Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Handyman Hell: 12 case histories

A to Z challenge: Day 8

H is for Handyman Hell

Handymen have a special place in my heart – right next to my broken valve. Owning your own house is a special kind of hell when you have to hire a handyman. Do you recognize any of these guys?

Handyman Hell #1: Henpecked Dave

Dave was just laid off from his UPS delivery job so opened his reno business. After all, hadn’t he just finished his basement? He arrived with his wife, who appeared to be heavily medicated. He disconnected the old dryer tube but couldn’t finish the job since he didn’t have his special tool. Wendy and Dave started arguing over who was responsible for bringing the tools. It went on for an hour. They promised to return with the tool but first Wendy needed payment immediately.

Handyman Hell #2: Connected Guiseppe

Guiseppe was on the preferred vendors list given by the insurance company after the flood. I had to call his “booking assistant” three times to get an appointment for an estimate. He looked at my gutted basement and quoted me $30,000 to install a new floor. The walls would be another $20K. If I gave him 30% upfront in cash, he could get started immediately.

Handymen Hell #3: Helpful Claude

Claude was another preferred vendor. When he found out I lived alone with a recently torn apart basement, he suggested I sell the house immediately. He even had a buyer who would give me a good price. Even better – he had all the paperwork with him. All I had to do was sign on the bottom line.

Handyman Hell #4: Underage Jordan

Jordan assured me he could paint the back bedroom in two days. On this first day he called to ask if I could pick him up. He had missed the bus and his dad had left for work. He was pumped because he had spent the night googling painting and was pretty sure the paint he had ordered online was the right primer. Could I pick it up on the way to get him?

Handyman Hell #5: Weeping Alan

Andy came with references and a portfolio. The day after we signed our contract, he split up with his wife. The hammer bought by his wife made him weep; the paint for the living room was the same shade as her nightgown so he had to lie down; mixing the plaster reminded him of her cookie dough, he couldn’t left a finger. A three-week basement renovation stretched into three months. I would come home from work to discover a new, unplanned enhancement, like the tiled runway to the washer and dryer to “define” the area. I threw him out after he tried renovating the back room into a one room apartment for himself. “But, I feel safe here,” he sobbed while packing up his gear.


Handyman Hell #6: Panty-loving Darren

Darren was Alan’s assistant. He wanted to get paid upfront but my contract was pretty clear about no payment until the work was completed. So, he showed up ready to work. Darren was downstairs finishing the plastering when I went to the post office. I came back when I realized I had forgotten the parcel to be mailed. Darren didn’t see me come into the room. He was too busy sniffing his way through my daughter’s underwear drawer. Both the broom and my foot made contact with him on his way out the door. When Alan and Darren showed up the following week asking for an additional $4k in damages, I had the police on speed dial.


Handyman Hell #7: Selective Sean

Sean had just started his business in floating floors so I hired him to finish the basement floors. He arrived and asked why none of the furniture was removed or the closet cleaned out. I thought that was part of the service. “Oh no,” he said, “I only do floors.” He made an exception for me. At the end of the day, I noticed none of the closets or hallways were done. “Yeah, I don’t do closets or hallways. Too much work to measure everything.” Let me guess: You don’t clean up afterwards either.

Handyman Hell #8: Gregarious Greg

The walls in my basement looked like they had cellulite so I called in Greg to fix the problem. He started plastering with ease and after 10 minutes, he called a friend for a 20-minute sit-down chat about the previous night’s video game scores. Then there was another 10 minutes of plastering, followed by another 20-minute convo with a friend only this time it was over how drunk they had gotten. Then another 10 minutes of plastering. After his hour lunch, he asked if he could use the house phone since he was having trouble calling long distance with his phone. He was outraged when I refused to pay him for the entire eight hours he spent in the basement.

Handyman Hell #9: Stoned Derek

My next-door neighbor gave me Derek’s number when I mentioned I needed my kitchen renovated to install a new dishwasher. The first morning, Derek got the counter top and new drawers installed. Then he stepped out a medicinal marijuana break. When he came back he forgot how to put the cabinet screws in. He didn’t mean to tile over the hot air vent in the kitchen but shit happens. He didn’t mean to install the dishwasher backwards but that’s life. The cabinet doors looked okay upside down. Sorry, that cabinet he moved was really heavy and he had no idea it would gouge out the wood floor like that. On his final day, I went to the bank. When I got back my premium tequila was finished and Derek had piled my CD collection into two stacks. The one with bad vibes was much higher. I ran into Derek last week. He offered me some of his newly harvested product. He wasn’t in the reno biz anymore. Too stressful.

Handyman Hell #10: Drunk Al

Al was the new handsome guy at the reno store. He helped me with the math for buying the wood for what would be new doors on the shed. I ended up hiring him. He installed the doors and they looked great. “I’m just going out for some lunch,” he said but never came back. When I called to let him know the doors had fallen off their hinges, there was no answer. I went to the hardware store. Al didn’t work there anymore. He showed up two weeks later with the entire left side of his face bruised and smelling of booze. “Did something stupid,” he grinned. He had been fired because the other guys were jealous of him. He drank my last beer and then asked me out. I said no. He asked me for some money. I said no. He called me a bitch.

Handyman Hell #11: Helpful Harry

Helpful Harry was a doctor dating my best friend. He just loved helping people and was happy to come over to paint for free. Seriously. No money, he just wanted to help. Helpful Harry started off taping every corner, door, doorknob, doorway, light switch, window, vent, staircase, railing and baseboard. He sanded every bump and covered them with plaster. It was scientific fact you didn’t need to sand or prime. My paint would cover it up, especially when he combined all three shades for a more unique colour. He had to leave in the middle of painting – sorry – an important brain surgery operation came up. However, he did leave his very expensive European painting tools behind and needed to be reimbursed for them. $700 should cover it.

Handyman Hell #12: Dead Ed

Ed was my dream handyman. He was a hard worker. He fixed my badly plastered walls, rehung the crooked doors, fixed the space between the floating floors, finished the floors in the remaining three rooms, made new baseboards for the missing one, finished the painting, patched the hole in the ceiling, finished the grouting in the bathroom and patched the stairs. He even built a cute shelf to disguise the weird space created by weeping Alan. He said he was going to take a short break. When I called two weeks later, his daughter told me Ed had passed away. Apparently he wasn’t supposed to start working again after his quadruple bypass heart surgery. I'm still in mourning.


  1. Too bad about Dead Ed! What a nightmare the other handymen were!

    1. Yeah, I miss Ed. Maybe after I have cycled through another 12 loser handymen I'll find another Ed. Hope springs eternal!

  2. I'm almost too stunned to type. It's like a comedy movie - only not so funny when it happens to you. Personally, I'd ask Claude back and sign on the dotted line...houses are way too much trouble. :(

    1. I definitely have a love-hate relationship with my home. I love it until I have to call up the superintendent for repairs and realize, oh crap, that's me!