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9 Wrong Ways to Do It Yourself

Home Improvement Safety Failures


Updated January 23, 2014

It's always the safety of home improvement projects that suffers the most. I know when I do projects, I just want to get in and get out.

There seems to be an inverse relationship between my honey-do list and the amount of hair on my head -- as the list grows the hair goes. So, in an effort to staunch the flow of falling follicles, I resolved to get to work on two or three (hundred) projects I've been putting off since Dubya gave his first State of the Union speech.

If you're getting ready to start some home projects, avoid these handy-man (and handy-woman) blunders.

1. Nailing Anything But the Project

Nail guns really speed up building that fence, but make sure you can aim. Lots of nail guns have a little safety thingamajig to keep it from firing unless it's up against a board. Problem is, the gun is too stupid to know the difference between a board and your skull. Worse yet, with the rebound from firing the nail bouncing the gun you could end up shooting yourself in the noggin or the kneecap more than once.

2. Poisoning Yourself with Cleaning Supplies

Homemade bleach label
Image © Dan Widrew
All those do-it-yourself guys tell us to start each project by cleaning the area. Why? We're just going to make a big mess anyway. Sadly, whether or not you cleaned before you start, you'll still have to clean when you're all done. No job really looks fantastic until it's sparkling. That being said, cleaning is dangerous. It would be terribly ironic to survive the use of power tools just to succumb to accidental tear gas emanating from the mixture of blue and pink stuff.

3. Losing an Eye (It was All Fun & Games Until...)

(c) Dion Gillard
Sometimes you need to do more than blink. After all, it's hard to see where you're aiming the nail gun with a 16 penny poking out of your cornea. Eye protection? We don't need no stinkin' eye protection!

4. Poisoning the Whole Family

Old water heater
Image © Bart
Won't the kids love long, hot showers after you install that new water heater? Of course, but all that love won't matter when they're in the hospital with headaches and nausea. Follow the manufacturer's recommendations to make sure you don't make anyone sick, and watch for symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning.

5. Cutting Off Too Much by a Foot or Two

Drill with long bit
Image © Tina Lawson
I grew up on a farm. Until you've welded bailing wire to a pipe fence propped up with a 2x4 cut to length by a rusty chainsaw, you can't fully appreciate the ways really dangerous power tools can be mistreated. I'm not sure exactly how many thumbs have been lost to table saws and grinding wheels.

6. Tipping the Ladder

I watched my neighbor put a stepladder on top of two chairs in the bed of his pickup truck, which was backed up to the front of his house -- all so he could hang Christmas lights. In emergency medical services, we call that job security.

7. Burning with a Desire to Finish this Project Already

Second degree burn blisters
(c) About.com
Soldering copper pipes looked easy when Bob Villa did it on TV. Only, he didn't get distracted by the dog and accidentally point the torch at his wife when she was bending over to pick up the scraps he'd failed to clean up even though she'd been yelling at him about it since he started the project. Well, maybe it wasn't really the dog's fault.

8. Sticking Yourself with Broken Wood

Splintered wood
Image © Melissa Wiese
Getting one of those giant six-inch-long redwood splinters in to your hand is a rite of passage when building your first backyard deck. I thought pulling it out without needing more than a shot of tequila was pretty manly -- until I watched a fisherman on TV pulling his own tooth with a pair of pliers.

9. Slipping Off the Roof

Standing on the roof and bending at the waist to lean over the gutters is only good if you're about to try a swan dive into the geraniums, which I wouldn't recommend. If you do see someone roll off the third-story rail-less balcony, call 911 immediately. Anytime someone falls more than three times his or her height, call 911.
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