DO-IT-YOURSELF SAFETY: THE DO'S AND DON'TS OF HOME IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS
More and more homeowners are turning to do-it-yourself approaches for home improvement projects. While there are plenty of DIY projects homeowners can easily tackle with little home improvement experience, there are also plenty that should (and need!) to be left to the professionals. Before you jump right into your next do-it-yourself project, check out these common “do’s” and “don’ts” of DIY to keep your home improvement safe and successful.
DIY Safety To-Do List
Home improvement comes with its fair share of hazards, especially when taking a do-it-yourself approach to something you’ve never done before. While each home improvement project varies in scope and complexity, there are some common safety guidelines you should follow with every new DIY project.
- Research & know the process.
- Wear protective gear, including:
- Attire (no loose clothes, full Tyvek suits)
- Maintain proper ventilation.
- Have a fire extinguisher nearby.
- Keep a first aid kit handy.
- Keep your work area clean.
- Read & follow user manuals for all tools/equipment.
Most Common Home Improvement Projects
Most Common Projects for Professional Remodelers
Based on the most common types of jobs reported by remodelers in a survey of projects they completed in 2017.
- Bathroom Remodeling (81%)
- Kitchen Remodeling (78%)
- Whole House Remodeling (49%)
- Room Additions (37%)
- Window/Door Replacements (30%)
According to the National Association of Home Builders, kitchen and bathroom remodels are always the two most common home improvement projects completed by professionals, but which one claims the top spot varies by year. (In 2016, it was kitchens.)
It’s important to note these are the top five home improvement projects for professional remodelers because it gives a helpful indication of which projects may be a bit too complex for the average DIY-er.
Smaller projects are easy to handle on your own. Cosmetic changes and simple repairs are ideal DIY home improvement projects because they can make a big difference in a small amount of time. More importantly, these smaller projects often don’t come with the same risk of significant property damage as larger remodeling, repair, or construction projects.
Replacing Bathroom Fixtures - Faucets, shower heads, toilets.
New fixtures update the look of a bathroom, and they can also help improve functionality too. Replacing a faucet or showerhead (or even just cleaning out buildup) is sometimes all you need to improve water pressure. If replacing your toilet, be careful not to crack the porcelain and always seal the base well to avoid possible leaks.
Basic Demolition - Removing wallpaper, carpeting, cabinets.
If you’re preparing for a larger scale home improvement project or remodel, taking care of this surface-level demo yourself keeps you involved in the project while also saving a few dollars on labor. Despite being in the demolition stage, approach the process carefully so as to not cause unnecessary or structural damage. Don’t forget proper safety gear!
Laying Tile - Kitchen backsplash, mosaic countertop, bathroom floor.
With plenty of how-to guides available online and a variety of options for every budget, tile work is a popular DIY project for homeowners looking to do a larger, more hands-on home improvement project. To prevent staining, allow for easier cleanup, and prolong the life of your tile work, it’s a good idea to seal the grout once it’s dried fully. Depending on the type of tile, you may want/need to seal the tiles as well because certain materials (such as natural stone) are more porous than others.
DIY Don’t Try It
Leave these projects to the professionals to avoid the hazards and damage they could cause. Home improvement projects that go beyond cosmetic changes often require specialized knowledge of building systems and structures. Trying to tackle these tasks without that necessary expertise can end up being more costly than simply hiring a professional from the start.
Project: Mold Removal
Hazards: Lack of containment, improper equipment, breathing in spores, chemical exposure.
While small sections of mold and mildew on tile and grout may be manageable to clean-up when you’re resealing or replacing them, any sign of mold growth elsewhere should be handled by a professional. A DIY approach to mold removal can result in additional contamination and property damage, and it also poses health risks due to possible inhalation of mold spores and chemical exposure. Proper mold removal (or “remediation”) is a complex process that involves more than simply removing visible damage; typically, it also includes source identification, drying out, and containment. Mold remediation professionals have containment techniques, specialized equipment, and specific cleaning procedures to complete these steps, ensure the damage is removed entirely, and minimize the likelihood of future mold growth.
Project: Updating Lighting and Wiring
Hazards: Electrical shock, electrical fires.
This is a project best left to professionals because it can be both costly and dangerous if handled improperly. According to the latest data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), 57% of electrical fires in homes involved electrical distribution and lighting equipment, and wiring issues accounted for the majority (69%) of those fires. When updating lighting, your home’s existing wiring, fixture wiring, voltages, UL certifications, and more must be taken into consideration. Avoid the risk of injury and fire by consulting a licensed electrician for these projects.
Project: Plumbing Repairs
Hazards: Additional water damage, mold growth.
Plumbing repairs are risky home improvement projects to take on yourself because what may seem like a simple fix to one part could end up being an indicator of a much larger problem impacting the entire system. Do-it-yourself diagnoses and repairs could lead to additional - sometimes major - water damage, which could also result in mold growth. If you’re dealing with issues like a possible leak or backup, persistent low pressure, or no hot water, it’s best to have a plumber check out the issue. If you have to move or replace major appliances, hire a plumber for this as well because it will involve supply line and drain relocation.
Project: Structural Updates
Hazards: Compromised building integrity, asbestos, water damage, permit and code violations.
Before starting any home improvement project impacting the structure of your home, it’s best to consult a professional to understand the full scope of the project. Structural updates include removing walls, building additions, repairing or replacing roofs, finishing basements, relocating utilities, and more. These are often the most advanced home improvement projects, which means they also come with the most risks and considerations. Before you can even remove a wall, for instance, you first have to confirm it isn’t load-bearing and you should also check about your city’s permit requirements. If you live in an older home, additional hazards are possible, such as lead paint and asbestos, both of which require specialists for removal. A licensed professional contractor understands all these factors and will have the knowledge and experience to navigate them seamlessly.
Whether you’re a die-hard DIY-er or a DIY dabbler, safety should always be the top priority. The best way to keep yourself and your home safe is to understand the scope, skills, and hazards involved in any home improvement project you’re considering. Do your research, decide what’s best for you, and when in doubt, consult a professional.