A Fix or a Flop? When DIY Home Renovation Turns Iffy

Photo by: Fox Fire Real Estate LLC
September 4, 2019

Some homeowners take on more than they should with do-it-yourself home projects. They could wind up hurting their home value.

Homeowners hope to save money through DIY takes on projects, but some lose that savings when they sell. Chicago-area home inspectors recently shared with The Chicago Tribune some of the common DIY mishaps they most often see, including:

Using online videos as tutorials.

Homeowners may follow an online tutorial to install a bathroom sink or kitchen sink that can ultimately end up in disaster, inspectors say. “The hot water is always on your left and the cold is always on your right, but when you’re lying on your back underneath, they look backwards, so people install the hot on the right and the cold on the left,” Jeff Merritt, a Chicago home inspector who runs Homestead Inspections, told The Chicago Tribune. Homeowners may rely too much on YouTube videos by amateurs to guide them through house projects. When using online tutorials, homeowners should ensure the tutorial illustrates exactly what they want to do and to check with additional sources to confirm industry standards, inspectors say.

NAR’s 2019 Remodeling Impact Report on DIY Projects

Assuming basement projects are easy.

Finishing off a basement is a common DIY project, but it can also cause a lot of trouble for homeowners who don’t do their homework. “If you’re not doing the proper work, you’ll get dampness, puddling, and seepage,” says William Decker, the owner of Decker Inspection Services in Skokie, Ill. “And any time you have water and cellulose together, you’re going to get mold.” Inspectors say their suspicions are raised that mold or a damp basement may have been present or covered up when there’s newly replaced wood and new paint.

Failing to take into account air quality and venting.

Inspectors say an amateur mistake they see often is to vent exhaust fans and appliances into attics or the garage instead of outside. Venting warm and often moist air into an enclosed space can cause mold and wood rot. The air needs to be vented outside. Also, sealing vents at the roof line often requires professional attention, inspectors say.

Failing to keep documented records.

Homeowners should keep detailed records of the materials, receipts, and permits to all the improvements and maintenance projects they do, whether DIY or professional. “Make sure that what you brag about [in listing descriptions] is documented,” Corey B. Stern, a partner at Chitkowski Law Offices, a real estate law firm in Lisle, Ill., told the Tribune. “Make sure that what you brag about is documented. If the house has been on and off the market, look at the prior listing sheets and see if there’s new work.”

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