Taking the DIY route with a home renovation is always tempting when trying to update a space while spending less. However, while TV and magazine experts make it look easy, successful and safe execution of these projects requires a lot of legwork before putting hammer to nail.
“Not understanding exactly what’s involved in a renovation project is where the DIY can really come into peril,” said Barry Johnson, co-owner of Dependable Renovations.
For the determined and prepared, Johnson broke down some of the most important safety considerations for DIY renovations:
Structure Beware of projects that could pose structural risk, such as moving a tele-post or installing a basement window without adequate supports.
“An engineer would be the solution to these kinds of structural issues,” said Johnson. “They can act as a guide in a DIY situation.”
Tools and equipment “Always use the right tool for the job,” said Johnson.
This simple notion is often unheeded. For example, with ladder use. “Understanding the proper size of ladders and how to use them properly sounds like common sense,” said Johnson. “But there are actually very specific directions for things as simple as ladders.”
Also, keep in mind that a clean site is a safe site. Cleaning up and putting equipment away as you go is a must.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) “PPE is vital and can save your life,” said Johnson. “It’s important to understand the appropriate safety gear required for any kind of job. There’s a wealth of information available online. The Alberta Construction Safety Association is a great one for all of these topics.”
Chemicals “Understand what the Material Safety Data Sheet says about each product you’re going to use, and then be sure to use it in the appropriate fashion,” said Johnson. “Whether it needs to be ventilated and/or handled properly, there are different precautions for different chemicals. Always be sure to understand what you’re working with and have the appropriate PPE.”
Older homes “The biggest and most common concern around older homes (built before 1980) is asbestos,” said Johnson. “Understanding what it looks like and what to watch for is key.”
Sometimes an area that appears laden with asbestos is actually asbestos-free, and vice versa.
“It’s really tricky and easily mismanaged. Consulting with a professional is a good idea, but be leery about who you call for this service,” said Johnson. “Asbestos removal specialists have varied pricing and credentials. It can go from zero to expensive right now.”
Know when to call in the pros The largest safety concerns in home renovations fall within the internal disciplines. Structural, electrical and plumbing – as well as heating, venting and air conditioning projects – are typically best left to skilled tradespeople.
“These are the behind-the-scenes things you don’t really see,” said Johnson. “Each has a very specific direction that needs to happen for them to work. The professionals are really the ones who know it best, and in most cases, they will save money and time.”