Craziest Homeowner Holiday Disaster Stories V
Hanging lights, roasting turkey, and more turn sour in the fifth installment of your horrifying holiday mishaps
The holidays are stressful enough, without your own home plotting against you. But when it does, it sure puts a damper on the joy and togetherness. We were curious about how you, the reader, have dealt with household disasters during the holiday season—so we asked. And the stories you told us were both funny and tragic and downright pitiful (not to mention dangerous in a few cases). Here are this year's best in a whole new round-up of our horrifying DIY holiday disasters.
"While cooking Thanksgiving dinner for family members visiting from Europe, my stove and oven suddenly would not work! I was out of propane. I called my provider, who arrived a few hours later to fill my tank. Of course, they also had to check for leaks and re-light the pilots. They charged me $100 for checking for leaks and then an extra $100 because it was holiday delivery. I've since switched to another company, which checks my tank regularly, and I never run out of fuel again."
"Thanksgiving Day the kitchen sink decided to plug up. I thought turning on the garbage disposal would help. Nope. I ended up with food coming up like a volcano out of the drain, all over the kitchen. What a gross mess."
"I first bought my house and moved in around Christmas. I was living without the water turned on because the kitchen faucet leaked. I went to the home center and talked to the plumbing pro. He recommended a pipe cutter and fittings. I went home, confident I could fix this minor-seeming project."
I fixed the hot water first with success. The cold water—not so much. The problem extended from a bigger pipe to a smaller pipe and the fittings were not the right size. I brought pictures of the problem to my next home center visit. This time the associate said to use a compression fitting. I installed it and turned the main shutoff valve in the basement back on, and then slowly turned the cold water on in the faucet. Suddenly I had a mini Old Faithful under my sink. I called a plumber—and haven't touched any more plumbing in the house since then."
"On Christmas day I was preparing two prime ribs of beef in my double ovens, trying to impress my parents and in-laws. The house filled with smoke and a terrible smell of burning rubber was coming from the dining room walls. The fire department came and tried to bash in the walls. Thank goodness my father-in-law and my dad knew the smell was the aluminum wiring and shut off the power. The house was saved—and dinner was finished on the grill."
—Christy May T.
"My husband was hanging Christmas lights on the outside of the house and fell coming down the ladder. He broke his heel in two places. Now we just put lights on our tree in the house."
"On Christmas Eve my oven caught on fire. The rush of the firefighters knocked down a small Christmas tree. We were lucky there was no bad damage and the turkey was not ruined."
"Around Christmas-time over 20 years ago, we decided to add a dimmer to the dining room light. I hooked it up up and turned the breaker back on to show my wife. I twisted the switch with great pride. Unfortunately, she tapped me and pointed to the living room, where the Christmas tree was lighting and dimming, lighting and dimming."
"I have a renowned Scrooge and bah-humbug-type Christmas attitude. I decided to surprise my wife one year and decorate our two-story house with icicle lights. She left to go shopping and I saw my opportunity. Thirty minutes later I was en route to a hospital trauma center in a medevac helicopter with a fractured skull, two crushed vertebrae, a collapsed lung, a broken wrist, and lots of fluid loss. My survival was seriously in doubt. When I awoke from a 5-day coma, I realized I had done a very stupid thing: I had overextended my reach and fell 28 feet, landing on the cement driveway. I lived because of excellent medical care and the best surgeons. The important lesson I learned is that the accident was avoidable. I've gone back to being my bah-humbug self, and decorations above eye-level are not permitted."
"Back in the late 1970s, our neighbor's tree landed on our house, very, very early Christmas morning. It was their DIY project-disaster, since the previous day they were trimming branches off a 60-foot tall pine. They cut back branches, but some landed into an old Elm tree. That night the Santa Anna winds kicked up, and the Elm couldn't take the extra weight under the gusts. Around 3 am, it crashed into our living room! To calm and distract us kids, my parents let us open our gifts at 3 am. Plus, it gave us extra time to get ready for church."
"Many, and I do mean many years ago, our water storage tank exploded in our utility room on Christmas Day. It blew a huge dent into my washing machine. I was glad none of the kids were anywhere around. We also have had both a leaking hot water heater and a hot water heater that refused to work—on different Christmas Days."
"While hosting holiday guests, I decided to turn the temperature down on the water heater. My screwdriver hit the wrong part and melted halfway through, sending a jolt of electricity to my arm. At least I had on sneakers."
"Due to the electrical main grounding out and burning off (that's another story...), I once spent an entire Thanksgiving weekend with my father-in-law rewiring our house, literally top to bottom."
"When I was a kid, at an annual formal neighborhood Christmas-Eve party, a lampshade caught on fire while Santa was visiting with the kids. As it went up in flames, the host grabbed it and ran to the bathtub with his toddler-daughter in the other arm. I, in my 8-year old wisdom, promptly went and called the fire department. Thankfully, no further harm was done, and an adult called the fire department to say there was no need for them to come."
[Editor's note: For safety's sake, you should always let the fire department come anyway.]
"We were heading east from Eugene, Oregon, to see the family in Connecticut before starting a new life in Washington, D.C. Before we left, we packed one of our many suitcases with Medford pears—a Christmas present for my grandfather, who always said the best pears came from Medford. All went well until an out-of-nowhere snowstorm hit St. Louis just as we were passing through. Panicked about getting to my folks' place in Connecticut in time for Christmas dinner, we stored the car, shipped all of our stuff, and jumped on a plane. Unfortunately our shipped goods didn't arrive at my parents' until after we'd moved on to D.C. Needless to say, we forgot all about the pears, and our belongings sat patiently in my parents' garage until spring, when we returned to reclaim our goods. By then, the pears had turned the suitcase—and the garments we had so cleverly used as packing material—into something else."
"Disasters happen when you have too many Christmas spirits. I put up our tree with decorations and my husband said it looked crooked, since I had pushed it back against the wall to make more room. I told him I'd fix it, but I got involved with making dinner. I suddenly hear a big swoosh and crash—and after all my hours of work, my creation was ruined! I went from dancing and singing holiday songs to cursing, screaming, and kicking the tree."
"Despite all my years warning TOH readers to never call a plumber on a holiday, we did just that one Christmas a few years back. Having the whole family using my parents' two full bathrooms and 40-year-old plumbing quickly led to a clog in the main line out to the septic tank. We're talking raw sewage backed up in the downstairs tub. No one could shower or even run the water in the kitchen sink, and the only toilet available was in an apartment over the garage. To make it worse, the access point to the line was in a closet in the living room. So while we all sat around opening presents in our pajamas, Christmas tree lit up bright, the plumber snaked out the line just 10 feet away. What a lovely man to come out on a holiday. (Of course, we paid a premium for that!)"
—Alexandra Bandon, Online Editor
"One Christmas the roof was covered with so much snow that water was trickling through, traveling across a beam, and dripping onto the living room furniture. That was annoying, but when the skylights got totally covered and the living room grew dim, I said (because I was in my teens), enough! I grabbed a shovel and the ladder, slammed it up against the roof and shoveled all the snow off the skylights and the roof. Victory!
"It would have been truly heroic if I hadn't then done exactly what my mom had warned me I might do: Heading down, I slipped on the roof, slid down head first, knocked the ladder down to the deck and fell backwards 12 feet, landing flat on my back on the ladder, crushing a rung and a vertebra in the process. Not such a merry Christmas recovering from that boneheaded bout of bravado. I refused to go to the ER, so I was confined to the couch with ice to calm the spasms for a couple of days. My wounded man pride took longer to heal, though, and I think of that every time I see that darned bent rung."
"We have a lot of woods in our neighborhood including the back edge of my parent's property. One year after a storm, my dad dragged in a fallen pine tree branch and declared it as our Christmas tree. My mom was horrified. He put the thing into the stand and we had no choice but to decorate it. My brothers and I thought it was hilarious. We sang our own rendition of O Christmas Branch, O Christmas Branch almost immediately. Then, at our Christmas Eve party—Feast of the Seven Fishes, at which we hosted my Mom's Italian relatives—the branch tipped over and almost took out one of my young cousins. My mom went out and purchased a fake tree for the next year."
"Once I visited a girlfriend's family in Phoenix for Turkey Day. We took the turkey out of oven and lifted it with a carving fork in its neck and the plastic handle in its backside. The handle stripped out of the turkey, which landed in the pan and flung about a gallon of scalding turkey broth and grease all over my chest, stomach, and forearms. Luckily, their pool was open, so I made a beeline and jumped into the deep end. In another stroke of luck, they had monster aloe plants growing poolside. What would've been second- or third-degree burns turned out to be not that bad. Never try this in upstate New York!"