As a general rule, when choosing a DIY project, stick with what you know you can do.
"Some demolition work is OK if you know it's not a load-bearing wall," Solomon said. "And painting is a good DIY project."
Panitz said about 10% of the 200 home-repair jobs his firm handles each month are DIY projects gone bad. Still, if you decide to go it alone and get stuck along the way, Panitz advised, don't be afraid to hire out the difficult portion of the project.
"We don't have to have the whole project. We will work the job with the homeowner at any given level. So you can just order what you need," Panitz said.
"I know most people don't want to pay someone $100 or more to do something quick . . . like a simple plumbing job . . . but fixing a mistake can be really expensive," he added.
In many cases, said Dean Herriges, secretary for the National Assn. of the Remodeling Industry, the cost of correcting a mistake often exceeds what a homeowner would have spent to hire a professional in the first place.
In the meantime, the homeowner-caused damage may not surface until it's time to sell the home.
The home inspector may not say anything about the crooked tile on the bathroom floor, for instance, but that botched plumbing job may hold up a sale and have to be replaced at great cost.
So know your reasons for doing the project, Solomon cautioned. "And if you're just trying to save money, you may be better off in the long run hiring a professional," he added.
A homeowner whose DIY plumbing repair failed while he was away wished he had, recalled Hill of House Doctors. "The leak flooded the whole house, and two weeks later, when he got home, that leak had become a major insurance job."
Attorney Kelly Duenckel, 41, knows that even a simple job can go completely wrong.
When Duenckel wanted a medium-sized decorative pinwheel -- the kind with a plastic head that spins on windy days -- installed in the frontyard of her Burbank home one Sunday, her husband, Tim Melnarik, 41, offered to do the job.
Melnarik, an English professor at Pasadena City College, attached a plastic pipe, intended to hold the pinwheel, to a spike, drove the pipe into the ground and hit the main water line.
"We heard this hiss. . . . Tim looked at me standing in the doorway with our newborn. I looked at him. And all of a sudden this 20-foot geyser shot straight up in the air," Duenckel recalled.
As the couple's two older boys ran into the water with delight, Duenckel called a plumber, and $384 later, the family had a very expensive pinwheel and their water restored.
Sadly, Duenckel said, the pinwheel blew away in the recent winds. "But the pipe is still there."
While installing a waterline to the new refrigerator he purchased for his mother's Big Bear home, Melnarik broke the cap to the waterline and accidentally flooded the kitchen.
Melnarik said the couple laughs about both incidents now.
"Tim is banned from doing any water-related home repairs," she said, adding, "but we didn't have to go into counseling."
Michelle Hofmann can be reached at michellehofmann @earthlink.net.