Learning how to renovate or build something from scratch is rewarding and can be a real money-saver. There is no shortage of resources and knowledge for the DIY enthusiast.
Safety is also an important consideration, in order to protect yourself as well as your family and neighbours.
Even small DIY jobs can end in accident or injury without appropriate planning or safety precautions.
There a number of types of repairs which should only be carried out by experts. This list is not exhaustive – before you embark on a DIY project, get advice from a professional and make sure you have taken all safety matters into consideration.
Types of work best left to the professionals:
- Roof Repairs
- Staircase Renovations
- Installing, servicing or removing an HVAC system
- Installing a gas hot water heater or other gas appliance
- Moving or removing walls
- Telephone line repairs
- Asbestos, mould and lead paint removal
Asbestos – Protect Yourself
The use of asbestos is banned in Australia – this ban came into effect at the end of 2003. In most cases, asbestos removal must be done by a professional.
If you encounter any material in your home that you suspect may be asbestos, contact a licensed asbestos removalist. Do not attempt to touch, move or dispose of it in any way.
Worksafe Victoria – www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/asbestos has a guide to working with asbestos and how to manage it.
If your home was built before 1970, lead-based paint has probably been used. If you are planning to paint, do a lead-based paint test before any sanding or re-painting.
Sanding and grinding of lead-based paint can create a lot of lead-contaminated dust that can be inhaled or swallowed and may lead to poisoning.
The Department of the Environment and Energy has a guide to dealing with lead paint ‘Lead Alert: The Six step guide to painting your home’.
Mould is not always easy to recognise. It can look like ‘fuzz’ or appears to be a stain, smudge or discolouration. Mould can trigger nasal congestion, sneezing, coughing, wheezing, respiratory infections and can worsen asthma and allergic conditions.
The cheapest and easiest way to prevent mould is by reducing moisture and humidity levels. Do this by ensuring adequate ventilation in rooms – open a door or window and use exhaust fans where available.
Mould builds up in houses that are prone to dampness and in poorly ventilated spaces like bathrooms, laundries, kitchen and under carpets. Mould may cause allergic reactions, respiratory problems when tiny spores are released and breathed in.
If repainting walls or other hard surfaces, you can add anti-mould solution to the paint to help slow mould growth.
Should I Really Lift It?
Moving large, heavy or awkward objects can cause strain on your body that might lead to injury. Either use safe lifting techniques or think about ways to prevent unnecessary lifting. Repetitive movements can also lead to injury. Take regular breaks from repetitive tasks like painting, digging or scraping. Safe Work Australia (www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/manual-handling) has guidelines on lifting, pushing and pulling which can be applied to both work and home DIY situations.
Look Up and Live
Be mindful of power lines when moving tall objects like ladders or tall objects like poles, palings or pipes, working at heights or driving vehicles.
Outsource Electrical Work
When inspecting a potential home, there are telltale signs of electrical problems which may mean the property has faulty wiring.
It’s tempting to consider doing your own electrical work to save time. It may look easy, but it isn’t. Even small jobs like changing a power point or light switch can create the risk of electrocution or fire. In addition, doing your own electrical work is illegal. Choose an electrician who shows their qualifications and areas of expertise in their advertising.
You can minimise risks yourself by following some simple guidelines on electrical safety in the home:
- Look after appliance cords
- Avoid piggy-back or ‘double adaptor’ connections
- Child-proof your outlets
- Get a licensed electrician to do your wiring
- Install and test safety switches
- Look out for overhead lines and underground power lines
- Look out for water leaks
In the event of electric shock, shut off power at the main switch and call a licensed electrician to investigate.
If you go to help someone who is receiving an electric shock, turn off the power at the main switch. If the current can’t be turned off, use a non-conducting object such as a broom, chair, mat or rubber doormat to push the person away from the source of the current.
If possible, stand on something dry that doesn’t conduct electricity, such as a rubber mat or folded newspapers.
Call 000 for emergency assistance and stay with the person until help arrives.
Watch Out for Poisons
Paints, paint strippers, solvents, polishes, insect sprays, weedkillers and other cleaning solutions are common poisons around the house and may be used during a renovation. During renovations, adults and children might be poisoned by these kinds of chemicals. This can often happen when a product is transferred from its original container into a food or beverage container instead of an appropriate chemical container.
Use poisons in accordance with label directions.
The Victorian Poisons Information Centre can be called on 13 11 26 24 hours a days, seven days a week. www.austin.org.au/poisons/
Slips, Trips and Falls
Slips, trips and falls can happen at any time, but the danger of this is increased while doing DIY projects. Clean up chemicals and paint as you go, only turn on hoses when necessary and clean off moss, dirt or mould from concrete and footpaths before setting up ladders. Brain Injury Australia (https://www.braininjuryaustralia.org.au/ladder-falls/), reports that new research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare has found that ladder falls are the most common ‘Do-It-Yourself’ injury, and nearly one in ten result in a brain injury. Working at height should be undertaken with care. Follow the Victorian Government’s Worksafe guide to preventing falls from heights. https://www.worksafe.vic.gov.au/fall-prevention