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10 of the worst DIY projects for your home

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The Internet is full of do-it-yourself home renovation tutorials, but executing them well can be much harder than clicking play on a YouTube video and following along.

Sometimes even simple projects that seem like quick fixes can wind up in disaster if the DIY-er doesn't have the right permits, materials or experience to get the job done correctly.

Although the risk is usually low of doing real damage beyond creating something that isn't aesthetically pleasing, a mistake could also translate into tens of thousands of dollars lost when it comes time to sell.

"Buyers right now are really savvy," said Danny Hertzberg, a member of the Miami, Florida-based luxury real estate sales team called The Jills. "They've done their research online through Trulia or Zillow, they're watching HGTV and they know their market data. When they're comparing homes and see that two have DIY projects that didn't work out and one has a professionally done renovation, buyers are going to go for that (third) house."

Long story short: Sometimes, it's worth the extra cash to go with a pro. Investing in a property upfront has the potential to pay off big down the line.

Here are 10 common DIY mistakes to avoid.

Adding a bathroom in the basement

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Most DIY plumbing projects are a big mistake. Not only can they be physically dangerous for homeowners, but they also could cost big bucks if they have to get problems fixed by a professional down the road or get dinged by a bad home inspection when they try to sell.

Among the bad plumbing ideas, attempting to add a new bathroom in the basement could be especially bad for homes -- and homeowners' wallets.

"People think it's a good place to try their hand at being crafty, because fewer people will see [the bathroom] down there," said Rick Phillips, a certified home appraiser and president of the Virginia-based Appraisals Guaranteed. "But there's a lot of functional obsolescence where the water drips off the countertop or the shower doesn't drain and water collects in the corners causing deterioration."

Adding a new bathroom could get homeowners a lot of bang for their buck if they go with a pro the first time, Phillips said.

"Obviously it depends on the cost of the workers you go to, but finishing a bathroom properly isn't that expensive," he said.


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Many homeowners think they can save money by painting the interior or exterior of their properties themselves. After all, it just requires a trip to the hardware store and a few hours of making back-and-forth brush strokes, right?

But a bad paint job can have real consequences, especially if owners aren't too handy with a brush and have plans to sell.

"A lot of people feel painting is pretty simple and that a fresh coat of paint does a lot for the sale of a home and gives it a fresh feel," Hertzberg said. "But for a lot of people who don't have experience painting, you can come in and see all the brush strokes. If people don't paint properly, it can look like there are two tones, or you could get paint on the wood floor or countertops. They start out with good intentions, but end up damaging the property worse."

Potential buyers will consider small visual cues like the crispness of a paint job to evaluate whether they feel right in a home, Hertzberg said, and if buyers get a bad feeling, owners could lose thousands of dollars in the housing market.

Installing “committed” home features

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"Committed" is a term used to describe semi-permanent aesthetic commitments people make that are uniquely tailored to their tastes, according to Phillips.

In other words, if homeowners decide to install purple carpeting or pink granite countertops, they should feel committed to staying in the property for a while -- or be committed to reversing the change before a home sale. A "committed" choice might not reduce the sale value of a home, Phillips said, but it could make the property harder to sell.

Homeowners may feel more inclined to make a committed home change themselves because these adjustments are often passion projects (Phillips recalled one homeowner who had waited 40 years to redo her kitchen in bright orange), but it's probably not a great choice. Long-term design decisions deserve high-quality work done by a pro.

Installing your own kitchen cabinetry and appliances

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Kitchen renovations can be a big job, but they could be an even bigger job -- and expense -- if homeowners try to install their own cabinets and appliances.

Hertzberg pointed out that new cabinetry, refrigerators, dishwashers and built-in microwaves can be expensive, so it makes more sense to hire someone who can install everything the right way the first time.

"People who redo their kitchens themselves sometimes try to install their own cabinetry," he said. "They'll buy premade things from places like Ikea. Unless they really have the skill set, it shows. You might end up with a sloped cabinet or put the wrong doors in the wrong places so they don't open correctly -- it's a space planning issue."

Tile work

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Doing good tile work is more than just lining up little squares, said Nicholas Colagiovanni, a Chicago-based Realtor.

Like painting, laying down new tile in the kitchen, bathroom or entryway can be a great way to improve the look and feel of a property, whether owners are planning to stay or sell. Also like painting, however, doing a poor job could send the wrong message to visitors and potential buyers, indicating that owners aren't invested enough in their homes to spend money on professional-quality work.

"There are certainly enough tradespeople who are appropriate, accurate and economical," Colagiovanni said. "Most people who decide to do DIY projects and save a couple bucks get what they pay for. We as homeowners can't forget about the monetary value of our time. Ask your broker to recommend someone and then interview a few people."

Adding an upstairs laundry room

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Turning an upstairs laundry room installation into a DIY project can have serious consequences. It's another plumbing mistake that could cause damage comparable to the kind resulting from a leaky roof: mold or mildew, ceiling damage, structural problems and rotting floors.

"I just saw a laundry closet where the owners did it themselves," Phillips said, "and it leaked down onto the main floor. That could potentially happen with a professional installation, but it's probably less likely and those people probably have insurance. You might want to have someone else do it just for the insurance."

Installing your own carpeting or hardwood flooring

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Flooring is an important part of the appearance and usability of any home. Since every room has a floor, it's also something visitors and potential buyers are bound to notice quickly -- especially if there's a problem that makes it challenging to walk around.

Flooring is one of those basic projects around the house that not only takes know-how, it requires professional tools, Colagiovanni said.

"You've got to use the right stuff," he added. "It's just like anything. I go to the dentist's office to get my teeth cleaned. I'm not going to do it myself with the technology they use for teeth cleaning."

Converting indoor/outdoor spaces

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Some homeowners are keen to turn their useless indoor-outdoor spaces into functional extra rooms. This isn't always a smart choice, even if the property is located in a relatively temperate climate with easy-to-predict weather patterns, because sheds and garages weren't designed with full-time indoor living in mind.

"We see this in Miami sometimes," Hertzberg said. "People try to convert their garages into bedrooms themselves, and that's a major issue. When people walk into the house, it's completely obvious what used to be the garage. Sometimes sloppy flooring is laid down. Sometimes people add a sloppy makeshift bathroom."

The reason it's so obvious when this type of DIY project fails, according to Hertzberg, is that it usually requires owners to take on the challenge of raising the floors and lowering the ceilings of their garages. Those projects can be "scary" if people don't know what they're doing, he said, and really require assistance from a contractor.

Building your own backyard deck

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Apart from the obvious concern that a badly build deck could collapse while a homeowner's family and friends are on it, decks placed in the wrong spot could also make it harder to access important parts of a property, according to Phillips.

"I've seen DIY decks where after the people put them in they couldn't access their crawl space or water spigot," he said. "That could cause a water collection that causes leaks or prevents access to stuff you should be able to have a workman access from time to time if something goes wrong. ... I've even seen decks that had to be cut off after they were built because the owners didn't get a permit and built onto their neighbor's lawn."

Phillips also noted that an incorrectly stained deck could damage the existing exterior of a home by splashing onto brick, side panels or windows.

"If you don't know how to do them right, then definitely have someone else do it," he said.

Fixing the roof

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Fixing expensive roof problems may be the bane of every homeowner's existence, but that doesn't mean it's the right place to cut corners (so to speak). Getting up that high on a ladder can put the lives of DIY-ers in serious danger, plus without the right expertise, it can be difficult to correctly identify the source of leaks or other issues.

DIY roof repairs can also have a seriously negative impact on a home's value, according to Hertzberg.

"Cosmetic issues can be fixed," he said, "but if someone has taken on an operational function of the home -- the foundation or the roof, etc. -- those types of items put up red flags for buyers. They're going to want a huge [price] reduction to address the issues."

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