Homeowner enthusiasm for DIY home improvement projects keeps growing.

It makes sense because enhancing your home with your own hands saves money, and gives you a feeling of satisfaction and pride.

But as fun and fulfilling as doing it yourself can be, many projects can lead to falls, cuts, burns, and bruises. Whether you're putting in a new bathtub, painting over old paint, or repairing a fence, it's never wise to ignore the old adage, "Safety first!"

Did you know that over a fourth of U.S. patients reported in 2016 that they had visited an urgent care center in the last two years? For someone in the midst of a DIY project, that visit could represent pain, long term injury, financial expenses, and a postponed or canceled project at home.

It's all preventable if we review some basic safety measures to keep you on the job, healthy and happily creating a more valuable home.

Start Right 

Every DIY project makes a mess before it makes something better. Clutter is your enemy when you begin because it only complicates the chaos as you work.

Starting with a clean work area -- whether it's a workbench in the garage, your kitchen's center island, or a full floor of a house -- is essential. When your surroundings are neat and organized, you'll feel more in control of the project. Less stress equals better focus equals fewer accidents.

I always designate a central spot where tools and supplies are returned, even if it's just a simple project like framing a page from a book to hang as artwork. When I paint a room, I keep everything I need in one place, in the center of the room. It lessens the chance that I'll trip over something or knock over a can of paint. When I have a hot glue gun project, I collect all the supplies I will be using before I even plug in the gun. You don't ever walk away from a hot glue gun if you have children or pets.

In fact, keep things like sharp tools, moving machinery, and toxic material way out of reach of young children.

These are the kinds of practices that save injuries, save steps, save time, and save frustration. They can also save you the cost of emergency room care, physical therapy sessions, and chiropractic treatments!

For projects that take up room, like installing overhead light fixtures, upholstering chairs, cleaning gutters, tiling a backsplash, or painting a deck, give yourself working room. Clear pathways to eliminate tripping hazards.  Keep cords, ladders, equipment, and other obstacles out of your way.

Another important part of starting a DIY project is a tool check. This is an especially important step if you're planning to use anything electric or sharp. Is every tool you'll use in good working order? Batteries charged? Drill bits and utility knife blades sharp? Electric cords in perfect condition?

I would not think of doing any kind of gardening, no matter
what time of year, or how messy or brief the task, without gloves
and long sleeves. They both protect me from insects, cuts, thorns, and dirt. Yesterday I pruned this overgrown Chindo viburnum with my loppers. 

Dress for the Job

While you probably don't need to wear a HAZMAT suit for most home improvement projects, you do need to wear what's appropriate for the job at hand. The wrong clothing could make you uncomfortable, distracted, and vulnerable.

For example, if you're wearing loose clothes like floppy sleeves, an unzipped jacket, any dangling jewelry, or untied shoelaces, they could snag on a moving piece of equipment, or make you trip.  Keep long hair out of the way as well.

Please don't wear open-toed shoes like sandals or flip flops. Wear waterproof boots if you are pressure washing. Wear workboots that support your ankles if you move around on uneven surfaces. Wear heavy-duty workshoes if you will be moving heavy things that you could drop. Wear comfortable athletic shoes or Crocs if you'll be standing on your feet for long periods. Wear shoes with good sole support if you'll be going up and down a rung ladder.

Don't Drink While You DIY 

More than 7% of the population aged 18 years and older — nearly 13.8 million Americans — have problems with drinking, including 8.1 million people who suffer from alcoholism.

If you drink do so separately from any do-it-yourself home improvement projects. Even a glass of wine can impair your judgment. Postpone the drinking until the work is done. I know people like to have friends over for a beer-and-painting party, and that's just foolish for all kinds of reasons. It's not good for your home or you!

When I gave a demonstration for my garden club on making a hypertufa container for planting, I stressed
the importance of protecting yourself from airborne
dry cement and toxicity from wet cement. 

Protect Your Eyes, Ears, and Lungs

Work glasses or safety goggles are designed to protect your precious vision.

You don't want any foreign objects in your eyes that can irritate, cut or scrape. Get a good pair and then use them loyally if you are subject to sawdust, cement powder, wood chips, tile dust, tree branches, metal slivers, chemicals that can splash or outgas, insulation fragments, or airborne sand particles. Sunglasses are not the same as safety goggles. 

You can protect your hearing by wearing earplugs, headphones, or some form of hearing loss protection. Wear them when you are around anything accompanied by high levels of noise and intense decibels. Many people ignore the negative effects that loud, sustained noise can have on their long term hearing. The damage can be irreparable, and hearing aids aren't sexy, convenient, or cheap.

Project your lungs from the fumes that can come from paints, solvents, and cleaning supplies. Read labels. Use adequate ventilation. If necessary, wear a full-face respirator, not just a dust mask. Those little white masks screen out only airborne particles, not vapors. Buy zero-VOC paints. Take painting and staining projects outdoors, especially when using spray paints and especially if you are pregnant.

Take care of the little repairs in your home early, and you'll keep
big repairs at bay. This photo and top photo: Family Handyman

Keep Up Routine Inspections

Home improvement DIY projects are more fun when they are upgrades rather than repairs. Routine inspections minimize repairs. Part of being a homeowner means there is always something to inspect before it becomes a problem.

Make sure your home doesn't have exposed surfaces that are asbestos or lead paint. Removing these materials calls for pros, but covering them with safe paints and new, impermeable surfaces takes care of the problem.

Check your air filters monthly. Watch that your gutters aren't full of leaves. Look for cracks in your foundation and any concrete surfaces like driveways, patios, and sidewalks. Check the expiration dates on fire extinguishers. Make sure no mold is forming in basements, window openings, or under sinks. Inspect your roof once or twice a year for loose shingles and damage from animals or trees.

When you keep on top of these systems, your home will be safe for everyone inside. And you'll save money because you'll identify potential problems before they turn into costly, larger problems.

Practice Good Work Habits

People who work every day in the blue-collar trades learn safe routines for the work they do. Use your own common sense and awareness to do the same.

Tackling home improvement jobs yourself can be enriching and fulfilling, but also dangerous. Stay safe as you work, and you'll be encouraged to handle additional projects to make your home look and function better. For more about working safely while doing home improvement, check these additional simple safety tips.

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