Avoiding DIY Renovation Disasters

Before you get started with your DIY projects, check for possible disasters.

Look for water and other damage before your problem gets out of control.

All too often, DIY projects go the way of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, the children’s book by Laura Numeroff — meaning one thing leads to another. Before you know it, your simple front door change-out has exposed a rotted threshold and misaligned framing, which then led to four trips to the hardware store and, ultimately, a call to the experts to contain the situation.

“Any time you get into a remodeling project, you don’t know what you’ll find,” says Joe Maykut, director of interior products for Sears Home Improvements.

His advice? “Expect the unexpected.”

Easier said than done. But you can plan ahead — and know when to call in a professional.

What Lies Ahead

Maykut says he most often sees DIYers tackling plumbing, painting and cabinet replacement or refinishing jobs.

“Painting is usually a DIY project,” he says, “but many of the other projects can come around and bite you.”

As satisfying as it feels to rip things apart, first determine what you’re getting into.

“If there’s water damage or a leak in your bath or kitchen, start at the lowest level and work your way up,” Maykut says. “Check the basement and crawl space. Wood will give you a fingerprint of any water that might have existed.”

If you’re replacing a toilet, look for sponginess or a soft spot in the floor.

“It could be that the wax ring has been leaking over the years, and the floor area around the flange is rotting,” Maykut says. “Or it could be a sign of structural damage. It’s best to call a professional. Let the experts do what they do best.”

Discolored or darkened painted surfaces, especially in wet areas like the shower, may mean mold. Dampness may also point to rotted wood or termite damage. By digging behind the drywall and making sure your home is structurally sound, you’ll see what the damage is. And you should address it now as opposed to later — with the help of a trusted expert.

Cabinet Catastrophes

Installing cabinets: Hire a professional to get accurate measurements. It’s like a puzzle, and there’s no fudge factor. If the cabinets don’t fit, the countertop may be off and the sink won’t work — it’s the mouse and cookie chain reaction again. Plus, some cabinets may have a four-to-six-week lead time for delivery. One wrong measurement can set you back months.

Refinishing cabinets: Keep in mind that your cabinets might not be good candidates for repainting or staining.

“People think they can just go ahead and get the old paint off and sand and restain,” Maykut says. “But once they strip the paint, they find out the door is plywood and they can’t sand it because they’re sanding into the plies of the cabinet and they don’t have a finished cabinet to work with anymore.”

Whether you’re swapping out cabinets or putting in a new toilet, there are some projects that get out of hand. If that DIY project has turned into an SOS, give the Sears Blue Service Crew a call at 1-888-565-4048. It’s always better to nip a disaster in the bud — before it gets out of control.

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