Ten DIY Mistakes to Avoid

10 DIY Mistakes to Avoid; DIY Bad Habits; Painting Mistakes

Ten DIY Mistakes to Avoid: Painting Mistakes; Furniture Upcycling; Vintage Ethan Allen Dry SinkThis old Ethan Allen dry sink was in our living room in the house I grew up in. When I found out I was pregnant with Arabella, it was sitting unused in my parents garage, and I asked my mom if I could paint it to use as her changing table. It has a new home in our foyer now, but this was one of the first DIY projects I tackled, and I’m still addicted to the power of paint!

As a follow up to last week’s post about 10 bad habits to break in the new year, this week I want to talk about some nasty little DIY habits I’ve had and DIY mistakes I’ve made over the many projects I’ve attempted. I hope you can learn from my mistakes and avoid hours of frustration!

Ten DIY Mistakes and Bad Habits to Avoid

1. Starting a New Project Before Finishing an Old One

I think a lot of creatives are probably guilty of the same thing, but I know I have so many ideas floating around in my brain at one time that it’s hard to fit them all in. A lot of times I am halfway through one project, such as the dalmatian wall in my office I mentioned here, but then I jump in and tackle a different one instead, like my beachy glam bedroom I completed for the One Room Challenge. My office currently has one full dalmatian wall, one black wall, and two white walls that will eventually become dalmatian walls in that room. To be fair, I stopped painting when it looked like we would be moving to Texas (wasn’t sure how popular that choice would be with potential buyers! 😉 ), but we’ve known for nine months now that we’re staying in MN, and I still haven’t finished that project. I’d like to be a bit more strategic this year about the projects I tackle, and completely finish the current one before starting a new one.

2. Spray Painting Without a Mask

If you’ve been hanging out with me for a while, you know that I LOVE spray paint, especially Rustoleum Metallic Gold. I actually have a spray painting station set up in my basement so I can pop down there whenever the mood strikes. When I’m doing large projects, like my son’s bunk bed (future post coming), I make sure I’m in a well ventilated area and I wear a paint respirator… You know, the hardcore ones with the two filters on the cheeks that make you look like Darth Vader? But sometimes, when I’m in a rush and just tackling a quick job, I think, “I can just throw a quick coat of paint on these sticks without grabbing my mask. It’ll be fine.” Not only is that lazy and stupid, it’s all out dangerous. Those fumes are no joke! EVERY time I do this, I end up with a cough and respiratory issues, not to mention a terrible headache. You’d think I would have learned my lesson a long time ago, but alas, I somehow keep thinking I can beat the system. No more… 2018 is the year of spray painting with a mask!

3. Spending Tons of Time Researching and Little Time Doing

With so many ideas for DIY projects to enhance the look of my home, it’s really easy to fall into the trap of researching all of the projects I want to tackle, or perusing Pinterest looking for inspiration. Before I know it, I can waste all of my spare time researching, which doesn’t leave any time left to actually pursue the projects. This year, I’m trying to find a better balance between work and productivity. Sometimes you just have to jump in and get working.10 DIY Mistakes to Avoid; DIY Bad Habits; Painting Mistakes

4. Spending No Time Researching and Diving Right In

While over-researching can be a problem, the opposite is also true. If you dive right in with no plan, you are likely to make costly mistakes, or at the very least, end up spending a lot more time correcting mistakes. Before you start a project, make sure you have a basic understanding of the steps and tools required!

5. Skipping Primer on Laminate Furniture Before Painting

Speaking of mistakes that cost you time (and money), skipping primer on laminate furniture is a HUGE no. I learned this lesson the hard way. I purchased a second hand entertainment center that I intended to paint black and use as a shelving unit against the black wall in my office. It was a mix of laminate and wood, but that didn’t concern me, because I’ve successfully painted laminate before… One day over the summer, after sanding down the shelving unit, I ran out of time to start painting, but I was antsy to see how the black was going to look, so I quickly brushed some paint on one of the shelves. I could tell immediately that black was the right choice and that I was going to love the outcome. A few days later, the painted shelf seemed to be holding up well, so I stupidly decided to paint all of it without priming. What I quickly realized was that while the paint was adhering in certain areas, it was not sticking in others. And the shelf I had originally painted was starting to peel. Now I either have to strip the entire piece, which is really hard to do with laminate, or scrap the whole thing. Which I would be tempted to do because I only payed $60 for the unit, except that I scoured Craigslist and OfferUp for days trying to find the perfect piece at an affordable price. I’m hopeful I can still salvage the piece and bring my vision to life, but with the current MN weather and the unit being stuck in my garage, it’s going to have to wait until spring.Laminate Paint Without Primer-001

6. Skipping Sanding Furniture Before Painting

Similar to priming laminate furniture before painting, sanding any sort of furniture before painting is mandatory to get a good finish that will stick well. This is one of the few DIY mistakes I haven’t made… But I do know a TON of people who hate the idea of sanding. Frankly, I don’t see what the big deal is. I often think there’s a misconception that you have to strip the entire piece, but to sand before painting, you really only need to scuff the finish up a bit to give the paint something to adhere to. On a large piece of furniture, sanding should take no more than 15-20 minutes max, at least in my experience. You’ll also want to have a tack cloth handy to wipe off the dust and particles that get sanded off.

7. Leaving Half Finished Projects Laying Around

When I was working on my bedroom makeover for the One Room Challenge, I didn’t want to put my hammer and nails and other tools away every night, so to save myself time, I left them out. If I didn’t have children sharing my house with me, this probably wouldn’t have been a big deal, but as it is, I ended up with nails scattered all about our upstairs hallway. I had also borrowed my dad’s really nice wrench set, and the kids opened it up and got them all mixed up, so we had to painstakingly put the whole set back together. Leaving DIY projects out definitely invites little hands to investigate (read make messes).10 DIY Mistakes to Avoid; DIY Bad Habits; Painting Mistakes

8. Choosing a Paint Color in the Paint Store

If you are picky about color like I am, choosing a paint color impulsively at the paint store isn’t a great choice. Even someone with a great eye for color can make a huge mistake this way, because the lighting in your house is likely very different than that of a paint store. In fact, the light in your house varies from room to room. And said light has a huge impact on how your paint color will look on your walls. At the very least, bring paint chips of a variety of shades home and hold them (even better, tape them) up in a variety of points around your room. Live with them for a couple of days and check them in various times of the day before determining which is the right color for your room. If you are having a tough time choosing, you can even buy small paint samples of your favorites and paint them on in various places around the room. When I was painting Arabella’s room (pink, her choice), I was trying to decide between two very similar pinks. The pink that coordinated the best with her bedding felt a little harsh to me, so I also wanted to try a pink with some subtle purple undertones. After painting both colors in a few places around the room (above her bed, near the window, and next to her closet doors), it became very obvious that the one pink would be WAY too harsh based off how much natural light her bedroom gets. I’m so glad I took the extra time to figure out the perfect pink for her room!10 DIY Mistakes to Avoid; DIY Bad Habits; Painting Mistakes

9. Underestimating the Time of Projects 

If there is a kingdom of people who underestimate the time of a DIY project, I must be it’s queen. I like to refer to myself as a “time optimist.” Adam says to at least double the time I think something will take. If I think I can finish painting my bedroom in three hours, it’s more likely to take six or seven. If I think I can paint a tree on Arabella’s wall in a day, it will actually take three. But not anymore! I’m trying to be much more intentional about the things I take on, and budget my time more wisely. 2018 is the year to become a “time realist.”

10. Underestimating the Cost of Projects

I am a little better at estimating the costs of my DIY projects than the time, but I’ve realized that you need to budget for tools you may need to buy to complete the project. For example, when painting a room, it’s not just the cost of the paint, but also the cost of rollers, new brushes if you need them, any drop cloth you might need, etc… If you forget to factor those things in, you’ll end up way off on your budget. Also, allowing an extra 10% over your estimate to cover any surprises that might pop up usually keeps you within the ballpark.

If you are a fellow DIY-er, what are your worst habits or mistakes? Do you have any DIY horror stories? Share your top ones with me in the comments below!

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  1. Thanks for breaking everything down so thoroughly! I can really relate to point #3. I tend to research way too much. Wasted time! Enjoyed your article very much 😀

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