When I got married, my husband had the most hideous maple desk I’d ever seen. It was a plain table, only slightly smaller than a card table, and had this shiny veneer finish that I couldn’t stand. We bought a nice bedroom set that was dark wood and I bought cute new bedding along with matching bathroom towels and everything was coming together except for the eye sore table in the corner. Finally, I had enough and I took the repulsive table to the garage for a new paint job. I spray painted it with a beautiful red and it looked wonderful, until I carried it back upstairs and it already started to peel.

A few years later, after we had kids (and yes, still had the table), I decided to paint it again, chop the legs off, and use it as a train table. This time I used primer, used black paint, and while it stayed on better, I still didn’t get the professional look I was going for.

Fast forward ten years, I still have the table, I still hate it, and it’s going in the garage sale pile this summer. Over the years I have learned several tips and tricks I wish I would’ve known earlier. No doubt, the maple table couldn’t been beautiful. Here are five mistakes to avoid on your next DIY project.


You can’t just paint over watermarks, stain, or veneer finish. It won’t work, trust me. Applying a primer is essential. Primer

Buy Good Supplies 

No, a foam brush won’t work for everything. Investing in good paint brushes, a hand held sander, screw drivers and if you can a nail gun. Budget supplies will make the project more difficult and not produce professional results. Good tools also last longer. A high quality Purdy brush will keep it’s shape and last for years. The same goes for high quality rollers, spray paint attachments and a canvas drop cloth you can use over and over.


This is never the glamorous part of any DIY project, but it pays off big time. Always clean whatever you’re working on. Clean thoroughly first, vacuum up any dust or dirt in the area, paint, prep, and do your due diligence before you start whipping out the spray can and going to town.

Measure Twice

For wood, wallpaper, carpet, or anything else, double check every measurement before you make the cut. Measure twice, cut, and then measure the next piece. You can always shave off a little more if you need, but if you cut something too short, you’ve wasted your time, money, and materials.

Homework First

If you are following a tutorial, read the the entire article first.  Do your homework, and read side articles that are about the same project.  This helps you determine tools and time required, and also give you more information on what to do if mistakes happen.  

If you don’t have a tutorial and are attempting to mimic an image you have, draw out your plan, make a list of supplies, even steps you will take.  To think of the entire project from start to finish helps you get the most out of your time.  

Taking these steps before you start, will save your DIY project from becoming a fail.