Handyman readers share their hilarious home-improvement mishaps
Learn from the DIY mistakes made by these Handyman readers
What happens when DIY goes wrong? Find out in this article where we list 20 DIY mishaps made by fellow Handyman readers. These tales of woe are hilarious but also serve as a caution to us all. When comes to DIY don't take shortcuts and pay attention to detail!
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1. My dog got stuck in the strangest place
Due to an insurance inspection, I had to finish building our back deck and steps fast. It was raining, so I cut the timber under cover of the front verandah and carried the pieces into the backyard to install.
Our dachshund, Beavis, was very interested in the excavation and spent the day digging there. When the last board was in place, he was nowhere to be found.
Then I heard whining under the steps and realised what I’d done. His exploring had led him under the porch. And removing one board wasn’t enough, I had to take up several and crawl in to fetch him.
2. We fenced the car in
My sister and brother-in-law recently bought a new house and the only thing that was missing was a backyard fence for the dogs.
The first weekend, we put in the fence posts and the next weekend, we hired a guy with a ute to help haul the preassembled panels from the store to the yard.
He drove the ute into the centre of the yard to save on carrying materials. And finally, after a long day turned into evening, we were admiring the finished job.
We then looked at each other and immediately realised our mistake. We’d fenced in the ute.
3. The drill bit went off course
I was sitting on the couch knitting and my husband was working in our basement. He was using a 1.8m long flexible bit to drill holes through the floor joists in the finished ceiling so he could fish wire through to install recessed lights.
I suddenly felt the couch vibrate. It went on for a few seconds and then stopped. My husband ran into the room, stared at the couch and said in a very quiet voice, ‘Oops, there’s a problem.’
I peeked over the couch and saw the drill bit sticking out of the side. It had hit a vent and gone off course.
My husband finished the job, and the new lights look great, and so does our new couch.
4. I didn't read the tag and this is what happened
While installing the expensive fan my wife had chosen, I saw a tag with printing on it. Because I’m a sparkie and was eager to start, I figured I’d read it afterwards.
When I’d finished, I proudly called my wife in to admire it. As I flicked it on, the fan unscrewed itself from the threaded support pipe and came whirling to the floor.
It was a wreck, there were scratches on the floor, and you can guess what my wife had to say. When I read the tag, it said, ‘After screwing in the pipe, use the locking screw provided to lock the pipe onto the main support.’
5. I didn't clean the air conditioner properly and got a taste of what was inside
During a long hot spell, I decided to install the air conditioner that had been in my garage for years, so I lugged it in to put it in the window. My wife suggested I clean it thoroughly first, but as it had been wrapped up, I figured a light cleaning would be enough.
After straining and sweating to install it, I turned it on, expecting a delicious blast of cold air.
I got the cold air all right, but the mouse droppings, dead bugs and spider webs weren’t so delicious.
6. My shredder exploded and singed my eyebrows
While shredding old cheques and documents, I decided my sluggish paper shredder needed lubricating.
So I sprayed the shredding mechanism liberally as it sat on top of the catcher basket. When I switched it on, I was surprised by a small explosion. A spark had ignited the accumulated vapours in the enclosed area of the shredder.
After taking a few minutes to calm down, a quick check in the mirror revealed my singed eyebrows and hair. Next time, I’ll do it outside and let it dry before mounting it on the basket.
7. A quick external latch install turned into a fiasco
As he was a carpenter by trade, my father-in-law, JC, was a great DIYer. And after years of his wife, Lucille, asking him, he decided to fix the cabinet door in the laundry by installing an external latch.
In a hurry as usual, he started drilling the holes for the latch without emptying the cabinet. That’s when he heard a hissing sound coming from inside.
As he opened the door, he was sprayed with black paint from the can he’d punctured. It also hit the floor, the walls and the washer and dryer. Lucille was not happy.
8. I fell through the bathroom ceiling and landed on the living room couch
We stripped back our bathroom for remodelling and tore up the subfloor so we could shim and level the joists.
My plumber friend helped with the plumbing, tacking plywood strips on the joists to set the height of the toilet flange. The next day,
I went into the bathroom to get to work and stood on a plywood strip.
It broke, causing me to fall between the joists into the living room. The entire suspended ceiling collapsed and I landed on the couch.
While I sat there counting my blessings that I didn’t have one scratch on me, my wife came in to discover me covered in debris and still holding my hammer.
9. I forgot to remove the shipping bolt from the door I was installing
I work in construction so I easily put a rumpus room, bathroom and laundry in my basement. Then I just had to install a prehung door on the storage room. Piece of cake, right?
It took all of five minutes, then I saw the 25mm plastic shipping bolt holding the door shut, and I couldn’t budge the door or bolt.
I had to kick open the door and remove all traces before my wife got home. I told her I’d finished except for getting a storage room door, leaving out the word ‘again’.
10. We didn't remove shipping bolts from our washing machine and it went beserk
My wife and I bought our first high-efficiency washer and dryer set. We carefully levelled the washer, following the instructions.
After half an hour of adjusting it to perfection, we ran it through a cycle, and the thing bucked like an angry bronco. I had to fling my body on top of it and yell for my wife to shut it off.
I rechecked the level and tried it again. Same result, and I took another rodeo ride. Two more tries and I was ready to kick the thing.
So I called a mate who also had a high-efficiency machine. He said his moved a bit but didn’t jump about. He then asked if I’d removed the shipping bolts. Once I did that, it washed like a dream.
11. Our garage door sent me sliding across the room
In the garage of our first home, we had a swing-up door. One day, I decided to replace the springs, so I opened the door and propped it up with a piece of scrap timber.
The old springs were stretched out and not hard to remove. But I couldn’t stretch the new ones enough with the door open and had to grab the timber to let it down.
Crikey! The door was so heavy it crashed down and sent me sliding on my bum across the floor. Luckily, I only had bruises on my backside and scraped elbows.
12. We got stuck on the roof while cleaning the gutters
A few times a year, my wife Kellie and I climb onto our roof to blow off the leaves that have accumulated, as well as clean the skylights.
I put up the ladder and go first, blowing off debris while she rakes and cleans below. She then joins me with a hose and cleaning supplies, and we work as a team.
The last time, the hose got tangled with the ladder and sent it to the ground. The skylights were sealed, we had no phone and the neighbours weren’t about. Then I had the idea to lasso the ladder.
After several goes, I hooked a ladder rung with the sprayer handle and pulled up the ladder.
13. The caulking tube exploded while I was trying to fill a joint
The garage roof trim had come loose, so I hooked up my nailgun to the air compressor, got on a ladder and nailed the piece back up.
While I was at it, I decided to fill the joint as well. I put a new caulk tube in my air-driven caulking gun, got on the ladder and placed the nozzle in the corner of the gable.
I pulled the trigger and the tube exploded, covering me, the garage, the shrubs and my car with caulk.
I hadn’t adjusted the air pressure setting when I changed from my nailgun to the caulking gun. Caulk is hard to get out of your hair.
14. I accidentally killed my wife's favourite plants
I got up early one day last summer to paint the gable end of the house before it got hot. A group of variegated aucuba japonica bushes, my wife’s favourites, were growing below.
To protect them from drips, I draped them with a plastic drop sheet. After five hours, I was finished, so I pulled the plastic off the bushes to find they looked like they’d been hit by a flame thrower.
The plastic had created a solar tent, overheating and killing them. Several hundred dollars later, the new bushes are doing fine.
15. I accidentally knocked down a load-bearing wall and it caused the ceiling to cave in
The 3.7m hallway in our house that led to the dining room served no purpose, so we decided to remove the wall to enlarge the living room.
I said I could do it over a long weekend and began to demolish the wall. By bedtime, it was down and the debris bagged. I went to bed and awoke to a bowl-shaped floor.
Stepping gingerly across it, I ran downstairs to find that the living room ceiling had sagged 150mm. Turns out I’d removed a load-bearing wall.
As we raced off to get jacks, I sheepishly told my wife I’d need more than three days to finish.
16. I tried to install a floating bed but didn't use the right screws
To free up floorspace in my kid’s bedroom, I made a mattress box. I hung one side from the ceiling joists with chains and screwed the other side to the wall studs.
To show my sceptical family it was safely hung, I hopped up on it and started jumping about.
As my family watched, the box pulled loose from the wall, dropping me straight down and dumping me out onto the floor. The screws had pulled right out.
I patched up the wall and attached the box with longer screws, but my family never lets me forget.
17. I smacked myself in the face with my hammer
While tearing down an old shed, I noticed there were bees flying about. But I kept going until I’d finished. There was one last piece of ply on the ground, so I used the claw of the hammer to lift it up.
It was then that the bees came out of the ground. I dropped the ply and ran, but a bee was gaining on me. My instinct was to wave my hands to ward it off, but I forgot I was holding the hammer.
The emergency room doc was laughing so hard he had a tough time keeping the stitches straight as he worked on the gash above my eyebrow.
Norman B ull ock
18. My friend almost knocked himself o ut with a mail box
H aving just moved to a new rural residence, my friend needed to install a mailbox near the road.
H e bought a 1800mm tall post and mounted the mailbox on one end of the post, then dug a 600mm deep hole, figuring his mailbox would be at the perfect heig ht.
He lifted the post over his head and thrust it into the hole, but with all his calculating, he’d forgotten that the 1800mm would become 1200mm as the post went into the hole.
As a consequence, the protruding mailbox came down on his head. And although the blow nearly knocked him out, his first instinct was to check if anyone was watching.
19. I ripped a hole through six flyscreens at once
Recently, I was working in my garage making moulding for my screen windows.
The garage just happens to be where I store my screens in the winter, right behind my tablesaw.
As I was ripping strips of wood, a small piece jammed and the saw kicked it back fast and furiously.
I was out of harm’s way, but my stack of screens wasn’t so lucky. The chunk of wood shot through six screens before coming to a stop.
I now have a really big repair project.
2 0. I burnt my g arage door
After hours of testosterone-enriched planning, I started building my garage man cave. I installed cabinets with workbenches, storage units, air filtration, a dust collection system, and even a heater
Because of the low ceiling, I installed recessed lighting so my custom hand-carved garage door would roll up unobstructed.
On the first day of spring, I rolled up my old garage door, as the new one hadn’t arrived, and started working in my new man cave.
After about 15 minutes, I smelled smoke and realised my garage door was smouldering. I found scorched spots where my recessed lights were burning the door. I’m just glad my custom door hadn’t been installed.