What’s Your DIY Fear? 12 Biggest DIY Fears and How to Overcome Them

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Don’t let anyone tell you that they don’t have any DIY fears.

Because they’d be lying to you.

The truth is that DIY is wrought with fear because there are so many things that can go wrong. Last time I checked, HGTV magazine doesn’t tell you that part when you see its brightly colored collections of prettiness splashed all over the pages. Everything looks doable. Easy. Affordable.

But what about when you’ve never tackled a project before?

What if you’re a total newbie?

What if you’ve got a limited amount of money or materials and YOU.CANNOT.MESS.THIS.UP?

So how do you learn not to be scared of DIY? That’s what we’re going to talk about in this post!

Let’s jump right in!

(I participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites).


12 DIY fears and how to overcome them: Don't let fear stop you from doing DIY projects in your home! - Thrift Diving


DIY FEAR #1 – That You’ll Paint a Piece of Furniture and Later Regret It


Sometimes you just don’t know whether or not you should paint something. As popular as painted furniture still is, there’s a whole new camp of folks who are in the “I Love Natual Wood” and “Don’t You Dare Ruin That Good Wood!” camp.

So people are now putting down their paint brushes and having internal conflicts about whether or not they should paint wood or if they should leave the wood natural.

That’s what I’m going through with this amazing vintage vanity from the thrift store for only–get this–$9.00 and some change.

And nearly everyone said, “Strip it and refinish it!” But the time involved would be much more than what I think I am willing to give.

I also have the fear that if I paint it, I might later regret it.


Scared to paint furniture or wood and mess it up. - Thrift Diving


How to Overcome This DIY Fear:

Here’s a tip I learned from a master refinisher: When painting wood furniture, especially wood that you’re not sure you’ll want to strip in the future to restore it back to wood, add a coat of shellac to the wood first, to make it much easier to strip down the road if you change your mind!

The question is: Are chalk paint and other furniture paints easy to strip off of wood?

Some say they are easy to strip. But the paint can seep into the wood, especially paints with dark pigments, and make it difficult to thoroughly strip the wood without leaving discolored wood behind.

However, with a coat of dewaxed shellac, you are essentially sealing in the wood, preventing the paint pigments from staining the wood that you might one day want to reveal again! (Spray shellac is also a good choice).

Read More: ‘When Should You NOT Paint Wood Furniture?’


DIY FEAR #2 – That You’ll Take Something Apart and Not Know How to Put it Back Together Again


Oh, yes.

This happened to hubby and me.

We called ourselves DIY electricians once and tried to change our kitchen light fixtures, only to rewire the old, antiquated wiring from the 1970s and had no clue how to properly do it!

After a few frustrated hours, we called in an electrician and even he couldn’t easily figure it out!

Because of that incident, I dread the idea of replacing the lighting fixtures in the kitchen, much less any other electricity projects in the house.

I also challenged myself to reupholster a wingback chair and the fear of that DIY upholstery job was not knowing how to put the chair back together again with new stuffing and fabric!


12 DIY fears and how to get over them: Take lots of pictures and video so you'll know how to put something back together again. - Thrift Diving


How to Overcome This DIY Fear:


Everyone has a cell phone today. (Even your 80-year-old grandma Betty).

And since you’ve got a cell phone, you’ve got a camera.

Projects like these, your camera is your best friend.

Whenever you’re taking something apart, not only should you label the crap out of it, but you also should take a ton of pictures (and videos!) so you’ll know how it goes back together, step by step.

If we had taken a ton of pics, we could have saved ourselves a headache when changing those lights.

And if it weren’t for the hundreds of pictures and video clips I took of that wingback chair, I wouldn’t have been able to get the chair back together again after upholster class ended and I was left to my own devices to finish the chair!


DIY FEAR #3 – That You’ll Totally Mess It Up!


Even professionals mess up. So if you’re a newbie, please know that we all make mistakes!

This just happened to me recently, so I understand your fear.

I stripped and finished off this mid-century modern dresser with less than stellar results.


12 DIY fears and how to get over them: Fear of messing up a piece of furniture. - Thrift Diving


It looks good, but I ran into big problems with the top of this mid-century modern dresser makeover.

How disappointing that it came out spotty and not as perfect as I have hoped!


12 DIY fears and how to get over them: Fear of a furniture makeover not turning out properly. - Thrift Diving


And while I wouldn’t call it a “total ruin” it still felt like a disappointment because in my mind it looked one way, but the outcome was different.


How to Overcome This DIY Fear:


You’ve got to start thinking like this: each DIY project is an opportunity for you to learn. It’s the only way that you’ll get to a master level.

It was only afterward that I learned the two things I did wrong with that mid-century modern dresser makeover. First, I used the wrong mineral spirits, and secondly, I didn’t wait long enough in between finishing steps.

But look what valuable information that is!

Next time, those are two mistakes I won’t make. So this project wasn’t a total failure since it was a lesson learned (and it still looks pretty good compared to the “before”!).

This is how you must approach each project.

If you don’t get the results you intended, you must stop and evaluate why.

Once you’ve learned the why then you can release the disappointment of the outcome. Maybe the outcome with the whole point of the project–to teach you a lesson.

Keep a notebook with your observations and lessons as a reminder that your project wasn’t in vain.


FEAR #4 – That You’ll Discover Bigger Problems or Projects Later


Imagine wanting to remove a wall to open up your kitchen, only to discover a big leak behind the wall that’s led to mold damage that will now cost thousands of dollars to remediate.


I have that same fear: that what was supposed to be a small project turns into a much bigger project or expense.

Something similar happened when I was doing my laundry room makeover. I uncovered what I thought to be termites after removing the baseboard. About $600 later and a new contract with a pest control company, the laundry room makeover uncovered problems that I hadn’t planned for.


How to Overcome This DIY Fear:


Sometimes it’s hard to imagine the Worst Case Scenario because you simply don’t know what you don’t know.

But this shouldn’t be a reason why you never get started, otherwise, you’d be so afraid to do anything.

Here are some tips to keep moving forward:

  • Watch Youtube videos.
  • Be okay that sometimes problems are just discovered. (It’s probably for the best! How else would you have uncovered the problems?)
  • Call professionals and ask questions.
  • Hire professionals to start or finish a DIY project that gave you problems and quiz them on what you did wrong.
  • Be okay with walking away from a project (e.g. furniture makeover gone bad) if it’s totally not salvageable or has led to bigger projects that cannot be tackled or aren’t worth the expense. Learn the lesson and keep it movin’.


12 DIY fears and how to get over them: Fear that you'll have problems you won't know how to fix. - Thrift Diving


FEAR #5 – That You Don’t Know How to Use Power Tools


I’ll admit that power tools were a little bit very scary before I started using them.

It wasn’t until I started working with them that I realized that, despite the fear, power tools were fun and essential.

They’re essential because eventually you’ll get to a point in your DIY journey that you’ll want to start cutting things off…attaching this piece to that piece…and you can’t do that without tools.

I also realized that if you follow a few simple rules about power tools, the risk of injury wasn’t much of an issue as long as I observed those simply safety rules at all times.


12 DIY fears and how to get over them: Fear of using power tools. - Thrift Diving


How to Overcome This DIY Fear:


The best way to overcome your DIY fear of power tools is to have someone hold your hand and walk you through how to use power tools.

But if you can’t physically have someone show you, then the next best thing is through online videos.

I put together this 29-minute tutorial on how to use the jigsaw.

It’s a great start if you’re a newbie!

Jigsaws are a great “first tool” to own and use because it’s the least intimidating and can cut a variety of things, like wood, plastic, and thin sheets of metal.

You can read more about getting started with tools in my Tools 101: What to Buy and How to Use It blog post!

Take Online Craftsy.com Classes

If you’ve never heard of Craftsy.com you’re in for a treat. They’re one of the most popular online sites for taking creative classes–everything from sewing, woodworking, cake decorating–you name it.

I’ve been buying classes online through Craftsy.com to learn more about using a table saw and a band saw.

They also have finishing classes on Craftsy, too, in case clear top coats have always confused you! Learn how to apply them and to know which ones to choose.

You can watch them on your desktop, tablet, or phone. And once you buy them, they’re yours forever. Just log in and watch them anytime.

Seriously–a good way to improve your skills right from your sofa! 🙂

They have at least 50 FREE classes, too! Sign up for an account and get access.


12 DIY fears and how to get over them: Take free Craftsy.com classes in order to improve your creative skills - Thrift Diving


FEAR #6 – That You’ll Run Out of Money


Oooh, it happens, my friends.

The question is, why would you run out of money?

Is it because something was done wrong and now you’ve got to go back and start over?

Or is it because you only planned to do A, but now you want to do B and C, too?

There’s a difference.


How to Overcome This DIY Fear:


If you’ve got a limited amount of money to do a project, the first thing you should do it determine what tools and materials you need. If you plan properly, you’re more likely to know the costs upfront (if everything turns out without problems). Then, add another 10% – 15% to that figure to account for mistakes or forgotten materials and supplies.

Tools and materials aren’t cheap; they add up quickly!

Enter your name and email and I’ll send you a FREE copy of my Ultimate Materials Checklist and Room Makeover Journal packet that you can print out and it will help you plan your next project or room makeover!



Download this free materials checklist for your next DIY project. - Thrift Diving



FEAR #7 – That No One Will Help and You Have NO Idea What You’re Doing

I’m always envious of people who say, “I learned how to use tools from my dad” or someone who had that family member to inspire and teach them how to do DIY things.

I’m also jealous of the people who have spouses that are contractors–you all really hit the jackpot!

Having someone on hand like that to guide you is invaluable.

The rest of us, though, may not have that.

So what are we do?


How to Overcome This DIY Fear:

Sometimes you just have to hire help, especially if you don’t have any friends around that know what they’re doing.

Have you heard of Thumbtack.com? I’ve been using that site recently to easily hire professionals to get things done in my rental property when it was on the market. Consider hiring someone to come in to help and then stand over their shoulder and learn from them. Whether they’re installing new flooring for you, fixing a hole in your wall–whatever the task–you will have a teacher right in your house.

Yes, you’ll have to pay money, but you’ll learn things you didn’t know. And you’ll get the job done.

I once hired a plumber to change out my shower faucets in my bathroom (he was recommended by a friend) and he spent 4 hours at my house teaching me plumbing 101 basics! It was like getting a private lesson.

He even taught me how to solder the copper pipes, which was a skill I had never done before! It was awesome!


12 DIY fears and how to get over them: Hire a professional to teach you. - Thrift Diving


FEAR #8 – That You Suck at Measuring


Measuring is tricky.

But here’s one of the reasons why.

Did you know that the size of wood isn’t really the size of the wood?

For example, a “1 x 6 board” is really 3/4″ thick and 5.5″ wide?

These are just one of the truths I learned at Home Depot.

Yep–see the chart below.


12 DIY fears and how to get over them: Home Depot lumber size chart. - Thrift Diving


When you’re a newbie, you simply don’t know this (unless someone taught you that or you discovered when a project didn’t turn out).

So even with the most precision, without this knowledge, your projects may be “off.”

Also, sometimes measuring devices may be slightly off from one another. If you’re using different measuring devices within a single project, that can throw you off, too.


How to Overcome This DIY Fear:


Here are a couple of the best measurement videos I have watched on YouTube that can help you:


Tips for Accurate Measurements and Layouts



4 Measuring Tape Tricks



Here are a few more tips to help with getting more accurate measurements:

  • Digital tape measure – If your eyes are bad and you can’t see the small readings on the measuring tape, consider getting a digital measuring tape.

12 DIY fears and how to get over them: Take accurate measurements with an electronic measuring tape. - Thrift Diving

  • Measure Twice, Cut Once. – This old adage is true. The more certain you are, the more accurate cut you’ll make.
  • Use practice boards. – If you’re not sure if you’re piece will fit, buy some scrap wood and do some practice cuts to make sure your real cut will actually fit.
  • Buy quality measuring devices. – Don’t buy the flimsy $5 ones. My heavy duty Milwaukee measuring tape was about $25 and is more sturdy and will last longer be likely be more accurate.


FEAR #9 – That You’ll Do a Bad Paint Job (And Not Know Until It’s Dried)

You’ve just painted a piece of furniture and–oh no!–you don’t realize until afterward that you did a crappy job.

Thankfully, this is an easy fear to overcome.


12 DIY fears and how to get over them: Fear that you'll do a bad paint job. - Thrift Diving


How to Overcome This DIY Fear:

  • Paint in a well-lit area. It’s the only way you’ll be able to see if spots are missed.
  • Use the right brush. Cheap brushes will give you cheap results. I like to use Purdy or Wooster synthetic brushes for a smooth finish. Use expensive natural bristled brushes for more textured surfaces.
  • Add 2 coats. If you’re a newbie, you might not realize that first coats of furniture paint are usually spotty. Make sure you add two coats for better coverage.
  • Don’t overload your paint brush or roller. Less paint means less chances for drips! It’s better to do two light coats than to do one thick coat.

Related Read: What’s the Best Paint for Furniture? 


FEAR #10 – That You’ll Waste Money


The fear of messing up boils down to your fear of wasting money. Messing up might mean having to go and buy all new supplies.

(Ugh…..Makes you want to groan just thinking about doing that, doesn’t it??)


How to Overcome This DIY Fear:


Remember I made that wooden backpack some time ago?

The wood on the side was simply gorgeous.

But it was also expensive as heck: $25 for just a skinny ‘ole 2-ft board. Yikes….$25!

I had sweaty palms the moment I cut into it because if I messed it up, there was no going back for more, not at that price! Plus, it was the only piece of bocote exotic wood the woodworking store had in stock.


12 DIY fears and how to get over them: Fear that you'll ruin your project. - Thrift Diving


So I first practiced on a cheaper plywood to cut a template.

The practice cut gave me the confidence (still had the sweaty palms! LOL) to make the real cut on the expensive wood after I was more certain I wouldn’t destroy it.

So if you’re nervous about wasting money, get some inexpensive materials and invest the time to do samples and practice first, to reduce the risk of losing money!


FEAR #11 – That You Can’t Commit to a Color


Science has proven that the more choice we have, the more paralyzed we are with making a decision.  (Read the article here).

Have you ever noticed how many paint chips there are?!

Even when you’ve narrowed it down to BLUE, there are hundreds of shades of blue, and how do you commit to just one shade when there are soooo many pretty ones from which to choose?

And what if we end up hating it after we get it on our walls?


12 DIY fears and how to get over them: The fear of picking out paint colors. - Thrift Diving


How to Overcome This DIY Fear:


If the problem is that you’re not sure what colors look good together, be sure to check out my post on some great resources for selecting color combos that work.

That post helps to take the guess-work out of knowing what looks good together.

However, if your problem is the fear of not knowing if a color will work in that particular space, head to Sherwin Williams and buy their $5 sample pots (you get a LOT of paint for that price!). Paint an entire section of wall with the sample pot and marinate on it for a few days.

Sometimes even a sample pot won’t give you the entire truth: I painted my entire living room with a gorgeous greenish color (as seen below), only to realize when I woke up the following morning, it made the room feel like I was in an aquarium!

The room didn’t get much sunlight, and with the greenish color, the room took on an eerie “underwater” feel. HA!

I painted the entire room again immediately, only this time, in a neutral, creamier off-white and was waaaaay happier!


12 DIY fears and how to get over them: Fear of painting a room the wrong color. - Thrift Diving


AFTER – Living Room Painted Creamy White



Remeber that it’s just paint. Sometimes you have to keep going to find the paint color that makes your heart sing. 🙂

It sucks shelling out more dough for more paint, but sometimes, that’s life.

Related: Sherwin Williams Sea Salt and Rainwashed – My two favorite Sherwin Williams colors that look stunning!


FEAR #12 – That Something You Build Will Fall Apart


Imagine building something with your own two hands and you have no idea if what you’re building will fall apart or not.

That’s the fear I suffered from when I built my DIY bathroom vanity from scratch.

I felt a physical fear (i.e. heart racing, palms sweating) that perhaps down the road after it’s gotten some wear and tear it would simply collapse.

Even now, I cringe as I stand at my bathroom vanity, imagining the screws popping loose and–BOOM!–one day it just crashes to the bathroom floor.

I know I’m being dramatic, guys, but it’s true–this is a genuine fear of mine.

And you likely have the same fear, too–that something you make or build or refinish will fail down the road.


DIY Bathroom Vanity in Progress


12 DIY fears and how to get over them: Fear of building a DIY bathroom vanity from scratch and messing it up. - Thrift Diving


How to Overcome This DIY Fear:


There’s no guarantee that something you’ve made, built, designed will perform 100% error-free down the road–that is–until you become an expert.

Yep, an expert.

That may not be what you want to hear, but it’s true. It’s with practice that you become skilled. You understand what works and what doesn’t. And usually, it’s through those failures that you learn.

With practice, we become more confident and knowledgeable so mistakes are less likely to happen.

With education, we can make better choices.

And with slack, with forgive ourselves and embrace failures that teach us valuable lessons.


DIY Bathroom Vanity AFTER!


DIY bathroom vanity from scratch - Thrift Diving


In Conclusion

So there you have it: the most common fears that you and your fellow DIYers (and me!!) experience on a daily basis when it comes to being creative and doing projects around the home.

Remember: we all experience DIY fears. What matters is how you move past them and keep the learning going, strengthening your DIY skills along the way!

So tell me…are your DIY fears on this list??

Leave a comment and let’s talk about the DIY fears that keep you up at night!

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12 DIY fears and how to get over them. - Thrift Diving


12 DIY fears and how to get over them: Learn how to get over the most common 12 DIY fears. - Thrift Diving



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  1. Janet McCarraher says:

    This article was very timely for me. I started buying & upcycling furniture about 6 months ago. My big fear is what color to paint the item. I have a tall dresser that I painted white with aqua drawers. No one bought it so I repainted it Drop Cloth & put a dark stain on the top. It looks good & is much more neutral. It’s only been done a couple of weeks, but it hasn’t sold yet. I’ve only advertised these pieces online at Offer-up, Letgo, Nextdoor & craigslist. I am guessing these are not the best sites to get a little more money. Any ideas?

  2. I feel super encouraged to try projects I was scared to do now!!

  3. Constance Colvin says:

    Great post Serena! I especially loved the section about MEASURING………very helpful to me! Thanks {-:

  4. This is the first time I have ever left a comment for anyone and I have been subscribed to your site for over a year.
    This post is incredibly honest. I felt like you were reading my mind. That’s what I love about Thrift Diving! Thank you. Your honesty inspires me to consider doing things that I have never done before.

    1. Awww…so glad you decided to comment, Charlene! I believe you’ve made my night. šŸ™‚ Yep, DIY is wrought with fears, and even after doing it for several years, I still have the same fears as you, along with “oops!” along the way, such as my pantry that I am trying to pull together tonight! Keep going and don’t let mistakes slow you down! They’re the best teachers. šŸ™‚ Thanks for commenting. I really do appreciate it and love when people like you are inspired enough to leave a comment! It means a lot!

  5. Hi Serena, you certainly hit my fear. I always say that if I knew how to use power tools, I would be a bad woman. That is my only fear I believe.

    1. Girl, yes! You definitely need to learn how to use power tools! Especially since you love DIY and do it for your blog. I think tools are a natural progression when you love being creative around the home. You start with painting furniture and then it progresses and you start doing some other things that require building and making from scratch or repurposing. Did you catch my jigsaw tutorial?

  6. Connie Shearing says:

    Great post. So relevant to what I’ve been going through with my current projects (making cutting boards and learning how to engrave with a Dremmel Micro). You’ve given such practical advice once again to encourage me in my DIY discovery adventure. Thank you!

    1. Ooh, cutting boards! Funny you should mention this because I want to make one too! I haven’t looked at any tutorials yet on how to do it. Is it easy? We use this old nasty plastic one and I want a nice wooden one. Please do share what you know, mistakes to avoid and all, Connie! Glad you liked the post! šŸ™‚

  7. Serena, great article with excellent tips! Boiled down, it comes to this: 1) do your homework-prepare, i.e., read up on the subject, watch You Tubes, talk to any experts you can, especially about your fears; 2) plan out your project – list the steps you’ll go through and the materials you’ll need and decide on your budget; 3) then, and this is almost the most important step, just do it! You are so right. It’s practice that makes perfect. And I love your suggestion about keeping a record of the projects we do with notes about mistakes and things we learned. So simple, so helpful, but so often overlooked!
    I know you’ve talked about offering classes, and that’s something that folks keep asking of you, so I hope you can find a way to make that part of your dream come true. Especially now that you’ve gotten your garage cleaned up and organized so you have space? You have finished that project, right? You would be a great teacher, I know.
    P.S. I still have your post about the kitchen table in my inbox to remind me that I haven’t commented yet. That was another cool project that turned out great. And how nice to have the kids where you can talk to them and help them while doing other necessary things in the kitchen. The wood is beautiful; so glad you kept it, and the blue goes perfectly. Another great rework!

    1. Hey, Teckla! You summed up the article perfectly well! And yes, keep notes on your lessons learned. For me, this blog serves as a journal for me, too, where I keep track of things. I was just working on a project last week and couldn’t remember how to do a similar step. I had to pull up my old blog post for instructions! Lol
      Great to hear from you!!

  8. Serena, Have you ever thought about giving DIY classes yourself? There are so many places that give Annie Sloan paint classes, paint nights (w/wine), even my daughter’s wedding photographer has gone into teaching other photographers on how to become an accomplished photographer (shooting, lighting, posing, organization, etc.). This photographer has become VERY successful (Katelyn James in Richmond, VA). I see in you what I saw in her five years ago. You should think about it — we DIY’s (at least me) love to have someone on-hand to show us how (& us do it w/you) build something. For starters, you could do a power tool class on “how to build a small table,” as a start. My husband is very handy with power tools, but no way am I going to have him show me how to do it! It would be an argument from the start šŸ™‚

    1. Hey there, Tina! I do offer painting classes but when trying to put together a power tools classes, the problem was that I need insurance for liabilities. At the time I was putting the class together I didn’t have the money for the insurance. I also need to find the right space for it. My garage still ain’t done, and I don’t think my current home insurance would cover business activities. Soooo…. I’m looking into those classes! I have also thought about online classes. We shall see! Thanks, Tina!! šŸ™‚

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