What Was I Thinking? The Worst DIY Decisions

What Was I Thinking? The Worst DIY Decisions

Sometimes what seems like a good idea at the time just isn’t. Get tips from these DIY projects that didn’t go so well.

Finishing a DIY project feels amazing: Not only can you impress your friends, but you can spend every day walking by your masterpiece, gleaming with pride.

Unless DIY becomes DI-why?, that is. Even the most practiced do-it-yourselfers sometimes find themselves in the middle of projects that aren’t going according to plan. Don’t feel badly about the organizational system that fell over in your garage or the crooked tiling in the basement. It happens to everyone. Here’s proof.

Misunderstanding the Project Scope

Washington, D.C., homeowner Dave Coulon took on the task of making his own kitchen cabinets against the advice of his contractor friend, who told Coulon, “I’ll see you in two years.”

Coulon’s no DIY novice — he’s a shop teacher and has worked on his home’s dishwashers and toilets. Still, his friend’s words proved prophetic. The project was more than Coulon bargained for in more ways than one: Not only did it require a technical know-how beyond his ability, it required more physical space than was available in his home.

So while he was aiming to create a kitchen full of fancy, self-closing cabinets, he ended up with a crowded maze of poorly engineered, half-completed ones in his basement.

“I did the cabinets because I wanted to do it, but I would definitely not bother to make them again,” he says.

Related: How Hard is It to Install IKEA Cabinets?

Allowing a Renovation to Snowball

When a small project grows bigger and bolder, it can be painful to your budget and your schedule. Blogger Tanya of “Dans le Lakehouse” says most often, when her projects go awry, it’s due to snowballing beyond her original plans.

That’s what happened when she was changing the closet doors in her bedroom.

Old closet doors in a bedroomImage: “Dans le Lakehouse”

It was a presumably simple project that led to removing a closet organizer, then replacing newly discovered damaged flooring, then painting the entire closet bright orange — and ended with Tanya dropping $800 on new doors.

“We did run out of funds, energy, and time, so we patiently waited a year to save up for new closet doors,” she says. Eventually, they splurged on pretty white glass sliding doors, “so I can’t complain.”

How can you avoid a DIY project that soaks up more time, energy, and resources than intended? “Start with a lot of work reflection,” Tanya says.

Though the closet project was more than she bargained for, it was important to take the time to do it right once the additional issues were discovered.

“It’s best not to run away from the problem,” she says.

Skipping the Research

See a project on Pinterest or a blog that looks tempting? Don’t dive right in without researching the materials and how-to. Kerry Bindernagel, one half of the husband-and-wife DIY duo behind “Burritos and Bubbly,” learned this lesson the hard way.

Like many homes built in 1890, the Bindernagel home featured painted wooden floors. Unhappy with the color — not to mention the chipped paint — they decided to go bold and paint their hardwood office floors pink. But they skipped a key step: They didn’t research anything about how to paint wood floors.

“And we did a horrible job,” Bindernagel says.

Assuming painting a floor was just like painting a wall, they purchased a cheap can of white floor paint and mixed it — by hand — with pink. After a quick sweep of the broom and swipe of the paint roller, they were done.

Until it chipped.

Before the painted floor was repaintedImage: “Burritos and Bubbly”

“Every time we’d move a piece of furniture or even push a chair back from the desk, the paint would stick to the furniture and peel,” Bindernagel says. “It turns out painting a wood floor isn’t the same as painting a wall.”

Their second try — four years later — was more successful.

“We read every single thing we could find about how to paint wood floors,” she says. “We sanded and vacuumed and washed and primed and painted by hand.” The paint was more expensive; they used three coats both of primer and color, waiting 24 hours for it to dry between each.

Results of properly painting a floorImage: “Burritos and Bubbly”

“It was annoying and difficult and a giant pain, but we learned that investing more time and effort and research made all the difference,” Bindernagel says.

Related: 5 Affordable DIY Flooring Ideas

Discovering the Devil in the Details

DIY is hard work. While some people have endless patience for tedious projects, sometimes it’s best to recognize when the drudgery isn’t for you.

Chelsea Mohrman of “Farm Fresh Therapy” recalls such an ambitious project: hand-stamping — with a potato.

“It was a very easy, yet tedious project,” Mohrman says. It becomes boring fast, and every repetitive motion you make is an opportunity to screw up. The project required cutting a slippery potato into small triangles, dipping them in paint, and carefully stamping them onto a shower curtain — again and again and again.

The end result might be stunning, but Mohrman isn’t sure it was worth all the work. Luckily, her project was just a shower curtain, but the hard-learned lesson can translate to bigger projects. If you’re considering hand-stamping a wall — or even taking on another project that requires repetitive steps, like tiling a floor or refinishing a kitchen full of cabinet doors — be prepared to be meticulous and dogged, and consider if such a detailed DIY is worth the mind-numbing effort.

“I dropped my potato more times than I can count and failed to keep my cat out of the studio,” Mohrman says. “Never again!”


By: Jamie Wiebe:© Copyright 2015 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®


Ginormous Kitchens: Are They Really a Good Choice?

Ginormous Kitchens: Are They Really a Good Choice?

Published: December 3, 2012

Huge, open kitchens continue to grow in popularity, getting bigger and bigger. But is bigger really better?

Houses with cozy eat-in kitchens are common. But enormous kitchens that consume most of a home’s square footage continue to be the trend.

High-end kitchens can top 3,000 sq. ft. and are becoming more and more popular. Even kitchens in mid-level housing are ballooning, swallowing dining rooms, living rooms, even garages.

Here’s the punch line (courtesy of the Wall Street Journal): Many home owners with ginormous kitchens don’t actually cook in them.

Instead they buy ready-made food to eat at home, and use the kitchen for socializing as friends gather and prepare food together.

Some even have smaller kitchens tucked away. These secondary kitchens, often called “wok kitchens,” hide the mess and smells of meal preparation, while creating the illusion of food being prepared in its larger counterpart.

So what’s the point?

Although, I confess, I completely understand large-kitchen lust.

When we designed our Virginia house 15 years ago, our son was a baby and I couldn’t envision him ever growing up. I wanted a space where I could keep an eye on him while I cooked. So we built a 500 sq. ft. kitchen with space for cooking, eating, lounging by the fire, and watching TV.

And it has its advantages:

  • The space is an open, delightful place where I cook, work, watch birds at the window — feeder, and feel embraced by a flickering fireplace.
  • The baby survived while I cooked, paid bills, attempted to write.

But the list of cons is much longer:

  • Noise: It’s impossible to talk on the phone while someone is watching TV, and our 15-year-old dishwasher is running.
  • Mess: When I entertain, piles of dirty dishes and utensils attend the party with us. So, I only invite good friends who love my mess and me anyway.
  • Diet: It’s hard to fight fat when you work three steps away from the fridge.
  • Temperature control: The room is always drafty and hard to heat without the gas fireplace going.
  • Family dinners: Rarely do we eat a family meal without the TV blaring some must-see ballgame.
  • Unused space: My adjacent dining and living rooms are obsolete dust collectors. I can’t pay guests to take coffee there.
  • Teenagers: The baby is now 16, and would rather eat nails than spend time with Mom, no matter how big the space.


By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon © Copyright 2015 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

A Dozen Foyer Ideas for Under $100

A Dozen Foyer Ideas for Under $100

Published: November 19, 2012

When you open your front door, do you step into what looks like a lost-and-found? Here’s how to organize the jumble and avoid a bad trip through your foyer.

If there’s one place in the home that cries out for organization, it’s the foyer. Navigating it can even become a safety hazard, not to mention other dire consequences: Lose your car keys? Be late for work. Missing homework? First grader’s tantrum. Can’t find the dog’s leash? Uh-oh, puddle on the floor.

Whatever the size of your foyer — whether it’s a grand, two-story space with commodious closets or barely a space at all — here are the essentials for a more functional foyer that’s also more fun.

1. Wall color

Conventional wisdom often dictates that the use of white paint creates the illusion of larger space, but unless you have a really tiny vestibule, you can afford to go bold in a room you pass through quickly. So go ahead and wow visitors with a pop of something fearless. Orange? Scarlet? Teal? Washable high-gloss paint makes short work of scuff marks and fingerprints. A gallon should do it. $36

Do keep the ceiling white, though, to head off claustrophobia.

2. Easy-clean flooring

A foyer needs a floor that can handle the wear and tear of comings and goings. Sure, ceramic or marble are nice, but self-adhesive 12-by-12-inch vinyl squares go down easy, can be laid on a diagonal for a diamond pattern, and cost only 69 cents a square foot. Black and white checkerboard is classic and graphic, but you can also create stripes, a contrasting border, and any color combo you like. Just make sure you choose something that works with the colors in the next room.

3. Room divider

Don’t have a dedicated foyer? Create one — or the illusion of one — with a room divider to ensure the foyer and all the stuff that ends up there doesn’t leak into the living area. It could be a bookshelf, a screen, or a couple of IKEA’s new vertical 3-pot plant stands for a welcome-home filled with greenery. $40

4. Boot tray

Providing one or more trays for wet boots and shoes is a game-changer if all you’re used to is a pile in the corner. Go decorative if you like, but a large aluminum baking sheet with a lip, available online for $7, works just as well.

5. Bench

You need something to sit on while taking off those muddy boots. If it’s built-in and hinged for inside storage (think soccer balls, ice skates), so much the better. But a less-expensive option is to gussy up an old blanket chest or old camp trunk with fresh paint. Find one on eBay or in a thrift store or flea market and you’re good to go.

6. Key rack

Make it an ironclad family habit: When you come in, hang keys immediately on a dedicated key rack on the wall just inside the door, like this one. $12. DIYing one with the kids makes it fun.

7. Coat hooks and shelves

Be as generous with coat hooks as wall space allows, but don’t let things get out of hand. Stash anything not currently in season or in use in the nearest closet. If you need more space for hats, bike helmets, and items only the grown-ups need access to, add a shelf. A continuous shelf running around the room just a foot or two short of the ceiling makes use of vertical space and keeps less frequently used items out of the way.

8. Umbrella stand

Another must: a spot for umbrellas in a corner near the door. Buy a pretty one, or repurpose a tall wire wastebasket.

9. Table or console

If you have room, go for a narrow table or console for library books that need returning, outgoing mail, a lamp. Many available online for around $100.

10. Lockers or cubbies 

Really squeezed for space? You can still give each kid his or her own little cubby for books, homework, gym gear. Cubbies are available at all price points.

11. Mirror

A wall mirror for last-minute hair check and tie-straightening is vital. Bonus: It reflects additional light into the room.

12. Good lighting

The all-important entry area needs ample illumination. Did you know that outdoor lanterns tend to be much less expensive? Nowhere is it written you can’t use one indoors. Styles vary from rustic to traditional to Arts and Crafts. $50



By: Cara Greenberg © Copyright 2015 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®


How to Make Your Home a Soothing Sanctuary

How to Make Your Home a Soothing Sanctuary

Published: February 4, 2013

Give your home some love this Valentine’s Day (and beyond), and it will love you back.

Your home may never be a castle, but it can definitely be a haven — your own private refuge (at least after the kids are asleep) from the mayhem outside.

Creating a stress-free and soothing home environment can mean hiring a contractor to install serious soundproofing or a spa-worthy steam shower — pricey upgrades that are likely to add property value. But just as often, it’s about simple things you can do without laying out a cent.

Start by remembering to take advantage of features your home already has, suggests Gretchen Rubin, author of Happier at Home.

“Take time to light a fire in the fireplace, have coffee on the patio, take a bath,” says Rubin.

Ready to boost your home’s relaxation quotient? Here are some easy ways to do it:

Clear the Decks

One of Rubin’s “secrets of adulthood” is that outer order contributes to inner calm. She advises clearing open surfaces of extraneous stuff, cleaning out closets, and generally straightening up. “These may seem trivial,” says Rubin, “but this kind of orderliness really helps people feel more energetic and cheerful.”

Go on a TV Diet

Here’s a radical notion: Take the TV out of the main living space. There’s nothing tranquility-inducing about blaring commercials or the evening news. Consider eliminating all but one TV for the household. Put it out of the way, where flicking it on won’t be an automatic gesture, and feel your home’s peace vibe rise.

Listen to Music

Music soothes you. Of course, it depends on the music. Find a commercial-free radio station you like and keep it at low volume. You’ll be surprised at how the strains of cool jazz and classical music in the background soothe jangled nerves. A whole-house sound system costs as little as $400 for a wireless unit.

Muffle Irritating Noises

If you’re serious about blocking out noise — such as traffic noise — you can soundproof walls and ceilings by doubling up on drywall and caulking gaps where sound enters.

Carpets, drapes, and other soft materials help absorb sound. For walls, a quick, cheap, sound-muffling solution is Homasote, a recycled cardboard material that costs about $25 for a 4-by-8-ft. sheet. It doubles as a pinboard, making it especially suited for children’s rooms and home offices, and takes paint like a dream.

Soak Out the Stress

A prefab steam shower can run you $5,000 or more, but there are less pricey ways to take your bathroom in a spa-like direction. Hot baths have been used for frayed nerves and sore muscles since Cleopatra’s day. If your existing tub isn’t deep enough, a 30-inch-deep soaking tub starts at around $500 (plus installation, of course). Don’t forget the bath salts.

Color Yourself Calm

Blue is considered a restful paint color, which is why decorators often choose it for bedrooms. Followers of the Chinese art of feng shui believe pink calms a room, while green — because it symbolizes nature — is serene and refreshing. As luck would have it,emerald is the color for 2013.

Light it Right

Overhead lighting can be glary and unflattering, whereas light at lower levels creates warmth and intimacy. Balance an overhead fixture with wall sconces and table lamps — and be sure to put that ceiling fixture on a dimmer, especially over a dining table.

Flickering Flames

Sitting by a crackling fire has nurtured souls from time immemorial. If you’re lucky enough to have a fireplace, use it to create relaxing ambience.

No fireplace? Make the most of candlelight for a mid-winter mood boost. Plain, long-burning candles from the supermarket are so inexpensive ($7 for a box of 72), you’ll feel free to use them in abundance.

Flower Power

Freshly cut flowers provide measurable uplift, a new behavioral research study shows.

“People who live with flowers report fewer episodes of anxiety and depressed feeings,” says Nancy Etcoff, Ph.D., a psychologist who conducted the study.

Chrysanthemums last longest; they can go up to three weeks in a vase, with alstroemeria, roses, and lilies a close second.

Want more tips on how to spice up your homestead? Check out:

How to Turn Your Home into a Romantic Retreat

Romancing the Home: The Sexy Kitchen


By: Cara Greenberg © Copyright 2015 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®


5 Smart Home Products

5 Smart Home Products

Published: January 28, 2013

Would you buy any of the wow products HouseLogic’s intrepid reporter spotted at the home builder show?

After hiking miles of aisles past thousands of products (you’re welcome!) displayed at the 2013 International Builders Show in Las Vegas, I found a few designed to make your life easier, cooler, more efficient, and more fun. (Of course, many come with a steep price.) Come on, wouldn’t you want these?

Music in Your Showerhead


Credit: Kohler

Closet crooners, rejoice! Kohler’s Moxie shower head features a Bluetooth-enabled speaker so you can pipe your favorite playlist directly into your morning shower. The waterproof (obviously) wireless speaker attaches with a magnet to the shower head so that — even if you can’t carry a tune — you can detach it post-shower and carry the little speaker with you while you decide which socks to wear. The lithium-ion battery gives 7 hours of play and is rechargeable via USB. List price is $199.

Music Inside Your Bathtub

Can’t help but give innovative Kohler another shout-out for its VibrAcoustic hydrotherapy technology that lets you transfer your music directly into your tub via an MP3 device. Plug in your iPod, pick some mood music, and VibrAcoustic makes the walls of your tub — and the surrounding water — gently vibrate to the rhythms of your tunes. Talk about an immersive musical experience!

VibrAcoustic technology adds $2,400 to the price of your tub. Need even more fun? Include chromatherapy (colored lights) for another $600.

Solar-Ready-or-Not HVAC

Solar HVAC

Credit: John Riha for HouseLogic

Sure, you’d like to go solar, but maybe you’re not sure how to go about it. No worries — Lennox SunSource solar-ready air conditioners and heat pumps are ready when you are. When you decide to go solar and save on your utility bills, an HVAC pro simply plugs compatible solar panels into the unit — there’s no need to fool around with your breaker box or add a power converter.

If you’re not using your HVAC, the unit simply routes the juice from your solar panels into your home to power your appliances, lights, and other electrical goodies.

A high-efficiency unit runs $2,500 to $3,500 installed, depending on its capacity. Solar panels available through Lennox are $1,200-$1,500 per; a typical house uses at least eight.

You may be eligible for a federal tax credit of up to 9% of the cost of “solar-ready equipment.” If you also invest in solar panels, then you may be able to claim a federal tax credit of up to 30% for the whole kit and kaboodle. Check with your tax pro.

Don’t forget: Many states offer additional credits and rebates for solar installations.

Is Your Refrigerator in Hot Water?

Hot water refrigerator

Credit: John Riha for HouseLogic

Your refrigerator wants to be so much more to you than cold. The GE Café series has a touch-control, on-demand hot water dispenser that serves up H2O at four pre-set heat settings. You can get warm water for baking or piping hot water for instant oatmeal. Yup, you can get chilled water and ice cubes from the door-mounted dispenser, too. The sleek fridge retails for $3,299.

Even More Keyless

Fob lock

Credit: John Riha for HouseLogic

Biometric locks have been on the market for a while now, but Simplicikey takes high-tech security one step further: a handheld key fob locks and unlocks your door from up to 50 feet away.

Add the new Keycloud technology and you’ll be able to lock your door using your smartphone, tablet, and laptop. Use the Keycloud app to check the status of any of your exterior doors, even at a second house or rental property. Cost: $199-$279 (the app is free).

Private Screening

Bamboo curtain

Credit: John Riha for HouseLogic

On the low-tech end of things, I saw this at a booth and thought it was pretty clever. No, it’s not an actual product, but part of a booth design. Take a large planter, fill it with polished rocks, and stick some bamboo stalks in it to create a tres modern fence. Use it as an indoor partition or outdoor privacy screen.





15-Minute Home Makeovers

15-Minute Home Makeovers

Here are 7 house pick-me-ups that take about as much time as brewing a pot of coffee and fit your schedule whenever you have a few extra minutes.

Caught between your lack of time and the urge to give your home some spit and polish? Never fear. These ideas will add panache in no time at all.

Easy quick house makeovers infographic

1.  Switch the plates. Upgrade your drab, plastic switch plates with snazzy covers that match or accent your décor. Even the most expensive brass switch plates cost less than $20 each. Or, spend a buck for a plastic plate and decorate it yourself. Use craft paint, or cover the plate with decorative paper. You also can switch outlet covers, but don’t get too fancy. Outlet covers should blend with the wall.

2.  Touch-up boo-boos. A bit of new paint gives any room a fresh face, which is why you should keep extra color-matched paint after you remodel. Touch up banged-up baseboards, door and window trim, and wall marks that won’t wash away. Even spot painting requires care; use a drop cloth to protect other surfaces.

3.  Change out drawer and door hardware. Upgrade your kitchen or bathroom by installing new pulls and knobs. Be sure to measure drawer pulls so you won’t have to drill new holes. Check out these cute and economical ($4.95 for 8) zoo dresser drawer knobs on Esty. Home improvement centers have a large selection of inexpensive pulls and knobs.

4.  Update your mailbox. Bump up curb appeal by spray-painting your old mailbox. You can freshen the same color, or go wild with bright hues. Don’t forget to scrub off dirt and rust before painting with rust-proof paint ($6 to $12 for a 10-ounce can; lots of decorative textures and colors).

5.  Play the numbers game. Decorative house numbers and plates give your home a custom and classy look. Some numbers are quick peel-and-stick affairs; others you’ll have to screw in. They’re made of wood, plastic, brass, stainless steel, and other materials; $6 to $30 each.

6.  Embellish your throne. A new toilet seat gives you a regal bearing. Plastic and enameled seats ($12 to $25) in a rainbow of colors add a dash of panache; a solid wood mahogany or walnut seat ($45-$60) makes an executive statement; cushioned seats ($15 to $20) won’t make a lasting impression — and that’s a good thing.

7. Declutter. You’ll be amazed how a 15-minute daily declutter can make a room look like new. First, get rid of stuff from your fridge door: that large, blank canvas will immediately brighten your kitchen. Corral mail and papers in decorative boxes with tops that can close and hide the mess. Organize school supplies in caddies. Every day, tame a new spot.



By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon © Copyright 2015 NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®