Most of us love to tackle a DIY home project every once in a while. Maybe we do it to save money or to feel that sense of accomplishment that comes from a job well done. Maybe we do it because design TV makes it look so easy. Even though it can be fun (and sometimes stressful), there may come a time when you’ve messed it up and want to know how to avoid costly mistakes on your next DIY project.
As an interior designer, I often get the SOS call to fix it. You know what I mean. The sofa from an online store that looked great in the photograph, but feels like a rock when you sit on it. Or the window shades you ordered without help that don’t fit the window. These mistakes can be costly, both in money and the time it takes to fix them.
I know because it’s happened to me when I wasn’t paying attention, and then waited to long to examine my purchase. What started out in my mind as a fun window treatment sewing project soon became an energy vampire, sucking my time.
Because I know how to avoid costly mistakes that can happen on a DIY home project, my ego was more than a little bit battered. I was embarrassed to admit that I messed up. And now my goal is to help you prevent it.
Rule #1: Have a plan in place before you start…and follow your plan.
- Know what you’re goal is and write out all the steps in the process before your begin.
- Do your research. What will it cost? What quality of product are you looking for? How long will it take?
- Check all the dimensions before you order anything online.
Rule #2: Measure twice, cut/buy once
- Double check all dimensions before you cut/order the wood, fabric, or blinds.
- Custom orders can not be returned
- Will the piece of furniture fit through your doorways? Will it fit in the room?
Rule #3: Pay attention when making your purchases.
- Watch as fabric is unrolled
- Read the sales receipt before you commit to the sale. Don’t assume that the sales associate has written exactly what you asked for.
- Read the fine print, and be sure everything you’re expecting has been included
- In the image below, I hate to admit that I was so excited about getting a great price on this normally expensive fabric, that I didn’t follow my own rule. Notice how the design is printed crooked on the fabric. Fortunately there was just enough fabric to make the window treatments so the pattern matches all across the windows.
Rule #4: Have a Designer On Your Team to help you avoid costly mistakes.
- gives you advice before you make your purchases
- validates your choices…or guides you in a better direction
- tells you how much fabric, paint, etc. you need to order, as well as all the parts and pieces
- can place the orders for you
- connect you with trusted trade partners
Costly mistakes seem to be broken down into two categories. I like to call them the “Oh no! What was I thinking!!!” mistakes. Let’s take a look…
Purchases you regret later because you realize you don’t like them:
- You had a “love at first site” moment and just HAD to own it
- You didn’t really love it, but had a “hole” to fill and thought it would work. You were in a hurry to just be done with it!
- Oops! You forgot to measure.
Purchases and decisions you made because you didn’t know better or didn’t think it through:
- Appliances that will be placed against a wall and the impact that will have on opening and closing doors and drawers.
- Adding expensive new counter tops and then realizing you should have purchased new cabinets too.
- Not checking the specifications of appliances to see how they will affect the cabinet.
- Buying on line,which we all do, and realizing you don’t have all the parts and pieces to finish the job correctly.
Here are just a few examples of DIY home project mistakes (sources unknown):
Bathtub at the top of the stairs?
A mantle over a pedestal sink, complete with a towel ring
Exterior door hung upside down
A chandelier not installed in the center of the medallion or tray ceiling.
Your Design Action Steps:
1. If you’re in the “information gathering” phase of your project, remember to study everything. That means look over the plans when you have them.
2. Review the specifications and dimensions of each item you hope to purchase.
3. Hire an interior designer to be a part of your team. The peace of mind you’ll get from relying on someone you trust will be well worth the investment.