You thought you’d save a few bucks by fi up your home yourself. But you didn’t count on making that big boo-boo. Now what? “Almost every mistake can be fixed by someone,” says Jodi Marks, a licensed contractor and author of Fix It in a Flash: 25 Common Home Repairs and Improvements. “And if someone can fix it, why can’t that someone be you?” Here’s how to get past the most common DIY mistakes when redecorating or renovating.
You thought you loved it, but it’s not what you expected. “Fortunately, there are many fixes,” says Sarah Saucedo, who blogs at ThriftyDecorChick.com. “Use masking tape to make vertical sections; then, paint stripes in a lighter shade. Or try adding large-scale graphic stencils.” You can also tone down the color by applying a sheer glaze over it. Or cover the wall with art so that only a little paint peeks through.
Next time: Buy sample jars to paint swatches in several areas of the room (or paint a poster board you can move around) before deciding on a color.
Get a commercial grout haze remover (not grout cleaner) or caulk remover from the home store. For tiles, dab a drop of the grout haze remover in small areas; then, sponge the section clean with water. For removing excess caulk, apply caulk remover and scrape it out with a plastic putty knife. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions; you may need to leave products in place for a few minutes.
Next time: Don’t cut too much off the caulk tube to avoid getting a sloppy bead of caulk. Also, use painter’s tape to protect areas from caulk. Grout haze can’t be avoided because you must drag grout across the tile to get it in joints.
If the blob is still wet, blot it with a rag and touch up the surface with fresh paint, if necessary, suggests Marks. If it’s dry, hold a plastic putty knife at an angle and peel off the drip, being careful not to gouge the surface. No dice? Use very fine 400 grit sandpaper to buff the area flat. Paint the section, let it dry and then add another coat.
Next time: Use a paint grid or screen on top of your bucket to allow excess paint to drip off your roller before use. Also, double-check your work so you can smooth drips with a brush before they dry.
First, dab a glob of spackling over the hole with a putty knife or your finger, says Marks. Once dry, sand smooth with 220-grit sandpaper. Follow up with a coat of primer, then two coats of paint. If your hole is larger than an inch, use fiberglass mesh tape about half an inch wider than the repair area (repair kits with mesh tape and everything else you need are available at most home stores). Apply and smooth joint compound over the mesh tape with a putty knife. Once dry, sand and apply one more coat of joint compound. Sand again, prime and paint. Don’t attempt to rehang the item in the patched hole; it won’t be strong enough to support any weight.
Next time: Use a wall anchor designed to hold heavy items without damaging the wall. Read the packaging to make sure you use the appropriate anchor for your item’s weight.
Deep, saturated greens and blues are hot. But too much of a good thing can be overwhelming. “While it’s not necessary to go monochromatic throughout the house, it’s easier on the eyes to use colors that gently transition from one room to another,” says Marks. To create a more harmonious feel—without repainting—fill each room with neutral-colored accessories.
Next time: Use paint chip cards to pick different shades in the same palette. For example, try cream for the kitchen and café au lait brown for the living room. Or paint a single accent wall a bold color instead of an entire room.
If your first piece is askew, the whole room will be off, so take it down and start over. Since corners aren’t always straight, measure out from the corner instead of beginning there. If your paper is 21” wide, for example, measure 20½” out to give yourself some wiggle room. Drop down a few inches from the ceiling and use a level to draw a vertical plumb line the length of the wall. Next, place the edge of your first piece of wallpaper against the plumb line. Butt up adjacent pieces against the first piece. Make a new plumb line each time you turn a corner.
Next time: Houses settle over time, so don’t trust your walls and floors to be straight; always draw a plumb line as your starting point for wallpaper.
Heavily pigmented colors such as deep blues, hunter greens and reds aren’t easy to cover. Instead of layering on paint, apply a latex primer coat (or two, if you’re still seeing a lot of the original color after the first coat dries) to block and seal the old pigments, says Marks. Then, paint on two coats of the new color.
Next time: Always use a primer (or paint and primer combination product) to cover vivid colors.
One of the most common reasons new fixtures leak is because the old sealing materials, such as plumber’s putty, threaded seal tape or the wax ring under the toilet, are still there, says Marks. So un-install the fixture (sorry), remove all traces of old sealants (you may need to use silicone caulk remover) and reinstall with fresh sealants.
Next time: Use a plastic putty knife to scrape out all remnants of the original sealants before installing a new plumbing fixture.
If you’re replacing an old fixture with a larger, heavier one, you’ll need reinforcement. Remove the wobbly fixture and install a ceiling fan box or safety brace, an electrical box with long metal arms that fit between ceiling joists first. Then, reinstall the new fixture inside the brace.
Next time: Check the weight of your new fixture before hanging; when in doubt, install a ceiling fan box or safety brace.
If you’re trying to be frugal, you may be tempted to cut pieces as small as possible to avoid wasting fabric, but that can be a big mistake. “If this happens, I sew the scraps together,” says Jessica Bruno, who blogs at FourGenerationsOneRoof.com. “It’s not ideal, but if you’re on a budget, you can salvage the fabric.” You can also use no-sew fusible bonding tape to piece scraps together. And if you’re buying fabric, get two extra yards just to be safe, advises Bruno.
Next time: Measure twice, cut once—for any home project!