16 Common DIY Mistakes: What Home Improvement Enthusiasts Often Get Wrong

16 Common DIY Mistakes: What Home Improvement Enthusiasts Often Get Wrong

DIY projects can be exciting and rewarding, but so many people dive in and end up feeling frustrated and disappointed with the end result. Oftentimes, that’s simply because they made some big (but entirely avoidable) mistakes. Here are some of the worst offenses you can make with your at-home projects — avoid them at all costs!

1. Skipping the Planning Stage

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Let’s get straight to it: planning might seem dull, but it saves you from ending up with a half-painted room and a full plate of regret. Without a clear plan, you’re navigating without a map. Ensure you’ve thought two steps ahead—to the end of your project and beyond—before you even pick up a hammer.

2. Buying Cheap Materials

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Money’s tight, but cheaping out on materials is like buying discount sushi: you’ll probably regret it. Invest in quality to avoid do-overs. Remember, buy once, wince once; buy cheap, wince every time something falls apart. Shelling out a bit more money will ensure your hard work lasts a lot longer.

3. Overestimating Your Abilities

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Be honest about your skill set. If you’ve never even hung a picture frame properly, maybe replacing the kitchen backsplash shouldn’t be your first rodeo. Tackle what you can handle and leave the Hail Mary projects for the pros.

4. Underestimating Time

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That YouTube video made it look easy in an hour, but here’s the truth: they cut out the mistakes. Double your anticipated time allocation for the project because everything takes longer than you think when you’re not an expert. Don’t be so impatient to get it done that you end up cutting corners, either!

5. Ignoring Prep Work

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Diving in is great for pools but terrible for DIY. Prep work might bore you to tears, but it’s the difference between a job done right and a disaster. Take time to prep. Literally, it holds everything together. Get all your proverbial ducks in a row so that once you start working, everything flows smoothly (or as smoothly as possible).

6. Neglecting Safety

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Hospital trips are a bad way to conclude a DIY day. Safety isn’t a suggestion; it’s mandatory. Wear the goggles, use the gloves, and turn off the power when dealing with electrics. Your limbs will thank you.

7. Forgetting Permits

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Your home, your castle, right? Wrong. The city can make your life miserable by bypassing permits. It’s red tape with a purpose. Get the right paperwork before you start, or pay the price later. You don’t want to have to tear down your Man Cave or She Shed because you didn’t get approval beforehand.

8. Eyeballing Instead of Measuring


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“Looks about right” is not a measurement. Precision is key, or you’ll find yourself with a shelf that’s more inclined than the Tower of Pisa. Measure, then measure again. Also, use a level to make sure you’re not hanging fixtures crookedly.

9. Skipping Tool Instructions

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Think you’re smarter than the manufacturer? Think again. They wrote that manual for a reason. Skimming it could mean the difference between nailing your project and nailing your hand to a piece of wood. Read up for a few minutes before getting started so you don’t experience bigger setbacks down the line.

10. Using Wrong or Dull Tools

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The butter knife is not a screwdriver, and a dull saw is a ticket to frustration city. Use the right tools, and make sure they’re in good shape. It’s like a chef using the right knife—essential for a clean job. If you need to borrow tools from a friend or family member for the duration of the project, they’ll be more than happy to share, so long as you take good care of them!

11. Ignoring Moisture Control

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Moisture is sneaky — it gets everywhere and ruins everything. If you’re working in areas prone to water exposure, waterproofing is not optional, it’s a must. You may need to get a portable dehumidifier to keep in the area, and you’ll want to keep an eye on the humidity levels in the room, as well.

12. Going Trendy Over Timeless

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That hot pink might look fire now, but trends change, and you won’t be 25 forever. Choose timeless over trendy, or brace yourself for redoing it all in a couple of years. Classic beats dated, anytime. Plus, there are plenty of ways to be fashionable while still being timeless and modern. Design carefully unless you plan to repeat the project in the next couple of years. (And hey, if you do, go for it!)

13. Poor Budgeting

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Money isn’t like paint—you can’t spread it thin and expect good coverage. Budget properly because costs spiral faster than you can say “credit card debt.” Be realistic about what you can afford and have a small cushion in case unexpected costs arise. However, if things start getting out of control, don’t stubbornly plow on regardless of the fact that you can’t afford to.

14. Mismanaging Waste

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Projects generate trash—don’t let it pile up like a landfill in your living space. Have a waste management plan. No one likes living on a construction site. Whether you need to rent a dumpster to throw cut-offs and old fittings into or you take regular trips to your local landfill to get rid of it, don’t do a sloppy job.

15. Overlooking End-of-Day Cleanup

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Cleanup isn’t just for show—it prevents tools from getting lost and materials from getting ruined. Plus, it’s a safety issue. Seeing the floor is pretty fundamental for not tripping over it and potentially getting seriously injured. Clean as you go and don’t leave the mess until the very end.

16. Expecting Perfection

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Perfection is a myth. There will be hiccups in pretty much every DIY project, no matter how skilled you are or how well you planned. Learn from them instead of throwing in the towel. If you wanted showroom quality, you’d have hired a pro. Aim for progress over perfection.

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Josh grew up in Connecticut and thought he could never be happier away from big bodies of water until he moved to Minneapolis and fell in love with it. He writes full-time, with his lifestyle content being published in the likes of Men's Health, Business Insider, and many more. When he's not writing, he likes running (but not enough to train for a marathon even though his buddy won't stop asking him).