Smart Consumer: Step away from the drill
Setting fire to the patio, flooding the kitchen, making home appliances explode -- when it comes to DIY disasters, Irish people know how to shoot for the top.
A new survey lays bare just how much of a menace we pose upon being let loose with drills, spirit-levels and step ladders.
A study by AA Ireland reveals a catalogue of home-improvement disasters, including hair-raising, eyebrow-singeing forays into amateur pyrotechnics, impromptu demolition and at least one attempt to recreate the closing 20 minutes of James Cameron's Titanic, complete with soaked carpets and furniture bobbing in the water.
"I always like to try and fix things myself, which drives my boyfriend nuts," said one respondent. "The pressure in our water just started going one day. The taps and showers would only dribble. Thinking I could fix it I went fiddling at all the knobs and pipes. It worked, even though the boyfriend was a bit sceptical.
"I proved him wrong and rubbed it in his face a bit for doubting me. It was a few days later when I went barefoot on the carpeted floor that I noticed it was soaking.
'I freaked because of all the electrical stuff on the floor and tried to find a cause for the water. I looked under the sink in the en suite bathroom. It was actually spraying. Water was soaking through the ground and walls.
"I couldn't bear the thought of my boyfriend saying 'I told you so -- so I didn't tell him and tried to fix it myself, again. It ended up costing us a fortune in plumber bills. The boyfriend doesn't actually know I did that part. I think the plumber does, though. I was mortified."
She shouldn't feel too bad. Judging from the AA's findings, we've all been there.
We've power-tooled our way through walls, inflicted major structural damage on our homes and even managed to turn a family barbecue into a pyrotechnic extravaganza.
"My main disaster was putting together the barbecue," a woman recounted. "It then collapsed and nearly set the decking on fire."
One householder described wiring a plug incorrectly and shorting the toaster. Confronted by their partner, they claimed a guest had foolishly tried to extract a wedge of bread using a knife.
In another case a man recalls drilling a hole in a bedroom wall to mount a TV. Such was his enthusiasm, he continued drilling until he had broken through into the kids' bedroom.
Knowing he'd receive the mother of all dressings down from the wife, he re-arranged some wall decorations in the girls' bedroom to conceal the error.
Can we draw any conclusions? Apart from the fact that we aren't the nation of DIY wunderkinds we might believe ourselves to be?
"Men are a little more confident in their abilities in terms of saying they are good at DIY," says AA Ireland's Miriam O'Neill. "The guys are definitely still more inclined to pick up the skills and have a go. A lot of women wouldn't even go there. They'd call in the professionals. That said, you definitely had girls and women who were willing to get their hands dirty. It's a mixed bag."
As well as laying waste to our homes, we're also only to happy to fib our way out of trouble, says the AA. In its study of nearly 20,000 people, some 23pc admitted to hiding a DIY error from a person they lived with.
You won't be surprised to learn that men are more concerned with saving face than women: 27pc said they kept schtum after messing up a home repair, against 21pc for the ladies.
One lesson, suggests the AA's O'Neill, is that people are attempting projects the scale of which they don't truly appreciate.
"You definitely see individuals biting off more than they can chew. When there's a problem, we can't leave it alone. We take on more than we are capable of. The ordinary person doesn't necessarily have time for DIY nowadays, in terms of their work/life balance.
"The message we are getting is that the skills aren't great. They end up calling in the professionals, having made a mess of things."