5 DIY Home Rehab Horror Stories

Making major changes to your home is never easy but the unexpected snags can make the experience that much harder. DIY should save you money, but sometimes the projects are trickier than you expected or you’re not quite as handy as you thought!

The following is a list of the top 5 DIY rehab stories of home renovation gone wrong. Let’s hear it from them:


Bathroom Bust from HouseBeautiful.com

My husband was getting out of the military, and my daughter and I moved in to our new home about a month before he did. We got a great deal, but it needed some major remodeling. My dad and I started by tearing out a bathroom closet and soon discovered major termite damage. We ended up gutting it entirely because so much of it was rotten. — Indiana

One discovery after another from thisoldhouse.com

When we moved into our new house, we knew that we wanted to renovate the bathroom. The tile was too dark and the appliances were in rough shape. Thinking we could do this on our tight budget, we got started. That was when everything went downhill. When we started removing the tub surround we found tile behind it. "What a pain," we thought but just a small delay. But behind the tile, we were confronted with more than we bargained for. We could see the inside of the shingles on the side of the house. The entire wall, including the insulation had rotted away!

They were eventually forced to gut the entire bathroom right down to the studs. Triple the cost later, they had a functional bathroom.

Get the pets out of the house when remodeling from bankrate.com

While enduring a kitchen renovation, Angela Misri tells her contractor she can't find her cat in the house.

Jorge, the contractor, replies: You have to find the cat, or it will end up in your drywall and dead.

While Misri and Jason (husband), search for the cat, Jorge describes the time he was tiling up a bathroom and heard mewing coming from the wall. He says the contractors on that job had sealed the drywall, tiled and grouted before they realized the cat had sneaked in. The cat had been stuck inside the wall for at least two days, he said.

"We were looking everywhere for her when Jason dropped something, and it rolled into the subfloor, and he said, 'You don't think she could fit in there, do you?'" Misri says.

The cat had found a cozy dark spot to hide between the floorboards in the kitchen and the basement ceiling. Luckily, she was found before the contractor finished installing the floorboards.

Always check permit requirements or else… from bankrate.com

Alvin Naterpaul paid $7,000 to install hurricane-impact windows in his home. When a tropical storm put the windows through a test, he noticed a small leak.

Two days later, his wife told him that mushrooms were growing out of the window and into their living room.

"She didn't want to come back into the house until it was all cleaned and fixed," Naterpaul said.

Puzzled, he ripped out a piece of the wall. That's when he realized an entire section of his living room wall would have to be replaced because water had trickled down from the window joints into the wall.

After spending an additional $850, the mushrooms were gone and the walls were replaced.

It wasn’t until Naterpaul noticed the mushrooms growing out of the wall that he learned that the contractor hadn't pulled a permit to install the windows. A county inspector likely would have detected that the windows and the walls hadn't been sealed properly.

How a $60,000 house ended up with $230,000 worth of renovations from mrmoneymustache.com

First a little back-story. Way back in 1992, my dad bought a house to rent out. He kept this place until 2008, when he decided selling it to us for what was left on it. The house was pretty much perfect for my wife and I, huge yard, relatively small, great neighborhood. The only problem is that it was a little on the run-down side. 

We started the reno by ripping out the basement suite. This was relatively easily accomplished by hiring a dumpster and buying a couple cases of beer and inviting my brothers-in-law over for a smashing good time.  So far so good.

The next step was to gut the upstairs. This house was built in 1952 and used stone-lath and plaster upstairs, which made it hard going. But we got it done. This is where the whole thing went off the rails.  Turns out the previous owners had decided they wanted a bigger kitchen, so they moved the kitchen wall over about 2 feet.  People who understand terms like 'load-bearing' will be wincing about now, but not the previous owner!

There were some external indications of the problem that had I known then what I know now, I would have questioned. For instance, the stucco on the back of the house has a crack at the top of the poured foundation that runs almost exactly the length of the kitchen (and the moved load bearing wall). This was my first house though, and since it was so cheap I didn't question like I should have. 

Anyway, we had to get a contractor in to fix the issue. By then I was stressed out and tired of the whole thing, so I got them to do the rest of the reno as well.  They originally quoted $80,000 to fix the problem and do the basic reconstruction, but every time we turned around another problem would crop up. I got used to phone calls costing about $10k. 

In the end, we spent $230,000 to fix everything, the bulk of that being to satisfy the structural engineer.  By the end we had a great house that was exactly the way we wanted it, and still came in around the average price for a similar house in the same neighborhood without all the work. I still consider the move a win, but talk about a stressful start to the new place! I'm now a lot more reluctant to think "oh, that'll be a snap to do myself".

Blood, sweat, tears and money, home renovation can drain you. Remember these, and take comfort that you're not alone, next time you deal with a DIY disaster.

Do you have your own DIY horror stories that you can share? Send your stories to us and subscribe on our list; We’d love to feature it in our next issue!

Need tips that could improve your home and easy-to-follow DIY ideas? Visit our website’s blog section to see more essential home owner tips that are really helpful!

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Derrick Seay
Derrick Seay