Be careful with weekend DIY projects
Weekends are the perfect time (often the only time) to tackle the DIY and home improvement projects you’ve been planning. Just be careful not to bite off more than you can chew.
I was reminded of this important lesson while I tried to replace a steam valve on our heating pipes in the basement this morning. The old one is leaky, and it’s really stuck on there – I had to bust out a giant plumber’s wrench, and my first attempt went nowhere.
I was about to really lean into the rusty old pipe fitting with all my might, when I remembered: Today is Super Bowl Sunday. If I messed it up — and there’s an excellent chance of that, I mean it’s a 100-year-old pipe and I’m an amateur DIY dude — no plumber within 100 miles is going to miss the Patriots playing in the Super Bowl to come fix my stupid, broken radiator supply pipes, even if they are spewing hot water everywhere.
So I put the wrench down, and decided to wait until business hours to give this a proper try. It’s not ideal – we’ve all got more free time on the weekend, of course. But if you need to call in backup on the weekend, it’s going to cost you big-time. Emergency and after-hours rates are typically up to twice the price — an already pricey $120 service call suddenly turns into $200 just to fix your mistake.
And that’s if you can get a tradesperson to come at all. If you break something with your DIY dabbling on a special occasion like Super Bowl Sunday, New Year’s Eve, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, you may end up completely out of luck.
A number of years ago, I tried doing something stupid — I think I was trying to clean out the murky sight glass on our steam boiler? — on New Year’s Eve. We had plans to meet people for dinner and a night out, all of that, but since I had the day off I wanted to take care of some projects around the house first. Well, I broke the sight glass with my clumsy man hands, and it started spewing boiling water all over the place. After a minute of OHSHIT!OHSHIT!OHSHIT! panic, I thought to open the drain into a couple of buckets, which at least stopped the scalding, spewing water.
But then we had no working heat in midwinter. So I had to beg a plumber to come by. It wasn’t a hard fix — he had the part and simply screwed in a new sight glass – but it was very hard getting a normal human with a life to agree to come by our house at 6pm on New Year’s Eve, at any price.
So if you’ve got a DIY project lined up for next weekend, and it’s a bit out of your comfort zone, consider whether anything could go drastically wrong. Is there a chance you could end up without heat or running water if you screw up? Could a wrong move spring an unstoppable leak or expose your living room to the elements? If so, try to hold off until normal business hours, when you can call in backup if necessary, and stick to something you’re more comfortable with.