Staying Safe During Home Construction Projects

Written by | Updated April 6, 2016

Home Construction

This post was written for SafeWise by Jacob Hurwith from, a home remodeling and home improvement resource website.

Homeowners all over the country are taking the DIY leap of faith. No longer are homeowners calling contractors to install a simple security system, fix a broken fridge or seal a deck. Your neighbors, as well as more and more Americans, are researching, planning and completing those small to medium-sized home projects that must be done.

Nonetheless, DIY projects can sometimes turn disastrous. That is why it’s vital to take every safety precaution below, especially if this is your first project on your own.

Use a Sturdy Ladder

From changing light bulbs to installing motion detection lighting, many DIY projects require a ladder. While most ladders may seem sturdy as ever, one false assumption could send you tumbling to the ground. In fact, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission, about 2 million Americans seek out medical treatment every year due to ladder-related injuries.

As such, keep the following tips in mind every time you use a ladder.

  • Try to avoid soft surfaces. If you have to use a ladder on a soft surface, like grass, put a flat, sturdy board below it. Plywood works as well.
  • Keep three points of contact with an extension ladder at all times.
  • Face the ladder coming up and down.
  • Never climb above the second rung from the top of step ladders. If you have to get a little higher, you need a taller ladder.
  • Never go on a ladder with shoes that have leather soles. They are not slip resistant.
  • Never place a ladder in front of a closed door. If you have to, make sure the door is blocked, locked or guarded.

Use the Correct Tools

When it comes to home remodeling, tools save time and ensure efficiency. While most DIYers limit themselves to a hammer and some nails, others take it up a notch and grab or borrow a table saw or chainsaw to cut wood or tile. And although your local hardware store can likely cut almost anything for you, don’t be afraid to use these large tools. Just make sure you’re using the proper tool and the correct technique.

No matter what DIY tool you are working with, a few safety precautions must be addressed.

  • Always unplug power tools when not in use. This includes drills as it can drain the battery.
  • Always wear protective glasses when cutting, demolishing or working insides walls.
  • Always check tools before using. Look for a UL mark, which indicates strict safety standards in regards to fire, electric shock and other safety hazards. Furthermore, if you borrowed tools from a friend, it’s good know the full condition before you use.
  • Always sharpen blades if you think they have become dull.
  • Never wear gloves or arm jewelry when working with a table saw.
  • When using a table saw, don’t cut anything that is less than 6” in length.

Be Careful with Lead

The most popular DIY project is painting. Very few home remodeling projects can transform a room for less money than a new coat of paint. However, beware when it comes to your walls and the paint.

The older the home, the more likely the walls and window frames are to be covered with lead-based paint.

If your home was built before 1978 and you plan to paint or do anything to your walls, get it checked for lead paint. Left undisturbed, lead is fine living inside or on your walls. However, the second the wall is disturbed, that lead becomes an issue.

Painting pros typically use an X-ray fluorescence analyzer. It detects paint and other surfaces containing lead levels above an acceptable threshold. Fortunately, the average cost to test for lead paint is only around $341.

Overall, do not remove any paint unless you are 100% sure it does not contain lead.

Be Aware of Utilities & Permits

With Spring just around the corner, hopefully you’re starting to take your DIY skill set outside as well. While some backyard projects are harmless, many present serious danger.

If you’re doing any landscaping work, including any work with a fence, always call 811, a free service managed by Underground Service Alert. They will contact local utility companies that have lines in the ground and those companies will come out to mark those lines. If you don’t call 811 and accidentally cut one, you could off power to the entire block. Not only will your neighbors never get your mail again, but you’ll also be hit with a large repair bill.

Furthermore, most new exterior projects require permits from your local building departments. Whether you’re adding an addition, installing a fence or enhancing your yard with a deck, check with your city before you get to work. Regulations established by your city will let you know exactly what type of addition, fence or any exterior upgrade requires a permit. If a permit is required and you failed to apply, they could require you to remove the entire upgrade.

Hire a Professional

It feels great to step outside of your comfort zone and take on new remodeling projects each year. However, if at any time you think the project is over your head or you are unsure about an important step, call in the pros. There are plenty of resources available to help you find the right pro for the job – like ImproveNet, a free marketplace that connects homeowners with local contractors for free. Professionals can be costly, but their experience can also translate into stellar results.

Written by Jacob Hurwith

Jacob is the content marketing manager at ImproveNet, which connects homeowners (for free) with local contractors. Jacob started his career with the Chicago Sun-Times, but has since worked in the marketing departments for various agencies and brands. Learn more

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