4 steps to avoid common DIY mistakes


You can find satisfaction and a creative outlet in do-it-yourself projects.


Are you addicted to home remodeling shows? Alisa Taylor, a Cincinnati Loss Control representative is.

“They really inspire my creative side,” Alisa said. “I am not a crafty person or an innovative decorator, but I love the creative challenge of repainting, remodeling or upcycling a piece. It is to me what golf is to others: challenging, rewarding, frustrating and fun, even if the outcome is not perfect.”

Through the years of painting and repainting, refurbishing a not-quite-right piece or tearing down a wall between two rooms, Alisa learned from her mistakes – some of them costly.

But she offers some steps to help others avoid making those same mistakes.

Step 1-Plan and Prepare

“These days, I spend more time planning the project, often more time than the project takes,” she said.

For example:

  • Review the do-it-yourself blogs, online tutorials and websites to learn the best way to complete the project.
  • Research the materials and tools to determine what is needed and the best product to use.
  • Read the labels to determine if products have any health, fire or environmental hazards.
  • Gather all supplies before you start the job. Projects take longer when you need to stop, clean up and then run to the store for a forgotten item, she found.

Remember if your home was constructed before 1978, the old paint could contain lead. Lead is a serious health hazard, especially for young children. If you have reason to suspect lead paint, consult the EPA guidelines on how to proceed.

If your home was constructed before the 1970s, it may have asbestos in the floor, ceiling or insulation. If you think there could be asbestos, contact a professional for an assessment and if needed, removal.

If you are going to knock down a wall, confirm that it is not load-bearing.


Confirm that a wall is not load-bearing before you knock it down.

“If you are not 110 percent certain, call in a professional contractor,” she advised. “You can still knock it down yourself, but it is not as easy as it looks on TV. I have yet to master kicking a hole in the wall, but I am good with a sledgehammer.”


Step 2-Protect Everything

“My projects sometimes get a little messy,” she admitted. “By taking a few extra precautions, I save time on cleanup and avoid costly mistakes.”

  • Start by removing from the area any items not necessary for the project. If an item cannot be moved, cover it with protective sheeting. Even when working in the garage, Alisa places protective sheeting over surrounding tools and toys.
  • Tape down the edges of the sheeting so it lays flat and does not become a trip hazard.


Step 3-Follow Safety Procedures

  • If your project involves sanding, wear a dust mask. Even if the material is not considered hazardous, dust from sanding or breaking down a wall can be an irritant if inhaled.
  • If you have little ones, wear an easy on/off garment over your project clothes. This will allow you to remove the dusty clothing quickly before you attend to them.
  • Use protective goggles when working with liquids, including applying paint or when sanding. This will protect your eyes from irritants and splashes of caustic chemicals.
  • Wear gloves recommended by the manufacturer of the product (unless allergic). Even if using a latex paint, disposable gloves facilitate personal cleanup and protect the hands.


Step 4-Clean Up

“This is actually my favorite part,” Alisa said, “as it signals the hard part is done.”

  • During the planning phase, consider what to do with any remaining materials, especially paints and chemicals. Not all materials can be emptied into the drain or placed into the trash. Read the label to determine if special disposal methods are needed.
    • If special disposal procedures are needed, check with your local waste hauler to see if they can accommodate.
    • Your local government may be able to help. “Our township hosts a monthly recycling center that allows most hazardous waste,” Alisa said.
  • If you keep the remaining materials, find a place to store them safely. Most chemicals should be kept in a well-ventilated area, not subject to extreme temperature changes.
  • Soiled rags can be fuel for a fire. Lay the rags flat so they can air dry, then dispose of them per local regulations.

“Then just enjoy the results of your labors,” she said.

This loss control information is advisory only. The author assumes no responsibility for management or control of loss control activities. Not all exposures are identified in this article. Contact your local, independent insurance agent for coverage advice and policy service.


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