Here’s What You Need to Do to Stay Safe
Do you have a home in need of a little work? Maybe you don’t like the way your kitchen looks, or you want to open up space between your dining and living rooms. A remodeling project can transform your basement into the man cave of your dreams, or add character to a once dull-looking home office.
Whether you choose to take on the project yourself or hire a professional, it’s important to keep safety top of mind. Taking a few precautions like the ones below can make the difference between a beautiful new kitchen and a trip to the ER. Learn from the people who see misfortune all the time, the Philadelphia personal injury lawyers at The Levin Firm have laid out some tips to consider for your next project.
Start With a Clear Plan
Careful planning forms the foundation of any home renovation project (pun intended!). Without it, you risk extra costs, lost time, and even serious injury. Depending on the size of the project, here are a few things you may need to do:
Apply for Any Necessary Permits
Not all projects require a permit. However, when it comes to larger projects, it’s always a good idea to check. The City of Pennsylvania Department of Licenses and Inspections explains what type of projects require a permit and what you need to do to obtain one. Feeling tempted to skip this step to save a little time or money? Think again. Building permits make sure your renovations are safe and up to code. Ignore them at your, and your family’s, extreme peril.
Doing work without a permit can also cause big headaches down the road in the event you try to sell your home. According to the National Association of REALTORS, un-permitted expansion or additional square footage cannot appear in your RMLS listing. Plus, if there are any issues with your work, your insurance company may deny a claim relating to that space, or may cancel your coverage altogether.
Watch the Weather
Check the weather forecast before starting any outdoor renovation work. The last thing you want to do is start to install a new roof, only to get caught in a downpour. If the weather does take a turn for the worse in the middle of your project, do not try to work through it. In 2016, approximately 9.2 million people visited the emergency room for injuries related to a fall. Wet surfaces increase your risk of just that sort of injury. At the first sign of bad weather, cover your work and return to it when the skies clear.
Consider the Age of Your Home
Building techniques and materials have changed a lot over the past few decades. As such, it’s important to take extra care with older homes. Unfortunately, many outdated (and sometimes hidden) home construction features can pose a safety risk. If your home was built before the 1980s, call in an expert.
Dangerous materials and conditions to watch out for include:
- Asbestos: Before the 1980s, contractors commonly used asbestos in many building materials. Asbestos can exist in your flooring, pipes, insulation, ceilings, walls, and pipes. During a remodeling project, asbestos particles can become airborne, causing serious long term health risks to you and your family. The scary part is, even small projects can lead to dangerous asbestos exposure. Before you start any project in an older home, consider calling an asbestos specialist. For more information about asbestos, click here.
- Lead paint: The federal government banned lead-based paint in 1978. If your home was built before this time, then there’s a good chance it contains lead-based paint. Lead paint still in good condition is not much to worry about. However, lead paint that peeling or chipping can represent an extreme health risk to you and, especially, to your children. Call in a professional to have it removed.
- Old wiring: Old wiring is not inherently dangerous. However, it may not be enough capacity to support your renovation project. For example, if you plan to install a new HVAC system or upgrade your appliances, it may take a heavy toll on your outdated electrical system. To find out whether your home can support your plans, contact an experienced electrician and avoid getting a sever burn injury.
- Mold: Mold can cause a problem in any home, regardless of age. Mold grows the most in humid environments. The good news is, the majority of molds found in homes are not toxic. However, even non-toxic mold can cause respiratory issues, allergic reactions, or other health issues. While you may remove small amounts of mold yourself, for larger areas, it is usually best to call a mold remediation specialist.
Set Yourself up for Success
While planning will help you ensure that no unexpected problems come up, the actual project is where safety concerns become reality. From power tools to electrical issues, when you dive into a home renovation or remodeling project, your house can transform into a dangerous construction site. Take your project seriously and treat the area you plan to renovate like the worksite it is.
Protect Kids and Pets
Kids and power tools do not mix. If you can, try to get someone to take the kids somewhere else until the project is complete. At the very least, make sure there is another adult to watch the children while you work. The same goes for any pets. Not only are the loud noises and dust bad for animals, but the noise is likely to scare your pet and cause them to act erratically. This type of distraction is dangerous for both you and your pet.
Keep an Organized Worksite
Construction sites can get messy. However, a messy worksite creates a hazard to you and anyone who enters the area. Before you begin a project, make sure you have everything you need and that it is easily accessible. Do not leave tools on the ground or cords lying around that you can trip on. If there is a spill, clean it up right away to avoid the potential of a slip and fall.
Choose the Right Tools for the Job
It should go without saying, but you want to make sure you have all the tools you need for your home project. When using a ladder, make sure you have one tall enough to reach where you plan to climb, and that it provides enough support for your weight and any materials you plan to carry on it. If you are building, make sure you know what types of nails or screws you need to support your project. If you don’t take care now, you may need to do repairs down the road.
Also, don’t forget to make sure you have the proper safety gear on site. This includes:
- Safety goggles
- Dust masks
Prepare the Job Site
Site preparation depends upon the nature of your work project:
- For painting: Make sure your home has proper ventilation. Open the windows to allow paint fumes to escape. Filtrete suggests running your home exhaust system 24/7 from the morning of your project until at least two to three days after you finish painting. To prevent the fumes from moving throughout the house, be sure to block off the vents to the other rooms. The type of paint you choose is also important. Latex paints emit fewer fumes than oil paints, and as a bonus, are easier to clean up.
- For electrical projects: Electrical work can be dangerous if you don’t know what you are doing. Always consult with a professional if you lack the experience to complete a project. For larger projects, the state may require you to hire a licensed electrician. If you take on the project yourself, make sure you turn off the electricity beforehand to the area where you plan to work.
- For roof projects: Use a secure ladder that will support you and stay standing as you climb. Make sure to wear non-slip shoes to prevent a potentially fatal fall. Always have someone nearby who can help in the event of a fall.
Do not attempt to perform any work that you know you cannot do. At the same time, do not try to push yourself or your tools beyond reasonable limits. Know when to take a break. If your ladder doesn’t reach as high as you need it to, do not push it. The difference between staying safe and getting hurt comes down to the individual decisions you make. Always prioritize safety over time and money.
Know When to Bring in a Professional
Some projects that are better left to the professionals. If you do not have any experience in electrical, plumbing, or drywall, it is usually best to let someone else do the project. If the project involves multiple areas of expertise, you may want to hire a general contractor. Your personal safety is not worth saving a few bucks.
If you do choose to hire a professional, make sure you do your research. A good place to start is with personal references. Your friends or family can attest to the quality of a contractor’s work. Another good resource is your local realtor. Realtors frequently work with construction companies and can give you a few suggestions.
Finish the Job Right
Even with the bulk of the work behind you, you may still need to do a few things to keep yourself and your family safe. It’s important to put just as much care and attention into finishing the job as you did in planning and executing it.
Clean up Your Worksite
After a long day’s work, the last thing you probably want to do is clean. Resist the urge to put off the job until tomorrow; messy work sites are an accident waiting to happen.
- Unplug and put away any unused tools. Never leave a power tool unattended. Accidents can happen when a child plays with a tool or when an unused tool inadvertently goes off.
- Sweep up all debris: During a remodeling or renovation project, the floors can get pretty dirty. Be sure to check for any debris and sweep the floor before finishing your job.
- Put away any paint or chemicals: Tighten lids securely and put all supplies out of the reach of children.
- Block off any unsafe areas: If a job extends more than a day, you may have to leave unfinished work. To keep everyone in your home safe, make sure to close off the area from the rest of your living quarters. If you have recently completed a paint job, try to limit access to that area for at least a couple of days.
Complete Any Inspection
In the case of permitted work, you may need to schedule an inspection to close out your permit. Do not skip this step. An inspection can help uncover any code violations or any safety issues. If any issues come up, make the repairs as soon as possible. If you hired a contractor, then this person should take care of the permitting issues. However, it is always a good idea to double-check. You don’t want to deal with an unexpected fine because the contractor didn’t close out a building permit.
Know Your Rights and Responsibilities
As a homeowner, you have rights, but you also have responsibilities. If you rent or own a home, you have a duty to ensure a safe environment for anyone who walks onto your property. This includes a friend who comes over to help, or a hired contractor. You also want to keep it safe for yourself and family—so follow all appropriate safety protocols to bring your project to the best possible conclusion.
The Levin Firm
1500 John F. Kennedy Blvd,
Two Penn Center, Suite 620
Philadelphia, PA 19102