Survey: Most commonly failed DIY projects

Key takeaways

  • Millennials were the most likely to say they believe they’re a DIY expert, yet they reported the highest average percentage of home DIY projects failing.
  • One in 5 attempted bathroom DIY projects ended in failure, according to respondents.
  • People were more likely to report fewer failed DIY projects during the pandemic.
  • People reported spending an average of $184.13 to fix their failed DIY projects.
  • Nine out of 10 people planned to take on another DIY project in the future.
Surveys

One part of the economy that the COVID-19 pandemic has not devastated is the DIY industry. Both Home Depot and Lowe's saw a bump in sales during the pandemic as people started taking on DIY projects. Sherwin-Willians reported record revenue amid the health crisis as paint sales surged. Americans decided to turn lemons into lemonade while stuck at home by using the time to improve their living spaces, and they're largely doing it themselves.

Almost 90% of people said they've taken on a DIY home improvement project during the pandemic. But how successful were these projects? To find out, we surveyed over 1,000 people on their recent DIY experiences. What kind of projects did they attempt, and how did they prepare? How many of these projects resulted in failure? And what did it cost to repair? Read on to see what we discovered.

Doing it yourself

Almost everyone has attempted a home DIY project at some point. From DIY decorating to low-cost ways to upgrade your home, there's likely a DIY project for everyone. Over 96% of our respondents said they'd attempted a DIY project, and 87% said they'd undertaken one since the start of the pandemic.

How proficient people are at home DIY projects

When it comes to learning how to DIY, the vast majority of people turn to video tutorials. Over 81% of respondents said they learned their DIY skills via video. The second most popular learning medium was getting instruction from a friend or family member, which almost 52% of people said they'd done. Nearly as popular, 51% of respondents said they'd read online articles to prepare for DIY projects. Only a select few were able to leverage their professional skills for DIY projects, and even less took a class or had hired someone who taught them.

Despite all this studying, 67.5% of people would not consider themselves a DIY expert. Perhaps this is in part due to the number of DIY projects that don't go as planned. Across all generations, over 1 in 5 DIY projects turn out to be failures. Ironically, millennials are the most likely to consider themselves DIY experts, yet they also reported the highest percentage of fails. So perhaps failure isn't as closely linked to perceived expertise as we'd think.

Where DIY goes awry

Even for seasoned DIYers, there are bound to be some failed projects here and there. We looked at the areas of the home where people were most likely to run into trouble.

Areas of the home prone to DIY failsThe bathroom is the most common place people attempt DIY projects, but if you're a novice DIYer, you might want to start with a different room. According to our survey, bathrooms are the most likely area of the home to have a DIY fail. Almost 1 in 5 people said they'd had a bathroom project failure. Experts advise against attempting DIY plumbing projects, stating that if you're not familiar with what's required, you could end up doing more damage than good.

The second most popular home DIY area was the kitchen. Coincidentally (or not), it's also the second most common area for a DIY project to end in failure – with 17% of kitchen DIY projects going awry. After the kitchen, the favorite spot is the yard or landscape. Almost 46% of people said they've attempted a DIY project in the yard. Luckily, projects appear to have better success outdoors, as only 14.5% turned into failures.

For the highest rate of DIY success, however, you need to head into the garage. Only 3% of garage DIY projects ended poorly, according to our survey. The deck and patio were also prone to greater success than most other areas, with only 4.6% of deck and patio DIY projects ending in failure.

Interestingly, people reported a lower average percentage of DIY failures during the pandemic than before the onset of COVID-19. Perhaps this is in part due to having more time to watch tutorials and make sure the job gets done right. There is something to be said for taking the time to do a job right.

The riskiest DIY projects

To get a closer look at which home DIY projects are the riskiest to attempt yourself, we asked respondents for the specifics of their failed projects.

DIY projects most likely to fail

Replacing a plumbing fixture was the most likely project to go awry, which coincides with expert advice to avoid DIY plumbing. They also suggest avoiding electrical work, but our respondents reported decent success when it came to electrical projects. Over 17% said they'd attempted an electrical project, and only 4% ended in failure. Installing light fixtures proved more treacherous with almost 7% of such projects ending poorly.

Other riskier DIY home projects were replacing flooring, which 1 in 10 people said had turned into failure, and painting a room with 7.5% of people saying they'd experienced a painting fail. Of course, painting a room was also the most common DIY home project for people to attempt with 58.5% of respondents saying they'd tried to paint a room without professional help. More attempts lead to more opportunities to fail. If you're thinking of a room painting project, you may want to get some expert painting tips first.

Or you could stick to projects with greater success rates, like replacing a showerhead. Over 38% of people said they'd replaced their own showerhead, and less than 3% said it was a failure. Repairing or replacing a roof also has a better success rate than most projects. This is reassuring given experts say installing a new roof is one of the most important home repairs to do in a timely fashion.

For the least risk of all, the place to focus your DIY efforts is on the power-washer. Barely over 1% of people who took on power-washing their home's walkways or sidewalks reported failing.

The cost of failure

Some failed DIYs are costlier than others. We asked people about the mishaps that hurt their wallets and the attempts that caused frustration.

Common mishaps with home DIYs

Over 46% of respondents said they'd run into DIY issues from not having the right equipment or tools to complete the job, and over 44% said they ran into issues because they didn't have the necessary knowledge. This should be reassuring for aspiring DIYers because both of these are relatively easy to fix: Just make sure you start by understanding exactly what your DIY project will require.

It's also a good idea to review the steps required to complete the project ahead of time, as 38% of respondents said they ran into issues after forgetting a step. Nearly 37% said they got into trouble after buying the wrong materials for their project.

Unfortunately, when DIY projects go wrong, it can be expensive to make them right again. People reported spending over $184, on average, to fix their DIY fails. Millennials, who were the most likely to consider themselves DIY experts, were also the generation who reported spending the most money to fix DIY fails. Meanwhile, Gen Xers were the most likely to hire a professional to help fix a DIY fail. Before starting a project, it's important to assess whether you're better doing it yourself or hiring a professional. Making those assessments from the outset can save you time and money.

DIY projects can also be contentious. Nearly one-third of DIYers say they'd gotten into an argument about a DIY home project. The person people were the most likely to argue with was their significant other, with almost 61% of people saying they'd butted heads with their partner over a DIY project. Family members were also likely combatants. People were less likely to argue with roommates or friends about DIY projects, and only 8% got into a disagreement with their neighbor over an attempted DIY.

The future of DIY

In the face of so many DIY failures, we had to wonder if people still plan to do it themselves. By and large, they said yes.

Future plans for home DIYs

Over 9 in 10 people said they would take on another DIY project in the future. That said, of the nearly 9% who said they were throwing in the DIY towel, 3% said they weren't going to take on any more DIY projects because they'd experienced too many failures.

What do DIYers have planned next? A yard or landscaping project, mostly. Over 1 in 5 DIYers said their next project would involve the yard or landscaping. Bathrooms were also popular targets, more so than both the kitchen and bedroom. DIYers were less interested in living room, home office or deck and patio projects. Less than 1% said they're going to tackle a garage DIY project next, a shame given our findings that garage projects are the most likely to succeed.

DIY the right way

Experts at the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University don't think the rise in DIY remodeling projects during the pandemic will continue long term as people stop spending so much time at home, but our findings suggest people's appetite for DIY is still strong. Still, DIY projects should be done with care. A project done wrong could actually lower your home's value.

At Cinch Home Services, we believe in protecting your home and making repairs cost-effective and easy. Our award-winning home warranty provides coverage for repairs and replacements on your home systems and appliances so that an appliance breakdown doesn't need to turn into a DIY nightmare. You can schedule an appointment online and one of our prescreened local professionals will have your home back up and running in no time.

Methodology

We surveyed 1,029 people about their experience with DIY projects, particularly failed projects. Respondents were 50.6% women and 49.1% men. Two respondents were nonbinary, and one identified as transgender. The average age of respondents was 39.5 with a standard deviation of 12.2 years.

Questions about the resources used to learn DIY skills, areas of the home people attempted DIY projects in, the specific projects people had done, common mishaps and people they'd argued with about projects were all asked as check-all-that-apply questions. Therefore, percentages likely won't add to 100.

People had to report completing a specific project or a project in a specific area in order to be asked about DIY failures. Therefore, failure percentages are of people who attempted projects.

Limitations

The data we are presenting rely on self-report. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include, but are not limited to, the following: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration.

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