What’s your biggest DIY fail? And your biggest success?

I think the reason so many people have a hard time trying to do things for themselves is they’re afraid of failure. Afraid they’ll wreck things.

Well I’m here to tell you that you ABSOLUTELY will fail and wreck things. Tremendous, mind blowing failures will occur over and over and over again. You will fail so huge that you’ll wonder have you ever made it this far in life.

My latest failure was my cold frame experiment. It worked to a point, but I didn’t pay enough attention to watering, the weather didn’t cooperate and I definitely didn’t pay enough attention to how hot it got in there. My beets rotted, the lettuce didn’t grow and my radishes seemed to actually disintegrate. So it was a complete failure. I grew precisely 9 little mounds of miners lettuce and from what I hear you can basically grow that stuff by accident. So this spring I’ve bought a special vent for the cold frame, will be rebuilding it a little bit and will definitely pay more attention to it. So yeah, I failed. But I also learned.

One of my bigger DIY failures recently was the great Plumbing fiasco. Almost an entire day devoted to trying to fix a portion of my plumbing stack that turns out wasn’t even broken.

My greatest DIY achievement? Probably rebuilding my entire backyard.


So if you’re new to this whole DIY thing, you’re about to get a whole lot of reassurance. Because every single DIYer out there has both fails and successes along the way. You can’t be afraid of failure because believe it or not, even failing brings you closer to succeeding. You learn something, figure something out, come closer to understanding how and why things work the way they do. You also discover new swear words and just how ugly your ugly cry can get. So it’s a win, win, win really.

For today’s post I’d like all of you experienced DIYers help make the newer DIYers feel better and more confident about their projects. We all fail, and it’s to be expected not feared. Unless you’re a heart surgeon.

Tell us what your biggest DIY successes and your biggest DIY failures have been. Because you can’t have one without the other.

Have a great weekend!

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  1. jeanne says:

    I have so many fails…I couldnt decide on one to write about. I am an over zealous diyer…I am so impatient and want it done now…I tend to read the DIY post and rely on memory to recreate (not recommended) I have tried building lockers to only have the nails all sticking through the back…I have tried to reupholster wing chair (argh) I tried making a huge clock from a pallet (its really hard to cut a circle out of a square) I tried making a rope light (harder than it looks) But I have also had some great success with other things…I made 2 8′ farm tables following the directions from Ana White, I knocked off Ballard designs spool table, I make awesome subway art, I have painted tons of pieces with ASCP…my successes have been more than my fails but man have I failed…lol. It all boils down to following instructions and not winging it like I often to do. I say to my self that looks easy I can do that and just go for it (not recommended) They give us instructions for a reason..I SAY read them and follow them, lol. I have had tons of fun along the way.
    love your blog!

  2. Jeann Gardner says:

    How could the fella leave you?!
    That backyard is awesome!!! My husband wants you!

  3. erin hall says:

    I am not sure what my biggest fail is. i have a several little ones. My biggest Failure around the house is for sure my lawn, seismically weeks. I think i could use my weed puller 2 hr a day for a month and still have dandelions. the people who lived here previously did NOTHING to control them. its so frustrating esp when i look outside after a lot of rain like we had and over half my lawn is yellow. I have spent HOURS AND HOURS weeding. my front lawn was replaced with sod 2 years ago and now its getting weedy too….. I want to build a veggie garden but I am afraid to do so because weeds might choke it out. thinking of raised beds but wondering how well that will go…
    One of the Biggest projects I am working on ongoing and is going well is the individual stripping of the paint off all the doors in my house, both interior and exterior. Strip sand prime and paint. Have been doing outside for over 2 years….. but then I can only do it on the weekends in the summer.

  4. Clairie says:

    Not my biggest DIY fail, but the last one: I was trying to make a chair bench inspired by this tutorial and even if it seemed to be really easy in final it looked, well, let’s say too modern… So I decided to dismount it and hide all the parts of it… :D My biggest fail was probably my attempt to make crystal resin jewellery: I prepared all for creating like 20 different things, used the resin but it didn’t cure right and stayed sticky, I still don’t know why. I tried it many times with different amounts or conditions, I checked the temperature and so on, but there was always some problem. I love this kind of jewellery so I had to ask my friend who makes it for me now… If it comes to some chemical stuff I feel like nothing ever works for me, haha.

  5. Ellen says:

    Best DIY success was relieving an actual plumber of a faucet repair he was obviously incompetent to address, ordering the guts online and rebuilding it myself by looking at the (Japanese) directions. Least successful was a KD stereo cabinet that I built without reference to the instructions and had to take apart and construct again. Never was quite right. I have installed several faucets but find that often it is not as simple as it looks on TV. Sometimes the original was jury rigged so intensely that I have given up halfway through and called in the pros with the pro tools. It’s still cheaper than not trying at all, because it reduces paid for plumber time.

  6. Rachel says:

    I thought I would try to lighten the mood in my living room, so I bought some tan paint that I thought would look really nice with the rug I got for Christmas a couple years ago. I started painted them and realized that it looked like I was trying to make my black coffee cable look like a light wood table. I didn’t really like it at first and was a little upset that I spent so much time painting the coffee table tan, but I looked on the bright side… it was only paint, I can just repaint it a different color. The silver lining…. I realized I really don’t like the rug in the living room and I’m planning to buy a new one to match the style I want in the living room.

  7. I tried making a fabulously sparkly, beaded DIY wall light that I didn’t think through enough and on execution it looked like a lopsided DIY hack job, from which I now have a load of clear beads begging for another project. But out of that fail came a creative rethink and this nifty, more streamlined adaptive reuse of a vintage desk lamp into a modern wall sconce: http://safaffect.wordpress.com/2013/06/15/diy-modern-sconce/

  8. LOL hilarious! All I can say about disasters are: We always learn from our mistakes….so I must be one of the smartest people around……

  9. Cathy says:

    I know that I have a lot of DIY disasters, but the best the comes to mind also involves a cold frame idea. We had these cement bulkhead stairs that led to the basement. The bulkhead door had long ago rotted away. My ex had this great idea to seal in the stairs for the winter and make a cold frame. We worked for two weekends, cleaning it out, scrubbing it down and concocting a plastic cover. All we got were more spiders, a few mice, and a lot of moldy pots of dirt. Sigh.

  10. Erica says:

    My best DIY was anything that led into hilarious laughter, regardless of how it turned out. My worst DIY was on my own I found a plumber to fix a tile wall that had a mold issue. A year later the tile started calling apart and the plumber is no longer in business.

  11. Margaret says:

    I would like to apologize to all the Art of Doing Stuff readers and Karen for my DIY fail, which was my cleaning tip about using oxi and hot water to clean mirrors and glass. It totally DOES NOT WORK. The next day after I was so proud of myself my husband walked in to our bedroom and asked what the hell happened to our mirrored wardrobe. I looked and sure enough they were cloudy as &$:). I had to re clean them with windex. I still use the oxi solution for sink, floor and bathtub. So yeah. Sorry about that one…
    I also one time spent a year stripping about about eight layers of paint off a side table only yo get down to the wood and decide to re-paint it.
    I love reading about handy people and imagining I am one. I am not.
    Love Laura’s fail!!

  12. Susan says:

    The person who said gardening is a science experiment doesn’t know the half of it. When I moved from Hawaii to California, I wanted to have a garden. I finally had the time to devote to one, and there was a space on the property already fenced in, to keep out the deer. Though it didn’t get much light, because of the very tall oaks and fir trees on the property, not to mention the apple tree in it, and though the soil was dense, red clay, I was determined. My husband tilled the ground. I designed and laid out the timer-activated drip watering system. We bought the seeds, started them, and planted the garden in the spring, after the last frost. Things were going well for a few days, but then spring ended and the hot 100+ degree summer began in May. Everything pretty much cooked. Nothing grew very big, and we thought the problem was likely that the little roots couldn’t make it through the very, very dense clay, which turned to cement when it dried. When I say cement, I mean cement. My husband tried to dig a hold in it, before tilling, just to see what it was like, and when he struck the ground with the shovel, the metal on the shovel split at the tip! So I studied what needed to be done to make the clay more appealing to a plant. I pulled up the drip system, and started tilling into the soil the oak leaves that fell into the garden that fall. I also read that shredded paper tilled under was good organic material, so I shredded all the bills after they were paid, and tilled all of that under. Three years in a row, I tilled leaves and strips of paper under in the garden. I always had to wait for several days of rain to soak into the soil, otherwise even a tiller couldn’t get through it, and I’d till back and forth getting down pretty deeply, turning the soil to improve it. In the spring of the fourth year, my husband had a stroke and the tilling didn’t happen that year, because I’m not strong enough to pull the blasted cord to get the tiller started, and he’d been paralyzed on one side by the stroke, and was hospitalized. I decided to check the garden soil to see how it was doing – maybe three years was enough dirt-pampering. I went out into the garden and immediately noticed that it looked bumpier than I remembered. I knelt and stuck my little garden trowel into the dirt to turn it over and check for worms, which I’d read was a sign of healthier soil. Instead of worms, I saw something that was whitish under the soil. I flipped out more soil, to see what it was, and found more white. I kept flipping soil in a larger and larger area around the white spot, and it was all white! It looked kind of familiar, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, and then it dawned on me…it had the look and texture of some kind of mushroom, but no mushroom I’d ever seen was that big. It was HUGE. No matter how far out I went, it was still there, just a few inches under the surface. I cut into it, to see how deep it was, half expecting to hear it scream, and when I still hadn’t reached the bottom after a foot, the hair on the back of my neck stood up, and so did I. Grabbing my tools, I ran out of the garden. I told my husband later that day while visiting him in the hospital that there was some new life form growing under the soil in the garden. He didn’t believe me, but it was there. It wasn’t completely solid, there were chambers to it that branched off in different directions. It creeped me out so badly that I wouldn’t even go into the garden anymore. I’m not too sure what’s going on under there, but I don’t think it’s normal. Nothing has ever broken the surface, so it’s hiding under there, doing heaven knows what. I try not to think about it! So my DIY failure was growing a large enough alien under the garden that I’m afraid to even go into it anymore!

    • Bols says:

      I am sorry but I laughed so hard at your story (except the part about you hubby’s stroke – sorry to hear about that). I have no idea what kind of alien life form is sprouting in your garden and it’s too bad that it’s preventing you from enjoying it but the story is just too funny.
      P.S. I have some unidentified alien fungus growing on my mulch, in plain sight. Not as extensively as in your case, but I have decided to throw it all out and replace it this spring.

    • Jennifer says:

      Susan, I’m the one who said gardening is a science experiment. I’m also sorry about your husband’s stroke, I hope he’s doing better. That alien fungus sounds totally scary! We have “hardpan” soil, but it loosens up after digging Amend or compost into it. You are one brave soul, and I hope you find another patch to garden in, or use containers or raised beds to avoid the problem of the soil below.

  13. Louise says:

    My biggest fail? I was 8 months pregnant and wanted to change something in the beautiful cupboard/ bookshelf combo I had designed, built and painted years ago. I had installed grow lights in the shelves for African violets, but I decided I didn’t need them anymore. I made sure I uplugged the wires, then stood up on a kitchen chair to cut the cords. ZAP! The electricity burned a hole right thru the blade of my kitchen scissors and I was only saved from a hell of a shock by the insulated handles. My guardian angel must have kept me from falling backwards off the chair, because at 8 months pregnant, I was clumsy and unbalanced. I shakily climbed down and told my baby in my belly, “Mommy’s not EVER going to mess with electricity again!” Of course, 2 years later, I was up on the same kitchen chair rewiring the lights in my kitchen ceiling! But I turned off the power that time!

  14. Valerie says:

    Am absolutely fascinated by one of the posts above…from Melissa of North Carolina who made a chandelier out of wax paper circles. I would LOVE to see a picture of that lighting fixture. I also enjoyed learning from Julie that attempting to fill a so called hollow core door with spray foam insulation doesn’t work. I tried foam insulation in a few nooks and crannies of our metal roof to keep bats out but after one winter of freezing and then thawing I found most of it in little yellowish clumps on our deck in the spring time.

    The most significant thing about all of the comments generated in this section is the determined spirit of all of the posters and their ability to take the failures in stride.

  15. beth says:

    /Users/elizabethsellon/Pictures/iPhoto Library/Originals/2012/Mar 29, 2012/P1000314.JPG
    my favorite accomplishment is changing our 1980 builders kitchen into this! please excuse the floor…its better now, finally finished it with hardwood. Two years later my fridge and dishwasher still need to be paneled but I really want to hire that out! It would probably cost more to buy the tools I would need than to have a friend make the four pieces I need!
    As far as fails go we usually never give up, we might take longer and make more trips to our favorite hardware place but we always persevere ! Great Friday post Karen! Reading the comments is ‘almost’ as much fun as reading the blog! happy Weekend everyone!

  16. Kristin Ferguson says:

    My successes and failures blend into each other, but I’m extremely proud of my pizza oven, my brick-and-stone patio- pilaster-pergola creation, my giant cedar table (on the patio, under the pergolas) with inlaid handmade green tiles (rolling pin!), and my new tiny little fledgeling business selling nougat candy. However, the pilaster mortar has cracked and needs to be filled in in some way, the giant cedar table warped in the weather and needs new grout, and I figured out that the nougat cutting, wrapping and labeling takes more man-hours than actually making the candy does. :( But I persevere. My mother always said, “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing half-assed.” I believe this. If you don’t feel 100% confident that you can do something, don’t let that stop you. It doesn’t have to be perfect to be a good start, so just wade in there and try.

  17. Jennifer says:

    I haven’t tried remodeling or refinishing anything, but I have painted a lot of walls in our home. Fail: I have yet to figure out how to get a super-smooth finish on wood cabinets and door frames. All the ones I’ve painted need re-doing. Success: If I can coerce a helper, I can paint a room in 2 hours, with me doing the cutting-in and either my daughter or husband handling the roller. That’s not counting prep of course, but a vast improvement over my first try, which was a full week to prep and paint our family room!

    I don’t count gardening as DIY. To me it’s a continual stress-busting science experiment, in a good way. I’ve learned a lot. This year I started Sweet-100 cherry tomatoes from seed and gave away over a dozen seedlings, extracting a promise that the recipients tell me about their successes or failures. Mine are doing great so far! (early spring here in central California)

  18. I’ve been lucky enough to had a few DIY projects work out, but the one I’m most proud of is my rehabilitated Craigslist dresser. I stripped it, repaired a few sections of damaged veneer and then stained and varnished it again. It’s been over two years since I finished it, and I still smile proudly when I look at it. http://sweetsuite10.com/2012/02/my-thank-god-its-finally-finished-dresser-rehabilitation-project/
    As for disasters? Anyone who DIY’s has them, and in my case they happen pretty regularly. I think the key when faced with a disaster is to stop, dose yourself with large quantities of wine and chocolate , and return in a day or so and keep going. Stepping away from a project that’s going awry will allow you to think the problem through and come up with a solution.

  19. Barbie says:

    … I don’t do DIY stuff. LOLOLOL

  20. gibbles says:

    Ever had to clean 3 lbs of wet feathers out of your washer?

    Last week I had the bright idea to eradicate some allergens in our bedroom. Vacuumed the mattress and box springs, cleaned the ceiling fan, ripped up the old nasty carpet without a hitch. Unbeknownst to me, my darling husband has been using the same feather pillows since the Clinton administration.

    I wasn’t doing anything crazy. No crazier than tearing up carpet, anyway. Soaked them in a hot water wash, no agitation. Took hold of the first one after the spin cycle, and it disintegrated. Leftover water and a billion smelly, wet, greasy feathers were my reward. Worst. Pinata. EVER.

    Come to think of it, the Rubbermaid storage bin I scooped the mess into is still sitting in the laundry room. Blecchhh. I bet if I opened it my face would melt like the Ark opening scene in Raiders.

    • Nancy says:

      I washed my son’s sheets after 9 months at college. They shredded to nothingness. He’s picky about sheets (believe it or not) and they were pretty nice sheets when he went to school but a certain period of never being relieved of human skin residue disintegrates the fabric or something. Something I can’t describe.

    • jeanne says:

      love it been there done that lol

  21. Leslie says:

    The shrinking garden. I’d weed it and water it and each day the plants looked shorter. I finally tugged at one and out of the ground it came, a gnawed little stump. Some subterranean bandit had been snacking up and down my garden rows every day. I was the farmer in a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

  22. Julie Misener says:

    Armed with one of those cans of spray foam insulation, I thought I would insulate the hollow core door from my basement into the fruit cellar. Hollow core doors are hollow, right? I was going on pure assumption. Didn’t even google it. So I drilled some holes in the side of the door, inserted the straw and let ‘er fly. Turns out hollow core doors are not hollow. The foam went everywhere. Everywhere. I was so confident, I wasn’t even wearing gloves and my hands were covered with that foam. After cleaning up the mess, I tried everything to get it off my hands. Soap. Toxic cleaners. Nail polish remover. Nothing worked. I ended up with a crust on my hands that was fuzzy from bits of cotton balls I tried to apply the nail polish remover with. Days later, I was able to peel it off. Figure if nothing else, it was a good exfoliant.

    • taria says:

      that spray insulation stuff should be illegal. Your story is pretty funny and it sounds like you recovered even if the door didn’t.

  23. Kelli says:

    I’m sure there have been many more but this is most recent.

    I live in an apt., so there’s very little opportunity for “big” DIY’s that I can get away with, but here’s my “biggest” minor fail: Found a fabulous 3-foot tall dark green glass lamp at a local thrift store. The glass was in great condition but the rest was not. There were lots of various bits and pieces I had to remove, strip, cut, tape, reconfigure, re-thread, re-screw, repaint, re-pad, and repair. What I thought would be a simple job took nearly an entire afternoon. After making many mistakes, and having to un-do, unscrew, un-thread, etc., then re-do everything all over again at least 4 times, I finally got it all put together, and was about to bask in my DIY awesomeness, only to discover that a little 1″ endcap—one of the first items that goes on the very bottom and the thing that keeps the center post from rattling around inside the neck of the lamp–was inverted. Which meant the post thru the center wasn’t anchored correctly. Which meant that any time there is any type of movement/shaking/walking around, the lamp rattled like a baby’s toy. But by this time I was DONE. OVER. FINI. Pooped. And didn’t want to have to re-do it all over. AGAIN. Fast forward one year, it’s still not fixed, and now it mocks me every time I enter the room by giving off a little reminder: rattle…rattle…fix me…rattle…rattle…forgot something…rattle…rattle…. :(

  24. karol says:

    My biggest DIY failure involved a murano glass bead class. I am pretty good at a lot of crafts and thought it would be so awesome learn how to make my own beads. It was a 6 week class in this wonderful hippy couple’s “barn” in August. In my first batch of beads, I used my favorite color combination of shades of blues and greens. I wanted to make myself a beautiful beachy murano bead bracelet. I learned very quickly that getting consistant shaped beads is very difficult. After each bead was finished, they went into an annealing oven until our next class. Our instructor had the beads in bundles on a long bench when we came in again. We were supposed to recognize our batch and take them to our seats. I saw these beautiful green, blue beads and was so excited. I gathered them up, went to my station to make more when I got a tap on my shoulder. “Um, Karol… those are not yours”. “THESE are yours”. And she handed me the most pathetic looking green blue beads, all misshaped, no two the same size. I laughed so hard, I peed a little, and was instantly humbled. I never mastered it, and now have a new respect for that art. I keep my beads on a string in my craftroom where they keep me in a humble state.

  25. Patty says:

    My biggest DIY success was tiling a shower in an old farm house. One weekend a few issues here and there but ended you coming out quite nice, if I do say so myself.

    This spring I decided, if I can tile a shower I surely can lay down hardwood flooring. If I have the right tools how hard could it be. Watched videos bought the tools and the engineered hardwood and set out to do the work. It took a good amount of planning; 2 long-long weekends; lots of swearing; and sore muscles but with a some help I was able to do the floor in the dinning room and kitchen. Woohoo.

    And then… a week or so later I noticed one board started to peal up. So after some more choice words I got down; examined it and what I thought at first was a buckling board looks more like just the top layer is separating from the rest of the wood. “@!#@#%!” I looked around at how much I would have to pull up to fix that one faulty board…”@!#@#%!” I took my large anti-fatigue mat… dropped it on top of it and walked away. I really do have to deal w/ it soon… but ugh!

  26. Helana says:

    Rental house. Cheap faucet. I decided that I’d install a better faucet. Watched a pair of youtube videos; the process looked pretty straightforward. Got everything out from underneath. Gave the water valves a half turn to shut them off– just like the toilet ones– and began unscrewing. In retrospect, I’m glad I started with the hot water.

    Half turn, of course, isn’t nearly enough, and water sprayed everywhere. Instantly soaked. Frantically trying to work out if there were more knobs, or if I simply hadn’t turned the ones I found enough. Meanwhile the water pressure means that the hose is flailing around; spraying everywhere. Cabinet is dripping, water pooling in the bottom. Carpet in the kitchen is waterlogged. Screaming for my guy to bring me a bucket, but he can’t find a bucket. So he brings me the trash basket from the master bath. Wicker. With holes.

    Takes every last towel I own to mop up the water. Cold water goes off without a hitch; so obviously I’ve hit my stride and the worst is over.

    Now, the videos I’d watched talked about a plastic ring, held in place by two screws. Simply unscrew those, and the faucet slid off. And that sounded easy enough. Folding myself into weird angles to get to the screws was a bit harder. And there was no plastic ring. There was a hole. And about six inches inside, buried between the pipes, were a handful of screws. And two very rusted bolts. Swell.

    Liberal application of WD-40 did nothing. Space was so tight a wrench wouldn’t get in there. Didn’t have a deep enough socket. Vice grips weren’t big enough. So sighed and set off to the hardware store, hair still damp. Chris at harbor freight was very helpful, very encouraging. Picked up the basin wrench the directions required, the plumbers tape, and a larger set of vice grips, and headed back home.

    Hour of struggling. Nothing. Worse, now the screws were stripped. Cursed. Thought for a while. Had the bright idea that maybe if I removed the sink I’d be able to get at things easier. Undid all the clamps that held it down. Damnable thing didn’t move. Ok, back to trying to get the screws out. But how does one get out stripped screws? Did some googling. Then took pictures, and headed back out, looking for screw extractors.

    According to Chris, sinks are caulked and screwed in place; so I was halfway there, and probably on the right track. And a new sink is not all that expensive– maybe $30 at the most– so if it was hopeless, I could always start fresh.

    Another hour of work and I’d managed to get the sink up about half an inch. Nearly there! Just had to disconnect the garbage disposal and the water pipe. More googling. Oh. That was easy. Simply slide a screwdriver in there and– Hm, couldn’t quite reach. Folding myself back into a ball, and leaned in under the cabinet. And as the garbage disposal fell neatly into my outstretched hands, I heard the ominous crack of plastic plumbing pipe snapping.

    I couldn’t figure out where at first, what I’d broken. Everything looked fine. Bit of tugging reveled yes, I’d managed to snap the pipe off. About four inches behind the back wall of the cabinet. Which was made out of something that wasn’t dry wall. So I didn’t have the tools I needed to get at it. Swell. I wouldn’t be finishing this one up without help from (and groveling to) the maintenance guys.

    But it wasn’t so bad. I’d simply load the sink in my car; head off to Lowe’s to find a matching one. $30 and I’d be back on track. And when we moved, it’d be a simple matter of dropping the old sink back in place. Yeah. As if I was going to do that. As if I was ever going to go near this sink again. In fact, if we just ate out for the next five years–

    Discovered that replacement sinks start at $60 and go on up. Fast. $200 bought me a sink and faucet; I have to admit that I considered that. Strongly. But instead I tracked down a salesman– Julio– and asked for help. Explained that I had a faucet already, but a new sink was a bit out my budget, and could he recommend a way to get the bolts out. “So … you have everything but the kitchen sink?”

    ::: sigh ::: But over to tools where Allen sprayed liquid wrench on the bolts, and, while we waited for it to work, I explained the backstory. By the time I finished, I had four salesmen listening in; teasing me, and making suggestions. He found a deeper socket set, and got the bolts off– one snapped in half: completely rusted through.

    Back home– it’s now 10 pm– and five minutes of work to install the actual faucet. Cake, really. Even getting the sink back in place wasn’t so bad, though the clip things that held it in place were an utter pill to put back in; I’ve a 12 pack of diet dr pepper on one corner until the caulk dries. For some reason one corner doesn’t want to stay down.

    The garbage disposal, however … yeah no. I struggled and struggled and struggled. That thing is heavy.I couldn’t get it back; so more groveling to maintenance tomorrow. I don’t know *how* it *just came out*

    Maintenance guys were very gracious. But I was totally busted. Guy fixed the pipe, put the garbage disposal back together and then begged me: Next time *please* just buy the parts. Don’t attempt to do it yourself. Ah well.

  27. AngieC says:

    Biggest DIY failure was painting the window trim in our new (to us, it was built in 1980) house white. I sanded and prepped and sanded and prepped and they still look like crap. The worst one is in the master bedroom so no one sees it but us. However, I keep telling myself that they will last until we can put new windows in.

    Biggest success was the kitchen Husband and I put in our first house. It’s gorgeous and straight and flush and best of all the real estate agent thought we put about $30,000 into it when we put in $12,000. Bought everything on sale, did it ourselves. We put the kitchen in in this house too but it’s not quite as flush. There were some places where all the shimming in the world wasn’t going to make the edges even. Sigh. But it’s still better than what was there before. The only thing we didn’t do in either kitchen was install the counters.

  28. kipper says:

    Most ego deflating: I spent hours making crocheted flowers for a friend’s hat. When she didn’t let me know if they had arrived in the mail I called her. Response was” Oh um, thanks, they weren’t very good so I put them in the charity box at the condo building”.
    Best DIY this week was putting brand new deadbolt/locksets on the exterior drawers. Another success was reupholstering a chair a friend gave me It was vintage yellow fake velvet Now it is brown floral pattern cut velvet, with matching upholstered buttons on the back. Everyone compliments me on the look and work.

    • Your friend told you the gift you made specifically for them wasn’t very good and then admitted to giving it away? Seriously? I’m mortified for them – that’s incredibly rude.

      Kudos on having the guts to upholster a chair – that’s something I’d love to try, but I’m terrified of doing.

    • Maria says:

      This is why you should never make that friend another thing for the rest of her left.

  29. Melissa in North Carolina says:

    My greatest DIY is the faux capiz shell candelier I made for my daughter using an old lamp shade and about a million 2″ waxpaper circles. The chandelier is awesome and my daugher loves it. My greatest fail was trying to sand some laminated kitchen cabinets…I was told they were wood. After all the disappointment I am gathering supplies to simply repaint them! If at once you don’t suceed, try try again. You’ll be glad you did!

    Great post and comments as usual!!! Thank you, Karen.

  30. Call Me Patty says:

    If we never try something because we are afraid to fail, THAT is the BIGGEST failure. We learn from our mistakes.

  31. Mary Werner says:

    My kitchen sink faucet fell off into my hands 5 days ago and it is still laying there. I stack my dishes in a tray and wash them in my daughters sink. I keep thinking that I will finally go to the hardware helpful store and ask for advice then I remember Tim the Toolman and how much his DIY projects actually cost when he finished. And how they didn’t actually work. Yet Karen is still giving me the stink eye for not trying and I am still sitting here with no water. Did she put this post up just to taunt me? My successes are still the ones in my head. Karen just shut up already!!!!

  32. Christina says:

    We’ve had TONS of fails, but they’re not really funny stories. Except for both the time we both stepped through the ceiling of our bedroom. We were turning the attic above our bedroom into a loft. So we were removing half of the attic floor/bedroom ceiling. We only had ONE 2′ square of the bedroom ceiling drywall exposed, and we both managed to step right through it while trying to prepare the attic. Hubs stepped through first and after a good laugh at him and mocking him with “Don’t fall through the floor!” every time he walked, I stepped right into it. That’s what I get.

    During the same remodel, I was adding an electrical outlet, but grabbed the wrong wire and shocked myself. It’s not nearly as bad as you’d think. It didn’t even hurt, it’s more of a surprise than anything.

    Our biggest DIY success, I think would be our whole powder room.

    • Karen says:

      Very nice job Christina! Love the stand you made for the sink AND the fact that you made your own sink, lol! Very impressive. ~ karen

    • Pat says:

      Nice powder room! My husband did the same ‘foot through ceiling’ gaff. Four years ago we fixed a leak in the roof over the kitchen and then had to fix the dry walled ceiling in the kitchen as it was water damaged. Lots of drywall dust and overhead painting later, lovely unblemished ceiling. Then last year when we added on (okay, I use the term ‘we’ loosely; my husband the carpenter did 99 percent of the work) a covered deck and he ripped off the roof over the kitchen to tie in the new roofline, he, yup, stepped between the rafters and put his big work boot through that lovely unblemished ceiling. He didn’t say anything to me when I got home from work that day, but I noticed it the second I walked in the kitchen and audibly gasped. All he could say was, “Crap, do you always look up at the ceiling when you walk in the kitchen?” I guess he was hoping I wouldn’t notice the big, downward dent above the sink.

  33. J says:

    The day after we moved in our sump pump popped apart and pumped water into our basement instead of OUT of our basement. We celebrated home ownership (and Father’s Day) by pulling off trim so we could remove the carpet and get it out of there.
    Our diy success came when our insurance said the trim was salvageable so they wouldn’t pay for new. The previous owners had apparently paid a three year old to stain the basement trim and doors before installing bc it was a horribly patchy mahogany/cherry color, with huge noticeable drips on the sides of the doors, that just looked awful. My husband and I sanded and sanded and sanded, primed, and painted the trim and most of the doors (we have 2 left–it was too cold this winter to do anything garage) and ignored well meaning mothers who said we were crazy and should pay out of pocket to replace it.
    Now we have fresh white trim in our basement and it looks excellent. :D
    and we have to finish the other two doors. But I hear spring is on it’s way so I think we’ll get there. :)

  34. Maria says:

    I built my chicken coop after seeing Karens coop. One year later it is still standing, still doesn’t leak, hasn’t fallen over or in on itself. The cover of my compost bin fell apart again yesterday for the third time cutting a gash in my side. Sometimes you can jury rig it with positive thoughts and a tube of super glue. Sometimes you woman up and get in the car and go to the lumber yard for more wood better fasteners heavier chain. Sometimes you set it on fire and call it a day. I’m not there just yet.

    DIY is not a product although hopefully you get something done out of your efforts. It is a process a progression of learning. If you want just product, IMHO, you pay to have the worker come and do it for you. If you want to learn and experience you first try to do it yourself

  35. Ella says:

    My success and failure is the same project! I successfully built a beautiful privacy fence in my garden (between our house and the neighbour’s)–entirely from DollarStore materials! It looked so beautiful all summer long. It is now in shambles, disintegrated. The winter was too much for that wee fence. I guess I should have used more than my Swingline stapler to fasten it together. ;)

  36. Terry Daugherty says:

    My most frustrating failure was something that seemed so simple a little kid could do it. I wanted to take down the curtains that came with my new house, wash them and put them back up. Of course the curtain stitching fell apart in the washer. So pull out the sewing machine and make repairs. Start hanging them and the curtain rods pulled out of the wood. Okay, I’ll move the hanger hooks over a little, and start fresh. Go to put the rods onto the hooks only to realize that the rods had been pulled as far apart as they could go without falling apart. Off to the store for new rods and of course new hanger hooks too. Drill more starter holes, screw in more hanger hooks, and
    finally get the curtains back up. All day to finish a job that should have taken 30 minutes tires tops not counting washing and drying time.

  37. Ann says:

    Gosh, I have had so many epic fails. But I usually still make them work so in the end I only consider them to be “lesser” than intended but useable. There are 2 chicken coops that are both occcupied. Neither is perfect but if I ever built another one, it would be the best ever. There is the hand poured, paver pathway thru the garden. The pavers took all summer to pour and mold. I tinted the concrete every color imaginable so the pathway would be very colorful. When I laid them into the path, I did everything they said to do. Dug out 9″, put in crushed gravel, compacted it down. Laid Roc-cloth and then 3″ of paver sand and again compacted. Used the proper edging strips and then laid the brick and used polymeric sand in between. Well the lower end of the pathway had the 3″ of paver sand wash out and now those pavers are all willy nilly. I have been planning on pulling them up and trying to fix it for 2 years now. Heavens knows when I will actually do it. And then there is my fish pond. Again, I tried to follow recommendations but not many were out there. My pumps are all very visible in the pond and I don’t have near enough power to run my waterfall so that it looks good. I did not do the edge properly and you can see the liner very easily and since I installed the liner upside down, you can see the manufacturers printing on it where the plants aren’t enough to hide it. But I keep it clean and the fish seem happy so I love it anyway. But if I ever did another, again it would be awesome!

    So as you can see, fear of failure doesn’t ever stop me.

  38. I grew up in a DIY family, pulled nails to reclaim boards as a kid, helped roof the cottage and build outhouses as a teenager and was presented with a set of basic tools as a wedding present. My father was an office worker but he built our cottage, our boat, beautiful furniture and did every repair needed on anything. My style is more “ancient artisan” but I can do basic plumbing, fix drywall, lay flooring, I built a shelving unit for my walk-in closet (which I never got around to staining) and last year I wire fenced my new yard for my dogs. I won’t touch anything electrical and constantly wish I had taken a small engine course. My biggest and most obvious fail is the floor of my store. It had many generations of ugly cracked tile, repaired with different coloured tiles and the whole thing was plug ugly. So I dug up all the existing tiles and laid heavy duty stick-down squares. Until a marathon “Leave It To Bryan” show-watching on my computer, I didn’t realize that a lot of the existing tiles were probably asbestos. And stick-down tiles don’t work too well unless the floor is level and this 120 year old building is definitely not level. To compound the fail, “heavy duty” in Home Depot speak is not heavy duty commercially. So the best thing you can say about the floor of this old convenience store is that it’s all one colour. Not my best DIY moment for sure.

  39. Merrilee says:

    These are great stories. And I love that Laura was worried about our delicate sensibilities (after the diva cup post- really?) I don’t know if was my worst DIY fail but it’s the one I thought of first– when I was learning to sew as a teenager I desperately wanted to make “jams” (please tell me I’m not the only one who knows what they are- nearly knee length shorts). I had this amazing tropical fabric and enthusiasm….but failed to read the directions carefully and ended up with something about four feet wide with leg holes the size of a pin. I still remember my incredulity, but also ripping it apart and getting it right. To this day I read the directions carefully until I’m sure I understand, so lesson learned. Maybe I can dig that pattern up- are jams back in style?

    • Maria says:

      The best part of this is saying yep screwed that up and then climbing back in to try again

    • cbblue says:

      I loved jams. I made them for all three of my kiddos. At least the toddler didn’t complain! My too cool pre-teens were less than impressed. Can’t we buy them from a store? I swear if I had given the shorts to the girls with price tags attached all would have been fine. I made them for myself as well. Just not in wild prints.

  40. TucsonPatty says:

    I sewn every kind of clothing and craft, I drill holes in bottles and put lights in them, I make snowmen out of socks and glowing orbs and paint ornaments and furniture and can repair anything that can be repaired with some sort of glue product.
    I completely and utterly failed at trying to fix the back of a chest of drawers that really should have been put out on the curb. For trash day.
    I wanted colorful painted sides to the drawers and began there, having young friends paint a side of a drawer. The drawers are all finished, but I took up most of last year trying to repair the back of the dresser. I have re-stapled, purchased a new staple gun, purchased even more glue, plastered on more than one tub of wood putty, gluing the de-laminated back of the dresser together, holding it down with bricks etc., and this week I finally purchased an oscillating multi-tool and cut it all off so I can purchase some kind of backing board and just get it nailed or stapled on and get on with it. Yeesh. It is going to be so cool when I finish/stop!

  41. Mel says:

    I actually had a go at making your awesome fairy light globes using the old glass light fittings. I even made a solar option using solar LEDs instead of plug in fairy lights. Unfortunately I didn’t buy warm white LED fairy lights so I ended up with these weird bluish glowing alien orbs in the garden.
    We’ve since put the fairy lights in a tree where they look significantly less spooky and I learned the difference between ‘white’ (aka blue) and warm white LED lights. Score!

  42. Rondina Muncy says:

    I am currently discovering that I suck at growing succulents. Again.

    I don’t like the way the nightstand turned out after I did the chalk-paint number on it. (Although the front door, little dresser, pots, and kitty’s casket came out great.)

    My biggest win ever. Ever. In my whole 60+ years of DIY projects, (dating back to the times when a woman walking into a hardware store was just not done) that included designing and overseeing the building of a home, doing my own electrical, plumbing, furniture refinishing, gardening, painting, woodworking, etc. is finally getting the guts up last week to use the contractor-grade nail gun I’ve had for the last 18 months. Overcoming my fear of the nail gun will allow me to use it to re-nail the trim on all the doors and windows (exterior and interior) in this ancient house where the wood is rock-hard , use the micro-pin nailer to add crown molding and baseboard trim, and most importantly—finish putting the new colonial Hardie Board siding on the garage that was turned into an apartment that I turned back into a garage. Yippee!

    • Anita says:

      Wow, Rondina. I am impressed. Will you please, PLEASE come to my house???

    • Sherri says:

      Wait! Did I just read the words, “kitty casket” in your post? You can’t throw something like out there and then just go on like nothing happened. Please tell us about this particular DIY project. Inquiring minds want to know!

      • Pat says:

        I had to go back and read that. I thought it said “kitty’s basket” like the rattan one our cat sleeps in at the foot of our bed. I’m curious as well, but hope it’s not too sad of a story.

  43. Pam'a says:

    My favorite victory will seem small, and it is, really… But it was the PRINCIPLE.

    One day, part of the plastic latch that holds the microwave door shut sheared off, effectively rendering the whole thing useless. After an entire morning calling all over the world, I learned that no, I couldn’t buy another little plastic thingy– I’d have to replace the entire microwave door. For $85 plus shipping.

    I didn’t have it. Even if I had, it was ridiculous. So, with nothing to lose, I tore into the door, took out the plastic thing, super-glued it back together, and reassembled the door. That was about seven years ago, and the thing’s still working. HA!

    • Irene says:

      Hahaha Pam’a!
      My husband did something similar to our now 28 year old microwave, except that the bit that broke was the top plastic pokey thing that works in conjuction with the actual hooked plastic latch. He took it right out and replaced it with a piece of wooden dowel. :-)
      It’s been working fine like that for about 5 years and counting!
      Also, when the glass turntable broke recently we couldn’t get a replacement, so he and the glass man got their brains working, used a similar one and ground and filled the bobble of glass that fits onto the plastic shape at the bottom of the microwave to stop the turntable from shifting to make it fit. And that was a horrible horrible sentence. And I rock at these technical terms! Right? :-D

      • Lynne says:

        I experienced the glass turntable breaking dilemma. Aha, I thought. I’ll just go online and find a supplier and order one. Easy peasy. Not.

        I could get one all right – but not from anywhere local and after shipping it was going to cost me over $100. What??????? Not happening, I’ll get a new microwave first.

        So, off to my local recycling/reusing depot. Yup, they had glass microwave plates and one would have cost me less than $3 – but at that point they didn’t have the particular one that fit my machine. Sally Ann? Same thing. I finally tracked one down at a local appliance repair shop – they happened to have one and it cost me $15. Fair enough. A darn site better than over $100.

        Who would have thought they were so hard to come by?

      • Pam'a says:

        I knew *exactly* what you meant. ;)

  44. Valerie says:

    A first, massive failed DIY project was repainting one of my first compact cars myself. The car was yellow – I should have appreciated the tell right there (lemon) but pushed on regardless. I purchased 8 large aerosol cans of royal blue touch up car paint from Canadian Tire and went to it. My completed article resembled an army camouflaged vehicle but was a great source of amusement to others with whom I shared a parking lot in Winnipeg, circa 1988.
    A more successful DIY project was completed when we first moved into our log home. The former owners had good ideas but took nothing to fruition. None of the logs on the inside were ever finished. I started with a hand held sander but after a month burnt out the motor and it didn’t get into the corners successfully. My next machine was something referred to as a grinder – a disc like piece of apparatus that didn’t use sand paper, thank God. It just ground away and smoothed out even on the rounded turns all of the interior surface logs. The whole affair took up July and August of 1996. I used many boxes of tissues to blow my nose. Now that was a frightful experience. That fall I had finished all the surfaces and followed with a clear varathane covering. The beauty of the cedar log graining and colour stands brilliantly out to this day!

  45. dana says:

    My last one was making jelly bean bracelets for my 5yr old for Easter. The blog made it sound easy. Jelly beans, thread, & a needle. Five jelly beans in I was cussing like a drunk Easter bunny holding cracked jelly beans, a sticky needle & thread, & with dog hair & fuzz all over me. It went in trash.
    I have made quilts, afghans, all kinds of things over the years but cant string jelly beans.
    My biggest diy failure was trying to paint two orange wingback chairs. It was a disaster. I was too embarrassed to put them in our curbside trash so we drove to Goodwill. One was halfway painted but the other was untouched.

  46. judy says:

    My biggest failure was going way into debt in order to fix the things that were actually wrong and prettify the things that would have been fine as is. Ultimately I would have to sell because of major line of credit debts. The buyers always loved the houses but we only broke even, just walking away with our original down payment. My only excuse is I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. I just put 11 thousand dollars into a new HVac system because I was afraid to buy the 65 hundred dollar one in case it was no good-I am in a hole and I can’t stop digging. I admit there is nothing I love more than tinkering with decorating and remodeling-should have been born richer and smarter.

    • Louise says:

      Oh Judy, I feel your pain, I really do!

      My problem is I suffer from hubris, or delusional self-confidence. “Oh, if a glazer/plumber, carpenter/electrician/etc. can do it, so can I!” This with no knowledge, training, skills, tools – hey, what could go wrong! (And oddly enough, I’m NOT a guy!)

      As for “should have been richer and smarter,” that’s a keeper and I shall remember that and make it part of my repertoire!

    • Mary Werner says:

      Judy, Judy, Judy – just call it a hobby! All fixed and happy again.

  47. Muff says:

    Shall we begin with the three (count them, three) different versions of the concrete block patio – it got progressively larger, and progressively more expert after our initial 8′ square too small to be useful attempt. For the fourth version we hired it done and excused the expense as part of the cost of two (count them, two) weddings in our backyard that summer.
    There are any number of garden failures and successes – suffice to say that I have learned to grow things that are hardy in my zone (mostly by accident and survival) and mostly tolerant of neglect.
    My best successes are probably homemade hanging baskets which are infinitely cheaper than really good commercial ones, and a true example of gumby gardening (you put some moss, you put some dirt, you stuff in the plants, root side in the dirt, and repeat until there’s no more space.)
    Suffice to say that it’s worth trying almost anything (I don’t try too much involving serious electricity or plumbing more complicated than changing a faucet) and the feeling of accomplishment that accompanies even the smallest success is worth every bashed knuckle.

  48. Christine says:

    Last summer, I thought how hard could making an outdoor fountain be….. The sound was like a babbling brook but logistically the water was going all over the place and splattering outside my tub. Unless I filled it every three days the water was disappearing. I was out there in the backyard today pulling the whole thing out. FAILURE, yes, but next fountain will be rocking because I’ve learned a lot.

  49. Chelsea R. says:

    It’s not my *biggest* DIY fail, but it is the latest one. In all fairness, three of us were involved so I get to split the blame into thirds, right?
    Shelving Fail

  50. Laura says:

    Back in 1992, I tried to copy a Martha Stewart idea–using cut fruit to block-print a wall border. I cut an apple in half, dipped it in barn red paint, and went nuts with it in the kitchen. Looked like an army of….(*ahem, delicate term ahead*)…vajayjays. Sorry to be indelicate, but I still laugh thinking about it.

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