Fails & Fixes: Urbaneer’s Tips For Common Home Renovation Mistakes

Homewatch Newsletter Archive


With the holidays fast approaching, promising a full house of family and friends, time is running short to address any pressing home repairs and upgrades before company arrives!

Thanks in part to the HGTV phenomenon, more and more homeowners are attempting to tackle those renovations with their own elbow grease and determination. If you’re one these ambitious self-starters, we commend your initiative and vision! But we also know that, when it comes to amateur DIY projects, the end result doesn’t always match the picture in your mind’s eye. So, what do you do when something goes frustratingly – or devastatingly – wrong?

Don’t panic! DIY fails can often be salvaged. Take a deep breath, gather yourself, and read on below for our handy tips for the wayward handyperson!


Paint Panic

You spent hours and hours poring over paint samples, agonizing over which shade would give the room in question that quality you seek, but now that it’s up on the walls, it’s garish/bright/boxy/too much/ugly (insert disappointing adjective here).

Sure, you can spend money and time to repaint, but there are a few other options. Apply a sheer glaze overtop to mute the colour. Or use the wall as a canvas, filling it up with your favourite art work. You can also try a variety of visual distraction techniques, like stenciling designs or section the walls vertically and paint stripes in a lighter shade.

While none of these will really change the colour, they will change your perception of it. Check out our blog, Colour Communication, which discusses the messages that certain colours can send!

Solution for next time? Test the colour out on small areas of the walls, or if you are looking for a different vantage point, paint a sizeable board and move it around to different locations, allowing you to observe how the light plays with the colour and potentially alters its appearance.


The Dreaded Blob

Maybe your colour is ok, but what if there is a bubbly blob on the surface? If it’s still wet, then dab out with a rag. If it’s dried, try and gently lift the piece out with a putty knife. If it is persistent, you may be looking at sanding it down and retouching with fresh paint.

Similarly, if you end up with paint drips (usually caused by overloading your brush with paint), use a scraper to gently scrape back the drip, sand it down and then touch up with fresh paint.

Many of these mistakes can be avoided by being careful and precise when it comes to your painting technique (that includes being patient and taking your time!)


Can’t Let Go Of The Past?

Arrrgh! The old paint colour is seeping through your magnificent new shade! This is very common if the old colour is a rich hue of green, red or blue. Instead of slapping on multiple layers, put on a coat of latex primer, which should act as a barrier between the old and the new.


Holy Moly!

You decided on a great spot to hang your latest and greatest art find, only to decide that is not where the piece belongs at all. Or perhaps the artwork that you covet is too heavy for the hanging instrument you’ve selected.

What to do with holes that are now serving as a rather unpleasant focal point in your wall? Fill them with a little spackling and let it dry. Sand it down and apply primer and then a couple of coats of paint. If the hole in question is more sizeable, apply mesh tape overtop (taking care to make sure that it is about a half an inch wider than the area you are trying to repair). Smooth some joint compound over the tape, and sand and repaint, similar to the sequence above.

When you hang your next masterpiece, use a wall anchor for extra support. Oh, and don’t plan on re-hanging anything in the same spot. The wall won’t be strong enough to support the weight, and you may be starting over again.


Wonky Wallpaper

Oh no! You are applying wallpaper, and the first section you hang is crooked. This off-kilter piece will set the symmetry for the room, and unless you’re prepared to live in a space that will perpetually make you feel as though you’ve had one glass of wine too many, action is required!

The problem can usually be sourced back to corners, which are not always level and/or equal. Take the wallpaper down and start again, measuring out from the corners (and be generous, give yourself a little wiggle room). Pick a spot a couple of inches down from the ceiling and use a level to draw a vertical plumb, running the length of the wall and then line the first piece up against the plumb line.


Caulking Conundrum

Despite your confidence that you’ve got the steady hands of a surgeon, you managed to gunk up tiles with grout or caulking. The inclination is to try to scrape it off, but that’s not a good idea- you might scratch the tile underneath.

As a first pass, try mixing together equal parts vinegar and water, and gently scrub the tiles. Rather than using a metal implement, you may want to consider using a small piece of wood and some water, gently scraping away what you can.

If that doesn’t work, hop on over to your local hardware store and get some commercial grout haze remover (not cleaner) or caulk remover. Working in small sections, put a small drop of remover on the tiles and gently scrub with a sponge and water.


The Leaky Faucet

DIY plumbers unite! There is hope to fix that leaky faucet/showerhead/toilet that you installed. Leaks appear most commonly because a sealant that had been used with the previous piece is still there.

The good news is that you can fix it. The bad news is that you have to un-install what you’ve already installed. Remove any old sealant with silicone caulk remover and reinstall with new sealant. Voila! Airtight.

A word to the wise: you can avoid this by scraping out old sealant with a putty knife before installation.


Coming up Short

So you planned to refresh your space by employing a little DIY ingenuity to reupholster your chairs. Unfortunately, you miscalculated the length and have cut the pieces too short.

If budget is your guide, you can patchwork pieces of fabric together or use bondable tape. When it comes to measuring for this (or any project) you should double and triple check your calculations to avoid angst down the road.


If these DIY tips have piqued your interest, check out a couple of the renovation journeys documented in our Tales of Upper Hillsborough series and our Renovating the Movie House Loft blog.

In the City of Toronto, the housing stock is aging, so buying a property that requires updates and renovations is a common occurrence. Additionally, with the scarcity of stock, many buyers are displaying a tendency to buy at the upper end of their price limit, with plans to stay in place for the long term and to renovate over time to adjust the property to meet their needs. Is DIY in your housing future? Home renovations are an experience we’ve lived through several times over- both with our clients and for our own properties.  At urbaneer, we’re here to support you and help you imagine how you can make your space your own.

The Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage • (416) 322-8000 •

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