Undaunted, a determined Leonard Brook, 79, "sweating and hunched over," his wife recalled, plodded onward in his quest to fix the bathroom pipe.
Meanwhile, Ethel, desperate to get her bathroom back and save her husband from another lost weekend, called Rick Hill, owner of a House Doctors handyman franchise in Santa Clarita. Within a day, Hill fixed the problem and repaired the wall damage.
"Things got a little out of hand," Ethel recalled. "It was too big of a project for my husband. He couldn't repair it. And I couldn't take it anymore."
Used to hearing statements such as, "We just don't have the time," "We've been at this for eight months now," and "My husband will never put that handle on the door and it's driving me crazy," Hill said he's seen a lot more do-it-yourself projects started than finished.
Hill, who started his business in 2004 after more than two decades in the construction industry, estimates that nearly a third of his 25 monthly house calls involve a failed do-it-yourself project.
"I get calls almost every day, especially with kitchens and bathrooms, where there's something they can't tackle," Hill said.
Affordable financing costs and strong property values fueled remodeling projects and propelled home-improvement spending to record levels in 2006, according to Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies. But experts say last year's slower housing sales, tightened credit and smaller equity buffers encouraged owners to pull in their purse strings and look for ways to cut repair and remodeling costs.
And although shows like HGTV'S "Weekend Warriors" have made do-it-yourself pro- jects look like child's play, firms such as House Doctors and Handyman Connection report that increasing numbers of homeowners are struggling to finish projects and calling the pros for help.
Rich Panitz, president of Orange County-based Handyman Connection, said a bad experience with a contractor or remodeling professional is one reason homeowners may start projects themselves. Overambition and cost-cutting are other driving forces, he added.
But both Hill and Panitz said lack of time is the most commonly cited reason for not finishing them.
Chapel Hill, N.C., contractor Chuck Solomon, who created ContractorHired.com, a referral network founded in 2006 to link homeowners nationwide with contractors, said many people simply bite off more than they can chew.
"These DIY shows make it look too easy," Solomon said. "And that isn't always the case."
So before you get too excited about replicating that do-it-yourself-in-no-time-flat ceramic-tile showcase at the home-expo extravaganza, be sure you know what you're getting into, experts say.
If ceramic tiling is a skill you would like to learn, Solomon said, do some research. Get a book on ceramic tiling. Attend a class or a seminar at your local remodeling store. Find out what tools you will need to buy or rent to do the job and what the tools cost. Determine the cost of the overall job. And start small.
Instead of tiling the whole kitchen, start with a small area that's out of the way, such as a closet or laundry room. "That way, if you mess up, there is less mess to fix," Solomon said.
Don't just jump in. Factor in safety, your skill level and your time.
And be realistic and honest about your limitations.
"If you're pressed for time, even a simple toilet installation can be overwhelming," said Hill, a House Doctors franchise owner.