The Housing Scene by Lew Sichelman

Installing Floor Tiles Tops List of ‘Most Regretted DIYs’

If you’ve ever smashed your thumb with a hammer while doing a home improvement project, there’s no need to feel foolish. Fully 6 percent of everyone answering a survey on do-it-yourself projects has injured themselves on the job.

To add insult to injury, no pun intended: One in 12 respondents to the survey by ImproveNet -- a website that connects consumers with contractors and other pros -- has also damaged his or her home in the process.

These aren’t necessarily mistake-prone amateurs, either. The 2,000 people who responded to the poll reported having undertaken an average of eight DIY projects. Sixty-three percent of them regret having done at least one of those jobs, and 1 in 3 has hired a professional to redo the work.

Failures don’t necessarily come from winging it, either: Respondents put in an average of six hours of research before starting their projects. Sources included YouTube videos (65 percent), home improvement websites (51 percent), friends or family members (45 percent), store clerks (20 percent), books or magazines (16 percent) and television shows (14 percent).

Why do so many homeowners go to all this trouble?

Whether we’re “just up for a challenge” or “don’t have the budget to hire a pro,” says ImproveNet, “we share the glorious pastime of DIY home improvement projects. But they don’t all turn out well ... Many of them fail, and some become legendary disasters.”

Based in Evanston, Illinois, ImproveNet claims to have helped 867,000 homeowners with their home improvements since 1996. The site features a handy grading chart of which kind of tasks are particularly daunting, all the way down to the tasks that are so easy they seem to do themselves.

The most regretted? Installing floor tiles, followed by replacing ceilings and refinishing hardwood floors. The easiest to get done? Installing lighting, adding trees and shrubs, and installing trim and moldings.

Interior painting is the most popular job among the do-it-yourselfers, with 40 percent reporting they’d tried it. The second-most popular task, also rated the second-easiest, is adding trees or shrubs, which 20 percent of the respondents tried.

The third most popular job is interesting, because it is also the most regretted: installing floor tiles. Twenty percent of these home improvers have given this a go.

The least popular jobs are also the most difficult. Just 2 percent had tried to install a fireplace, while only 3 percent have taken a crack at repairing foundations or adding or expanding a room.

The most problematic areas in a home to improve, according to survey respondents, are what you might expect: floors (40 percent), adding or expanding rooms (35 percent), and walls and ceilings (31 percent).

Why DIY? To save money, naturally. Fifty-six percent wanted to keep more in their wallets and fork over less to contractors. “On average, people hope to save at least 60 percent of what they would have to pay a professional,” according to the company.

But the really hardcore DIYers said they wanted to do it themselves because it was fun (14 percent). And some were looking for a challenge (20 percent).

What went wrong? In addition to injuring themselves or damaging their homes, the survey says 55 percent found the job took longer than expected, half found it too much of a physical challenge, 48 percent found it technically harder than anticipated, and 17 percent thought it just cost too much.

“On average, when DIY projects run over budget, people spend nearly two times what they projected,” according to ImproveNet. “On average, when DIY projects run long, people spend 22 hours more than they expected.”

The top reasons why home improvers were disappointed in their own handiwork were: It didn’t look good (55 percent), it didn’t function well (24 percent) and it didn’t hold up well over time (21 percent).

Enjoyable experience or not, the home improvement field remains a big market. In 2017, 1.1 million prospective borrowers applied for a home improvement loan, with about half of those getting approved, according to data from the LendingPatterns application of ComplianceTech, a Virginia software vendor. About $80 million in home improvement financing was granted by lenders in 2017, with an average loan of $6,900.

If you are doing a project, be safe. The most likely ones you will be injured on are installing fireplaces, installing windows and foundation work.

In the meantime, remember: Measure twice, cut once.

-- Freelance writer Mark Fogarty contributed to this report.