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DIY mistakes you probably make (and how to fix 'em)

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
eclectic  by homify, Eclectic
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It has happened to most of us home improvement novices: we read those instructions carefully, did what we thought we were supposed to do, but in the end our results were not what we expected – and they didn’t match those glossy, high-quality pictures that we saw online.

Don’t fret – interior designing and home touch-ups are hardly brain surgery, which means you can always have another go at it. But first up: repairing those slip-ups with some expert tips.

1. You transferred grout or caulk on your new tiles or bathtub

eclectic  by homify, Eclectic

Using a grout haze remover (not grout cleaner) or caulk remover, dab a drop in small areas, then sponge clean with some water. 

To remove excess caulk, apply caulk remover and scrape it out using a plastic putty knife. Be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions, as you may need to leave the product in place for a few minutes. 

For next time: To avoid a sloppy bead or caulk, don’t cut too much off the caulk tube. And invest in some painter’s tape to protect areas from caulk. But grout haze can’t be avoided, as you must drag grout across the tile to get into the joints.

2. That new paint is too bright or dark

That new coating looked fantastic once applied, but now you’re not so sure. Here’s what you can do about it:  

• Use masking tape to make vertical sections, then paint stripes in a lighter shade. 

• Add some large-scale graphic decals. 

• Tone down the colour by applying a sheer glaze over it. 

• Cover that colour with some wall art so that less of the wall shows.

For next time: Buy sample jars to paint some swatches in several spots in the room (parts that get plenty of light, and parts that don’t) before voting on that colour.

3. The paint is blobbing, running or dripping

If that paint blob is still wet, blot it with a rag and touch up the surface with some fresh paint, if necessary. If it’s dry, hold a plastic putty knife at an angle and peel off the drip, but be careful not to gouge the surface. 

If this doesn’t work, use very fine 400-grit sandpaper to buff the area flat first. Afterwards, paint the section, allow it to dry, and then add another coating. 

For next time: Use a paint grid or screen on top of your bucket to allow the excess paint to drip off your roller before use. And be sure to double check your work so that you can smooth drips with a brush before they dry.

4. You tried to hang something, now there’s a hole in the wall

Using your finger or a putty knife, dab a glob of wall filler over the hole. Once it’s dry, sand smooth with 220-grit sandpaper. Follow this up with a coat of primer, then two coats of paint. 

If that hole is larger than 2 cm, use fibreglass mesh tape about 1 cm wider than the repair area. Apply and smooth joint compound over the mesh tape with a putty knife. Fortunately, repair kits that include mesh tape and everything else you need are available at most DIY/hardware  stores. 

Once dry, sand and apply one more coat of joint compound. Then sand again, prime and paint. 

Don’t try to hang the item in the patched hole, as it won’t be strong enough to support any weight. 

For next time: Use a wall anchor designed specially to hold heavy items without damaging the wall. Make sure to read the packaging info carefully to ensure you use the appropriate anchor for your item’s weight.

5. You have a different colour in every room

Deep greens and ocean blues are magnificent, but too much of a wonderful thing can be overwhelming. It is much easier on the eye to use colours that gently transition from one room to the next.

To create a more harmonious feel without having to repaint, fill each room with neutral-coloured accessories. 

For next time: Use paint chip cards to pick different shades in the same palette. For example, try biscuit beige for the living room and a light coffee tone for the kitchen. Or just paint one accent wall a bold colour instead of the entire room.

6. That wallpaper is crooked

Bad news: if that first piece is askew, the entire wall will be off, so rather start from scratch. Since corners can’t always be trusted to be completely straight, measure out from the corner instead of starting there. For example, if your wallpaper is 50 cm wide, measure 49 cm out to give yourself some playing room. 

Drop down a few centimetres from the ceiling and use a level to draw a vertical plumb line the length of the wall. Then place the edge of your first piece of wallpaper against the plumb line. Line up the adjacent pieces against the first piece. Be sure to make a new plumb line each time you turn a corner. 

For next time: As houses settle with time, don’t trust your walls and floors to be completely level. Always draw a plumb line as your starting point for wallpaper.

7. That old paint colour is seeping through the new one

Bleached White Teak: modern  by Quick-Step, Modern

Heavily pigmented colours like deep blues and hot reds aren’t easy to cover up. So, instead of trying to hide them with a new paint coating, apply a latex primer coat to block and seal the old pigments. Make it two if you’re still seeing a lot of the original colour after the first coat dries. 

Follow this up with two coats of the new colour. 

For next time: Use a primer (or paint and primer combination) to cover vivid colours.

8. The new tap, shower head, or toilet you installed is leaking

Refurbishment project West Sussex: minimalist  by At No 19, Minimalist

One of the most common reasons for new fixtures leaking is because the old sealing materials (such as plumber’s putty, threaded seal tape, or the wax ring under the toilet) are still there. 

You need to uninstall the fixture, remove all traces of the old sealants (silicone caulk remover may be required), and reinstall with fresh sealants. 

For next time: Use a plastic putty knife to scrape out all remnants of the original sealants before installing a new plumbing fixture.

That shower head’s dripping driving you mad? Let’s take a look at: Fixing your annoying leaky shower.

9. The new ceiling fan or light fixture seems wobbly

If you are replacing an old fixture with a larger, heavier one, some reinforcement might be required. First remove the wobbly fixture and install a ceiling fan box or safety brace (an electrical box with long metal arms that fit between ceiling joists). 

After this is done, reinstall the new fixture inside the brace. 

For next time: Check the weight of your new fixture before hanging. But install a ceiling fan box or safety brace when in doubt.

10. You cut the fabric too short on that reupholstery job

Even though you’re trying to save, cutting pieces as small as possible to avoid wasting fabric can be a huge mistake. But when this happens, try sewing the scraps together. Or use no-sew fusible bonding tape to piece the scraps together. 

And when you’re buying fabric, always get some extra just to be safe.    

For next time: For any home project, always measure twice and cut once!

What other tips do you have to fix DIY errors?
Whitton Drive by GK Architects Ltd Modern

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