Dangerous Home Repairs That Require a Professional
Ensure home improvement safety by hiring a pro for hazardous projects
By Stevie Donald
While many homeowners instinctively want to turn every home improvement into a DIY project, some tasks are simply too risky for a do-it-yourselfer. Some home repairs are inherently dangerous unless you have the specialized training to safely complete them. Others are risky because they involve working with hazardous materials, such as asbestos or lead. Home repairs that involve working on heights or on a roof, or that require considerable strength, are dangerous if you're not experienced with heights or lack strength. A few projects are so potentially dangerous it may be illegal for you to do them.
Virtually any home repair job carries potential dangers for a homeowner who doesn't follow basic safety rules. Improperly maintained furnaces can leak carbon monoxide, for example, and digging a hole for a fence may rupture a gas line. Discarded oily rags from a painting or staining project can spontaneously combust if not properly disposed of, and incorrectly wiring a new light can cause an electrical fire. Any power tool can injure you if used improperly. The most important element in safely carrying out home repairs is the human element -- homeowners can do many home repairs without requiring a professional, but you have to be aware of the risks.
Any home repair job that requires a ladder is potentially dangerous. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that there are hundreds of deaths annually due to falls from ladders, roofs and scaffolding -- and this number does not include homeowners who were killed or injured from falls. Most ladders have "safety and use directions" on a sticker attached to the ladder. If you plan on doing any work involving ladders -- particularly extension ladders -- observe ladder safety and be aware of your limitations. If you have any doubt at all, hire a professional for projects at heights.
Some states and federal law may restrict you from doing any work that disturbs asbestos or lead, even in your own home under certain circumstances. You can't tell if a material contains asbestos merely by looking at it, and any older home may have asbestos-containing flooring, insulation or ceiling texture. If your home was built prior to 1978, chances are at least one layer of paint contains lead, which can be especially hazardous to children. In 2010, federal law will require that any renovation contractor working on a structure built prior to 1978 be trained and certified in lead-safe work practices. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) strongly recommends that homeowners hire qualified, certified professionals to do any work that disturbs lead or asbestos. Contact your regional EPA office for more information.
Where you live may determine whether you can tackle a job yourself, or whether you should hire a professional. Homes damaged by Gulf Coast hurricanes can be structurally unsafe and dangerous -- so hire a professional to evaluate the repairs. It can be dangerous to do some structural work without adhering to proper building codes. For instance, homes in earthquake-prone regions are likely to be unsafe if not built to local code.
While it's tempting to do home repairs yourself to save money, it may not always be as cheap as you think. Professional contractors have the tools, equipment and expertise to come in and do the job efficiently and safely. Buying or renting equipment to get the job done right can be expensive, and if you don't have the experience and skill, the job will take much longer than you predict. Realistically consider all aspects of tackling a project before deciding to do it yourself.
About the Author
Stevie Donald is a regular contributor to DexKnows. She has been a painting contractor since 1979.
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