Whether you just bought a home, are preparing to sell a home or want to upgrade the features of your current home, tackling home improvement projects on your own is a great way to build up your skills and save some money! However, it is important to go into each project well-prepared in order to not only protect your investment but also your health.
Accidents tend to happen in the home more than in any other place. Homeowner’s eagerness and overconfidence can easily get them into trouble as they handle unfamiliar power tools, sharp blades, heavy or toxic materials, ladders, etc., which can all increase the risk of injury.
DIY projects can be both fun and cost-effective, but it is important not to lose sight of the bigger picture (a job well-done) and what is realistically possible for you to accomplish. Here are some “Do’s and Don’t’s” to keep in mind when considering tackling home improvement projects yourself.
Home Improvement Do’s
- Protect Yourself
Before starting a project, be sure to wear clothing that will keep you protected. Think old jeans/shorts, old T-shirts, old tennis shoes or work boots, leather gloves, protective eye-wear, etc. Any clothes with chemicals like paint on them should be thrown out since most washing machines and dryers were not made to clean toxic/flammable chemicals. It is usually best to cover as much skin as possible and avoid wearing things like flip-flops that leave feet vulnerable, baggy clothes that can get caught in machines, or jewelry that can get snagged, bent or broken. If the job will produce any sort of dust, it is imperative to wear a mask to protect your lungs. Earmuffs or earplugs are a great way to protect your ears if the job requires long exposures to loud tools.
- Read and Follow Instructions
Do not assume you know exactly what to do every step of the way without reading instructions, especially if you have never done anything like your project before. Instructions help ensure the job is done accurately and safely. Carefully dissect installation instructions, paying special attention to “Warnings.” It is also a good idea to look over the operation manual for any unfamiliar tool. If the job requires you to work with unfamiliar chemicals, becoming familiar with the recommended safety precautions will help you be prepared for a potential emergency. You really cannot over-prepare when doing home improvements; it is always best to walk into a project with as much knowledge as possible.
- Use Tools and Ladder Correctly
As you enter the beginning stages of project planning, you will need to ensure you have all the right tools available and are using them according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Use tools that are in good condition and have no visible damage to the electrical cables. Do not use equipment or a tool that is in poor condition or damaged. If you borrow a tool, be sure to ask the owner for the user’s manual or at least a thorough demonstration. Ask questions about anything you do not understand. Ladders tend to be used only for high-and-wide range projects, and as useful as they are, they can also be extremely dangerous. Ladders enable us to defy gravity and get to hard-to-reach places; but they can collapse, shift or fall, potentially leaving you with an injury, broken bones or worse. When using a ladder, always make sure the foundation is level and solid; and when it is not in use, fold it up and lay it down along a wall or take it outside the house.
- Be Prepared for an Emergency
Take the time to think through each project, considering the potential risks or injuries. Doing so will help keep yourself safe. Safety precautions include keeping a fully-stocked First Aid kit handy and having a near-by emergency contact. In case of fire from sparks or heat, it is also a good idea to have an operational fire extinguisher and fire blanket on hand.
Home Improvement Don’ts
The best home improvements are the ones done right. Overconfidence and excitement might tempt you to rush through a multi-step project, but taking shortcuts is a surefire way to end up re-doing your work. Before beginning a project, estimate the amount of time it may take so you can begin to plan accordingly. Consult the employees at your local home improvement store if you are not sure how much time your project will take and then give yourself a rough schedule in order to meet your preferred deadline. Rushing your work increases the potential for errors and accidents, so guard yourself against the urge to rush so you get your project done right the first time around.
- Neglect Electricity
Working with electricity can be very dangerous, even deadly, without the proper know-how. Before drilling holes in a wall, use a cable detector to make sure you locate the hidden electrical cables. Always shut off localized electrical power before working with or near electricity. Remember, if you are at all unsure about your ability to properly handle electrical wiring, it is best to call a professional electrician.
- Mess with Gas
It is important to keep gas lines intact in order to avoid potential, life-threatening exposure to carbon monoxide or an explosion. If your home improvement project requires you to handle or move gas lines, it is always best to call a qualified gas professional for assistance. Improper installation of a gas appliance can lead to a gas leak into your home, leaving all occupants at risk. Always know which pipes are gas lines and be sure to avoid those at all cost. Never cover any gas vents or flues.
- Allow Mold to Grow
The best way to keep mold at bay is to keep up with regular cleanings, especially if you live in cold, wet winter climates where mold thrives. Kitchens, bathrooms and window frames are easy-to-reach and clean so it is important to do so regularly. The kind of mold that can be dangerous to inhale is the invisible, overgrown kind that can be found in the walls or in the framing of your home. This type of mold can cause irreversible damage and additional contamination. Signs of mold include a stagnant smell and dark, shadow-like markings on a wall/ceiling. Therefore, proper remediation from the professionals is the best way to get rid of the mold before permanent damage is done.
The bottom line is, whenever in doubt, be sure to call a professional so they can assist you with the more dangerous parts of your home improvement project. The most important thing you can do for yourself is to be informed and stay safe!