Back in June, we ran a contest where we asked AVS members to share their worst home theater installation mistakes ever for a chance to win an Epson projector. The responses we got were both hilarious and heartbreaking, often simultaneously. There were tales of smashed plasmas, fried, smoking electronics, electrocution, pets and children causing destruction, and of course, lots of faulty wiring.
This “EPIC FAIL” thread was one for the records, and we thought it too good to slip quietly into the archives without highlighting some of the best/worst stories from members who were brave enough to share. So, for the permanent record, here are some “worst install mistake” tales we thought were worthy of highlighting. Just think of these bonehead moves the next time you make an embarrassing, costly error, and you will be consoled. Because its good to remember: it could always be worse...
The winning story was submitted by JakeRobb. It's hard not to feel bad for the poor guy after reading this maddening play-by-play:
Took delivery of my new Denon AVR-2313ci last Friday. In the weeks leading up to that, I had been gathering parts to install a pair of outdoor speakers to mount under the soffit out on my deck, to be connected to the receiver as Zone 2. In addition to the speakers themselves (Polk Atrium 4's), I bought wire, outlet boxes, banana plugs, banana-plug wall plates, and glow-in-the-dark fiberglass flexible fish rod.
I started by drilling and cutting one of the holes in the soffit for the right channel outlet box, and then running the wire through and into the attic with the fishing rod. So far so good -- I crawled into the attic and pulled the wire up the rest of the way, leaving the other ends coiled up near the top of the living room wall, to be finished later. Then back out to the deck, where I drill and cut the other hole. Here I'm closer to the adjacent side of the house, and the roof pitch makes it quite a bit more difficult to pass the fish rod through into the attic. So I get out my drill and make a hole through what I thought was a roof rafter. The drill goes through no problem, and I pass the fish rod through. I hear a funny scraping sound as I do this, but I just think that the metal end of the fish rod is touching the underside of the roof.
As it turns out, the ceiling in my dining room (adjacent to the deck) is a few inches higher than the soffit, and the hole I just drilled wasn't through a rafter -- it was through the dining room wall. That scraping sound was the fish rod against the textured plaster on the ceiling. So now I have a 5/8" hole conveniently going clear through the wall, and the fish rod is going from outside the house right into the dining room. There's a nice pile of plaster dust on the floor. Whoops!
So I laugh it off, pull the fish rod back through, plug the hole, and patch it up with some plaster. I'll have to admit what happened to my wife when she gets home later (this got me a thwack on the head, Gibbs-style for any NCIS fans present) and we can paint over it in a couple days when the plaster has fully cured.
Moving on, I found a better way to route the cable (not through the dining room wall this time) and got that speaker wire run into the attic and over to the living room wall. Yay! Now it's time for the hardest part -- locating the correct section of wall through which to pass the wires, and then actually passing them. I decided that since I was already doing plaster work, the easiest way was to drill a small hole in the ceiling from the living room, right near the wall, push the fish rod up through that hole, and then crawl up into the attic to locate it. So that's what I did, except I couldn't find the fish rod up in the attic. I clearly hadn't drilled far enough. So I went back down to the living room and used an 18"-long spade bit (the same one I used to drill through the dining room wall) to drill farther. About 6" in, I encountered another surface to drill through, just like I expected. I kept going, and eventually got to a point where the drill chuck was flush with the ceiling, and the entire 18" bit had a clear path into the attic. I pulled the drill out.
When I pulled the drill out, I saw sunlight. I had drilled through the roof. OH CRAP. I'm REALLY not looking forward to telling my wife about this one!
The hole in the roof ended up being incredibly useful. I ran a 10' length of fish rod up through the hole in the ceiling, leaving one end on the living room floor. I went outside and confirmed that a foot or so was coming through the roof. Then I went up on the roof with my drill and my trusty 18" spade bit (really good track record with this so far, wouldn't you say?). I pulled the fish rod through to the roof and set it aside, and then put the drill down through the hole I had just made, but putting it at an angle so as to make a hole into the wall cavity rather than into the living room itself. The drill went through cleanly, but given my past results I was a bit nervous. I pulled the drill out and ran the fish rod down into the hole. It went all the way in pretty easily, leaving a foot or so sticking out of the hole in the roof.
I went around to the side of the house to check for a gaping hole in the siding. There was none! What a relief! Now it's time to go in to the living room and cut the outlet hole in the wall, where I'll hopefully find my fish rod. I make a starter hole with the drill (1" spade bit this time to make room for the sawzall blade), and then open it up to match the size of my three-gang outlet box. Then I reach inside and feel around, what do you know -- my fish rod is there! Hooray! I wrestle with it a little and get it coming out of the hole and into the living room, then go outside and look to see how much of it is still sticking through the roof. Just a few inches, perfect. Back into the living room, I pull the fish rod down that much plus two inches, with the plan being that the end should be sticking up in the attic, easy to find and tape the ends of the wire to it. Then I head up into the attic and find exactly what I was hoping for. I cram myself into the tiny space between the ceiling joists and the low-pitch roof, scraping the back of my head on the roofing nails, and struggle to tape the wires to the fish rod. I get that done after a few minutes of fighting with it and trying not to breathe in too much fiberglass insulation, and then head back down to the living room. I expect this to be my last trip into the attic, so I collect my light, my tape, etc. on the way out.
Back into the living room, I pull the fish rod down. There's more drag than before -- a good sign. I keep pulling, and eventually I have two 12/2 speaker wires coming out of the wall and into my hand. At this point I let out a cheer loud enough to scare my dog.
From there it's a simple matter of mounting the outlet box, putting banana plugs on the ends of the wires, connecting them to the outlet plate, and creating a couple short patches to run from the outlet plate to the binding posts on the receiver. Four steps left: mount the speakers, plug in, test, and then get up on the roof and patch that hole, because there's a thunderstorm in the immediate forecast. I plugged the hole in the roof with a short piece of dowel rod of the same diameter as the drill bit, and sealed it off with silicone. Once the silicone has had time to cure, I'll slather over it with some roofing tar. That'll be good enough to hold for a couple of years until I need a new roof.
In the meantime, having music on the deck is the best thing ever, and totally worth a couple of holes in the house.
Mark this one under potential Darwin Award candidate -
So I have/had this bad habit of stripping wire with my teeth. (This is known as foreshadowing) Speaker wire stripping is what I had always used them for. But when I finished my basement (bar area / bathroom / spare bedroom) and my sub basement (theater room) I got in this habit of pulling the jacket off the wire with my teeth no matter what the situation was.
At one point in the project, I had been running up and down between the bar area and the theater room, shutting breakers off, turning them back on. Well, I ran back down in the theater room, all the lights were off, and the work lights were on. So I get up on the ladder to continue wiring the can lights in the ceiling. I cut the jacket off some dangling wire and grab the jacket with my teeth and pull.
About 2 seconds later I'm off the ladder, laying on the ground, a little bewildered. Yup, I striped a 20 amp 12 gauge live wire with my teeth and had my butt handed to me for my efforts. I had made the mistake of thinking the breaker was still off for the lights in the theater room because the bar area was also dark. (The lights were on the same circuit.) Turns out I had simply shut the lights off in the bar area and, after being distracted by something else for a moment, had forgotten this minorly important detail. Dark rooms meant the electricity was off, right? Not so much.
No permanent injuries that I know of (My wife might argue some cognitive function was impaired), and the resulting theater was totally worth it.
I accidentally shorted a sub cable that was plugged into an AVR that was on, but the display was off, against the main power sub panel. I fried everything that had HDMI hooked to it (AVR, projector, BDP, DirecTV receiver). A grown man sitting in the middle of a room in tears at 2AM is not a pretty site. The worst part was, two days prior, I had scolded a friend for working on his stuff with power still going to it because he had blown a fuse on an ML sub I sold to him.
And last but not least, we couldn't resist including roodkopje's submission, without which this list wouldn't quite be complete:
In case you missed it, or want to read all the groan-inducing submissions, here's the original contest thread, which is a veritable comedy of errors. Enjoy the blunders!