What Safety Considerations Are a Priority in DIY Home Improvement Projects?


    What Safety Considerations Are a Priority in DIY Home Improvement Projects?

    When embarking on home improvement projects, safety is paramount, especially for the DIY enthusiast. We've gathered insights from experienced professionals, including Owners and Arborists, to share their top safety considerations. From the critical advice to avoid DIY electrical work to the essential fire safety precautions, here are the fourteen safety tips to keep you and your home safe during renovations.

    • Avoid DIY Electrical Work
    • Ensure Structural Integrity
    • Assess Tree Health Before Pruning
    • Protect Against Dust and Fumes
    • Electrical Safety: Call the Pros
    • Follow Ladder Safety Measures
    • Wear Appropriate Safety Gear
    • Prioritize Ladder Safety Knowledge
    • Maintain Outdoor Furniture Safely
    • Respect Structural Integrity in Repairs
    • Use Masks with Aerosols
    • Avoid Permit-Required Jobs
    • Notify Others in Shared Spaces
    • Implement Fire Safety Precautions

    Avoid DIY Electrical Work

    More than anything else, you do not mess with electrical stuff. I don't, my team doesn't, and you shouldn't either. The very first thing you do—other than making sure the building isn't literally going to collapse on top of you—is to check that you don't have any hot wires.

    I don't know why so many DIYers think they're electricians, but I've seen accidents happen because of insufficient electrical safety measures, and I can tell you it's not pretty. Do not—I repeat—do not touch wires, do not smash walls, do not cut into drywall before you've made extra sure there are no live wires and that you've cut the electricity from the entire house.

    Rick Berres
    Rick BerresOwner, Honey-Doers

    Ensure Structural Integrity

    In my experience as a roofing and construction expert, safety is paramount in every home renovation project, DIY or not. One key principle I always uphold is ensuring structural integrity. Before the installation of new siding, windows, or roofing materials, we always inspect the structure for any potential compromises like rot or water damage. If any such surprises present themselves, we address these first to ensure that not only does the renovation look good, but it is also structurally sound and safe.

    Just as important is the implementation of suitable materials - in proper roofing inspections, for instance, selecting the right materials based on the specific conditions and needs of the house is critical. This could mean choosing between different types of asphalt shingles or opting for metal roofing, depending on factors like local climate and the homeowner's budget.

    In DIY scenarios, there's a tendency to focus just on the task at hand and overlook the overall stability and safety of the house. Proper maintenance of gutters is one example - while it may seem like a minor issue, neglecting gutter cleaning can cause significant damage to your home's foundation and walls due to water leaks.

    Finally, I always stress the importance of knowing your limits. DIY projects can be rewarding, but knowing when to call in a professional to avoid endangering oneself or compromising the quality of the job is perhaps the most important safety consideration there is. A successful home improvement project is one that not only enhances your home’s appeal but also its safety and longevity.

    Justin Whittaker
    Justin WhittakerDirector of Marketing And Advertising, Reliable Roofing, Siding, and Windows

    Assess Tree Health Before Pruning

    In the context of arborist work, especially for DIY tree-care projects, a paramount safety consideration is the assessment of tree health and stability before any pruning or removal. Working on trees without recognizing signs of disease, decay, or structural weakness can lead to unexpected falls or breakage, posing serious injury risks to individuals and potential damage to property.

    I emphasize the importance of consulting with a professional arborist for a health and safety evaluation of the tree before undertaking any work. This step ensures that DIY enthusiasts understand the risks and are equipped to take appropriate precautions, such as using the correct personal protective equipment and following safe cutting techniques. Prioritizing this safety consideration not only protects the individual but also preserves the health of the tree and the surrounding ecosystem, reinforcing responsible stewardship of our natural environment.

    Dylan Heath
    Dylan HeathArborist, Apex Arborists

    Protect Against Dust and Fumes

    Always protect yourself from dust and fumes. When you're doing home improvement or renovations, like working with wood or redoing your kitchen, it's really important to protect yourself from dust and fumes.

    To keep yourself safe and keep the air inside clean, cover the area you're working in with plastic sheets, make sure there's good airflow, and wear a mask that's made to block dust and fumes. Doing these things will help you avoid harmful particles and chemicals, making the place healthier while you work. Putting safety first like this helps ensure your home renovation goes well and safely.

    Henry Brook
    Henry BrookFounder, The Page

    Electrical Safety: Call the Pros

    Like a red flag to a bull, improper electrical work screams 'danger' to any seasoned building inspector, especially in DIY projects. It's a top concern for me. Ensuring circuits are dead before touching a wire, donning the right safety gear, and following code like gospel—these are non-negotiables. When I see anything less, I raise the alarm. It's not just about passing an inspection; it's about preventing shocks, fires, and fried wiring down the road. That's why I urge DIYers to call in the pros for anything beyond swapping a lightbulb. It's not just about protecting themselves; it's about protecting the whole house. Remember, electrical work isn't child's play—treat it with the respect it deserves.

    Robert Mudge
    Robert MudgeManaging Director, Co-Spec Building & Pest Inspections

    Follow Ladder Safety Measures

    Being building surveyors, we do take our work home with us and get stuck into DIY projects at home. Ladders are a common cause of injury at home and on-site, and the health and safety practices we use at work are just as important in the DIY setting.

    Before using a ladder, there are several key safety measures we make sure to take:

    1. Check the ladder feet for damage or missing parts—you must be able to rest them on the floor without the ladder wobbling.
    2. Make sure steps and rungs are in place and not bent or splintered.
    3. Ensure the ladder is clean and dry, to avoid slip hazards.
    4. Ladders should not be used when you are alone if you are working at height—just ask our surveyor who was stuck on the roof of their house when their ladder slipped!
    5. Make sure you are wearing suitable shoes and, if you are carrying any equipment, that it is secure while you are using the ladder.
    6. The safety of anyone footing the ladder is often neglected—we would always recommend they wear head protection if there is any risk of something falling on them from a height.

    Kim Allcott
    Kim AllcottPartner, Allcott Associates LLP

    Wear Appropriate Safety Gear

    Wearing proper safety gear is always a top priority in any home-improvement project, especially in DIY scenarios. This includes items such as gloves, eye protection, masks, and closed-toe shoes. This gear not only protects you from potential injuries but also from harmful substances like dust and chemicals. In addition to protecting your body, it's important to also protect your hands and feet. Using the right gloves can prevent cuts, burns, and other injuries while working with tools or handling materials.

    Closed-toe shoes can also protect your feet from accidents such as dropping heavy objects. Eye protection is crucial when dealing with saws, drills, and other power tools that create debris or dust. Wearing safety glasses or goggles can prevent eye injuries and keep your vision clear. Using a mask or respirator can protect you from inhaling harmful substances while working with materials like paint, insulation, or chemicals. It's important to choose the right type of mask for the specific task at hand.

    Jennifer Spinelli
    Jennifer SpinelliFounder & CEO, Watson Buys

    Prioritize Ladder Safety Knowledge

    As an exterior remodeling contractor, much of our work is at heights and on ladders. As a general rule, we try to equip our customers with the knowledge to do any projects they are capable of by themselves, in an attempt to save them money on simple projects like gutter cleaning or touch-up paint/caulking. This empowers our customers to be in control of their home and its maintenance needs and allows us to spend our time doing more skilled tasks that require our expertise.

    Because of this, a high priority for our team and our customers is ladder safety. We put together a quick read for our customers to quickly go over before starting exterior maintenance that involves the use of a ladder. Our guide reviews how to choose the right ladder, inspecting and placing it, climbing it safely, and additional optional safety equipment that could make working at heights safer.

    In our research, we found that 22,000 people are injured during ladder use in the US each year! It's a shame, as with just a few additional safety steps, a ladder can become a safe and useful tool for your exterior maintenance needs!

    Niki Obrien
    Niki ObrienOperations Manager, Custom Exteriors

    Maintain Outdoor Furniture Safely

    As the President of Goldenteak.com since 1996, I have seen the importance of prioritizing safety in all home improvement projects, especially when embracing the DIY spirit. A key safety consideration I always uphold is ensuring the proper maintenance and care of outdoor furniture, particularly when it involves materials like teak. Teak furniture, while known for its durability and resistance to weather conditions, requires careful handling to maintain its integrity over time.

    For instance, when it comes to teak furniture maintenance, one must be cautious about the cleaning products used. Using harsh chemicals can damage the wood's surface, stripping away its natural oils and weakening its structural integrity. This is why I recommend mild soap and water for cleaning and emphasize avoiding high-pressure washing, which can lead to checking (small cracks) in the wood. Plus, when applying finishes such as teak sealer or oil, it's crucial to follow the instructions carefully and wear protective gloves to prevent skin irritation.

    Moreover, understanding and respecting the natural aging process of teak is essential for safety and maintenance. Teak furniture weathers over time, changing from a honey gold to a silvery patina. While some may attempt to restore the original color by sanding, this process, if done improperly, can remove too much surface material, reducing the furniture's lifespan. Thus, emphasizing gentle care and patience during maintenance routines can prevent accidental damage, ensuring the furniture remains a safe and beautiful part of your outdoor space for years to come.

    Elsa Rao
    Elsa RaoPresident, GoldenTeak

    Respect Structural Integrity in Repairs

    As a construction and roofing expert, the safety consideration I always prioritize, especially in DIY scenarios, revolves around understanding and respecting the integrity of the structure you're working on. For example, when addressing roof storm damage or initiating roof repairs, it's crucial to assess not just the visible damage but also to consider the potential hidden impacts, such as weakened structural supports or compromised waterproofing, that aren't immediately obvious.

    An incident that drives home the importance of this came when a homeowner attempted to DIY a roof patch over what seemed like a minor leak, unaware that the underlying plywood was rotting. The temporary fix led to a collapse a few months later during a heavy rainstorm because the structural integrity had been compromised for some time. Moreover, in my line of work, choosing the right materials for the repair or construction project is equally critical. Each material, be it asphalt shingles or metal roofing, comes with its specific installation requirements and longevity expectations.

    An understanding of these, combined with knowledge of the local climate and environmental challenges, can significantly impact the safety and durability of the project. It's not just about addressing an immediate problem; it's about ensuring that the solution is safe and sustainable in the long run. Hence, my advice to DIY enthusiasts is always to do thorough research on materials and, where possible, consult with a professional to assess the integrity of the structure before proceeding.

    Abel Perez Padilla
    Abel Perez PadillaSales Manager, H&A Roofing

    Use Masks with Aerosols

    I always wear a decent mask when dealing with aerosols. Spray paint is the most common situation for me. Sadly, I have known people who didn't wear masks for years around spray paint. Anecdotally, it has slowed their brain function, and it's not worth it compared to the small cost of putting on a mask.

    Trevor Ewen
    Trevor EwenCOO, QBench

    Avoid Permit-Required Jobs

    I always recommend steering clear of jobs that require a permit, such as HVAC, plumbing, electrical work, or any changes to the structure, unless you have experience in these areas.

    Permits exist for a reason—they ensure that the work meets safety standards and is performed by qualified individuals. Tackling projects that involve these aspects without the necessary know-how can lead to serious safety hazards. For instance, a simple electrical mistake could result in fires, while a plumbing error might cause water damage and mold issues.

    Beyond the immediate safety concerns, unpermitted work can lead to legal troubles and difficulties when selling your home. If you're determined to take on a project, consider those that don't require specialized permits. Focus on cosmetic improvements, like painting or installing new fixtures, which can still enhance your living space without compromising safety.

    Riley Beam
    Riley BeamManaging Attorney, Douglas R. Beam, P.A.

    Notify Others in Shared Spaces

    If your home improvement project involves a shared building or common areas, always communicate and notify other occupants about the work being performed. In shared buildings, many challenges may arise, such as temporary obstructions, noise, exposed wiring, or disruptions to utilities. The last thing you want is the risk of slips, trips, and falls, posing a danger to both those involved in the project and unsuspecting neighbors.

    Communicating with those around you helps create awareness, allowing everyone to take necessary precautions, such as avoiding specific areas, adjusting their daily routines, or even temporarily relocating if needed. This collaborative approach minimizes the potential for accidents, inconvenience, and conflicts within the community.

    Mike Roberts
    Mike RobertsCo-Founder, City Creek Mortgage

    Implement Fire Safety Precautions

    Fire safety is a crucial consideration in any home improvement project, especially when it comes to DIY tasks. It is important to prioritize fire safety measures since accidents can happen at any time during a project, and even small mistakes can have catastrophic consequences. One of the first steps in ensuring fire safety during a home improvement project is to have functioning smoke detectors installed throughout the house. It is also essential to have fire extinguishers easily accessible and in good working condition. Additionally, it is important to use proper electrical wiring techniques and ensure that all tools are unplugged when not in use. Taking these precautions can significantly reduce the risk of a fire breaking out during a DIY home improvement project.

    Pavel Khaykin
    Pavel KhaykinFounder & CEO, Pavel Buys Houses