Home Repairs, Scar Free

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The number of do-it-yourself home improvers has jumped in recent years and the count of injuries resulting from consumer repair work has risen in tandem. But it doesn't have to be that way. Here are seven ways to avoid common mistakes, according to home-repair experts.
Wear protective gear. The first step in any home-improvement project is to deck yourself out in proper safety gear, beginning with eyewear, says Tom Kraeutler, co-host of the


The number of do-it-yourself home improvers has jumped in recent years and the count of injuries resulting from consumer repair work has risen in tandem. But it doesn't have to be that way. Here are seven ways to avoid common mistakes, according to home-repair experts.

Wear protective gear. The first step in any home-improvement project is to deck yourself out in proper safety gear, beginning with eyewear, says Tom Kraeutler, co-host of the 'Money Pit,' a syndicated radio show in New York.

Nails can glance or pop out when least expected, especially while hammering cross-grain wood, says home-improvement author JoAnne Liebeler. Wearing safety glasses for saw work or hammering is essential, she says. It's also important to wear work gloves, knee pads and back braces for heavy work, Ms. Liebeler adds. Keep earplugs stocked to protect hearing in the event of prolonged noise.

For projects that involve sanding or generating airborne contaminants, keep a dust mask or the appropriate respirator on hand.

Keep work sites organized. Work sites tend to be chaotic enough without adding negligent messiness to the list of potential injury-makers, Mr. Kraeutler says. Stack lumber and other materials on the ground rather than in a corner or against a wall, he says. "Stop to clean up so you're not working in an unsafe, slippery environment."

Ask for training for tools. With the ability to rent tools such as floor sanders, tile cutters and jackhammers for short-term use, it's critical to ask for training before heading out on your own.

"The less experience you have," Mr. Kraeutler says, "the higher the risk is you're going to get hurt."

Secure and replace ladders. Make sure ladders are anchored securely and replace any that appear damaged. There were 198,000 ladder injuries that resulted in emergency-room visits last year, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Old-fashioned wooden ladders eventually weather and may need to be replaced with a newer-generation aluminum or fiberglass one. "If you've got one of the old crusty ones and it's a little rickety and raggedy, get rid of it," Ms. Liebeler says.

Get safe nail-gun triggers. The number of amateur carpenters treated each year for nail-gun injuries in hospital emergency rooms more than tripled between 1991 and 2005, increasing to about 14,800 a year. But the number of injuries suffered by professionals has remained constant at about 18,000, says Hester Lipscomb, an associate professor of occupational and environmental medicine at Duke University.

The tool's trigger mechanism makes a big difference, Ms. Lipscomb says. Replacing the more common contact-trip trigger, which shoots at anytime, with the sequential-trip trigger makes it harder to get hurt.

"The person using it has to essentially decide where they want to put the nail, put the nose piece there and then pull the trigger," she says, noting that consumers need to ask for the right kind of trigger or a conversion kit if they have the riskier type.

Clean combustible rags. Consumers often clean tools and paint brushes with rags doused with solvents such as turpentine, Ms. Liebeler says. But tossing the soiled rags in an empty jar or in a utility room can be a fire hazard.

"The best thing to do is to hang them outside on a clothesline and then wash them in a separate load," she says. "Don't store any of those fumed products near a furnace, heater or water heater."

Quit before you're exhausted. The point of fatigue is when even the most experienced do-it-yourselfers are exposed to a high risk of injury, Ms. Liebeler and Mr. Kraeutler agree.

Kristen Gerencher writes for MarketWatch (www.marketwatch.com1). Write to her at kgerencher@dowjones.com2.

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