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Top-10 home improvement prop bets

6 October 2014

Last weekend, I discovered that our basement carpet was getting wet. After doing some digging, I found a leak in the bathroom sink.

One of my least favorite aspects of owning a home is unexpected home improvement projects. My father is an incredibly handy person. One of my brothers is also able to fix just about everything that could go wrong in his house. Let's just say my abilities lie in other areas.

However, thanks to some advice from my brother, I managed to cut the pipes (the leaky shutoff valves were soldered on), install new shark bite valves and install a new sink and vanity without having to call in professional help. This may be my single-greatest achievement in the eight years that I've owned a home. And yes, I realize that it's not all that difficult a project. Please let me celebrate my small victories.

If I've learned anything in my many years of writing about betting, it's that making a wager on something you don't enjoy can make the activity more palatable. Whether your home improvement project is planned or unexpected, or whether you're the one undertaking the project or you're just an interested observer, here are 10 prop bets you can make to make things more interesting.

10. Over/under total cost
Owning a home isn't cheap, and home improvement projects that seem simple can get expensive quickly. On the other hand, projects that sound like big undertakings can often be more simple (and cheaper) than expected. I was pleasantly surprised that my leaky sink lines only ended up costing me about $150—and that got me a new vanity, sink, faucets, shutoff valves and a couple new tools, too.

The best bet here is to take the over and pray for the under to hit.

9. Over/under trips to the hardware store
My leaky sink resulted in five trips to the hardware store. The first three trips were just to get the leak to stop. (I finally figured out what I needed after a conversation with my brother.) The last two were to get new stuff, as the water damage to the vanity required a complete replacement.

Once again, you're probably going to have to make more trips than you think you will. Bet the over and be pleasantly surprised if you lose.

8. Over/under YouTube video consultations
What did people do before YouTube? This is the first place I turn to when I need to figure out how to do something new. There are some great how-to videos for would-be do-it-yourselfers, and I've attacked many projects brimming with confidence after watching a YouTube video. Some have been successful; others have sent me back to the computer to watch the video again, or start over with a completely new one.

If you're an observer, this can be fun to watch. How quickly will the do-it-yourselfer be back to watch that video again? How many times will he have to watch it?

7. Over/under time spent
My father gave me some great advice on home improvement a few weeks ago: "You need to approach a project when you have time to work at it with a good attitude."

One of my greatest struggles when it comes to home improvement projects is the amount of time they take to complete. With three young kids at home, it's all-hands-on-deck on the weekends, and my wife understandably isn't a big fan of taking care of all three kids on her own for hours at a time.

When I get an hour or two to work on a project, I get extremely frustrated when I can't complete it because it is taking longer than I expected it would.

Once again, I'd advise betting against your best interests here. Pick the over and hope you hit the under.

6. Over/under tries to successfully turn off right circuit breaker
If you're doing any electrical work, step one is to turn off the electricity in the area of the house where you're working. I don't know what the circuit box looks like in your house, but in mine, there are some pencil scratchings next to each circuit with an approximation of what part of the house that breaker controls. These notes are barely legible and usually wrong, which leads to an inevitable shouting back and forth, asking if the lights I want to turn off are in fact off. It's already a comical situation, and it would be even more fun if there was a bet on the line.

5. Number of people needed to complete the project
Some projects require heavy lifting. Once, when I was in college, my father started building a new garage. I helped him out when my limited skills allowed, and when he told me that we were going to start putting the trusses on the roof, I was skeptical that two of us would be capable of doing it on our own. Looking back, I wish we'd had a bet on it. We were able to get the first one up to the frame, but when we tried to flip it so it was right-side up, the truss bent in the middle and came crashing down to the ground, just inches away from us.

"We're waiting until we can get more people here," my father said, a little phased by the two-by-four that just missed his head. If I remember right, the final number of volunteers was five (including my Dad and me). It's amazing how much easier things are when you have people to help.

I'm proud to say that I completed my latest home improvement project completely on my own, with the exception of the advice from my brother.

4. Over/under new tools purchased
Most people own a hammer and a measuring tape. But chances are, if you've never had a plumbing problem, you don't own a pipe cutter.

If you've owned a home for a long time, you probably won't need to buy lots of new tools when you take on a home improvement project, so the number could be low. But if you're new to the game, you might discover that your toolbox is severely lacking the required equipment and the bill.

3. Will professional help eventually be required?
Bet the "yes" and pray for the "no." While do-it-yourself projects can get expensive, bringing in an electrician, plumber or carpenter makes things much, much worse. When I saw that my shutoff valves were soldered on, I actually called a plumber and was going to have him come to my house on a Sunday. I can't imagine how expensive it could have been if I hadn't figured out how to deal with it myself. In this case, I was absolutely prepared to bet the "yes," but thankfully it was a bet I would have lost.

2. Over/under curse words uttered
I've been known to curse once or twice when working on a project. Plumbing and electrical projects, in particular, are extremely frustrating to me. Trying to loosen rusty bolts and connect brittle wires (it's probably time our 40-year-old house was completely rewired) brings out the worst in me.

I have a feeling that if my wife were setting the line on this bet for a project that I was about to work on it would be unbelievably high. Sadly, I'd likely still hit the over. It's probably time that I adopted my father's go-to phrase, which is slightly less offensive that outright cursing: "Balls on a heifer."

1. How big is it going to get?
Sometimes what you think will be a simple project can turn into a "We need to gut this entire bathroom" situation. Taking bets on how bad the situation is going to get can at least add at a comical element to tearing your house apart.

When I started working on the lines in the bathroom, I thought the job would be as simple as changing out the supply lines to the sink. Then I discovered that the shutoff valves were so calcified that I couldn't turn them. Thankfully, I only got as far as having to replace the shutoff valves and the vanity due to the wager damage, but if the leak was really bad, I might have had to replace a whole lot more than the that.

Once again, if this is a bet you're going to make, bet on the worst possible situation. Because the only thing worse than paying for a huge home improvement project is losing a bet on it, too.
Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.

Aaron Todd

Home-game hotshot Aaron Todd was an editor/writer at Casino City for nearly eight years, and is currently the Assistant Director of Athletics for Communications and Marketing at St. Lawrence University, his alma mater. While he is happy to play Texas Hold'em, he'd rather mix it up and play Omaha Hi/Lo, Razz, Deuce-to-Seven Triple Draw, and Badugi.