“The 85% Rule”: Start it yourself projects are easy, but will you finish?

HGTV makes it look so easy – 30 minutes and wala! – new space. No time, no hassle, barely any dirt. Some home remodeling projects can be that easy; but unfortunately, even with all of the training and experience in the world, no project finishes exactly as planned. Remodeling is an art, not a science. The creative problem solving it takes to complete these types of renovations is sharpened only with experience. This is what I think leads to a lot of the “DIY Fatigue” contractors like us see when we come in to finish the work.

But, I know what you’re saying – “No one wants to hear what a contractor’s biased opinion on these things” – right?? Well, I’m one step ahead of you! I went to LinkedIn for some real world answers from members of the Lancaster County, PA community as to what their experience with starting projects has been and what gets in the way of them finishing:


A rep from Web Talent Market says ”I’ve taken doors off of everyone second floor bedroom in my house, with the intention of re-painting, re-finishing and fixing them up. I ended up getting so busy that the doors did not get put back on for another 5 months. Let’s just say that there was a lack of privacy but a copious amount of bonding!”

Carolyn Schlicher from LiquidWholeFood.com: “We have done a lot in our home ourselves, including plumbing, wiring, drywalling, tile, laying hardwood and laminate, even building walls in our basement. The one reason my husband and I said, “No more–we’re hiring!” is because of what we joke is the “85% rule.” It seems that every major project we tackle gets to 85% and we 1) get disheartened it will never finish, 2) have all the important stuff done and the last 15% seems so trivial and hard to finish, and 3) he and I have a difference of opinion of what “finished” means and have had our own share of…ahem…”discussions” about who should be doing what in that last little bit.”


Reasons like Carolyn mentioned are the biggest causes of DIY Project Fatigue. Also, finish carpentry is where you separate the amateurs from the professionals. Many people can slap something together, but few can finish it beautifully. Watch out for these other project pitfalls:

  • start something new before finishing original project
  • underestimating the time it takes
  • not factoring in interruptions – work, kids, family, church, committments, etc, etc, etc
  • embarrassment leads to avoiding the issue and hoping it goes away

What’s behind the walls?


The biggest unknown in a remodeling project is what’s behind the walls. Whether your house is brand new, a cape cod from 1964 or a country farmhouse from 1857, there is no guarantee of knowing what is waiting for you when you open up a wall – until you open it. Some of the things we’ve found: wood (duh), dirt, bricks, concrete, rot, termites, mold… you never know what you will find until you open those walls. And just because your house is new, don’t assume there isn’t something sloppy back there.


The biggest and most unfortunate consequence of unfinished work at home is embarrassment. When your friends, family or neighbors come over for an event, you may feel an urge to avoid letting them see your unfinished project, especially as the months and months fade away and no more progress has been made. Instead of feeling bad, harness this feeling as MOTIVATION to rectify your DIY situation!

  • schedule time away – 1 parent takes kids?
  • list/prioritize what you want done – especially if there are things already started.
  • talk with a professional about possible teaming up on the project, you taking the portions you feel comfortable with and leaving the rest to your contractor
  • use negative energy as positive motivation

And hey, if this remodeling thing doesn’t work out, like Carolyn said “Perhaps another blog post on how to save your marriage during a DIY would be a good idea, too! ;)” to which I replied if I know that answer I’d write a book. “…and be a kajillionaire from the sales!” she quipped.

MBC Building & Remodeling offers DIY Consulting to help you plan your project. Talk to you soon!


Here are some great tips from MarissaFontanez.com:

Avoid DIY Disasters from MarissaFontanez.com



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