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The Cheap Handyman

True (and Disastrous) Tales from a [Home Improvement Expert] Guy Who Should Know Better

About The Book

This Old House meets #HomeImprovementFails in this collection of laugh-out-loud essays, perfect for fans of Nick Offerman, CarTalk, or The Red Green Show.

“This book is all the fix-it you need for your hurt home improvement ego.” —Harrison Scott Key, Thurber-prize winning author of The World's Largest Man

Meet Brian Harris, a (mostly) retired, self-proclaimed jack of all trades with a penchant for DIY and inventive money-saving schemes. Armed with a soldering gun, his trusty nine-foot ladder, and of course the handyman’s secret weapon—duct tape—Brian’s projects start out as simple chores: trim a tree branch, stain the cedar siding on his home...but all too often they end in costly disaster.

Sometimes he’s trying to do the right thing, like the time he wrecked his pool while saving some baby ducks. Often, he channels his inner MacGyver: he once taped his hockey skate back together so he could finish his rec-league game, only to get suspended for falling on the referee when it broke (again). But usually he’s just being, well, cheap! Like the time he inadvertently destroyed a $295 car key fob because he wouldn’t pay the (outrageous) $10 fee to have the battery professionally replaced.

In The Cheap Handyman, Brian anthologizes his hard-won wisdom, teaching us how (not) to cut down a tree, what to do if a stray cat has kittens in your HVAC system, three very incorrect uses for duct tape, the manifold hazards of pool maintenance, and more.

Filled with unforgettable true stories from the everyday life of an average guy just trying to save a few bucks, The Cheap Handyman is a delightful tribute to anyone who has ever thought, “Sure! I can do that!”


Episode 1: A Stained Reputation Episode 1 A STAINED REPUTATION
When you’re a homeowner, there’s always something that needs fixing. If it isn’t the plumbing, it’s rooms that need to be repainted, or replacing stucco that falls off the ceiling every time someone slams the door, or a washing machine that works only when it feels like it, and so on. Most days, it seems like there’s always some problem or another to resolve. This day, the problem was the siding of my beautiful two-story, 2,500-square-foot, eighty-year-old cedar house—with the key word being cedar. It looked great until it was beaten up by the sun and wind. Its present fault lines and bare spots told me it was time for a face-lift.

It was a huge job to stain this monster, and not one I was eager to undertake, so I did what any prudent individual would have done and got a few estimates. But after I received the third quote, which was more than twice as much as the ones before it, I asked my wife to get the paddles ready for the “big one” I could feel coming on! I would have been ashamed to put to pen such outrageous numbers. I’d have to do the deed myself! Besides, I thought, it couldn’t be that bad. I already had the extension ladder, so I’d just need twenty gallons of stain, five cheap brushes, one can of paint thinner to clean the brushes, a bag of rags, four drop cloths, two hooks to hang the cans from the ladder, and a bottle each of Tylenol and fast-acting pain-relief cream (in preparation for the punishment my body was about to endure), and I would be ready to go. Nothing a few days and some elbow grease couldn’t accomplish.

I never considered myself a pro, but I did know enough not to stain a house on a windy day—which would be the equivalent of a child pissing into the wind. I also knew that, for the same reason, I couldn’t use a sprayer. I was in for seven long days of brush and bucket work. I waited as patiently as I could for the right day to arrive. But after biding my time for a few weeks, the clear, calm day I needed never came. With my to-do list growing by the day, I couldn’t wait any longer, so I was eventually forced to take my chances and begin with a slight hint of a breeze in the air.

With the ladder in place against the side of the house, I confirmed that all the necessary materials for the job were close at hand. As I began to climb up the two-story flight, I heard a creaking noise. At first, I thought it was the ladder but soon realized that it was my knees. It seemed to take forever to climb to the top. Looking down I felt like I was high enough to go skydiving. Then something dripped from my nose. I was relieved that it wasn’t blood—just buckets of sweat pouring from my forehead. I carefully hooked my can to the step of the ladder and set to work. With the second dip of the brush the can tilted sideways, and I watched helplessly as the handle of the can broke off. It dropped like a rock, bounced a few times across the lawn, spurting stain in all directions until it found its final resting place against my neighbor’s wrought iron fence. I was down the ladder faster than a fireman, grabbed a rag, and started frantically wiping the stain from his fence. I looked around for witnesses. None, thank goodness. No one would be the wiser. I’d deal with my brown grass at a later time.

I opened the second can, checked its handle carefully, gave it a good yank, and ascended the ladder. I worked meticulously, watching every movement of the brush. About an hour into the job it was time for a break. Back on the ground I admired my handiwork: I’d only done a small amount so far, and already the house looked new. Then something caught my eye. A closer inspection stopped me dead in my tracks. It looked like a flock of low-flying pigeons had machine-gunned their droppings all over my neighbor’s backyard. Every inch of his in-ground pool, the patio furniture, cement, and landscaping was splattered with a brown film. There were even clumps of stain dripping off the statues he had beside his pool. Here I was being so careful not to put too much stain on the brush as I lifted it out of the can so as not to risk the stain flying all over the place. I also made the brushstrokes slow and smooth to keep all the stain on the brush and not somewhere else. The white rag in my hand was even stain-free! I was quite proud of myself for thinking ahead and keeping things well under control to avoid any problems, so how the hell did the stain end up next door? Who would have ever thought that stain would drift so far with such a little breeze—amazing!

I couldn’t face the man. I was terrified! He was one of those neighbors who took such extreme pride in his backyard that his lawn was basically a putting green, which made this situation even worse. They don’t call it stain for nothing—this was going to take professionals to clean up. It wasn’t long before he stormed over, red-faced, and gave me an earful. I had to take it like a man! I nodded when he told me how we would proceed from here. I felt like a child being scolded for misbehaving.

It took about a week for the hired crew to clean up the mess I had made of my neighbor’s yard while I focused on staining the other side of my house. I could just see the cash register smoking as each day went by. It was the longest week I could remember! They did a bang-up job on my dime. A lesson learned for sure.

Estimated cost of job:


Actual cost of job:


About The Author

Photograph Courtesy of Author

B.S. Harris is a father and husband, now retired from his “day job” but still finding ways to fill his days as a cheap handyman. He grew up in an average, hard-working home and was fortunate enough to earn a post-secondary degree. He is an amateur athlete and musician, and a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast. He and his very understanding family live in Southern Ontario, Canada.

Product Details

  • Publisher: S&S/Simon Element (May 4, 2021)
  • Length: 224 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982150983

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Raves and Reviews

Let the door knobs fall off and the faucets drip and the electrical fires burn! Put down the fire extinguisher and pick up The Cheap Handyman, because this book is all the fix-it you need for your hurt home improvement ego. B.S Harris makes you feel instantly better about your own ineptitude, I promise. Also, can someone call 9-1-1 for me?”

— Harrison Scott Key, Thurber-prize winning author of The World's Largest Man

“There's no better way to avoid pain, expense, and embarrassment than by learning from somebody else’s mistakes.”

—Red Green

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