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36 Almost Unbelievable Plumbing and Electrical Goofs

Read these DIYers' embarrassing moments stories and DIY fails from plumbing and electrical mistakes.

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A Flush to Remember

A Flush to Remember

After removing an old toilet, Idid the classic handyman trickof stuffing a bunch of plasticbags into the sewer opening.This kept the stench fromseeping into the bathroomwhile I installed the newtoilet over the weekend.After setting and hookingup the new commode,I did a test flush. It wasvery satisfying to watchthe water swirl down andthe bowl fill upand upand up! The toilet gushedwater all over the floor.Turns out the other halfof that trick is removing thebags from the seweropening. Really scary stuff.- Rob Kiesling

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Free FacialFamily Handyman

Free Facial

Just days before Hurricane Sandy was to hit New Jersey, I was helping my husband installa "water jet sump pump backup system" inmy parents' basement. In the event of apower outage, it works off the waterpressure of the house. My husbandasked me to hold on to the PVC pipeso he could cut out a piece with hisreciprocating saw. While I held it, hemade the first cut. When he madethe second cut, nasty brown waterstarted gushing out of the pipe and hit me full in the face.Being the dutiful wife, I held ontight! It took him a few seconds torealize what was happening. He hadforgotten to unplug the pump. Afterpulling the plug, he looked at me with aworried expression, but I began laughinghysterically. I was soaked with that disgustingwater from head to toe. At leastthe project turned out as plannedafter Sandy, they had nowater in theirbasement. Jill Gallery. Plus: Check out these insanely smart home improvement hacks you'll wish you knew sooner.

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Cut the LightsFamily Handyman

Cut the Lights

When I built my house, I wanted a tall garage opening to accommodate our full-sizetrucks. That meant I had to mount the garage door track just a few inches from theceiling. The installation went without a hitch. The first time I hit the garage doorbutton, the door opened perfectly, rolled smoothly along the railsand sheared offmy ceiling lights!- Ernie Smith

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The Physics of PlumbingFamily Handyman

The Physics of Plumbing

I was replacing our shower fixture, and I couldn't budge the large brass nut that was holding the two-way mixingvalve in place. Using my expert knowledge of physics, Icame up with the perfect solution. I packed the valve in iceto make it shrink in diameter. Then I used my blowtorchon the nut so its diameter would expand, thus freeing it.I was feeling really clever until I noticed the smokefilling the shower. It turns out twostuds were on fire and the flameswere moving up inside the wall! Haveyou ever tried to extinguish a blazingfire through a 6-in. access hole?I didn't worry about the physicsat that pointI just ran for the fireextinguisher!-Dr. KrisStorm

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Use Your Head not Your HammerFamily Handyman

Use Your Head not Your Hammer

My husband is a novice handyman with a great heart. Sowhen I asked for a new sink in our upstairs bathroom, he gotto work. After two weeks of struggle and leaking pipes, it wasdone. Whew! But when I turned on the hot water, there waswater "hammering." He said he must have loosened a pipeand that it was beating against a stud. He spent the next hourknocking holes in our nice drywall trying to trace the hammering.But he still couldn't find the problem. I then askedhim if the hot water valve below the sink was fully openproblem solved.The contractor did a beautiful job of repairing our drywall....- Mari Nelson

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Cold CommodeFamily Handyman

Cold Commode

Last winter, I brought home a new toilet. Istored the box outside on my porch alongwith the new wax ring, flange bolts andnew water line until I got around toinstalling it a few days later. I mountedthe wax ring and set the toilet over theflange, but the toilet would not sit flushagainst the floor. I tried everything I could think of, includingtightening the floor bolts at the base of the toilet until Inearly cracked the toilet base, but the toilet just would notsit flush. I gave up in frustration and went to bed.The next morning, I walked outside to get the paper andsaw the empty toilet box sitting on my unheated porch. As Ishivered in my bare feet, the explanation suddenly hit me. Iran to the bathroom and sure enough, the toilet was sittingflush against the floor and the bolts were completely loose.Turns out the wax ring had been frozen solid.-Mike Koch

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Plumber? What plumber?Family Handyman

Plumber? What plumber?

In the middle of trying to sell our house, my husband accidentally broke the hot water pipe to the washing machine while trying to unscrew the rusted connection from the wall. Hot water started gushing inside the wall, and I ran for buckets and towels as my husband raced to turn off the water main. Two hours later, as the emergency plumber was cutting into the drywall, the doorbell rang. Our real estate agent was standing outside with potential buyers!As my husband greeted them, I ran around the house and threw the towels, buckets and mops into the garage, pushed the washer back into place, and told the plumber to go wait in his truck, which was prominently sitting in our driveway.The couple toured the house while my husband and I suffered heart palpitations. They ended upbuying our house. And luckily they never did ask what the plumber was doing in the driveway-Kiersten Jarvis

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Exploding toilet trickFamily Handyman

Exploding toilet trick

Our toilet wouldn't stop running because the float wouldnt turnthe water completely off. I'd fixed the same problem in our oldtoilet by bending the float arm down a little to increase thepressure on the shutoff valve in the tank. But since our newtoilet had a plastic arm, I decided to apply a little heat tosoften it so I could bend it.First I sprayed silicone lube on everything in the tank tohelp things slide better. Then I leaned over the tank with mylighter, clicked it and...WHOOOOMPP! The aerosol siliconespray I had just shot into the tank exploded. Luckily, Iescaped with only singed hair and eyelashes. But now mywife can't stop telling people about our exploding toilet. Ron Woodward

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The Ever-Flowing Water HeaterFamily Handyman

The Ever-Flowing Water Heater

When the plumber replaced one of the heating elements inmy electric water heater, I watched carefully, knowing thatthe other element would eventually need replacing too.Sure enough, a year later the other element went. I checkedit with an ohmmeter, confirmed my diagnosis and headedto the plumbing supply store. When I returned home,I killed the power supply at the box and at the wallswitch. Feeling proud and confident, I dragged the gardenhose into the house, connected it to the heater and ranit into the floor drain to empty the heaterjust like theplumber had done. Then I sat and waited for the water tostop flowing. After about an hour of a good, steady flow,it occurred to me to SHUT OFF THE WATER SUPPLY!Fifteen minutes later and hundreds of gallons of waterpoorer, I replaced the element.-Dianna Tucker

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Can You Hear Me Now?Family Handyman

Can You Hear Me Now?

I was going to install a faucet in our upstairs bathroom and had brought home some slick new quarter-turn ball valves to replace the old shutoffs under the sink. My wife's task was to choose and bring home the new faucet while I got started on the valves. When it was time to turn the main water line back on, I had my 15-year-old son stand in the bathroom with his cell phone to watch for leaks. Out at the street I called him on my cell phone and said, "OK, here we go" as I turned on the water. Then my phone went dead. What a time for a dropped call! I quickly redialed but the call rolled to my son's voice mail. I hung up and my phone rang immediately. "Dad, shut the water off!!!" I did and raced inside and up the stairs to find the entire bathroom and hallway carpet completely soaked. Turns out I'd left my slick new ball valves in the open position when I installed them.-Vaughn Williams

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Fourth Time's the CharmFamily Handyman

Fourth Time's the Charm

Our washing machine was on the fritz. It's a heavy stacked unit (dryer on top) that's tucked into a tight wall recess, so it's tough to maneuver. After 45 minutes of pulling and straining, I got it out from the wall and spotted the problem right awaya broken clutch. But because it was too late in the day to get the part and the unit was blocking the hallway to the kitchen, I had to push the whole thing back against the wall.The next day I did the backbreaking 45-minute thing over again and replaced the clutch. Then I reattached the supply hoses, pushed the unit back into place and started it. Oh, manwater began coming out from underneath the washer! I'd forgotten to reattach the drain hose! Once again, I pulled the whole thing out from the wall. Then I reattached the drain hose, pushed the unit back yet again, started it and Hallelujah, it seemed to work fineno leaks.The next day my wife discovered hot water coming out during the cold cycle. I'd switched the hot and cold hoses when I reattached them! Which meant I had to....-Vaughn Williams

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Two Times the Water DamageFamily Handyman

Two Times the Water Damage

The toilet in the upstairs bathroom had beenleaking for some time, which had rotted thefloor. I removed the toilet, vanity and sink toreplace the plywood. Once the new vinyl floor inand the vanity were reinstalled, I left off the sinkto make it easier to solder on new shutoff valves.With the main water supply to the house turnedoff, I installed the shutoff valves. Then I wentdownstairs to turn on the water supply so I couldcheck the joints for leaks. As I walked backupstairs, fancying myself a master plumber, Iheard the sound of gushing water. I hadforgotten to turn off the shutoff valves!The bathroom was flooded and theceiling below was ruined. But my soldering job held up perfectly.-Glenn McComas

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A New Toilet to Go with that SeatFamily Handyman

A New Toilet to Go with that Seat

My dad waited until I came home from college to ask me to install thesoft-cushion toilet seat he'd just bought. I sprayed the old, rusty toiletseat bolts with a heavy dose of lubricant and then got out the wrenchand went to work on them. Unfortunately, the wrench slipped off thelubricated bolt and the handle busted a nice hole in the toilet, sendingwater all over the floor. With my tail between my legs, I had to tellmy dad that he needed a new toilet to go with his new seat.I replaced the toilet, but haven't had my dad ask me to do anythingaround the house since. (I guess that means it worked out for the bestafter all!)-Martin Todd Dorris

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Lesson Learned the Slimy WayFamily Handyman

Lesson Learned the Slimy Way

My wife was complaining about the slow-drainingsink in our kitchen, so I put my handymanprowess to work. I planned to use theblow feature on my shop vacuum topush the clog through the drain line.As I inserted the hose into thedrain, my wife asked, "Dont you thinkwe should cover the other drain?" But it wastoo late. I'd already flipped on the vacuum, causingstinky, slimy water to shoot out of the other drain and drenchus. Next time I'll let her finish talking before I start working.-Steve Fears

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F is for Fluband FloodFamily Handyman

F is for Fluband Flood

I couldn't get the valves that fed my washingmachine to stop leaking, so I replacedthe entire faucet assembly. The installationwent fine. I reconnected the washerhoses, double-checked for leaks andwashed my first load of clothes.Satisfied with my leak free connections,I went upstairs.Everything worked perfectlyuntil Ireturned to the laundry room and foundmyself standing in a pool of soapy water.Unfortunately, I'd forgotten to put the drain line back into the laundry tub and an entire washer's worth of dirty water hadpoured onto my floor. Talk about washed up!-William C. Sinclair

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Toilet BluesFamily Handyman

Toilet Blues

My wife came home with one of those $10 chlorination gadgets forthe toilet that "self-cleans" the bowl after flushing. Installation seemedsimple enough, but within minutes I had broken the fill valve assemblyat the base.I quickly turned off the water supply at the wall and tried to loosenthe coupling nut that secures the valve so I could replace the part. Itwas corroded and wouldn't budge. I decided to pull the toilet for betteraccess to the stuck nut. I removed the flangenuts and lifted the toilet with all mymightand learned that the caulkingbead around the toilet basecan be exceptionally strong. The bowl base broke intothree pieces and waterspilled everywhere.My wife and I decidedthat I should quitwhile I was behind andcall a real plumber. The$350 bill was an expensiveend to a simpletask, but there is nocleaner toilet than abrand new one.-Marcus Cherlin

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Commode Flambeau

Commode Flambeau

A part from my young son's plasticpotty had somehow gottenstuck in the toilet trap. I couldn'tsnake it out, nor could theplumber, who left saying, "Buy anew toilet." But I had a brilliantidea: I'd burn it out! I pulled thetoilet and dragged it outside.There I poured charcoal lighterfluid down the trap and lit it up.Standing back, I basked in theglory of the geyser flames andmy phenomenal ingenuity...until the bang. The commodeliterally cracked from the heat.I bought a new toilet.-Gordy Gladman

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Family Handyman

"I Did What You Said, Dad"

My bathroom sink stopped up and I had to take off the trap to pull out a clog of gunk.I removed the trap and caught the water in a bucketscummy, soapy, toothpastegoobery, hairy water. I then positioned myself under the pipe to look up and makesure that all the gunk was out of the drain. I handed the bucket of water up to my 4-year-oldson and asked him to get rid of it. He did what seemed perfectly natural to himhe pouredit down the sink! All of the slimy water came right back in my face with a vengeance.-Lindsay Gerard

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Unplanned ShowerFamily Handyman

Unplanned Shower

Last year my fiance and I startedour first home improvementproject together, aptly, a shower.We installed a new control valvealong with new tile. Althoughmy fiance was still grouting thetile, I decided it was safe to turnon the main water supply valvebecause we'd finished theplumbing. A second later, ascream echoed through thehouse. I ran to the bathroomand saw that the shower wasblasting on my fiance. We'd leftthe valve in the open positionand she couldn't turn it offbecause we hadn't installed thehandles. Anyway, a year afterthis first shower, we're happilymarried!-Adam Halverson

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Glue GoofFamily Handyman

Glue Goof

My brother-in-law and I decided to help his fatherremodel his bathroom. Being pretty handy, wethought it would be a snap. When it came time toset the tub, we hooked up the water supply andthe PVC waste lines, then took a break for dinnerto let the glue dry. When we finished eating, weturned on the water to try it out. After a fewseconds, my brother-in-law said he could hearwater dripping. Then it turned into a gusher. Afterinvestigating the problem, we found we'd usedrubber cement instead of PVC glue. The containerswere similar and were right next to each other onthe shelf. After a couple of hours of redoing ourmistake, we were ready for a hot shower!-Ken Fees

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Saddle SoreFamily Handyman

Saddle Sore

When we moved into our newhome, we brought our refrigeratorwith us. When we tried to hook upthe icemaker, we discovered therewasnt a water line in the kitchen totap into. I located a spot behind therefrigerator, drilled a hole in thefloor and ran the tubing to the basement.The water heater was close, soI thought Id tap into the water linethere. I noticed three copper linesrunning to the water heater: two atthe top and one near the bottom.I felt the lines to make sure I wouldnt tap into the hot water and decided touse the one at the bottom, since it felt cold. I attached the saddle clamp to theline and screwed down the needle until it pierced the pipe. No water camethrough the line, so I went upstairs to make sure the icemaker was turned on.After a few trips up and down the stairs, I smelled gas and realized that Idtapped into the gas line. I told my wife and kids to get out of the house whileI closed the saddle clamp, stopping the flow of gas. I called the gas companyfrom the neighbors house. This goof was too close for comfort. Cameron LiDestri. Next, check out 100 home repairs you don't need to call a pro for. We'll show you how to do it yourself!

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A Quick ShowerFamily Handyman

A Quick Shower

Last spring, I added abreezeway betweenmy house and thegarage. The garage had1/2-in. sheathing over the studs on the adjoiningwall, so I decided to use 2-in. nails in my nail gun toattach the grooved plywood. The nail gun really madethe job go fast, and it wasn't long before the inside ofthe breezeway was finished. The job looked fantastic.Well, a couple of weeks later when the job wascompleted, we decided to take a fishing trip. I wentout to the garage to grab my fishing rod that I storein a stud space there. I pulled and pulled, but itwouldn't budge. Finally I realized that one of those2-in. nails had found its way dead center into myfishing rod. I was able to pry it loose and salvage it.Now every time I cast, I see light through a smallhole in the rod and think not of the fish I'll catchbut of power nailing. Norm Holcomb

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A soaking surpriseFamily Handyman

A soaking surprise

Last summer I hadto move the outdoorwater spigot severalfeet to accommodateour new deck. Igot all my plumbingparts ready, shut offthe water supplyinside and thenopened the outdoorspigot to drain any remainingwater. Just as I put the wrench onthe spigot, water came gushing right in my face! My wife had turned on afaucet upstairs to wash her hands and released the vacuum pressure holdingthe remaining water in that pipe. Michael Totoro

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Sparks in the darkFamily Handyman

Sparks in the dark

Recently I decided to replace aceiling light fixture with aceiling fan in my computerroom. Instead of turningoff the power at thebreaker, I just shut offthe light switch and gotto work. I changed thebox and was finishingup the electrical workwhen a storm passedover outside. The stormdarkened the room a bit,but I could still see fine tocomplete the job. Just then, mywife came into the room to helpout. I asked her to hand me someparts and then she said, Why areyou working in the dark? Takingmatters into her own hands, sheinstinctively turned on the lightswitch and sparks flew from my screwdriver. Thank goodness my hands werenttouching the wires. Next time Ill turn off the power at the breaker! Pedro Espada

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Wake up ShockFamily Handyman

Wake up Shock

Several years ago, I decided to replace the vanity lights in my small bathroom.Because my dad had been an electrician, I asked if he could stop by to help. After hemade sure the light switch was off, he walked me through removing the old lightfixture and explained the wire colors and their gauges. He also brought along thenew fixture and explained how totwist the bare wires and install thewire nuts.Since the room was dim, I washaving trouble seeing which wiresto connect. Ever helpful, my dadflipped on the light switch. Yikes!I received a nice wake-up joltof electricity. After apologizingprofusely, my dad then showedme how to turnoff the breakersin the breakerpanel. Luckily Iwas unhurt andwe shared agood chuckleover the incident.-MarciHenscheid

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Smokin' New Man CaveFamily Handyman

Smokin' New Man Cave

After hours of meticulous, testosterone-enrichedplanning, I began building my garage man cave.I installed cabinets with workbenches, storageunits, a dust collection system, air filtration andeven a heater. Because of the low ceiling, I carefullyinstalled recessed lighting so that my customhand-carved garage door would roll up unobstructedonce it was installed.On the first warm day of spring, I rolled up myold garage door (the new one hadnt arrived yet)and started working in my new man cave.After about 15 minutes, I smelled smokeand realized my garage door was smoldering!I rolled it down and found threescorched spots where my recessed lightswere burning into the door. Im just glad mycustom door hadnt been installed yet!-Wade Clary

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That is One Mighty FanFamily Handyman

That is One Mighty Fan

I helped my son-in-law install a new ceilingfan and light in their kitchen. Thewiring in the house was pretty old, butwed figured it outor at least we hopedso. That evening, my son-in-law calledto say that when he flipped the switchto show my daughter the new fan, allthe power in the house went out! Itold him to turn off the switch andreset any breakers. He did as I said,but nothing changed. Anticipating atotal project redo, I told him Id be overshortly. A few minutes later, he calledback to say there was aneighborhood poweroutage. It turned out thiswas a major outage affecting42,000 homes. Whenmy daughter put two andtwo together, she said,Wow, from one little fan?-LouisDeSanzo

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Attention-Getting Dryer

Attention-Getting Dryer

I was installing a new, quieter dryerin a clients high-end house. The powercord was unattached and had exposedconnectors at one end. Like an idiot, Ipushed the plug into the 240-volt outletto see if the prongs fit. Well, the connectorsat the other end were all touching oneanother andWHAM!The loose ends shorted out andknocked me clear over. This in turn set offthe house alarm system, alerted the policeand set every dog in the neighborhoodbarking. Its bad enough to goofits far worse to have toexplain your screwup to your client and your boss, acrowd of curious onlookers and the police. Ben Rall

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Hot Closet

Hot Closet

After framing in a new closetwith metal studs, I was ready totake a break. I had been workingaround an old electricalpanel in our old house.As I sat down on the radiator,I grabbed hold of one of thestuds to support myself andwas greeted with a powerfulshock.Upon investigating, I foundthat one of my screws had penetrateda wire inside an existingwall and had energized the newmetal wall framing. What awild ride 120 volts gives you!How lucky I wasnt hurt. Ted LabattePlus: How to build a wall-to-wall closet

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Real Men Don't Use IronsFamily Handyman

Real Men Don't Use Irons

My friend had installed a kitchen backsplash and asked me to helphim change the wall outlets to match the new dcor. Since I didnthave my voltage sniffer with me, I needed something to plug into theoutlet so Id know when the power was off. I plugged in a clothes iron,and my friend flipped the circuit breakers until the iron light went off.I changed the first two outlets and started on the third. Plugged inthe ironyup, the light was off. When I touched the wire, there was aflash of sparks and my entire arm went numb. I was flooredhowcould I get a shock when the iron showed the power was off? I learnedthe hard way that the light goes off when the iron reaches the righttemperature. I think Ill stick with my voltage sniffer from now on. Shawn Tombolini

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Electric Cake BatterFamily Handyman

Electric Cake Batter

When I was a teenager, I came home from school to find my mothermaking a cake. She was using her favorite electric mixer. Thedouble-ended electric cord was plugged into the mixer at one endand into the wall outlet at the other. As she happily mixed away,she inadvertently knocked the cord out of the mixer, and it fell intothe cake batter. So she fished it out and, not thinking, licked it off.The live cord shocked her tongue, making her jump about 3 ft. inthe air. After the initial shock, she was fine, and now we laughabout it. Mary-Kay Reno

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Night Light NightmareFamily Handyman

Night Light Nightmare

I installed a motion sensor switchin our laundry room, and my wifeloves it. Every time she walks in carryinga load of laundry, the lightautomatically comes on, and thenit turns off soon after she leaves.So I decided to put one in our kidsbedroom since theyre always leavingthe light on.Big mistake. Sure, the light turned off whenthere wasnt anyone in the room. But it also turned onwhen we didnt want it tolike when the kids rolled overin their sleep or the cat entered the room on its nightly patroland jumped up on their beds. The instant-on light woke upthe kids, who in turn woke me up with their yelling. Iswapped it with the old switch the next morning. Now if I canjust get my dear wife to stop snoring, Ill be able to get a peacefulnights sleep. Dave Ahrendt

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Short-Circuit ShortcutFamily Handyman

Short-Circuit Shortcut

Mike, a carpenter buddy of mine, shared one of his coolremodeling tricks with me. When he comes across a hump in awall caused by a badly bowed stud, he cuts right through the drywalland the stud with a long reciprocating saw blade. The cut relievesthe stress and the stud straightens itself. Just a little patchingto fix the saw kerfand youre done.Brilliant! I had thatexact problem inmy downstairs bedroomthat humphad always drivenme nuts.I stuck the sawblade into the drywalland startedhacking away. Allof a sudden, theroom went blackand the saw stopped.The bad stud happened to be the one with electrical cable stapled tothe side to feed the overhead light. I had cut through the cable andblown the circuit breaker. Needless to say, there was a lot more electricalwork, drywall patching and painting ahead of me. But at leastthe wall was flatmission accomplished! Milo Amundsen

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A Shocking EmailFamily Handyman

A Shocking Email

Ill tell you right off that I hate working withelectricity because it scares the heck out ofme. But I had to replace an outlet, soI shut off the proper circuit breakerand checked the outlet with a voltagetester. The power was off. OK,no big deal. I started unscrewing the wirefrom the outlet, and just as the screwdrivertouched the head of the terminal screw,someone sent me an e-mail, which causedthe BlackBerry phone hanging at my hip tovibrate. Thinking I was being electrocuted, Ithrew the screwdriver across the room, whereit crashed right through the window. This isone time that hiring an electrician might havebeen cheaper. --Jerry Dolak

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A Bit of A ProblemFamily Handyman

A Bit of A Problem

I was on the couch knitting while my husband was downstairs working onour basement. He was using a 6-ft. flexible drill bit to drill holes throughthe floor joists in the finished ceiling so he could fish wire through themand install new recessed lights. All of a sudden, I felt the couch vibrate.This went on for about 10 seconds and then stopped. I was totally confuseduntil my husband ran into the room, looked at the couch and in a veryquiet voice said, Oooops, theres the problem. I peeked over the side ofthe couch and saw that the drill bit had come up through the floor, throughthe wall-to-wall carpeting, through the bottom corner of our leather couchand was sticking out the side. Apparently the drill bit had hit a vent andwas driven off course. My husband finished thejob and the new lights look great. And so doesour new couch.-Charla Schafer