3 Things to Do When You Fail at a DIY Project

You’ve failed at a DIY project before, right? I certainly have, and truthfully, I think everybody has at some point, as evidenced by the abundance of #pinterestfail and #nailedit posts in the world. We get a good laugh out of those posts, as well as a nice feel-good feeling of “at least our projects aren’t that bad.”

But what about when that happens to you on a DIY project you’ve invested a significant amount of time and money into? It’s not so funny then. In fact, it’s more this sickening feeling in your stomach competing with complete despair in your head, and the absolute wish to just break down and cry for 30 minutes.

I would know. I’ve been there. A lot. And I have some tips for how to deal with it.

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1) Take A Break

If you’ve spent a long time working on a project, and it looks terrible at the end, you’re going to be frustrated. You are going to want to be done. You will want to walk away and not think about this problem for a couple weeks. And that’s okay. Give into that impulse. You will feel so much better and motivated after you’ve forgotten how awful this process was in the first place.

About two months ago, I mounted my new microwave above the stove in my kitchen. The kitchen was a complete remodel that I totally planned myself. Since I installed it completely alone, the microwave was particularly difficult- it probably took me three hours, and most of that was stacking hardback books on the stove to slowly raise the microwave into place and then fighting with the microwave to get it on the bracket. By the end, I was exhausted, sweaty, and sore, and never, ever wanted to mount a microwave again.

But, after completing the install, low and behold, the cabinet next to the microwave did not open.

I fail at DIY Projects all the time! This is a super useful list of things to do to make my project-fail into something better! #HomeImprovement #Fail #DIY #DIYProjects #AButterflyHouse

Here it is, not opening.

I’m pretty sure I can fix this (at least a little) by taking the microwave down and reinstalling the cabinet door so that it opens the opposite way. But do you think I was going to do that the night I installed the microwave? Absolutely not.

In fact, two weeks later, my dad came to visit. He offered to help me fix it then. I still said no, because I was not ready to face re-mounting that microwave. I know it will be easier with two people. But I had not yet forgotten the trauma.

We have plans to fix it at Christmas. I think I’ll be ready.

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2. Brainstorm Ways to Make It Better

I’ve screwed up a lot of projects. In fact, before writing this post, I tried to brainstorm a list. I keep adding to that list, because apparently I’ve screwed up so many things that I can’t remember them all. But, you know what all of those screw-ups have in common? They could be fixed. Some way, some how, I could make it better.

Take the doorway I closed up in the laundry room during my kitchen remodel.

I fail at DIY Projects all the time! This is a super useful list of things to do to make my project-fail into something better! #HomeImprovement #Fail #DIY #DIYProjects #AButterflyHouse

It looks great from the kitchen side.

I fail at DIY Projects all the time! This is a super useful list of things to do to make my project-fail into something better! #HomeImprovement #Fail #DIY #DIYProjects #AButterflyHouse

But the laundry room side? Not so much. 

I fail at DIY Projects all the time! This is a super useful list of things to do to make my project-fail into something better! #HomeImprovement #Fail #DIY #DIYProjects #AButterflyHouse

There is a giant bump where the new drywall starts. It’s been so long since since I’ve done this project that I don’t even remember why I couldn’t get the drywall flat. Regardless, it’s unattractive, and for awhile, I wasn’t sure what I could do to fix it.

But now I have some ideas. I could do something called a “skim coat,” adding watered down joint compound to the wall until things are even. Or I could add board and batten, but be creative about where I put certain pieces. 

I’m not totally sure what I’ll do. I’ll handle it when it comes time to remodel (or just plain “model”) the laundry room. But I have ideas, and that’s the important thing.

Can't Think of Ideas? Ask the Internet!

Brainstorming didn’t go well? That’s okay. Is there a DIY forum you read a lot? Post your problem there! Or google it- someone may have had a similar problem before. Still stuck? Feel free to shoot me an email (with pictures, pictures are great!) or ask in the comments below! I’d love to help out.

Absolutely Convinced Your Project is Hopeless? Take It Down/Throw It Out.

This is sad and depressing to do, but it’s okay. Keep in mind that you probably learned a whole bunch of things during the DIY project (especially since it was a major failure), and so it wasn’t a complete waste of time.

And for what it's worth, yes, I have completely, hopelessly failed at projects. This sad, flopping board at the bottom of my closet is all that remains of what was going to be a built-in closet dresser thing:

I fail at DIY Projects all the time! This is a super useful list of things to do to make my project-fail into something better! #HomeImprovement #Fail #DIY #DIYProjects #AButterflyHouse
3. That List You Brainstormed? Do Those Things Later, When You're Not Tired and Drained.

This goes right along with “take a break.” Now is not the time to run around fixing your DIY project (unless it’s something urgent, like heating or plumbing, in which case, pros are great.) Fix it after you’ve had a bit of a break, and are motivated to re-tackle it. I typically wait about a month or so, when I’ve forgotten how difficult the project was in the first place, and am tired of looking at it in its sad, failure state.

Failing a project sucks. Failing at a project that you’ve put days, weeks, or months into is devastating. But it’s going to be okay. Take a break, brainstorm some “fix-it” ideas, make a plan, and conquer it later. Someday it will be what you dreamed of, I promise.

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I fail at DIY Projects all the time! This is a super useful list of things to do to make my project-fail into something better! #HomeImprovement #Fail #DIY #DIYProjects #AButterflyHouse
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