DIY During Quarantine. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Plenty | KUNC

DIY During Quarantine. What Could Possibly Go Wrong? Plenty

Originally published on May 18, 2020 1:57 pm

Maybe your garbage disposal is broken or the fridge is slowly dying. Because of the coronavirus lockdown, you can't easily call a professional. But you have a hammer and you have YouTube, so what could go wrong?

We asked listeners that question, and they said plenty!

Vicki Novikoff Barnhart of Galveston, Texas, had a problem that was driving her to the point of madness. Her microwave oven was beeping loudly nonstop, 24 hours a day. Because it was built in, it wasn't possible to just unplug it.

A friend suggested she turn off the circuit breaker to the microwave. But it was mounted outside up high and would require taking the back off, which she figured was too dangerous. A different friend said to hit the microwave with a hammer. That just seemed like a great way to get electrocuted.

So the beeping went on. Day after day after day.

"I wanted to get a gun and shoot it," she says, "but I didn't have a gun."

After living like this for six weeks, Barnhart finally got a repairman to come to the house to install a new microwave. He put the old one out on the curb, promising that someone would happily take it away.

He was right. A few days later, Barnhart was outside and heard a familiar sound. "I knew it was my microwave and it was at a neighbor's house," she says. "And then a full day later, I was out there and it was still on and it was still beeping!"

Barnhart recently was on her neighborhood posting site and saw these words: "Does anybody hear that beeping and do you know what it is?"

A perfect quarantine match

It was a quiet Sunday night in lockdown when Sophia Hsu of Brooklyn, N.Y., heard a crash and expletives coming from the bathroom. Hsu ran downstairs to find her husband standing next to the sink, now dangling off the wall.

Her husband, who's over 6 feet tall and says he has trouble turning around in small spaces, had "hip-checked" (ran into) the sink.

Hsu says he "wrecked the sink, the underlying pipes and my good weekend mood."

Hsu, the handy one in the family, opened up her toolbox. She lacked the right wrench, but using common sense and lessons from her father, she reattached the sink and all the pipes, and now it drains perfectly.

Theirs is a perfect quarantine match.

"He breaks things," Hsu says. "I fix them."

Water everywhere

For Megan Glasscock of Pensacola, Fla., the recent national toilet paper shortage inspired her to install a bidet with her mother.

The bathroom at the Glasscock house in Pensacola, Fla., where mother and daughter attempted to install a bidet.
Megan Glasscock

"I read the instructions," Glasscock says. "I said, 'Aah, 20 minutes — this will be a breeze.' "

"Mind you, Megan knows nothing about plumbing," says her mother, Cheryl Glasscock.

The pair knew enough, though, to turn the water to the toilet off before getting started. After hours of struggling to install the bidet, which included a trip to the hardware store for a part, they called it quits for the night.

They turned the water back on.

"That's when the nightmare began," Megan says. The bathroom started flooding, and now this time the water wouldn't turn off.

Cheryl rushed outside to cut off the main water supply to the house. But in the dark, she couldn't find the valve. She reached down and started turning a wheel. That's when water began bubbling up from the ground.

Now both the bathroom and the yard were flooding. Water was everywhere. Buckets were no match.

Eventually the local water company arrived. They were dumbstruck at the destruction they found. They pumped out the yard and replaced the water meter that Cheryl had destroyed when she somehow disconnected the water meter from the water line.

After the mess was cleaned up and tears were dried, mother and daughter installed the bidet, this time following instructions on YouTube. That's key, the Glasscocks say.

They are now the proud owners of a bidet, just as toilet paper is back on the shelves!

Good walls make good neighbors

Kenneth McNay sits on the wall in question that separates his townhouse from his neighbor's.
Deanna McNay

Kenneth McNay of Morrisville, N.C., also decided to use the shutdown to take on a DIY project. "I noticed that the retaining wall between my and my neighbor's townhomes was sagging in the center."

He removed all the stones, leveled the ground with paving stones, rock and sand and then put everything back straight. He felt rather proud of the finished job.

McNay's neighbor, however, was not happy. She wanted a professional to do it. The neighbor was also worried about the safety warnings on the bags of stone and sand, which McNay found really puzzling.

"During the next weekend, she completely reversed my work, taking away all the stones, taking all the sand and gravel out and then putting it all back with a sag in the middle," McNay says.

What did McNay's neighbor do with the paving, gravel and sand that he had so carefully installed during the pandemic, when we are all supposed to be practicing social distancing and keeping surfaces clean?

She returned them all to his porch in zip-lock bags.

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We all have our own special talents. And during this pandemic, many of us thought that those skills might lie in taking on home repairs and do-it-yourself projects. But some of our listeners have figured out that DIY may not be for them.

MEGAN GLASSCOCK: My name is Megan Glasscock. I'm from Pensacola, Fla. And here is my mother.

CHERYL GLASSCOCK: I'm the mother. I'm Cheryl.

M GLASSCOCK: And we have a very, very exciting installation-of-the-day story we have for you.

KENNETH MCNAY: Hello. My name is Kenneth McNay, and I live in Morrisville, near Raleigh. I noticed that the retaining wall between my and my neighbor's townhomes was sagging in the center.

VICKI NOVIKOFF BARNHART: This is Vicki Novikoff Barnhart in Galveston, Texas. My built-in microwave beeped nonstop, morning, noon and night, really loudly for six weeks.


M GLASSCOCK: So I decided, to save on toilet paper, that I was going to be the good daughter and get bidets for both of our bathroom.

C GLASSCOCK: And mind you, Megan knows nothing about plumbing.

MCNAY: I took some time to remove all of the stones, to level the ground with paver rock and sand and then put everything back straight.

NOVIKOFF BARNHART: Anyway, somebody suggested that I turn off the breaker. But the breaker box is this big, old thing mounted outside on the brick. It's way up high, and you have to take the whole back of it off. It was a big hazard to even do that. Then this other friend of mine told me I should hit it with a hammer. And I said I could get electrocuted if I hit it with a hammer. And I wanted to just get a gun and shoot it, but I didn't have a gun.


M GLASSCOCK: So basically, the bathroom was taking on water. I was playing bucket brigade, and my mother rushes to shut off the water to the house.

C GLASSCOCK: And I get out in the yard, and it's dark.

M GLASSCOCK: It's 8 o'clock at night.

C GLASSCOCK: I can't find the valve. I have the tool to use - turn it off, but I can't remember how to do it. So I reach down my hand, and I start turning this wheel. And all of a sudden, all this water bubbles out of the ground.

MCNAY: My neighbor expressed excessive anxiety that we should've had a professional do it, that we should've had a permit and was concerned about the safety warnings on the bags of stone and sand.

NOVIKOFF BARNHART: And finally, the guy came after six weeks and replaced it. And he said, I'll just put this old one out on the curb, and somebody will pick it up, I promise you.


C GLASSCOCK: I come back in. The water's still running. So I get on the phone to turn the water off, and there's no answer.

M GLASSCOCK: (Laughter).

C GLASSCOCK: I go back out in the yard. And by then, the yard is flooded.

MCNAY: During the next weekend, she completely reversed my work, taking away all the stones, taking all the sand and the gravel out and then putting it all back with a sag in the middle. She returned all of the paving gravel and sand to my porch in Ziploc bags.


C GLASSCOCK: So I sit down, and I have a thought that if I disconnect one of the hoses that's in there and just connect it back to the toilet, it will stop leaking.

M GLASSCOCK: And it does.

C GLASSCOCK: Well, a lightbulb.

M GLASSCOCK: (Laughter).

C GLASSCOCK: So I went in there. I disconnected one hose. I connected it right back to the tank where it was supposed to go - and no leaks.

M GLASSCOCK: Oh, and the next day, we did get the bidet installed.

C GLASSCOCK: (Laughter).

NOVIKOFF BARNHART: And then two days later, I was outside, and I swear I heard that noise. And then I knew it was my microwave. And it was at a neighbor's house. And then a full day later, I was out there, and it was still on. It was still beeping. And just yesterday, somebody posted - about 10 blocks from here, they posted, does anybody hear that beeping? Do you know what it is? (Laughter).


GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was do-it-yourselfers Vicki Novikoff Barnhart, Megan and Cheryl Glasscock and Kenneth McNay.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.