Renovation Safety Guide For Homeowners
- What is Home Renovation?
- What to Prepare for Home Renovation
- Safety Tips for Home Renovation
Are you and your family considering a home renovation project? It’s an exciting way to make your home truly your own. But in order to keep your family safe, you have to know what you're doing.
This guide will take you through all the essential information you need to know to protect your loved ones, including an introduction to home renovation, what you need to prepare, and safety tips for a home renovation.
What is Home Renovation?
Renovation means to restore something to its previous state, as if it were in new condition. A home renovation is thus a project to restore your home to good as new.
The term is often used interchangeably with home remodeling, though the two are not synonymous. Home renovations involve restoring a home to its original state, particularly an old building, as if it was new again. Home remodeling, on the other hand, involves creating something new.
Take your living room, for example. A home renovation can significantly alter the look and feel of a room without change the intended purpose. Common tasks include painting, flooring, or switching out items like knobs or faucets. Renovation may include structural rebuilding, but it does not change the structure’s intended purpose.
During a remodel, the purpose of the design—and sometimes the structure—are significantly altered. A living room may be altered to become the new kitchen, or a kitchen may be reconfigured to change the layout of the cabinets. For this reason, remodeling is usually more expensive than renovation.
What to Prepare for Home Renovation
While a home renovation project keeps your rooms aligned with their original structure and purpose, it nonetheless requires significant preparation. The bigger the project, the more preparation you need. That said, even small projects can benefit from planning ahead.
The first step of any home renovation project, regardless of project size, is a detailed project plan. At a base level, this should outline any work that you intend to complete, how you roughly intend to complete it, and a timeline to guide your progress.
On a technical level, depending on the work your renovation includes, the project plan may also include blueprints or sketches of your project. If you work with a contractor, they can also help you create technical drawings.
However, before the contractor comes, you should make a detailed list of needs and wants. In other words, what would you love to have and what can’t you live without? Prioritize what you need first. From there, you can break the project into steps to understand what you can DIY and what components require a professional.
Owner’s Role and Responsibilities For Safety
Whether you DIY the project or you hire contractors to help, the responsibility for safety still rests with the homeowner. In fact, one statistical analysis found a strong relationship between project safety performance and homeowner involvement.
When working with a contractor, keeping your family safe rests on two tactics: choosing a contractor with a strong safety record and working closely with the contractor to ensure adequate safety precautions are taken.
While most contractors will hand you a few referrals, the safest option is to review the code history of the last five projects the contractor completed in your area. Look for evidence that the work was approved by the local buildings department at each stage. In addition, attorney generals in most states compile and pursue complaints on home safety violations, so they are the best place to check for evidence of lawsuits or scams.
In addition, you should make sure that the contract is as specific as possible. Do not accept general terms like “replace flooring”. Spell out the details of the work, the quality of materials, and the contractor’s obligation to comply with all local regulations.
Safety for Kids
Unfortunately, safety is not limited to concerns with your contractor. If you have a family, you also must keep an eye on the kids. For one thing, renovating an old house often means stirring up dust, mold, or fumes that can harm children.
In an older home, mold is an especially prevalent concern. If you identify mold, you have to get it cleaned up, and most importantly control the moisture source. However, it’s best to identify mold before you uncover it to prevent stirring it up. A home humidity detection meter can help identify if you might have a moisture problem.
Lead and asbestos are also common concerns in homes built prior to 1978, as they were often used in building materials. If you discover asbestos, it’s best to leave it alone, as trying to remove it can stir up fibers. If you plan to remove asbestos, you need to hire an experienced contractor with a special respirator. The same goes for lead—hire an expert contractor to help you.
As for the kids, the safest way to navigate renovation is to keep them out of the work area altogether. That way, they can’t get into tools or interact with exposed materials. The best way to do this is to wall off the work area altogether. This can be done with a good plastic seal. It may require a bit of creativity if you’re redoing your kitchen, which is why it’s best to plan ahead.
Safety For Seniors and People with Disabilities
Seniors and loved ones with disabilities present a different challenge than children. Some seniors and loved ones with disabilities may have problems understanding the dangers of the work area. On the other hand, seniors or loved ones with disabilities may fully understand the dangers of the work area but struggle to adapt due to mobility limitations.
This can be especially frustrating for you and your loved ones if you’re renovating your home to make it accessible for them.
The best way to approach this? Be prepared.
Before beginning the project, enlist an occupational therapist. They can help you project the modifications you may need in the future to ensure your renovation can prepare your home for a lifetime of accessibility.
You should also work with your loved ones to assess their foremost priorities for a home renovation, as well as their foremost concerns during the project. Bring your contractor into the conversation to ensure safety precautions are included in your contract, such as leaving clear pathways for someone with limited mobility.
Safety Tips for Home Renovation
Once you have your plans in place, it’s time to turn your eye to the renovation itself.
The first step is to know your home. Not just the layout of rooms but the technical details. If you tear down a wall only to damage the plumbing, a simple renovation can turn into a nightmare. Before you begin, familiarize yourself with:
- Plumbing pipes
- Electrical wiring
- Water lines
- Load-bearing walls
The easiest way to do this is to consult your home’s blueprints. If you’re concerned about electrical wiring, you can also have an electrician assess the space.
From there, the steps depend on the project. Broadly speaking, common concerns include things like sufficient ventilation and protective gear, such as eyewear or gloves. Since dust is stirred up during renovation, indoor air quality is worse than usual, so steps must be taken to ensure adequate ventilation while also using the appropriate protective gear.
Common Home Renovation
The most common home remodeling projects include:
- Kitchen remodeling (81%)
- Bathroom remodeling (80%)
- Whole-house remodeling (53%)
- Room additions (45%)
- Window/door replacement (36%)
- Finished basement (27%)
- Repairing property damage (27%)
- Decks (25%)
- Bathroom additions (24%)
- Roofing (23%)
For the sake of simplicity, we will review safety tips based on the most common areas of concern for most projects: electrical, roofing, paint, flooring, and decks.
Broadly speaking, electrical safety is usually concerned with preventing one of three things: shock (when a current passes through the body), electrical fires, and explosions.
Shock is what happens when a person becomes electrocuted. Electricity travels through closed circuits, and people can sometimes become part of that circuit with tragic consequences. This can happen if someone touches both wires of an energized circuit, touches one wire of an unprotected circuit, or touches energized metal.
Explosions and fires can result from excessive heat, often due to excessive current or faulty wiring.
Common Hazards for Electrical
One of the best ways to ensure electrical safety is to understand common hazards associated with it. Common electrical hazards include things like:
- Contact with live wires
- Fires due to faulty wiring
- Exposed electrical parts
- Electrical contact with flammable materials
- Improper grounding
- Interaction with overhead power lines
- Damaged wire insulation
- Overloaded circuits
Electricians should always assume wires are live. All cords, plugs, and wires should be inspected before use. If any parts are damaged or missing, halt work until replacements can be found. Similarly, all tools and equipment should be regularly inspected for damage.
If you are not a licensed electrician, do not attempt to perform electrical work yourself. Hire a professional electrician instead.
Roof Repair Safety
The roof is one of the most critical structural components in your home. But while the roof itself might look unassuming, its height alone means that it poses a significant risk. The most common safety issues on roofs have to do with falling from a height, an unsafe work surface, or the weather.
Common Hazards for Roof Repair
The most common safety hazards for roof repair include:
- Roof stability
- Ladder security
- Weather conditions
- Roof holes
- Edge awareness
- Improper training
- Improper use of fall protection equipment
- Poor line of sight
- Split-level roofs and fall heights
You should always work with a professional roofer rather than performing DIY roof repairs—in short, if you’re not trained, you shouldn’t be on a roof. Workers should always use the appropriate safety equipment, and you should always go through the contractor’s safety plan in detail to ensure the work area remains clear, harnesses are used, and weather conditions are accounted for.
Paint Safety Tips
You might not think of painting as a safety issue. After all, you’re not doing strenuous physical labor or working with electrical currents, right? The truth is, painters are exposed to a wide variety of hazards, from chemical hazards to slip and fall hazards to mold and fungi.
Common Hazards for Paint
Common hazards for painters include:
- Working at heights
- Ladders, platforms, or scaffolds
- Exposure to toxic substances
- Exposure to mold, fungi, and bacteria
- Working in confined spaces
- Slips, trips, and falls
As with other safety issues, preparation is your best defense. Always make sure an area has adequate ventilation before working. Maintain a safe distance from electrical equipment. Check the safety data for all paint products and take control measures for those hazards and risks. And don’t forget to always clean up thoroughly after you finish work for the day.
Flooring Safety Tips
Unfortunately, even the floor beneath your feet can pose a hazard to you and your loved ones.
If you’re tearing our flooring, you should always close off the area so that children and pets can’t wander in. Debris should be cleared away immediately, and tools should always be put away after use. If you use power tools to sand your wood floors, make sure the area is clear and wear the appropriate protective gear.
Common Hazards for Flooring
In flooring, the most common hazards are slip, trip, and fall hazards. Sadly, falls are the third-leading cause of unintentional injury-related deaths.
Common slip hazards include:
- Uneven surfaces
- Transition from dry to wet surface
- A loose or bumpy surface
Common trip hazards include:
- Cracks in the floor
- Worn floor coverings
- Broken tile
- A sudden change in floor surface
The best way to avoid injury is to minimize changes in the floor level. Any loose parts of the floor should be firmly fastened, and any uneven room transitions should be removed and replaced. If you’re installing carpet, make sure it’s properly installed and never loose.
Decks Safety Tips
Last but not least is your deck. It’s a fun place to hang out in the summer, but when you’re renovating, it can also be a headache.
As with any other part of your house, always assess your deck carefully before you begin work. Your contractor can also help with this process. Look for any signs of mold, mildew, or other moisture issues. Pay attention to any areas where the wood is worn down. Figure out how your deck holds weight and how stable its supports are.
If your deck needs structural repairs, you’ll need to plan ahead with your contractor to ensure safety. Always make sure that tools and equipment are carefully attended, and keep your kids and pets away from the work area.
Common Hazards for Decks
The most common deck hazards include:
- Wood issues
- Railing stability
- Railing slipperiness
- Wobbling, warping, or loose stairs
- Connection and support issues
Other issues indirectly related to your deck include power tools, extension cords, exposed nails, and chemical fumes from varnish or finishes. Regardless of the safety issue, you should immediately make a plan to counteract it once the problem is identified—otherwise, you may run into additional complications further down the line.
Home renovation is an exciting process. As long as you plan ahead, it doesn’t have to be a headache. In all areas of home renovation, preparation is your best defense, so always approach a project with an eye for potential problems first, then plan ahead to deal with those issues. Don’t be afraid to consult professionals as needed.
The next thing you know, you’ll have the house of your dreams.
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