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Tell us about a dumb thing you did to your house

By Holden Lewis ·
Monday, April 12, 2010
Posted: 2 pm ET

What dumb thing have done with your house? Have you ever tackled a misguided renovation project? Tried to install a sink disposer upside-down? Planted bamboo in the backyard, only to watch it take over? Bought a Hummer with the money from a cash-out refi?

Consider this an open thread for Monday afternoon. Comments are not only welcome, but demanded.

I'll start. After the hurricanes of September 2004 (yes, plural -- Frances and Jeanne), I installed storm panels on my house the following spring. I measured the windows, ordered the hardware, and installed it by myself. Another hurricane (Wilma) hit in 2005, and the storm panels held up wonderfully. A tree branch, hurled by 100 mph wind, whacked the panel covering the bedroom window. Undamaged.

Cool, right? Except that soon after, we requested an estimate for window replacements. The estimator got out of his truck, and before he took the tape measure off his hip, he asked who installed the hurricane shutter hardware. I told him proudly that I did. "Did you get a building permit?" he asked. I said no. "Sorry," he said. "Without a permit for the shutters, I can't get a permit to replace your windows." And with that, he got back in his truck and drove away.

My town is Taliban-like in its zeal for permits. To get a shutter permit, I would have to remove my hardware, patch the holes and paint over them, hire an architect to make blueprints for shutters, get a permit and then reinstall them. Ain't gonna happen. So we're stuck with the original windows.

Outsiders seem to think that this is something that can be finessed, but it can't. You remember the end of "Chinatown," where the detective says, "Forget it, Jake. It's Chinatown."? Well, forget it, reader. It's Jupiter.

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Chris LeClair
April 20, 2010 at 2:36 pm

My turn! I could fill a book with my stupidity. This is my first house. I tell everyone it's my practice house. I had no idea how to hire a contractor and I've learned the hard way. The roof needed repairs. Someone gives me the name of someone he recommends. I PAY him half and he walks away with the money. Police laugh at's not their problem. The second roofers I hire don't know what they are doing and the first rainfall, the roof leaks. They have no idea why. "It didn't leak before you fixed it," I say. They don't have a clue. So...I hire a third roofer who seems like he knows what he's talking about, is licenced and has me sign a contract. I'm learning, or so I think. I failed to understand roofing lingo on the contract and I'm not getting what I asked for. Then in the middle of the job, he tells me he must replace roofing beams and it will cost another $1500. So what do I do? I'm desperate to get the work done before it starts raining again. I have no idea what he's talking about and I have no one to ask. (Later I found out this is how this guy a good price and then starts jacking it up with incidentals made to look like emergencies.) The job the roofers are doing isn't looking so good but I figure the building inspector will help. Nope, he just sits around talking baseball with them. I don't think he looked at the roof once. The roofers say that was the easiest inspection they've ever had and laugh about it the rest of the day. The whole ordeal has been embarrassing. For probably three times as much as I needed to spend, I do have a roof that doesn't leak - yet.

Marcie: Paint one room at a time. Empty the room, seal it off from the rest of the house, and paint. It takes longer, but eventually you'll have the whole house all done in no time. That's what I did.

Marcie Geffner
April 13, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Okay, I'll be the first to confess: The dumbest thing I've done was to not have the interior of the house painted before I moved in because I wanted to save a week's rent on the apartment I vacated. Seven years later and I'm still surrounded by the former owner's cigarette-stained yellow walls, and I'm still hanging my pictures over his (many) nail holes. Ugh.