It’s hard to nail down T Let’s face it: they’re all contenders. But here’s our best shot.
“A part from my young son’s plastic potty had somehow gotten stuck in the toilet trap. I couldn’t snake it out, nor could the plumber, who left saying, ‘Buy a new toilet.’ But I had a brilliant idea: I’d burn it out! I pulled the toilet and dragged it outside. There I poured charcoal lighter fluid down the trap and lit it up. Standing back, I basked in the glory of the geyser flames and my phenomenal ingenuity… until the bang. The commode literally cracked from the heat. I bought a new toilet.”
“The shrubs along the front of our house were getting overgrown and needed a good pruning. After a couple of hours of aggressive shearing, the shrubs looked worse than ever, so I decided to pull them out and get new ones. After digging around the trunks to free the roots, I tied a heavy rope to the base of one of the shrubs and fastened the other end of the rope to the back of my 4×4 pickup. I slowly drove the pickup forward to tighten the rope and then accelerated quickly, hoping to jerk the bush free of the soil. Well, it worked. What I didn’t expect was the rubber-band effect of the nylon rope. It catapulted the bush right through the back window of my truck. Sitting in the cab with glass strewn all over the interior, I regretfully remembered that my dad always used a heavy chain for this task!”
“I take my painting prep very seriously. So before painting the bathroom door, I took off the door handle rather than taping around it. But when I closed the door and heard the lock click, I realized I had left the latch in the door. ‘No need to panic,’ I thought to myself.
“I fit the handle back into the door—but the latch wouldn’t catch. I then tried to manually pull back the latch—but it wouldn’t budge. Then I used my nail punch and hammer to remove the hinges—a sure bet—but the door was so tight in the frame I couldn’t budge it. There I was, trapped in my own bathroom.
“I considered escaping through the window, but given the 9 in. of snow outside, my stocking feet and no key to get back into the house, I decided against it. Mild panic fueled a couple of karate kicks that split that hollow-core door into splinters. I think I’ll paint the new door before I hang it.”
Tangled up in snow
“Last fall I got a brand-new snow blower and couldn’t wait for it to snow. When the white stuff finally arrived, I started up the snow blower and quickly finished my own driveway and walk. So I decided to be neighborly and do the driveway and walk for the nice old lady next door. Everything was fine until I suddenly hit her garden hose and got it royally tangled in my snow blower. I spent an hour picking out stuck bits and pieces of the hose. Later that evening, the phone rang and the lady next door said her basement was all wet. I discovered that the jarring of the hose had caused a leak inside the house behind the hose bib. I now only snow-blow my own place!”
“After framing in a new closet with metal studs, I was ready to take a break. I had been working around an old electrical panel in our old house. As I sat down on the radiator, I grabbed hold of one of the studs to support myself and was greeted with a powerful shock. Upon investigating, I found that one of my screws had penetrated a wire inside an existing wall and had energized the new metal wall framing. What a wild ride 120 volts gives you! How lucky I wasn’t hurt.”
Cheap paint job
“My friend works in a body shop and moonlights by painting cars in his garage. He offered me a paint job for $200, but only if I did the prep work. I washed my car and dried it with a shop rag before taking it over to his place. The car looked fantastic when he was done. But the paint started peeling off in sheets as I drove home. Apparently, my rag had car wax on it and I spread it all over the car. That was $200 down the drain.”
“With a second child on the way, we needed an addition on our house, but first we had to take down a huge maple tree that was in the way. To save money, my husband and his dad decided to cut it down themselves. They devised a plan with ropes to guide the fall as they cut.
“After about a half hour of chain sawing, I heard a thunderous crash and ran out to see what had happened. The rope trick obviously hadn’t worked and the trunk had fallen smack in the middle of the deck (which was not part of the remodeling plan). Thankfully, no one was injured, but we ended up hiring a contractor to remove the old deck and build a new one, which was way more expensive than hiring a tree removal service.”
Hot enough for ya?
“I was working alone on a large outdoor deck in 100-degree weather. I had to lop off a 3-ft. piece of a rim joist. To envision what happened next, it helps to think about Wile E. Coyote sitting on a limb of a tree and sawing it off! I stood on the rim joist without realizing I was standing on the very piece of wood I intended to cut off. The joist split when I was about two-thirds through it with my circular saw, and I fell with it. Fortunately, I dropped the saw on the way down, and I didn’t land on any of the many objects that could have caused serious injury. But I did end up in the hospital with dehydration and sunstroke.”
Oh, that’s what that wall is for
“Our first house was a two-story frame home. The 12-ft. hallway leading to the dining room seemed to serve no purpose, so we decided to remove the wall and expand the size of the living room by almost 4 ft.
“After assuring my wife that I could finish the project over a long weekend, I started demoing the lath-and-plaster wall. By bedtime, I had the wall down and most of the debris bagged and stacked. I climbed the stairs to our bedroom, which was directly above the living room, and went to sleep.
“The following morning I awoke to a bowl-shaped bedroom floor! I stepped gingerly across it, ran down the stairs and discovered that the living room ceiling had sagged 6 in. during the night! Turns out I had removed a load-bearing wall. As we sped to the rental yard to pick up jacks, I sheepishly told my wife that I might need more than three days to finish.”
The eye of the beholder
“I was remodeling my daughter’s second-floor bedroom and had all the demo work done. I was ready to start the next phase when I saw daylight coming up through a hole in the floorboard. But that didn’t make any sense. How could there be light between the ceiling downstairs and the floor upstairs?
“So I got down on my hands and knees and peered through the little hole—and saw an eyeball looking right back at me! I almost had a heart attack right there. When I screwed up enough courage to take a second look, I realized that a piece of broken mirror had lodged itself in a knothole. I’d nearly frightened myself to death by staring at my own eyeball!”
Caution: highly foolhardy
“I came home early one spring afternoon to find it was a bit cool in the house, so I decided to build a fire in the fireplace. I hate to admit it, but sometimes we use a little charcoal lighter fluid to get the fire started. This time, however, the can was empty. I went to the garage to find a substitute and spotted a can of starting fluid that said ‘highly flammable.’ Just what I wanted, or so I thought. I brought it into the house and sprayed some onto the logs. Big mistake. I lit a match and before I could even get it into the kindling, there was a thunderous explosion. Blue flames shot out of the lower vent, hitting my shins just above my shoes and scorching my socks. Luckily I escaped without injury or any major damage to my house. I never told anyone until now. My advice: Start your kindling only with a little newspaper and a match!”
Raindrops keep falling…
“After I left for college, my father decided to empty my waterbed. Unable to get a good siphon going, he gave up and dropped the hose on the floor and left the room to take care of other chores. Hours later he noticed water dripping through the ceiling below. The siphoning had started after all. When I went home that weekend, he had several garbage cans in the living room and had drilled holes all over the ceiling to let the water out. Poor Dad. I’d never seen him more frustrated and forlorn. I don’t think we’ll be shopping for another waterbed anytime soon!”
A waste of time
“Soon after we restored our 1920s-era farmhouse, it was time to clean up the construction debris. A friend offered the use of his heavy-duty dump truck, and because we’d spent a fortune on the remodel, I took him up on it. My wife and I spent days carefully filling the dump truck with old windows, drywall and yard waste, loading it so tightly a mouse couldn’t crawl through. I started the truck and proceeded to drive across the yard. Suddenly the truck broke through the top of our septic tank and was buried up to its axle. We spent a whole day emptying the truck and had to call for a special tow truck to pull it out. So much for saving money!”
“As I was installing a basement water softener, my family started to complain about the water being shut off. Well, I tried to hurry. I was holding a propane torch with one hand while trying to join the pipes with the other. No go—I needed both hands, so I tucked the flaming torch between my knees to free up my other one. As I reached upward, the torch flipped downward and set my pants on fire! I swatted the fire out and did a fancy two-step to get my pants off. I spent the next hour in the tub soaking off the melted polyester that had stuck fast to my skin. Luckily, I didn’t have a serious burn. I have learned not to rush jobs—or at least to wear flame-retardant work duds when I do.”
“My old riding mower works fine, except for a weak battery that needs an occasional jump start. One fine day as I was riding it across the lawn, I had to shut it down to take a phone call. When I tried to start it up again, the engine wouldn’t turn over. Luckily, it had died near the street, so I pulled my car up next to the mower, connected the jumper cables and waited a few minutes.
“Standing next to the mower, I pressed my foot down on the brake, turned the key and sure enough, the engine started right up. I then took my foot off the brake and watched in horror as the mower sped away, ripping the ends of the jumper cables off as it went. I had forgotten to put the transmission in neutral! Thankfully, I was able to hop on and stop it before it got too far, but I got a hearty round of applause from my neighbors, who appreciated the clown show.”
“I’m building my own home, and I pride myself on being able to tackle almost any job. I thought I’d figured out a great system for installing the prehung doors. My problem came when I got to a closet door that opened out from the closet. To keep the door frame square, I nailed blocks at a 45-degree angle to the outside of the jambs. I then got my shims, level and nail gun ready and went into the lighted closet and started shimming and shooting nails into the jambs. When I finished, I tried to open the door. The blocks were nailed across the jambs on the other side. I didn’t have a hammer or a pry bar, but I remembered the cell phone in my pocket. I called my brother, and after I listened to his hysterics, he agreed to come and rescue me. He hasn’t mentioned it to anyone yet, but I know he’s just waiting for the right moment.”
Super glue follies
“In the middle of a bathroom repair, I left a bottle of Super Glue uncapped while I answered the phone. My husband went into the bathroom and disrobed for a shower— but first, he sat on the toilet. An inveterate bathroom reader, he picked up the glue bottle and started to read it. A few minutes later, I heard this muffled cry for help. I hung up and went to investigate. My husband had somehow glued his chest to his thighs. I got him backed out of the bathroom and onto the bed and tried to pull his legs free. We couldn’t get him unstuck! I decided he must be rushed to the emergency room, but he refused to go naked. But how do you get pants on a naked man glued to himself? I brought in a plastic lawn bag to wrap him in, but he refused to go like that. I called a nurse friend, who, after laughing uncontrollably, suggested I dribble nail polish remover onto his chest and work it into the glued area with cotton swabs. It worked, but to this day, any mention of Super Glue brings a look of terror to my husband’s face.”
Broken toy box
“The toys at my northern Michigan cabin were multiplying in the garage, so I decided it was time for an addition. I doubled the length of the garage, making it an end-to-end, two-car structure. To save money, I hand-framed the roof rather than use factory-built trusses. With all this extra garage space, I’d be able to buy even more toys!
“After several snow and ice storms up north, I received a call from my neighbor, who asked the dreadful question, ‘Remember the garage you used to have?’ The weight of the snow had caused the roof to cave in, crushing my speedboat, trailer, snowmobiles and dirt bike inside. After careful forensic study, I figured the overloaded rafters had pushed out the walls until the roof collapsed. Probably, I hadn’t used enough crossties, leaving me with the lesson that a sturdy toy box is worth spending more for.”
What a turkey
“The week before Thanksgiving, my office gave all the employees a free turkey as thanks for our hard work during the year. I rushed home with my frozen bird, and my wife told me to put it in the basement freezer since the kitchen freezer was full. I took the turkey downstairs and opened the door to find the freezer compartment almost completely iced over. There was no time to defrost it, so I thought I would chip away just enough ice to fit the turkey inside.
“I grabbed a small hammer and a screwdriver and started tapping on the ice. One, two, and on my third tap, there was a loud hissing sound. I had ruptured a refrigerant line that was just below the ice. The estimate to repair the line and replace the coolant was about the same as the price of a new freezer—$350. I bought the new freezer and put my very expensive ‘free’ turkey inside it.”
Floor sander stampede
“After giving our living room a fresh coat of paint, I decided to try my hand at refinishing the hardwood floors. So I rented a floor sander, an 80-lb. beast of a machine with a large rotating drum that sands the floor while you walk behind. I loaded a coarse-grit sandpaper, as recommended, and plugged in the machine. After sanding a few feet, the machine stopped. I noticed that the heavy plug had partially slipped out, so I walked over and wiggled it back into the outlet.
“I quickly discovered that the sander’s switch was still on. The thing started up and shot across the room like the rabbit at a dog race, with me chasing it. It crashed through the wall I had just painted, leaving a hole about the size of…well, a floor sander. Even worse, my wife and daughter had been watching. They quietly left the room. I also left the room…to get my drywall tools.”
Tips. What You Should Never, Ever Say While DIYing
Let’s save money and get the least expensive paint/caulk/tape/sandpaper, etc.
It’s one thing to stay on budget, but it’s another thing to buy inferior products. Like the old saying goes: You get what you pay for. We’ve heard countless tales of DIY home repair that has to be redone sooner than expected or even worse has to be hired out to fix.
Sure, that’ll fit in the car
Gary Steinmetz was rushing to get done for the day, turned the corner and smashed his forehead into protruding lumber. His baseball cap visor blocked his view and: WHAM! After a trip to the emergency room and a half-dozen stitches, he was more careful about leaving boards sticking out at head level and decided to wear his baseball cap backward.
I’m pretty sure the electricity is off.
Always make sure the electricity is off before doing any kind of electrical work. Use a non-contact voltage tester before touching any wires and avoid making common electrical mistakes.
I’ll just climb up on the roof and take a look.
We’ve heard plenty of ladder stories gone awry, like getting stranded on the roof after a ladder falls or hanging on to a gutter while help arrived. Do yourself a favor and use a roof harness while working on the roof or try a ladder stabilizer.
This ladder looks level, right?
Ladder safety is an utmost concern when doing DIY work. More than 500,000 people a year are treated for ladder falls and more than 300 people die from ladder-related injuries, according to the Center for Disease Control.
I already measured that.
Any DIYer knows to measure twice, cut once but even the most experienced DIYer will tempt fate by rushing through something, like a reader who installed a new surround around a shower base. Try letting technology take some of the guesswork out with a digital angle gauge or by finding the best tape measure around.
Let’s just buy one gallon of paint.
You wonder why people have old cans of paint in their garage—well it’s better to be fully prepared than partially prepared. Make sure you have enough paint for your next job and make it easy with some of the best tips from pro painters.
This safety guard is in my way.
That safety guard on a table saw (and other saws) is there for a reason. Your fingers will thank you in advance for using the guard properly. Avoid injury when using a table saw by knowing the best way to rip cuts and see the best tips and techniques for using a circular saw.
That’s tight enough.
There are a number of stories out there about wheels falling off vehicles because the lug nuts weren’t tight enough. Make sure you know how to change a tire properly to avoid any catastrophe on the road.
I’ll just wear my sandals.
Always make sure to wear proper shoes or boots when doing DIY work or even mowing the lawn.
We might need to add a little more lighter fluid.
Lighter fluid ought not to be trifled with around an open flame or used for unusual purposes, like lighting a plastic toilet stuck in a toilet on fire. Move on from charcoal and check out some cool grill gadgets.
How hard can it be?
It’s tempting to think you’ll work your way through a project even if you don’t know all of the steps from the get-go. But one mistake along the way can lead to a bigger cost. Don’t miss these inexpensive home improvement tricks to erase the wear and tear on your home.
I’ll remember where everything goes.
Any repair project or assembly task can get undone when a screw or a bolt remains after something is thought to be completed. Try labeling everything.
I’ll just paint over it.
Painting mistakes are no fun. It’s already a laborious task and a small flick of the wrist the wrong way can ruin it.
It’s just a little over budget.
Nobody wants to hear something is coming in over budget but keep in mind any construction project typically budgets from cost over-runs.
I’m sure there are no buried lines or cables, so give me the shovel.
Always call 811 before you dig. You might think you know what lies below the ground but you must make sure before shoving a shovel into the ground. You never know what you could hit.
I don’t own any safety glasses because I don’t need them.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health estimates about 2,000 U.S. workers sustain a job-related eye injury that requires medical treatment. Make sure you have the proper eyewear on when you work.
Are you sure that’s going to fit through the door?
Anytime new furniture is purchased or a move is made, make sure to measure the dimensions of the piece of furniture to see if it will fit through the door.
I put the toilet back together. What are these extra parts for?
Reassemble a toilet without problem after learning parts of a toilet if you have a leaking toilet.
I don’t need a dropcloth.
You might think you’re a precision painter but you never know what will come rumbling through a room while you’re painting. Ensure no mess on your floor or elsewhere with a dropcloth.