National Safety Awareness Month is the perfect time to talk about completing renovations safely around the house! It’s no secret that the older a home is, the more maintenance it requires, especially when you decide to take on those projects by yourself. Before beginning your project, keep these ideas in mind to stay safe and efficient.
If you live in a home that was built prior to the 1960s and it still has its original plumbing, you should take a look at the pipes immediately! Galvanized steel piping was used in many homes during that era, and by now, those pipes are on their last legs with rust and corrosion. Check to see if the pipe is old by examining the water pressure. If it’s weak, you should probably replace it. You’ll also tend to notice slower draining, as well as more frequent clogging. If you’re planning to replace old pipes, shut the water off completely and use materials with a longer lifespan like PVC or copper.
Painting can be one of the more fun DIY projects to complete in the home, especially after you’ve found the perfect color for the room you’re redoing. Houses that include paint produced prior to 1978 have a higher likelihood of containing lead, and disturbing lead paint by unknowingly scraping it off the walls is a dangerous mistake to make. Breathing in dust and ingesting lead paint chips can potentially affect your breathing. Preventative measures, like wearing a respirator mask and taking frequent breaks, are sure to help get the job done safely.
Keep the windows and doors open while painting to create natural air flow and good ventilation. A lack of fresh air may cause you to experience dizziness, lightheadedness, or nausea. If you’re working in a room that doesn’t have windows, set a standing fan up near the doorway to generate some air flow. Once the lead paint has been properly taken care of, your room will be ready for its brand new and much needed facelift.
Asbestos is another problem commonly found in older homes, specifically those built before the 1980s. The disturbance the carcinogenic fibers can eventually lead to serious diseases including mesothelioma, a cancer of the lung, abdomen, or heart; lung cancer; and asbestosis. If the dangerous fibers are ingested or inhaled, symptoms typically will not surface for an average of 10-50 years. It’s very important to seek the help of a licensed professional if your house has asbestos. The mineral can be found in cement, roofing, pipe insulation, and even flooring! Although its use is heavily regulated, some building and construction materials are still allowed to include up to one percent asbestos.
DIY projects will often require a multitude of tools. Before beginning any at-home projects, go over tool safety and guidelines. Do your best to block off areas where you will be working so children and pets don’t accidentally wander in. It’s also imperative to turn off and unplug all power tools when not in use. Whether it’s due to lack of experience, poor training, or being easily distracted, accidents do happen. All power tools, including power saws, nail guns, portable wheel tools, and any hydraulic tools, should always be handled with the utmost caution. Each year, power tool accidents result in more than 400,000 visits to the emergency room.
Ladder safety should be discussed as well. A ladder is a very versatile tool, assisting the do-it-yourselfer in any room needed. If you’re going to be climbing a ladder, double check to make sure the ladder is securely in place. Grab a friend and have them spot you by holding the base of the ladder. If you’re working with electricity, use a fiberglass ladder. Avoid stretching or making any sudden movements while elevated, and don’t do anything that may cause you to tip or lose balance. Lastly, never stand on the top of the ladder. Remember, it’s a tool and not a toy!
Create a checklist before starting any renovation project. This will ensure you stay organized with all the materials and tools needed to get you through the job. Sit down with everyone who will be around during the project to go over safety guidelines. No matter how young or old, reminding the entire family of ways to stay safe will have a lasting impact on your precious home.
—Emily Walsh is the Director of Community Outreach with the Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance. She is passionate about helping cancer patients discover holistic complementary therapies that address the wellbeing of the mind, body, and spirit.