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Don’t try this at home
Originally published:  02/05/2012
This column is, as regular readers may be aware, no great fan of doing it itself. Particularly during times of recession, there are plenty of people who can be hired for a shilling or two – or maybe a residency permit – to undertake those tasks that are particularly noxious or strenuous.
This approach is not shared, it seems, by the populace at large. But the stories collected here this month ought to highlight some of the hazards and pitfalls lurking in the DIY aisles of the superstore. Take, for instance, one 74-year-old in the small township of Brick, New Jersey, who decided to clean his toilet and ended up in the county hospital.
Robert Byrne was attempting to unclog an upstairs toilet, which had proved resistant to frontal attack. He poured bleach into the toilet and left it there overnight in the hope that it would be sufficient to rectify the situation. Seeing in the morning that his toilet was not yet in usable condition, he decided a chaser of sulphuric acid might do the trick. As one might imagine, before long foam was spilling out of the toilet bowl and his home was filling with noxious fumes. Mr Byrne and his dog had to be rescued and the cleanup was handed over to the local hazmat team. Let us hope that, as part of the response, the toilet was eventually unblocked.
Mind you, handing matters over to the professionals does not always help. Last month in Switzerland a man suffered burns to his face and hands while he was working on a house in Chur, Graubünden. He was using an angle grinder on the floor of an old cottage in Pulvermühlesrtasse when sparks from the machine apparently ignited residue of black powder ingrained in the floor and walls.
Had he been alert to the risks, he might have noticed that the house, located on what translates as ‘Powder Mill Street’ had once been the eponymous powder mill.
DIY demolition presents obvious hazards, even in Australia. What started out as a domestic argument over smoking in a house in the Corio area of Geelong ended up with injuries and an arrest.
According to Sergeant Mark Gray of Corio Police, a 39-year-old man got himself so worked up by the argument that he determined to blow himself up in the house. His chosen method was to put an aerosol into the microwave oven and turn it on. It did indeed explode but did not do enough damage to the house for the bloke’s liking. He was aggressive to firefighters who responded to neighbours’ calls, and then to the police who were called by the fire crew. He even tried to douse the police with the fire hose and eventually had to be subdued with pepper spray.
All things considered, it is probably safer to take to our favourite armchair with a plug of shag for the pipe and a mug of Horlicks.