Readers Share Do-It-Yourself Stories

Do-it-yourself home improvement projects can be a satisfying, cost-effective way to spruce up your home, or they can be a costly, time-consuming nightmare.

We asked readers to share their do-it-yourself experiences with us. Here are some excerpts:

Plumbing Pitfall

We bought our house in 1995 and shortly after starting developing leaks in pipes. My husband started systematically replacing the copper pipes with PVC as each leak occurred and for the most part did OK with the exception of some areas where he can't get the leaks completely repaired. As a result we have one bathroom that is completely unusable except for the toilet, another bathroom that's only usable with the bathtub but not a shower. We have walls down in the den part of the ceiling in the kitchen exposed part of the bathroom with the tub has no walls. Was it worth it? No!! Did we pay someone to fix it? No we don't have the money for that! We're just living with it and hating every moment!.

— Peggy Fobbe Manassas, Va.

Bathroom Nightmare

My son and I were going to re-grout our bathroom tile in the enclosure around the tub. When we started the process we realized that the tiles were moving easily on the wall. The entire wall was wet under the tiles. The tiles literally started falling off of the wall! It was necessary to remove three walls around the tub. While we were at it we decided we might as well remove the old and worn tub. Down came another wall and a half to get the tub out! While removing the tub we realized that the floor had also become wet around the tub so up came the flooring! Our bathroom is now without flooring, tub, and walls! But at least it is drying out and we will have a better chance at controlling the terrible mold problem. I am a single mom supporting three kids without help so I don't have the money to replace everything all at one time so I will be working slowly to repair and replace as I can. That is my bathroom nightmare!

— Jerri Squillace-Gray Woodinville, Wash.

Get Away From the DIY Shows

We bought a brand new home last October. I work from home, and needed office space. Having four kids, we also needed a place for all of their stuff. Naturally, we say the full open basement as an alternative. So, off to Lowe's and Home Depot I went. I got wiring, 2 by 4's, and sheetrock. I built my office, ran the Cable and Phone wires, hooked up the electric (with the help of the DIY Home Wiring book I bought), and moved into my office. The rest of the basement has become so cumbersome, that I had to give up. Pulling the wires, putting up the studs, mudding the sheetrock joints. I didn't even think about the ceiling, as I had never owned a basement before. But, my wife keeps insisting that I can finish it… I gotta get her away from those DIY shows!!!

— Nick Musteen Alton, Ill.

A Success Story

My story is far from a disaster, it's a success story! My wife and I designed and built our own 2,950-square-foot ranch home. We did about 90 percent of the entire project ourselves. I am an electrical technician, and she works for a mortgage company. We were entirely self taught on all aspects of home construction. We used every resource we could; books, videos, talking to people in the biz. There is still finish work to be done, but in the end we have an incredible home that most thought we could never achieve. All hail the do-it-yourself spirit! There needs to be more of it.

— Dion Morrow Winchester, Ohio

Enjoying (Almost) Every Minute

Early this year I decided to build a major addition to my house. 1500 square feet and two stories. Other than the pouring the cement and nailing on the shingles, I've done everything myself. One person — by myself. Plumbing, electrical (including new main service), framing, siding… You name it I've done it. I'm almost done creating my dream space for less than 1/3 of what I would have had to pay, and enjoyed (most) every minute.

— Dave Rotheroe Dallas, Texas

… And We Wasted All Those Years

About 9 years ago, my wife and I decided we wanted to have our basement finished. A contractor we knew gave us a quote of $11,000. This was more than we could afford at the time. Being handy, I figured I could do it myself. I started slowly buying what I would need and doing the work when I had the time. Years went by and as our family grew, I had less and less time to work on it. It finally got to the point where it was ready for drywall. I spent an entire weeks vacation putting up 8 sheets. That's when we decided I needed help. We contacted a different contractor that we knew who came in with his crew and finished the rest of the job in 3 weeks. Total cost was around the same that we had been quoted originally and we wasted all those years.

— Craig Gross

Wilmington, Del.