A handyman is coming to my house next week and I’m already dreading it.
My dread has nothing to do with handymen in general or this guy in particular. Quite the opposite, really. I like it when skilled craftspeople come to my house to de-crapify a small part of it.
My dread stems from what happens once the craftsman starts working. It always goes a little something like this:
- I offer Mr. Craftsman a bottle of water and lead him to the spot I want fixed or renovated.
- “No problem,” Mr. Craftsman says.
- I tell Mr. Craftsman that I will be working in my office upstairs. “If you need me for anything,” I say, “just give me a shout.”
- “No problem,” Mr. Craftsman says.
- I go upstairs to work in my office.
- About ten minutes later, I hear a furtive call from downstairs. “Mr. Allegra…?”
- “Yes,” I reply.
- “There’s a problem,” Mr. Craftsman says.
Mr. Craftsman then shows me his horrible discovery: a once hidden, jerry-rigged something that’s stupid and dangerous—and expensive to fix.
My house has had only one previous owner. For the purposes of privacy, I’ll give this owner a pseudonym: Mr. Derp.
Mr. Derp was a carpenter. He built houses. At the end of each workday, he took leftover supplies from the job site and used them to build his own house. My house.
When I first heard that Mr. Derp—an honest-to-goodness carpenter—built his own house, I was elated. After all, if I was a carpenter, and I built my own house, I would make sure it was the best dang house ever.
But Mr. Derp didn’t think like me.
Mr. Derp had more of a “that’s good enough” mentality.
Mr. Derp had a “that’s not up to code, but I don’t care” attitude.
Mr. Derp also had a “yes, there’s a hole in the sewer line, but I’ll just plug it with a wine cork because, hey, what’s the worst that could happen?” vibe. (For the record, I witnessed the worst that could happen. It is literally the worst thing that could ever happen.)
The wine cork incident was just the tip of the iceberg, of course. A man who searches for plumbing supplies in a liquor cabinet is capable of anything.
Mr. Derp was especially creative with electrical work. He wired the basement with Christmas lights. He wired the bathroom with a spliced cord from a table lamp. He also wrapped these wires in aluminum foil. “Why,” you ask? That’s the same question I’ve been asking myself for the past 16 years.
Oh, dear. My home improvement memories are depressing me.
But here’s one more anecdote: Last year I hired a contractor to rebuild my cracked and crumbling front porch. The contractor found the task simple and explained exactly what he planned to do. He would jackhammer the old porch away down to the foundation and then build a new one. The job would be done before the end of the day.
“Really?” I asked.
“Yup,” he replied. “No problem.”
Ten minutes later, the jackhammer fell silent. “Mr. Allegra? There’s a problem.”
I sighed and descended the stairs.
I then found out why my porch was cracked and crumbling. Mr. Derp built it on top of a slightly smaller porch. Mr. Derp built a porch on top of a slightly smaller porch because the slightly smaller porch was sinking into the ground. This porch was sinking into the ground because it had no foundation.
I guess Mr. Derp figured that if he built enough porches atop other porches the bottom-most porch would eventually hit bedrock.
In the end, building a proper porch on a proper foundation took three days and cost me twice as much as the initial porch-building estimate.
This is why I dread the arrival of the handyman. He’s only installing a new medicine cabinet and bathroom fan, but that means he’ll be peering into my walls and ceiling.
What might he find there? A water main constructed with Krazy Straws? A load-bearing wall framed with pizza boxes? The mutilated corpse of the township’s building inspector?
All I know for sure is that there will be a problem.
So! Do you have a home improvement horror story? Do tell!