Just to keep things lighthearted here, would anyone be willing to share stories of their own mistakes or others'?
Here's the best one I heard (and this was not me). A guy I know went to install a kitchen in a place that was part of track housing. Nobody was home, so he went in and found that the cabinets had not been cleaned out. He tore out the cabinets and was finishing up his install when the homeowner returned to find his neighbor's brand new kitchen being installed in his house.
A couple of years ago I built a reproduction of an Eastlake style cabinet to be used as a TV cabinet about 48" x 27" x 84" in footprint and valued around $12,000.00. The customer was so fixed on a certain size TV that in designing it I lost all track of how I would get it through the bedroom door in a tight hallway on the second floor. As it turned out, I couldn't!
So I turned to the customer and asked which one of her new walls of custom printed Bradbury and Bradbury wallpaper she preferred to tear down? Not the right thing to say (I thought it was an obviously stupid question intended to lighten up the situation). She lowered her head in tears and left the room!
Thankfully my old friend and general contractor was still working on the job. He said he had to rebuild one of the windows anyway, and we could see if it would go in through the window. We had 1/2" to spare after removing the sash, parting stops on both sides, one jamb and exterior casing of this beautiful Victorian home. We laid 2x4's against the house and screwed 2x4's to the back of the cabinet to act as skids, and pushed it up to a bay roof below the window, then into the room with very minimal damage (a scratch on the crown edge). That cabinet now will have to stay in that room till the end of time or till someone decides to move the door or window. Hopefully I won't be around anymore!
Eventually the customer could laugh about this, and I have done more work for them since... but on a smaller scale.
Remember - this was an old home. As my partner was making his way across the attic of this 12,000 sq. ft. home, he discovered that the old boys who framed it in 1890ish did not have a trusty Stanley tape to lay out the ceiling joist. After I heard a terrible scream and a loud thud, I ran toward the repeated moans to find him lying in the master bathroom in the old clawfoot tub just as he would lie while taking a bath. No broken bones, but a huge hole in the ceiling and a really upset doctor!
To top off the event, while we were attending to my friend's needs, the doctor's dog got overexcited from all the commotion and urinated on my buddy's chop saw, which was on the floor to cut the crown later in the install. When we left, we let the doctor have the saw! :-)
He went up to the bathroom to do some plumbing and after a while we heard an "Oh S@#$!" We went upstairs and the guy had been sweating a pipe in the wall and had caught the insulation on fire. We helped put it out and went about our business. A while later we heard a crash... Went to investigate and found he had been using one of those circle cutters that have the adjustable beam on them to cut a hole in some tile. Well, I guess he didn't tighten it down and the head went flying off and shattered the sliding glass door! As we were walking by the master bath again, I noticed where he had tried to drill a hole through a stud to run, I assume, a pipe in the master bath and had gone through the wall with a 2" hole into the master bedroom (the only room that looked like it wasn't to get any work).
I didn't even want to be seen there by the homeowner! Ever since that day, if we screw up anything, we've "pulled a Bob".
The following Monday, the company gets a call from the shrink saying that we will have to pull our cabinets out and redo them. I'm just told that they're damaged. When I get to the job site, I understood why. Seems that over the weekend, water pipes on the upper floors burst because of too much pressure, and all the water over the weekend flowed downward, ruining everything in sight. There was no one in the building during that period of time to catch the problem. The plumbers had regulated the water pressure while people were in the building using the water, and had not adjusted for a vacant building. The plumber's insurance company took a big hit that day.
As I was tearing out one base cabinet, I found the Yankee screwdriver that I had lost, as it was just laying on the floor under the base cabinet. I was happy.
About 12 years ago I was project manager for a custom builder. We were awaiting delivery of a custom poured 6 ft. cultured marble Jacuzzi tub so the plumber could finish the rough-in plumbing. The 500 plus lb. tub finally arrived on a flatbed truck along with 2 men to unload it. They backed up to the front porch so the tub could be carried in through the front door. Because delivery of the redwood flooring for the front porch had been delayed, we had scraps of OSB ply laid across the floor joists to allow access to the front door.
The 2 men grabbed the tub to unload it and couldn't lift it. I offered to help and positioned myself at the end of the tub while they were on the two sides. We lifted the tub and I stepped back off the truck bed onto the porch. About two steps later, I stepped on an edge of one of the pieces of OSB, and it flipped up and dropped between two of the floor joists. I also dropped. Not between the joists, but straddled one of them. Yikes! Thank goodness my momentum was carrying me backwards. Rather than landing on my... uh... well, you know, I landed squarely on my tailbone. Ouch! I hit so hard it knocked me out for a few seconds. When I came to, both men were holding their crotches and they looked like they had just eaten a lemon.
The two men helped me up, then down off the porch where I proceeded to pass out again from the unbelievable pain. I finally managed to half crawl, half walk to the truck, where I made a call for help. At the doctor's office, x-rays showed a fractured tailbone. I couldn't walk for 2 or 3 days, then only baby steps. You can't believe the excruciating pain from a broken tailbone. It was a good 6 months or more before I fully recovered. Now, whenever I see scraps laid over joists, I get a real PITA.
Also… I was finishing an 85' yacht's interior and as everything was to be finished the same, I got a 2.5 gal. pressure pot, air fed respirator and made a day of it.
After spraying on 5 gal of what I thought was 3 parts awl bright, I stood back and admired my work. I closed up the boat and my assistant and I went home.
The next day we were going to remove masking paper and tape only, and go get paid. I say "were" because when I arrived at the boat, the fumes were still very strong and even though the finish looked great, it was tacky.
I checked my stock of finish, and sure enough, there it was - an unopened container of catalyst. I forgot to use it at all. Man, it took days to wipe that mess up. All the trim and moldings had to be taken off again, as uncured finish had crept under them. To this day, that was my biggest mistake.
As if all of this wasn't enough, later that week they dropped the elevator car 3 floors and nearly killed a man.
I hope you all get a good laugh from this one, and remember, it can always get worse.
Comment from contributor S:
We made built-in cabinets to go beside a fireplace. Because of the size of the TV, we needed as much width as possible. We made it a fairly snug fit, but figured we had enough clearance to get it in without incident. This was an older home, balloon framed, with vermiculite insulation poured between the studs. The plaster at the very bottom right of the wall was pushed out so we couldn't set the cabinet back far enough. Out of frustration, because of the snug fit, one of my guys grabbed his hammer and gave the plaster an almighty blow. You wouldn't think there could be that much insulation in a space 14 inches wide by two stories high. In no time we were all standing with insulation up to our knees. Luckily the customer was at work, and with the help of a shop vac, we were able to clean up before we looked any more foolish.
Also, we once built a murphy bed for a customer who lived in a seniors' complex. It was on the third floor, so we had to use the elevator to get there. We measured the opening caefully to make sure it would fit in the elevator. We arrived to do the installation, hauled the cabinet inside and planted it in the lobby, eagerly awaiting the elevator. Who would have guessed that the actual car wouldn't stop where the opening was? It was 3 inches lower at the top. We sent it away several times, trying to get a different result, but always 3 inches too low. Lessons learned.