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Do-It-Yourself Plumbing Project

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Sometimes even leaving it to the professionals doesn't work. So when the Stooges get involved...

"We repair what your husband fixed."
— Sign seen on a plumbing truck

A leaky faucet is not only an annoying sound that keeps you up at night, it also wastes water. However, since most people don't feel this issue is urgent enough to justify hiring a plumber, they will try to fix it themselves. This usually results in a hilarious D.I.Y. Disaster.

Common DIY Plumbing project hazards include:

  • Not having the right tools for the job.
  • Getting sprayed in the face because you forgot to turn off the main or didn't drain the pipes properly.
  • Having a family member turn the water back on or send something disgusting through the pipes at an inopportune moment.
  • Not keeping track of which part goes where so you end up short or over when you put the faucet back together.
  • The family pet runs off with that one important part and/or swallows it.
  • Hitting your head on the pipes when someone startles you.
  • Your precocious children learn new and interesting swear words.
  • Getting the electrical system mixed in with the plumbing (but only in slapstick comedies.)
  • Making the problem worse, so that when you finally give up and call a plumber, you end up paying way more than you would have if you had relied on them in the first place.

Since this is Truth in Television, it's a staple of Sit Coms. A subtrope of Doom It Yourself.

Can also result in extensive property damage and, in extreme cases, a trip to the ER. Don't Try This at Home.


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    Eastern Animation 
  • Whenever Pat and Mat try do do anything remotely water-related. Duct tape is an improvement on their usual technique.

    Comic Books  
  • Being The Klutz, this happens a lot to the title character of Archie Comics. What starts as an annoying leak will often end with a flooded basement.


  • Dave Barry once wrote a newspaper column about one of these. After finding his roof was leaking, Dave attempted to find the source of the problem by tearing through just about every pipe in the house. Dave's wife suggested he check the roof, but Dave was insistent. After failing to find the problem, Dave calls a plumber, who naturally finds the problem on the roof (it was a bunch of leaves clogging a gutter). He even lampshades that he could have solved the leak in five minutes had he followed his wife's suggestion.
    Dave: So far, my wife has shown great restraint, only said "I told you so" approximately 47 million times.
    • An extensive chapter in one of his books deals with the water heater making a weird noise, and the misadventures of the hapless mechanically-impaired husband who goes off to the hardware store, only to find his wife has called a plumber.
    And the pain you feel at that moment is something no woman could ever understand.
  • Averted twice in Aunt Dimity and the Lost Prince:
    • Emma calls Lori to tell her the riding school is closed due to burst pipes in the stable yard. While Emma makes a jocular reference to the yard resembling an ice skating rink, her husband Derek's repair efforts are successful (since he rehabs buildings for a living), even uneventfully so.
    • Bree Pym foolishly repaints her bedroom during a cold snap and avoids opening the windows (and thereby bursting her pipes) by leaving the house closed up for several days. She does go back to check on the place and opens the windows for a short while in the daytime, but closes them again before nightfall.
  • Newspaper columnist D. L. Stewart recounts, via his book Fathers Are People Too, at least two incidents of this:
    • An attempt to recover a comb that got stuck in the pipes (after realizing he's going to have to disconnect some of the pipes under the house to get it, he decides to call a plumber instead).
    • An attempt to fix the dripping faucet in the backyard (at the insistence of his wife, who claims that if he doesn't, when the winter comes, the water will freeze in the pipes, rupturing them and flooding the house, most likely while they're off visiting relatives), ending the chapter as he debates his options: continue trying to fix it himself and most likely set the house on fire (the man at the hardware store is trying to convince him to buy a torch so he can cut the pipe and adjust it so the new faucet assembly he got will fit), call a plumber who will charge him just for coming over, ignore the problem and let his wife's prediction of the pipes rupturing and ruining the contents of the house come true, sell the house and buy one with faucets that don't leak, or turn off the water for the winter and take lots of showers at the YMCA.

    Live Action TV  
  • In the first season of Heroes, to help show that the people with powers were "ordinary people with extraordinary abilities" Matt Parkman fixes a broken bathroom sink. Really. Though by the end of the first season his character has become important to the main plot(s), many fans were not amused by this plot stop.
  • Perfect Strangers had a memorable episode, entitled "Pipe Dreams", where Jennifer asks Larry to let the plumber in while she and Mary Ann are away on a flight, so he can replace the showerhead. Larry agrees but then immediately calls to cancel the plumber - against Balki's advice - saying he will do it himself, in order to impress Jennifer. After what Balki describes as "twenty-three hours of backbreaking labour" Balki and Larry turn on the new showerhead to test it: the showerhead flies off as a jet stream of water shoots out, the taps at the sink fly off the basin with their own water jets, the toilet erupts like Old Faithful and opening the cabinet results in a flood from the pipes. This episode was regarded by the cast, crew and fans as one of the funniest of the entire series.
  • A whole episode of The Golden Girls was devoted to them trying to renovate their own bathroom. One result is the shower turning on when they turned the tap over the handbasin.
  • In the first season of The Lucy Show Lucy and Vivian's attempts to install a shower have them filling up the entire stall with water and nearly drowning.
    • This wasn't a joke, Ms. Ball in truth nearly did drown, and it's to Vivian Vance's credit that not only did she rescue her fellow thespian while in character, but kept improvising lines until Lucy could get her breath back.
  • The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: The family has a routine that involves precautions like a 3-minute shower limit for whenever Uncle Phil goes on one of these sprees, but eventually this time, Vivian has to resort to the Lysistrata Gambit to get him to call the plumber.
  • In one of the later seasons of Boy Meets World Corey and Topanga (now married) move into a tiny fleabag apartment with rusty pipes. This trope is averted as Corey is able to actually fix the pipes (even though he got hilariously wet and messy in the process.
  • In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode "Flooded," Buffy tightens a pipe with a wrench to stop a leak ... (pause for a moment) ... and then all the other pipes burst, effectively flooding the basement.
  • In the Frasier episode "Seat of Power," Martin makes fun of Frasier and Niles' lack of practical skills, so in an attempt to prove him wrong they try to fix Frasier's toilet, with foreseeable results. Even more Hilarity Ensues when they call in the plumbers, who turn out to be the bullies who tormented them in grade school.
  • Averted in the HGTV series Holmes on Homes. Mike only took on jobs that were screwed up by paid contractors.
  • Another HGTV show, Disaster DIY, has contractor Bryan Baeumler come in to fix DIY projects gone wrong.
  • Subverted on That '70s Show when Red and Eric try to fix the kitchen sink. Although they fail to fix the sink, they don't do any major damage and decide to just call a plumber to fix it.
  • Erics World had a clever subversion when Eric and C.J. had to deal with a leaky faucet. Rather than try to fix it themselves, C.J. suggests they call a plumber. When Eric protests that it's the middle of the night and they won't be able to get a plumber this late, C.J. uses his trusty "Plumber's Signal" (essentially a Bat Signal with the image of a pipe wrench, rather than a bat) to call a plumber, who arrives less than ten seconds later.
  • One episode of Family Matters had Carl trying to install a second shower in the house. Before his wife finally convinced him to call a plumber, he had somehow gotten the bathroom set up so that you turn on the shower by turning off the sink (simply put, he placed the shower's faucet upstream from the tee that divided between sink and shower).
  • Hannah Montana: When Jackson learned how much plumbers usually charge for their work, he convinced his Dad to hire him for a smaller (but still big enough to convince Jackson) amount. Jackson's Dad was furious at the results and called a professional plumber. Surprisingly, the plumber concluded Jackson actually prevented something worse from happening and said Jackson could be a professional plumber.
  • The Steptoe and Son episode "Those Magnificent Men and Their Heating Machines" revolves around Harold bringing home and installing a full system of radiators and pipes so that he and his father Albert will have central heating. Albert tries to persuade Harold to have his work inspected, but Harold simply brushes this off as his father's usual lack of faith in his abilities. The resulting bizarre labyrinth of visible pipes shakes violently and sprays water everywhere when the boiler is lit for the first time, nearly pulling the house apart in the process.

  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's Milli Vanilli parody "The Plumbing Song":
    B-b-b-baby, I can tell you've got a big problem
    When you flush the john, then your shower goes on

    Newspaper Comics  
  • Calvin and Hobbes:
    • Calvin has tried to fix the bathroom faucet on more than one occasion. It ended up flooding the house.
    • On another occasion, Calvin's dad prepares to do some plumbing, reading a book that advises him to have both the appropriate tools and expletives ready.
  • In Garfield, Jon has occasionally tried to fix a leaking faucet, with the expected results.
  • In a Footrot Flats strip, Wal is fixing the drain from the sink when Aunt Dolly pulls the plug out before he has the pipe reconnected. Seeing the Dog, Wal tells him he is just who he needs. He then blocks the pipe by stuffing the Dog's nose into it. The Dog admits he had been hoping his role would be something more like dashing to Aunt Dolly and desperately tugging on her apron strings.
  • In FoxTrot, Roger refuses to call a plumber, declaring "those guys charge $60 just to walk through the door!" After flooding the bathroom, he comes back to the living room, soaked from head to foot, and declares that at least now it is a situation worth the call-out fee.

  • The Stan Freberg Show did this in "How To Fix A Leaky Faucet."
  • In one episode of The Men from the Ministry the Welfare Committee of the Ministry decides to fix the failing plumbing of the office buildings. However since Sir Gregory has given Ministry's welfare funds only 85 pence for use, the Committee's leader Mr. Wilkins, being a "do-it-yourself-handyman" by his own words, offers to fix the Ministry's plumbing himself over the weekend. Being the Cloudcuckoolander that he is, Wilkins naturally ends up destroying the Ministry's plumbing in the process.

    Video Games  
  • Duolingo: The "Leaky Pipes" story is the story of how Pamela and Jose met due to her trying to fix a leaking pipe on her own before her date, and having to call him in for help when it gets worse, leading to her actual date arriving while they're laughing over it, and they are Mistaken for Cheating.
  • Mario Party 7: In the minigame Duck & Cover, four pairs of characters have to fix color-coded pipes with several water leaks each. In each pair, the corresponding pipe has six leaks, and in turn each leak has to be fixed by pressing repeatedly a specific button (A, B, X, Y, L or R; since there are six leaks, each of those buttons is used during gameplay). The duo that fixes their pipe first wins.
  • In The Sims series, a Sim can try to fix their broken plumbing themselves instead of calling a repairman or telling the landlord, much like they can with appliances. Plumbing is safer. A broken computer or TV set can electrocute a Sim whose skill isn't high enough, whereas fixing a toilet or sink will only make a Sim dirty and angry (read: decrease their Comfort and Fun) and the thing is now likely to break again immediately after.

    Visual Novels 
  • The protagonist of Daughter for Dessert attempts to fix the dishwasher, bragging to Kathy about his ability to do so. If he succeeds, he gets to have sex with her.
  • In Melody, Becca’s romantic path begins with the protagonist offering to fix her sink. It does actually go well.

    Western Animation  
  • A running gag in Looney Tunes and its various Spiritual Successor series (such as Tiny Toon Adventures) is the constant losing battle one fights against that nagging, dripping faucet.
  • Similarly, Donald Duck has also fought his share of losing battles against the dreaded faucet.
  • Popeye:
    • The cartoon Plumbing is a Pipe has Popeye helping Olive fix her leaky plumbing when the plumber (Wimpy) takes too long to arrive. It goes as expected until Popeye eats his spinach and starts punching the gushing pipes so hard that they seal themselves, then lifts the house off its foundation and tips it over to pour the water out a window. Shortly afterward, Wimpy finally arrives and all the pipes burst open again.
    • In another Popeye cartoon, "Floor Flusher", Popeye and Bluto compete to fix Olive's plumbing but end up flooding her house.
    • Yet another cartoon, "Popeye's Pipe Dream" has Popeye's plumbing failure flooding an entire city, fortunately it was all a dream.
  • Parodied in The Simpsons episode "Dumbbell Indemnity", where Homer tries to fix the water heater... by beating it with a wrench until it explodes.
  • Ed, Edd n Eddy do this to Johnny 2x4's kitchen sink in "Rent-A-Ed", after Ed breaks it while looking for some dish soap.
  • Rocko's Modern Life:
    • The entire premise of the episode "Pipe Dreams", in which Rocko and Heffer try everything they can think of to unclog a toilet. It turns out there's a giant goldfish living in the septic tank.
    • Also in "Dear John", where Rocko tries to fix the kitchen, and ends up making a bathroom instead because that's all the author of the manual knew how to do.
  • Mr. Turtle from Franklin tends to run into this when he's confronting a plumbing problem (he's competent at repairs otherwise, though).
  • Implied in the Rupert episode "Rupert and the Temple Ruins". The episode begins with Mr. Trunk fixing a plumbing problem for Rupert Bear's family. It is strongly implied that the problem was the result of Mr. Bear attempting to fix the plumbing himself.
  • In the Big City Greens episode "Tilly Tour", there is a subplot of Bill and Cricket attempting to renovate Gramma's bathroom while she's away. Hilarity Ensues as they only end up flooding the bathroom and totally wrecking it in the process. They manage to fix everything before Gramma returns, but Bill only ends up returning the bathroom to its previous state.


Video Example(s):


Uncle Phil Strikes Again

From the stove to the toaster to the sink to the phone to Geoffrey, nothing and no one is safe when Uncle Phil tries to fix something.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (13 votes)

Example of:

Main / DIYDisaster

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