to cost more than they ever thought it would,” says Paul Winans, a California remodeler and chairman of the board of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.
Sara Schaeffer Munoz on

That was then. This is now. Increasingly, it’s a skilled professional who gives “DIY Support” or “DIY Disaster Recovery” as the case may be. Part of this is financial reality, part of this is embracing the fact that more and more people are doing it themselves in the last couple of years. Getting DIYers out of jams is a new business opportunity for skilled professionals looking to expand their services, locally and on the internet.

HomeFIXology is one of many handyman franchises created with serving the DIY disaster market in mind. Handyman Connection, on the other hand, views this as a “niche and growing market”.

On the internet, has a My Projects forum where DIYers can get help from others online. In the blog world, Master Electrician Wayne Gilchrist answers DIY questions on his blog and offers DIY support services on (read my upcoming interview with Wayne in DIY Part 4).

Even HGTV is now capitalizing on this trend, with it’s new show “Over Your Head“, hosted by the noticeably photogenic Eric Stromer. An interesting turn of events. Each episode features a real DIY Disaster that is addressed by Stromer and his team. What’s really telling on these shows? That its frequently not the DIYer making the call for help. Oh no, it’s his or her spouse. What I call the “Honey I’m home – my god, what have you done?” effect. Sometimes people are in deep trouble and don’t really know it.

“Over Your Head” is currently looking for “frustrated do-it-yourselfers”. See this listing on Craigslist. You can also apply online here. Your DIY Disaster has to be of your own doing, not a botched contractor job; apparently they can tell the difference. Homeowners who apply and get the gig “will not be compensated per se, but they will receive professional services and additional materials needed to help complete their project”. Nice work if you can get it, and don’t mind wearing a little egg on your face on national television.

For those who have to pay, bringing in a professional contractor in to fix the mess may end up costing you up to 50% more, especially if there is structural damage to correct. If it’s something that can be done by a handyman, you should note that the average cost is around $400 – $500. For other types of projects or questions, you may only need support over the phone.

But there are other worries beside money for struggling DIYers. Embarrassment and a sense of failure. After all, doing it yourself is about feeling empowered, capable, and independent. Admitting that you need help is tough. It helps to know that the professionals who deal with these sticky situations are (usually) sensitive to your feelings. They know you “need a friend” and the knowledge, insight, and corrective action to get the job done, not a long lecture.

This entry was posted on Saturday, March 3rd, 2007 at 12:55 pm and is filed under DIY, Hiring a Contractor, Home Improvement, Remodeling, Reno Wisdom, Renovations. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Comments so far

  1. [...] Previously, I wrote posts about the rising number of DIYers needing to be bailed out by professionals. And interviewed online “Electrical Coach” Wayne Gilchrist. But it’s not only the DIYer using and needing this type service. People who are going to hire someone to do the job are also discovering the benefits of a little “renovation coaching”. This Old House goes so far as to call them “a new breed of therapist “. “The thing about home renovation is that very few people have been able to practice for it,” says Irving, who honed his skills working on 33 whole-house projects in his 17 years with the show. “They get wound up and ner­vous, facing this potential money pit, and it doesn’t have to be that way.” [...]

  2. [...] DIY Disasters have become on cottage industry for both home improvement television and contracting consultants. The DIY backlash has arrived on these shores and – surprise! – it has a Scottish accent. The charge of the alternate “DFY” (Done For You) brigade is being led by two Scottish interior designers who have recently made Toronto home. [...]

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