DIY

Safety Tips for Dangerous Home Improvement Projects

Reader Contribution by Kayla Matthews
article image

You like to learn new things and come up with creative solutions, which is why you’d prefer to tackle a project yourself than delegate it to someone else — especially when it comes to home improvement tasks in your current living space.

So far, you’ve done well with this old house. You’ve given it a more modern feel, upgraded to energy-efficient appliances and hashed together a streamlined design using funky, up-cycled industrial-inspired materials.

Now it’s time to address a few of the more difficult, potentially dangerous tasks on your list. Read on to discover essential tips aimed at helping you approach three precarious projects safely and mitigate through a variety of challenging roadblocks with success.

Switching Out Electrical Fixtures

You’ve waited long enough to hang that salvaged retro chandelier, and it’s time for the faulty outlet that keeps your favorite chair in perpetual darkness to go. Before you break out your tools and head for the breaker box, take a minute to remember electrocution is one of the United States Department of Labor “fatal four” occupational hazards. People reported 67 deaths by electrocution in 2016, up more than 8 percent from the previous year.

Other risk factors associated with electrical repair include shock, burns, overheating wires, destruction of insulation, fires and explosions.You can minimize danger and maintain adequate safety caution by following these guidelines:

Always replace existing outlets with grounded alternatives. GFC — Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupter — switches have built-in breakers that automatically disconnect the flow power in case of a short. You can install these circuits in the same manner as their traditional three-pronged predecessors.

Unplug all your appliances and remove all bulbs before you begin to work.

Turn off the breaker. If you will be in an isolated portion of the house, it’s not necessary to shut off the main — you may need power to run tools and affix spotlighting — but be sure breakers associated with the area in question are completely down.

Remove faceplates or fixtures, and keep the screws that held them in place.

Slowly pull wires out, leaving yourself enough space to move around comfortably.

Note black, white and bare or green copper wires.

Attach color-coded wires in precisely the same manner to new outlets or fixtures.

Wrap electrical tape around connection wires and nuts for added stability.

If you are hanging a heavy piece, consider recruiting a friend to help you hold it securely in place while you connect the wiring.

Fixing Your Roof

Another “fatal four” cited by the United States Department of Labor is falling. Roof falls accounted for 1,200 fatalities between 2003 and 2013 alone.You don’t have to become a tragic statistic, however, to efficiently undertake necessary roof repairs. You must employ essential safety requirements — and do so with diligence.

Study fall protection options and make sure appropriate solution plans are in place from the get-go. Viable examples include using sturdy covers for roof holes, guardrail systems, safety nets with harnesses and lanyard lines with a deceleration device.

Practice secure ladder and scaffold safety techniques. Ladder locations should be level, stable and clear of high traffic areas.

Always maintain at least three points of contact when climbing a ladder — such as two feet and one hand, or one hand and both feet. Also, do not carry items up or down with you — use a bucket pulley system for necessary tools and supplies.

Maintain safe access to connective scaffolding with secure ramps, walkways, portable ladders or stair powers. Finally, do not skimp on protective equipment such as safety glasses, work gloves, treaded boots and a visored hat, preferably a hard hat.

Removing Walls

The streamlined design you’re ultimately shooting for requires a more open floor plan than the one you’ve got now. Older structures tend to include several small rooms partitioned off with non-load bearing walls — yours is no exception. If you open up one or two of the internal walls, you might find additional flexible, multi-use common space.

However, wall removal carries a significant potential risk of exposure to toxic substances.  All too often, homeowners discover previous tenants masked the presence of harmful materials by building directly over them. It’s not unusual to find asbestos hidden behind a double wall, or lead paint underneath layers of non-lead varieties.

The good news is hiring an environmental expert and arranging for pricey testing is not your only option. If you uncover something concerning — like exposed pipes with white or grey insulation remnants, or paint that breaks off in a tell-tale scaly, geometric pattern — head to your nearest home center or hardware store and buy some DIY testing kits.

While asbestos results boast an average of 2-3 weeks turnaround time, you can confirm the presence of lead-paint in minutes.Of course, taking any amount of time to assure safety will always be the best precaution — regardless of project scope.

After all, avoiding problems in the first place is the ultimate creative solution!   

Photos Credit: Image byPixabay


All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Guidelines, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on their byline link at the top of the page.