More DIY from Hell

This is the spiral staircase edition of DIY from Hell, and it begins with foolish optimism and ends in near divorce.

Let’s start with some background. Here it is. Or, here it was.


When I moved in with my husband, this is what remained of what I’m sure was once a glorious spiral staircase. This one made scary noises. The bottom step was held up by a book, and then by nothing. We added the mustache duct tape after a near fatal experience with our clumsy dog.

It was time to replace the spiral staircase. Riding high from our previous successes in painting and caulking and electrical work, we made a crucial error. We thought: Why not do it ourselves?

Here’s why. All of this is why.

We ordered a fancy kit online. It came all the way from Italy! It came in a huge crate that was delivered to our parking lot because the guy driving the truck laughed at the idea of trying to haul it inside. It weighed 500 pounds.

My husband removed the pieces. The dog wondered what had become of his tranquil life.


The instructions contained a lot of pictures but few words, though the description online had assured us that this project could be completed in a single day with common household tools. So we cleared an entire Saturday, invited a few friends over to exploit their drilling and lifting abilities, and set out to erect our gorgeous new staircase.

Ripping out the old one was fun. The sun was shining. Life seemed so promising.


There was even laughter!


It wouldn’t last long. Apparently the Italians think common household tools include table saws and hammer drills and swinging torches.  The night ended with half of the staircase in place and me angrily snapping at everyone, even the kind friends who were volunteering their time and labor. Sorry, Kelly.


The good news was that everyone was alive. The bad news was that even after all that work, we had to move the damn thing seven inches to the left. That meant the landing was no longer large enough to cover the open space at the top.

I was ready to settle for a rope ladder. The exercise would have been great, and after I fell and broke my neck I wouldn’t have to wake up every morning to view my failure.

Fortunately, the people around me are far more optimistic than I am.

Our dear friend built us a new landing. And he came over again to help us install it.


My husband took advantage of a night I wouldn’t be home to boss everyone around, and he and his friend used a heat gun to blast the plastic coil that was meant to be a handrail. They somehow completed the impossible job of forming and securing the rail without my careful, hovering instruction.

After that, only details remained. Wood needed to be cut and placed and painted. Carpet had to be trimmed. Wine had to be guzzled.



When it was over, my marriage was somehow still intact. We had learned a valuable lesson, even: Never try to hand each other stuff. Ever. I was stabbed once and my toe was almost crushed another time. I blamed this not on my lack of coordination, but on my overwhelming trust for my husband.

Anyway, behold this #@%#$@ thing.


Two months after this done-in-a-day project began, we celebrated with the bottle I’d put in the fridge all those weeks ago.


Anyway, we are never, ever doing this again. I mean, probably not. Unless it’s something we can do in one day using common household tools. Because we have a power saw now. And a heat gun. And a masonry bit.


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