Home Remodeling Can Be Dangerous

Face it: safety is hardly a sexy home remodeling topic. Most people find gorgeous paint colors, luscious wood ceilings, and stately tiled bathrooms more alluring than matters of personal safety. This is understandable.

But safety begins to look awfully attractive when your spouse or partner is driving you to the ER with a bloody arm or broken leg.

Not every home remodeling-related injury is the expected, cartoonish Rusty Nail Through the Foot. Here are a few unusual facts about ways to get injured (or of dying) while improving your home.

  • 01 of 06

    The 4-Hour Window When You WILL Get Injured...

    Hitting Finger With Hammer

    Planet Flem / Getty Images

    Remember that song from 1979, "I Don't Like Mondays?"  Turns out to be true.

    As reported by Remodeling, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tells us that most construction-related injuries in private construction (including remodeling) occur on Monday mornings between 8:00 am and noon.  

    "But," you say, wagging your finger, "that does not include me, The DIY Homeowner.  Thus, I have nothing to worry about!" 

    Translated for you, DIY Homeowner, this means Saturday morning before noon.  This is the time when you believe you are a superhuman remodel dynamo.  Electrified with caffeine, you blithely mow down walls with sledgehammers and stand on top of ladders to pull out nails.

    Best advice to avoid the Saturday morning blunder is to take it slow and easy.  Do prep work on Friday evening to lighten your workload the next day.  And consider switching to decaf!

  • 02 of 06

    Do Not Fear the Nail Through the Head...

    Ramset Powder Actuated Nailer

    Ramset / ITW

    Fear the blowback.

    True, OSHA's archive of injuries caused by .22 caliber powder-actuated nailers includes harrowing accounts of nails in the head, hand, and elsewhere.

    But even if you make the logical decision not to aim this crude gun at your head, the most common injury is from debris blowback.

    The small explosion caused by the gunpowder sends the nail flying down the barrel at an extremely high speed.  Consider that .22 bullets travel at over 1,000 feet per second--about 700 miles an hour, or faster than a Boeing Dreamliner.

    When the concrete fastener hits concrete, collateral damage is inevitable.  

    Prevent this by making sure the tool is perpendicular to the work material.  Ensure that the debris guard is in place on the workload.  Wear eye and hearing protection, as well as long sleeves, pants, and work boots.

  • 03 of 06

    Injuries Too Grisly To Show Here...

    Patio pressure cleaning


    welcomia / Getty Images

    They are called high-pressure injection injuries and you an do not want to Google Image Search them.  You just might lose your lunch if you do.

    This injury occurs when a highly pressurized tool such as a power washer, paint sprayer, grease gun, or air compressor forces a needle-thin squirt of liquid or air under your skin.  

    Most common in the extremities, high-pressure injection injuries bubble up the skin, lacerating and often stripping it off, much like a butcher strips off flesh.

    Avoid this by treating paint sprayers, power washers, and air compressors just like firearms.  Never place any part of your body or anyone else's in front of the nozzle.

  • 04 of 06

    "Creative" Electrical Wiring and Rogue Currents Might Get You



    Preappy / Getty Images

    If you are home remodeling and doing your own electrical work, you are, by definition, working on someone else's original electrical work.

    You might be fine if this was permitted work done by a qualified electrician.  But what if the previous homeowner did it?  Now how do you feel?

    Creative electrical wiring often happens when the homeowner-electrician takes a shortcut to avoid pulling out more drywall, for instance. 

    Eliminate or reduce the chance of injury by using a voltage detector for every circuit.  

    Rogue currents happen when the previous owner hooked up an outlet or light switch in a way that is not registered on the voltage detector.

    If there is a particular circuit you are still not confident about, you can always shut down the entire house main, located at the service panel.  

    For the price of having to reset clocks around your house, you are assured that the circuit is workload powered down.

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Yes, Ladders Live Up To The Myth

    Man painting house on ladder
    Joseph Devenney/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

    Unlike powder-actuated nailers, which boldly advertise their wickedness, ladders are like the quiet neighbor who just happens to be a serial killer.  

    They look sweet and innocent, until the moment you find yourself blacked out on the ground--or worse.

    Anything involving a ladder has the greatest chance of injuring or killing you than any other home remodeling activity, whether it be tree trimming, roofing, painting, attaching crown molding, or pulling painter's tape off the ceiling.

    Avoid this by making sure your ladder is stable on all four legs before climbing it.  Never step on ladder steps that are clearly labeled "Not a Step."

    So, whenever someone jokingly says, "Well, I have no fear of BASE jumping off of the Burj Khalifa, because statistically I have a better chance of dying on a household ladder," they are right.

  • 06 of 06

    Trench Collapse: A Terrifying Death For Claustrophobics

    Laying Underground Drain Pipes - 184269404

    Wicki58 / Getty Images

    Excavation is dirty business.  Nearly on a daily basis another worker is killed when a trench collapses around him.

    Dirt is heavy stuff.  A column of dirt one foot by one foot by five feet, or 5 cubic feet total, exerts 500 pounds per square foot.  

    According to the BLS, trench collapse killed 271 people from 2000 to 2006 alone.  A plumber in New York with 20 years of experience killed under 6 to 7 feet of rocky soil.  A California day laborer killed in a trench ranging from 6 to 12 feet deep.  Trench deaths are so prevalent that stories go on and on and on. 

    "However," you may say, "those are utility workers and plumbers, and I am but an innocent homeowner.  This cannot happen to me."

    Sure it can.  Common activities that enterprising DIYers participate in is digging sewer lines and french drains.  Less common:  wells and deep foundations.

    Solution:  any trench more than 5 feet deep must be properly benched, sloped, shored, or shielded.  

    More cost-effective for the DIY homeowner is sloping or benching. Sloping means to create a swimming pool-like slope leading down to the lowest point.  Benching means to create a series of stair steps down to that low point.