DIY Deadbolt Installation Gone Wrong

Jan. 23--Whatever possessed me to try it?

The message on the package should have been my first warning ... because it was indeed a warning!

"Instructions: NOTE--A high level of skill is required to install this product."

We guys, though, have our own sick way of seeing such a note not as a warning, but as a challenge.

"They're talking about guys who can't nail two boards together," we'll say. "They're not talking about me. I can handle this."

And so the project begins.

"Did you read the package?" asked my wife. "Don't you think you should call a carpenter or a handyman or someone who knows what they're doing?"

"Don't insult me," I respond somewhat indignantly. "Don't believe everything you read. They just put that message on the package to scare off the guys who are real klutzes."

"Your point?" she snapped.

"Very funny," I said. "Listen, you just plan dinner for 5, and I'll be showered and shaved, and we'll be shut in for the night behind our brand new front door hardware."

"Humph." She didn't exactly have a lot of confidence in my ability.

But I had enough confidence for both of us. The job seemed simple enough. Just replace the knob and deadbolt on the front door. Shouldn't take more than an hour or two.

"I still think you should call somebody," Natalie warned.

"Don't worry, I can handle it," I said. "It should be easy. What could go wrong?"

She just rolled her eyes.

Oh, my ... whatever possessed me to try it?

Usually I know my limitations.

Like, I would never even attempt to repair the washing machine. I'd leave that to my new buddy Mike at Campbell's Cool Kat Appliance Repair.

I would never try to run wiring to install a ceiling fan or some such thing. I'd call an electrician.

And I would never try to fix a leaky bathtub faucet, especially when the water is not only dripping from the faucet but also from the hot/cold thingy (yeah, that would be the technical term).

OK, well, there was that one time.

The water was dripping ever so slightly, but enough to drive my wife and me crazy.

"Better call a plumber," she said.

"Right, like we need a plumber," I laughed. "It's just a little drip. I can fix it."

"Oh, please," she scoffed.

"Come on, have a little faith in me," I said. "Fixing a faucet is easy."

With that I was off to Orchard Supply to buy the replacement part. I found the part right away, too. This was going to be easy.

"You'll need a special tool to install this," said the clerk.

"Special tool?" I said nervously.

"Relax," he said. "We have them here and lend them out to customers. It will be easy."

With renewed confidence, a "special tool" and my new part, I headed home to complete my project.

I'm not exactly sure when my confidence turned to panic. You see, plumbing is not exactly right up there on my list of talents. Watching a football game while balancing a bag of chips, a bowl of bean dip and a mug of beer--that I'm good at. But plumbing?

The plumber was grinning from ear-to-ear when I walked into the bathroom.

"Can you fix it?" I asked meekly.

"Sure," he bellowed. "But after what you did, it's going to take me a while."

He chuckled and said, "I love it when you guys try to fix this stuff on weekends. You end up calling me anyway ... and I charge by the hour!"

With that he laughed out loud and went about his work.

Natalie just glared at me as she wrote out the check to pay the guy.

"What were you thinking?" she asked, not expecting an answer. "Why would a guy who can't even replace a roll of toilet paper think that he could replace a faucet?"

Knowing all of that, why would I have ever even tried to replace the knob and deadbolt on the front door, knowing that I'm just about as good at carpentry as I am at plumbing?

I'm sure the knob would have been easy to install ... had the holes in the door been in the right places. And I'm sure the deadbolt would have been easy to install ... had I not had to perform some maneuver called a "mortise cut."

I finished the job, but not quite in time for our 5 p.m. dinner. I ate my cold lamb chops at about seven-thirty, comforted by the fact that no prowler could ever break through our front door. After all, if we couldn't get that dead bolt open, how could he?

Everything was just a little crooked, just a bit too tight, and my mortise cut? Just a little bigger than the part we installed.

Now I have to suffer the consequences--every time Natalie walks up to the front door, every time she has to use both hands to turn the key to the deadbolt, every time she has to slam the door two or three times just to get it to remain closed. Then she gives that stare only a wife can give.

"You know," I'll say. "I really should have called someone to do this."

With that, I'm sure she would have gone screaming out the front door, had she been able to get it open.

Contact Dick Sparrer at

Copyright 2012 - Los Gatos Weekly-Times, Calif.