When DIY Fails

Posted by John on September 30th, 2013

I had high hopes for today’s post.  I thought I had learned from my mistakes enough to get this one right.  You were supposed to stop by today and see a black, concrete planter on our front porch freshly adorned with festive orange mums.

Not so much.

concrete planter fail

Instead of being stuffed with fall flowers, this planter is stuffed with the remains of its own side: a casualty caused by attempting to remove the inner mold with perhaps a bit too much force.  Just a bit.

The first time I tried making one of these planters, I couldn’t remove the metal letter from the mold and it got stuck in the concrete, permanently reminding me of my misjudgment.  What’s worse, the concrete never settled properly around the “V” the first time I made it so it looks sort of… off.

Ah ha.  But, this time.  This time I was going to get it right.  I used a wooden letter that I could attach to the mold with screws.  I also abandoned my snobbish preference for melamine over regular plywood.  So, some background… I made concrete countertops back in the day with melamine forms and they worked great.  So great, in fact, that I poo-poo’d any suggestion of using anything except melamine for any sort of concrete mold.

The instructions for the planter, however, specified regular plywood covered with aluminum foil.  The melamine worked well, except it wasn’t reusable.  It got destroyed when I tried to pop the planter out of the mold.  So, this time I opted for the tin foil covered plywood as per the Popular Mechanics instructions in the spirit of trying something new.

The instructions didn’t call for pink kitchen gloves either, but… hey.

planter form

concrete planter mold

I had my lovely assistant spray down the interior of the mold with non-stick cooking spray.

concrete planter form

After mixing up the concrete, this time with 1.5 bottles of the charcoal colorant, I was happy with how it was going.

black concrete

After letting the planter cure overnight, I slowly popped off the sides.  The letter actually released pretty easily.  So far so good.  A few minutes later all I had to do was “slip” out the inner box from the mold and I’d be done.  I even went out and bought a couple bags of topsoil to accompany our new mums.

So, needless to say, the inner box didn’t slip out of anything.  I was really surprised at how well the concrete adhered to the plywood considering it was all covered with tin foil and then sprayed down with Pam.   Then again, they do make skyscrapers out of this stuff, so.. we’ve got that going for us.

After a few minutes of trying to yank this plywood box out of the planter by hand, my friend Mr Crowbar stopped by.  We got to talking and then one thing led to another…  yada, yada, yada… and then before you know it…

broken planter


Did you notice how much tin foil is stuck on the outside of the planter (see the first photo)?  Unbelievable.

Here’s the good news.  I only spent around $10 for concrete and the black dye.  I had the plywood leftover from other projects, which would’ve been another $30 or so (more for melamine).

So, the important thing here is that we all learn from our mistakes.  I learned that concrete is incredibly fond of everything I stick in it and it doesn’t want to give it up.  I also learned that melamine is probably way better for this.  So I can go back to being a melamine snob about my one successful concrete project (the countertops).

More importantly, I learned that Lisa is ready for me to switch gears and start on our TV console for our sitting room.  I’ll probably be back out again next year though, once again in search of my white whale… wasting time and concrete.

Do you know what a PIA it is to throw out an 80 lb planter?

Before you go, here are those orange mums we bought.

front door

AND the original planter…

orange mums

Have you had any DIY fails on your end recently?  Have you also pursued a project with blind ambition to the point of madness?  Was it also a concrete project?

I feel inspired to share more of my DIY fails.  This may become a regular thing.

Posted in DIY Projects,Outdoors and Landscaping. Tagged in ,, ,

  • lol well did it make you like last year's planter a little more or less? i think it still looks lovely! in better shape than this years! oh well you win some you lose some!

    • I'm ambivalent on last year's planter. Didn't change my opinion on it one way or another. Lisa thinks it's cool though and doesn't want to toss it. So, I guess that's a win.

  • Ohhhhhh, heartbreaking results for all the hard work you put into it. I've sure failed at my share of projects up too. At least you didn't suffer personal bloodshed.

    Any chance a bit of JB Weld and a maybe a skim / patch coat of concrete could repair and save it, hiding the crack? I've pulled off some heavy repairs over the years with epoxy.

    • The thought had crossed my mind. If I can pull the rest of the box out, I'll consider it.

  • Ugh I hate it when projects don't go as planned, but thanks for sharing. Now we know that it doesn't just happen to us!

  • JuliaACuckoo4Design

    Oh no hate when that happens and yes it happens to me all the time 😉

  • Ooooh no! So sad. I still like the first one you did though, even if it didn't turn out as planned. Hopefully you'll figure it out someday and tell us all the tricks.

  • interiorsbykenz

    Oh DIY fails… I've definitely had my fair share. It usually takes me a few times to get a project right anyway.

  • Oh bummer. I hate it when my projects don't turn out like I envision. I have had a few of those 🙂 At least they are great learning experiences 🙂

  • Ha! Absolutely keep the DIY fails coming. I mean, I hope for your sake there won't be too many of them, but I always enjoy reading them. Partially because we all have those thoughts of, "I bet I could do it this way and it would work just as well" and sometimes it's nice to see someone else has already tried it, and no it does not work just as well. Partially because I like reading people's perspectives on their own reactions once they've had a chance to cool off and laugh at themselves.

    Good luck next year!

  • Bummer. Your mums looking stunning though.

  • I've failed at completing my bathroom in a month. Hah. I'm looking at failure as a narrowing of possibility. =D

  • Anu

    Oh no! That must have been so frustrating after all that work. Your original planter looks lovely with the orange mums.

  • Oh bummer! Hate when stuff like that happens! xo Kristin

  • What a bummer, dude! I really love the look of the pot, if it had come out well. The letter looks awesome!

    I don't think any of us DIYers have managed to get through renovations and projects without big fat fails. We're all part of a club!

  • Bummer!! I can't believe it weighs 80 lbs. oops!!

  • hurray for sharing fails! I love it…everything can't go right 100% of the time. It's still a very cool idea…