DIY Disasters: Advice for When it Goes Wrong

Pink Paint

Since the pandemic began, there’s been a boom in do-it-yourself projects. With people spending more time in their homes, many are lending their extra hours to renovations and home improvements.

Did you know:

  • 49% of Brits have done more DIY since the start of the first lockdown
  • Brits spent an average of £1,954 on home improvements over the past year
  • On average, DIY-ers have had four mishaps since the start of lockdown
  • Materials were the biggest unexpected cost faced by DIY-ers

Whether they’re small tasks or large projects, plenty of people have experienced DIY gone wrong. With home improvements on the brain, we asked Brits about their most recent DIY projects. We uncovered plenty of do-it-yourself disasters, ranging from a poorly constructed ottoman to homemade coffee-coloured paint.

So, what do you do when renovations go wrong? In this guide, we’ll look at some of the spectacular home improvement failures you shared with us, plus DIY tips and tricks on how they could have been avoided.


“Had my kitchen done ... only for me to be unable to reach the top half of it.”

The best DIY advice is to plan, plan, and plan again. For those investing in a new kitchen, it’s crucial to take measurements correctly — or it might be a costly mistake if you don’t.

Top of the range renovations could cost up to £14,000. Take a look at our guide on the different types of costs when buying a new kitchen.

When you’re spending a big budget on a kitchen renovation, you don’t want any regrets. Here are our top tips when planning a new kitchen:

  • Consider the kitchen layout carefully — make sure all your cupboards and appliances are within reaching distance
  • Don’t forget to plan the kitchen lighting or you might be cooking in the dark
  • Fit the flooring before you install the cabinets, so the entire project can benefit from a smooth installation
  • If taking your own measurements, write these in millimetres so that they are as accurate as possible
  • Taking accurate height measurements is critical, therefore make a note of your space’s shortest and tallest points

There are many online resources that can help you measure for a new kitchen, including video tutorials.


“I painted my living room whilst drunk … the lines are pretty wonky!”

Things don't always turn out the way we plan. It could be a good idea to sleep on your exciting DIY project before making a start. That way, you'll be able to plan for the task and make sure you have all of the necessary tools and materials.

34% of Brits that we surveyed said they’d claimed a professional’s painting work as their own. So, what happens if you do the work yourself and make a mistake? Many of us may be bold enough to take on the challenge, but being prepared can save you time and money.

Here are our go-to tips when sprucing up your walls with a new lick of paint:

  • Cover your floor and furniture with dust sheets to avoid accidental paint splatters or spillages
  • A clean, smooth surface is best, so make sure to prep your walls
  • Use tape to cover sockets and skirting boards
  • If the walls are already dark, consider using a primer first

If you’re looking for more projects to tackle, explore our guide on easy home improvement ideas for DIY beginners. Alternatively, you could consider hiring a professional to do the work and then claim the credit later...


“My mum once mixed coffee with white paint to make brown paint for the bathroom … which worked about as well as you’d expect.”

It's one thing to find cost-effective paint. It's quite another to use a common household item to achieve the desired colour, and it's probably not recommended by professionals either.

It’s great to have the confidence to tackle a new DIY project. Our research found that 33% said they might be scared to tackle a DIY job in the home if they don’t have the right tools, while 32% either haven’t done it before or are scared of making the problem worse.

If you're unsure about the job or you’re using a new tool for the first time, do your homework. And always make sure to buy the necessary tools and materials. Avoid creating your own paint using food items — or it could set you back when it comes to fixing the error.



“Mum wanted a small ottoman to sit at the end of the bed … Dad went to night school to learn woodwork. The thing arrived at the end of term the size of a large coffin!”

Putting a new skill to the test is a great way to feel good about yourself. What could go wrong? Well, without the proper measurements and specifications, you could end up with something entirely different from your original vision.

Your do-it-yourself mishap may end up costing more money in the long run, too. According to our recent research, the average Brit spent £193 on DIY disasters.

Whether it’s your family or a professional, always provide specifications and an accurate idea of your desired result.


“I put up a shelf in my son’s bedroom … a miracle to behold … got into bed that night in the room next door when my wife asked me, ‘What are those 4 bolts doing sticking out of the wall?'”

Our research found that 28% make mistakes as they go into DIY too confidently. But it’s important to not rush into DIY jobs — make sure you’ve prepared first.

Here is our useful checklist when putting up a shelf:

  • What kind of wall are you working with?
  • What kind of tools do you need?
  • What screws are best for the job?
  • Have you got all the materials you need before you start the project?
  • Will the shelf be able to hold the intended weight?


Key takeaways

Plenty of DIY newcomers continue to tackle home improvement projects after mishaps. And, while some people are more natural at DIY than others, it appears that failures don’t stop our desire to pick up a drill or a paintbrush.

But even the small tasks can end up a disaster  — 38% of Brits said putting up curtain rails was the most common mishap since the start of lockdown, followed by 37% saying filling cracks in the walls and putting up shelving, mirrors or artwork. Other mishaps happened when painting walls, fitting a carpet, and upcycling old furniture.

Here are our key tips and tricks for a successful DIY project:

  • Plan and budget for your project carefully
  • Make sure to have the right measurements, tools and materials to hand
  • Seek out advice from trusted online resources or from friends and family first
  • Consider calling in a professional

Many DIY-ers avoid home improvements that might require technical knowledge, with 41% of Brits scared because their project could involve the mains electricity and 39% scared that the job might involve gas. If you haven’t got the time, skills or confidence to lend to the project, it could be worth calling in a professional to manage it.

Planning for a home improvement isn’t just about making sure you have the right measurements and tools, it’s also important to take the time to consider your budget. Larger home renovations can be expensive. If you’re considering financing a home improvement there are several different options to choose from. For more information, take a look at our guide on how to finance your next home improvement project.

From planning an extension or a new kitchen, a home improvement loan could be what you need to get building. At Shawbrook Bank, we believe in being transparent with everyone who applies for a loan with us. When you apply for an instant quote, it won’t impact your credit score and we’ll give you a clear picture of your guaranteed and personalized rate right from the start. 

Find out more about our home improvement loans

All stats used are from our consumer research survey of 2,000 UK adults, carried out by OnePoll in July 2021.


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