The Hammer House Of DIY Horror

This is a list of things we have found in our house during some building work.

  • A metal poster of the Beatles ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ album cover with ‘made in Taiwan 1993’ stamped on the bottom.
  • Some drawings of World War II British and German bombers on the wall along with their names.
  • Two pornographic DVDs, minus cases.
  • A map of Essex.
  • Two uncovered fireplaces behind fitted wardrobes.
  • A drawing on the wall of a woman with teeth the size of walrus tusks.
  • A rotten joist.
  • Some eye-wateringly hideous 1970s wallpaper.
  • A trophy for Irish dancing.

Our house only had two owners before us – the man who bought it when it was built in 1927 and the family who bought it from him in 1995. The family were quite keen on DIY but their ability was far outstripped by their enthusiasm. Doing up the house over the last five years has been a grand tour of uncovering one bodge after another.

Like the 12 holes drilled in the kitchen wall to put up a shelf which only had four fixings. Or the boiler in the back bedroom which turned out to be plugged into a three pin socket behind the fridge in the kitchen below. And let’s not forget the damp wall in the kitchen caused by fitting an outside tap using a length of plastic hose and some gaffer tape rather than actual pipe. That had been leaking for so long that the kitchen floor had started to collapse.

The shed was put straight on the grass with no footing so the floor was rotten. They were also quite fond of daisy-chaining (for the electrically-challenged, this is when you connect a new socket to an existing one). Their pièce de résistance was a garden spotlight so powerful you could have guided ships off a treacherous shore with it which was plugged in in the (damp) shed. That outlet was connected to one in the outhouse which was connected to an outlet in the kitchen which was connected to another one under the stairs. We’re still not quite sure what they did with the ring main – my husband recently switched off the lighting bit while we changed a light fitting, only to have the fuse for all the sockets trip as he unscrewed the old fitting.

Being an old house, the guttering was also quite old. In fact, it was the original iron guttering from when the house was built. When it rained, great sheets of water poured like Niagara Falls through the ancient and rusty guttering. Obviously, this wasn’t ideal so the previous owners of our house decided to lay a patio which sloped downwards so the water could run away and form a muddy morass on the grass.

Their DIY ineptitude extended to literally everywhere in the house. I prefer to think of it as DIY because the thought that they could have paid tradesmen to produce such chronically poor work fills me with horror. The main bedroom and stairs were carpeted in a sisal matting which was like walking on sandpaper and turned out to be attached to the floor using a combination of well over 100 nails and superglue. The other two bedrooms had laminate flooring held in place by biros strategically inserted between the edges of the boards and the skirting.

So the fireplaces and the joist didn’t come as that much of a surprise. We’d speculated for ages about what might be behind the badly-built fitted wardrobes in the two main bedrooms and we knew that given what the rest of he house was like, it probably wouldn’t be pretty. It wasn’t. Two gaping, rubble-filled holes in the wall. In one, the builder thinks that part of the original brick fireplace collapsed so the previous owners just shoved the rubble into the gap and built a cupboard over it.

Finding the rotten joist was rather more dramatic. The part of the ceiling where it was fell in with a tremendous crash just as the builders had started to rip out the old wardrobes, nearly braining one of them in the process. The builder says the roof must have leaked at some point in the past and rather than replace the joist, the previous owners thought the best idea would be to plaster over it.

We’ve nearly finished the house. There are no more rooms with DIY catastrophes waiting to be found behind cracked plaster or layers of MDF. No more porn DVDs beneath floorboards. No more wonky tiles or leaking taps.

Want to know the really shocking thing about all this?

I bet you do.

Here it is.

The previous owner was a builder.

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